...to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health... I was very glad when brethren came and testified to… how you are walking in truth... you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church.
...but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words... he himself does not receive the brethren... and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.
In the short yet powerful epistle of 3 John, the reader is presented with a comparison. On the one hand there is the Godly leader Gaius who apparently was impacted personally by John’s leadership and ministry. If you look closely at the first several verses, you will notice that John was committed to truth, hospitality and sharing the Lord’s work with other leaders. John was a collaborative leader and Gaius faithfully followed in John’s footsteps. These men contrast with the egotistical leader named Diotrephes. John notes that this leader was so preoccupied with his own greatness and agenda he actively pushed away anyone not assisting him in his all-consuming quest for preeminence.
Ministry is not the only area of life in which we see this kind of self-centeredness. Consider the choir who has that one soloist who simply refuses to follow the director but holds that note out for just another micro-second, so everyone can be impressed with his or her vibrato. Or consider the trumpet player in the orchestra that again likes to leave the safety of the written notations to “go it alone” even though the detour has not been included in the music or sanctioned by the director. Finally, consider the basketball player who decides to take a risky shot instead of passing the ball to a teammate with a better position.
They are everywhere: egotistical people in leadership positions who weigh down their teams with all of their weaknesses and very little of their strengths because they have to be in the middle of every move, every decision and every aspect of the organization’s infrastructure. They seek to take credit for every ministry success so that they’ll be seen as the champion of the hour. If anyone dares to praise the good work of another leader in the ministry, the egotistical leader often gets irritable and angry. They expound on why this other leader just misses the mark here and there.
Scripture teaches a better way to co-labor.
...the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue... When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.
The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them… All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul… After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying… Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch [a letter] with Paul and Barnabas… So they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.
As you read through the details of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, you will notice that the attendees included the “who’s–who” of the early church. There were apostles and elders from the church of Antioch and Jerusalem. Paul, Barnabas, Peter and the half-brother of Jesus were also present. You will notice there is no single voice here. At the conclusion you will notice a decision of consensus as the group of elders and apostles and the entire congregation sends a group along with Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch.
Let me give an encouragement specifically to pastors and other primary ministry leaders. It is so easy to make ourselves or our families the champion of every sermon illustration; or, from a negative standpoint, regularly poke fun at our families from the pulpit. When you serve as the primary leader of a ministry, the communication pipeline is already “slanted your way.” You must consciously work at sharing the spotlight. Make it a habit to publicly praise other leaders. Don’t be the one always sounding your praises. It is easy to become tone deaf and not hear how flat you are sounding. Believe me…. everyone else in the band does!
Dr. Joel Tetreau