Posts Tagged ‘Diotrephes’

Bullying has become a huge problem in our country.

Parents bully children.  Brothers bully sisters.  Bosses bully employees.  Teachers bully students … and students bully teachers.

Have you seen the video of the middle schoolers in New York state who bullied a 68-year-old bus monitor as she rode home on the school bus?  Disgraceful.

Churches have bullies, too.  And there’s a sense in which church bullies are the worst of all because we don’t expect that kind of behavior in church.

How can one detect a church bully?

A bully demeans others by picking on weaknesses and calling people names and making demands.  If you don’t do what a bully wants, he or she threatens to hurt you in some fashion.

I once knew a bully who tried to intimidate me in board meetings.  He went right after me every chance he could.  He wanted power and sensed that I was slowly taking it from him.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to take him on because others did that for me … but it could have gotten nasty.

Church bullies often get their way because they sense that no one has the guts to take them on.  They know that Christians value “being nice” and that if they aren’t nice, they can get their way more often.

Believe me, it works.

This is why Christians – especially leaders – have to learn to face down the bullies.

It’s biblical.

In 3 John 9-10, John the apostle writes:

“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.  So if I come, I will attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us.  Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers.  He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.”

Diotrephes was a church bully.

He “loves to be first” … he wanted to control the decision making.

He “will have nothing to do with us” … he didn’t recognize John’s authority as an apostle.

He was guilty of “gossiping maliciously about us” … attacking John verbally, probably disparaging his apostolic credentials.

He “refuses to welcome the brothers” … visiting leaders and teachers sent by John.

He “stops those who want to do so” and “puts them out of the church” … excommunicating John’s representatives.

Wow!  This guy really had issues.

Diotrephes’ misbehavior was threatening the very existence of that church.  Can you imagine challenging the authority of John, the Apostle of Love?

How did this Apostle of Love propose to deal with this church bully?

“So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing …”

John was going to face him down … maybe with the help of church leaders, or the congregation itself … but John was going to meet Diotrephes at high noon.

He was going to confront him … maybe publicly, maybe privately … but he was going to stop the bullying.

John may have been hoping that this warning would cause Diotrepehes to run for the hills.  If we had 4 John, maybe we’d find out what happened.  (We’ll have to wait for heaven for the thrilling conclusion.)

Sometimes a pastor has to face down a bully.

I once served in a church where an ex-policeman was griping about everything.  He griped about the music.  He griped about the youth.  He griped about the neighbors.

Part of me felt sorry for him because he was no longer a policeman … but he had morphed into the church police.

Because nobody dealt with him, he became bolder and bolder with his griping.  This went on for several years.

Finally, a new pastor came, and he tried to work with this man, but nothing worked … and he couldn’t tolerate the behavior any longer.

He finally ordered the man to leave the church … and he left.

He faced down the church bully … and the church was better off for it.

Last year, I had breakfast with an ex-pastor who told me what happened at his former church.

There were people in the church who were terrorizing the pastor, and the church board didn’t know what to do to stop things.

Wisely, the pastor hired a consultant, who met with the board and told them what to do:

You have to go and face down the bullies.

The board members just looked at each other.  The bullies were their friends.

The consultant barked, “Now!”

The board members got in their cars and did what they should have done months before.

Stephen Brown is one of my favorite Christian communicators.  He’s half-crazy, but that just adds to his appeal in my book.

Anyway, in his classic book No More Mr. Nice Guy!, he tells a story about a pastor who was being bullied by a parishoner … and the pastor couldn’t take it anymore.  The man gave a large amount of money to the church and had many relatives in positions of leadership.  Brown’s friend believed that he would divide the church if he confronted him.  Brown told his pastor friend:

“Invite this man to your study and say, ‘I have had it up to my ears with you.  Before this meeting is over, one of us is going to resign.’  Then tell him all the things he has been doing to hurt the church.  Tell him, ‘This is not your church or my church, this is God’s church, and He will not allow you to act in this manner anymore.’  Then tell him that you are God’s agent to make sure that he doesn’t.”

In some cases, this tactic might backfire.  In the case of Brown’s friend, it worked.  His pastor friend called two days later and said:

“Steve, you wouldn’t believe what happened.  The church member who has been giving the church all the trouble asked if I would forgive him.  He said that he knew he had a problem and asked for my help.  Not only that, he said that if I would give him another chance he would be different.  Not only that, his two brothers came in and thanked me for what I did, and said that I was the first pastor in twenty years who had had the courage to do what needed doing.”

I can’t guarantee this tactic will work in every case, but if you’ve tried everything else, it’s certainly worth a try.

Because of church bullies, I’ve endured sleepless nights … worried myself sick … threatened to quit church ministry … and turned myself into an emotional wreck, all because nobody – including me – would face down the bullies.

It’s time we started doing just that.

Go … now!

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