The Leadership of Diotrephes


The apostle John writes a little letter in the New Testament we call 3 John. In it he makes reference to a church leader that is hampering the cause of Christ–Diotrephes.

Listen to v.9-“I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.”

This is a power packed little warning for all leaders–especially those who strive to be Christ-centered leaders. There seems to be a clear link here–if you put yourself first you will not acknowledge the authority of another. How can you–you are first. John understood this principle–go back to Matthew 20 or Mark 10 or Luke 22. These episodes reveal where John received some of his leadership lessons from Jesus. If you remember this is where James and John request the right and the left hand when Jesus comes into His Kingdom. But Jesus tells him (and all of the disciples) that spiritual leadership is slave leadership (not just servant leadership–look at the status categories). Slave leadership implies a master by definition. The master is lord and requires submission. The master has ultimate authority.

So leadership for the follower of Christ begins here–a fundamental acknowledgment of being under another authority–first that of Jesus Christ–but this also requires an acknowledgment of recognizing other authority that God has placed over you. The Christ-centered leader never puts himself first. To do so get’s things out of order–in this case Diotrephes could not welcome and show hospitality to traveling teachers in the Church and was even throwing people out of the church who did welcome these teachers of the truth. This was probably the case because these teachers were a threat to him and his perceived self importance.

Application Questions:
Where are you in your own ranking order–truthfully?
How welcoming are you to others who lead and teach? To the degree you welcome and show hospitality might reveal the degree you see yourself as a leader under authority.
Are you a “slave leader”–putting yourself last–or one who puts himself first?

As far as I know this is the only place in Scripture where Diotrephes is mentioned–a sad leadership legacy–may it not be yours or mine–by the grace of the gospel.

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