When Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church” it was a powerful statement that demonstrated both the intent to build this community of faith and that it’s full ownership would belong to Jesus. But it is a very different thing today when some person or group of people in a congregation declare, “This is my church” and who do you think you are to try to change anything? This challenge can arise just about anywhere. It normally comes from either some one family or group that has been part of the church from the beginning or whose family was involved in starting the congregation in years past. At times it may even be a particular age group or Bible class or an eldership that takes on such an attitude. No matter who the person or persons are who have such an attitude, it is destructive to the church and to the spiritual growth of the body. We don’t have ownership of any church and don’t have the right to act like we do.
There is a very short book of the New Testament that is about this very kind of thing. It is the letter of 3rd John. The letter was written by the apostle John late in his life to a younger man named Gaius, whom John loved in the truth. We know almost nothing about Gaius. He may have been the preacher for the church in this area with two men serving as elders by the names of Diotrephes and Demetrius. Or it could be the case that he was one of the three elders along with the other two men. I get the idea from reading it that Gaius was younger than the other two and if he is one of the elders he is the new man in the eldership. If he is the preacher there, he is a young man that has been brought in by the church with the other two as his elders. Notice as John writes to Gaius he prays that he may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. Other translations have it that John prays that he may prosper and be in good health even as his soul prospers. He has children that are walking in the truth and John commends that. John praised him for being faithful in what he was doing for his brothers and sisters, even when they were strangers to him. He notes that Gaius example of showing hospitality ought to be the norm among God’s people toward those going out to preach the gospel of Christ.
But, look closely at the next section of the book. In Verses 9-10 “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” Now we are introduced to the man who had the “Not in my church” attitude. He saw it as his place to determine who should be accepted by the church members into their homes and who would have a right to say anything to the church. He felt an ownership. Maybe he was there at the beginning. Maybe his family was the first family in the church. We don’t really know the reason. We simply know that in his mind, it was his church and he had the right to say that no one was going to change things in his church. Have you ever been to a place like this? Have you ever met a person like Diotrephes? Sometimes it shows itself with the frustration that you are bringing too many younger, or different people into the church and we don’t like it. Sometimes, it is even “You are bringing in too many sinners in this church. You are going to turn this place into a welcome center for sinners.” Quite often it shows itself over someone wanting to do something in a different way besides how we have always done things around here. Whatever the reason given, it takes on this attitude that this church is mine and I’ll determine what will happen here and what won’t. If you don’t like it then go somewhere else.
Notice how John told his young friend Demetrius to handle such at situation. “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone – and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.” Notice he didn’t tell Gaius to attack Diotrephes. He didn’t say to throw the bum out. He didn’t say to Gaius that you need to pack your bags and move somewhere else. He told him not to follow someone like that but to make certain he followed someone who was good and that Demetrius was such a man.
But what about Diotrephes? How is he to be redeemed if we simply follow the good man and never confront him for his evil attitude? When the church moves on, doing the right thing and following the good person that has the right attitude, it is hoped that the one with the stinking attitude may see the error of his way and repent. What if he doesn’t? The church continues to follow the good man Demetrius and Gaius as the young preacher or younger elder lines up with the good man to keep the church moving in the right direction. Sometimes when this happens, the evil one will move in and spread every kind of rumor imaginable against you. Stay above the fray and keep doing what is good and right without being brought down to the level of the evil ones. Keep praying that their hearts may be softened and the whole church may move forward in the way God would have us to go. It is never of great value to try to get into a stink fight with a skunk.