‘Loves To Be the Leader’

By Chuck Griffin
Methodist Life Editor

3 John 9-10

I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.


Even the early church had to watch out for people who wanted leadership roles for the wrong reasons. Because of this ongoing danger, healthy churches still need to understand the concept of servant leadership.

As the author of John 3 set pen to parchment, it’s unlikely he thought, “I am now going to write what will one day be Scripture.” The letter is personal, written by an experienced Christian to a friend named Gaius. This friend obviously was struggling with developments in his church in Asia Minor, located somewhere in what is now western Turkey.

The letter isn’t long—I would encourage you to take time to read it all. It has memorialized for all time the dangerous leadership of a man named Diotrephes.

Most of us have experienced a Diotrephes at some point. Certain people simply crave power for the sake of power, perhaps to bolster a bruised ego, gain personal glory or benefit materially in some way. They do not understand that leadership, particularly Christian leadership, requires a surrendering of self.

Diotrephes went so far as to drive away people he perceived as a threat to his power, particularly traveling teachers who moved about Asia Minor in a state of poverty. They depended on Christian communities to support them as they preached core truths about Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. Diotrephes even threw out church members who supported these itinerant Christians.

Not only was Diotrephes proving to be a self-centered leader, he also was violating a basic rule of Christian living, the mandate to show love and hospitality to others.

Diotrephes reminds modern Christians that we should always have some sort of litmus test for potential leaders. It can be difficult to fully understand another person’s motives, but we do have scriptural guidance about qualifications for leaders,* and praying to God for discernment certainly helps.

Boiled down, this discernment could involve questions like, How well does this person seem to know Jesus and the word of God? Have we seen this person bear spiritual fruit? Does this potential leader seem overly eager? Will this person submit to some sort of accountability? Is this person’s call to leadership confirmed by others, and by a willingness to surrender some worldly advantages?

If we see a knowledgeable, committed Christian giving up a lot in order to lead, we can feel more confident we have found a leader with a servant’s heart. 

Only a true calling can make a person say, “I must become less so Jesus can become more.”

Lord, we find ourselves in a crisis of leadership in churches and in so many other institutions. Raise up more humble servant leaders so your work may be done. Amen.


*Regarding the 1 Timothy text linked above: Some denominations, citing the patriarchal language here and in other texts, restrict women’s leadership roles, while other denominations do not. I see this as an example of Paul being very context-specific about a situation very different from our present day. In other writings, Paul asserts the equality of men and women and even addresses some women as leaders and vocal bearers of the Good News.

Specific Gifts

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

1 Corinthians 12:28 (NLT)

Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.


Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve referenced spiritual gifts while preaching, and last Friday I issued an invitation to those of you who might want to learn more about your gifts, regardless of whether you’re a regular part of Holston View UMC. Today, please let me provide you with just a little more detail.

There are lots of ways to assess spiritual gifts, some formal, some informal. At previous churches, I’ve used the “3 Colors of Your Gifts” book and tests as part of an introductory church class for visitors and new members. I like these materials, and most people have found them useful. I think such a formal approach is at least a start in the right direction.

These tests usually work best in a small group setting, with a leader who has some training in the materials (I do). If you also have an interest in small groups, it’s fun to use spiritual gifts discovery as a starting point for a group.

Whether your search is formal or informal, you of course want to start with prayer. Simply ask God to reveal to you the gifts that will make you a more effective Christian. If you’re going the informal route, at least talk with a pastor and with other mature Christians around you about how they see God working in you, and consider how what they say lines up with a list of scriptural gifts, like this one:

Trusting your likes and dislikes is an important part of your discernment. If you find yourself on a planning committee and not really happy about it, you’ve learned something—you probably lack the spiritual gifts that go along with such service.

That’s okay! Don’t give up, just change up how you serve, and find what gives you joy while bearing fruit for the kingdom. Again, trust the guidance of mature Christians around you.

I promise you this: No sane pastor or church leader will try to prevent you from exploring different forms of gift-based service. We never have enough people in the church doing kingdom work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We want you to find your place, and in the process, find the kind of joy that helps you experience eternity now.

Lord, thank you for the ongoing grace you pour on us in the form of spiritual gifts. Help us to see how we fit into your plans to change the world. Amen.

The Long Road to Leadership

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Exodus 2:11-15a (NLT)

Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.

The next day, when Moses went out to visit his people again, he saw two Hebrew men fighting. “Why are you beating up your friend?” Moses said to the one who had started the fight.

The man replied, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”

Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian.


Meet the not-fully-formed Moses. After living the first part of his life as a sheltered member of Pharaoh’s court, Moses was discovering his ancestry and seeing the terrible injustices the Hebrews faced every day.

For Moses to become the man God wanted him to be—a liberator—he had to develop the sense of righteous indignation necessary to rescue his people from slavery. We see the seeds of that important emotion in this story.

Great leaders cannot be emotionally driven reactionaries, however. Moses clearly was impulsive at this point in his life, reacting to events rather than shaping them. He responded to a terrible crime by committing a more terrible crime, forcing him to flee the one place he could be effective.

I suppose impulsivity is a stage through which most future great leaders must pass. There is little basis for becoming a mature, thoughtful, right-minded leader if you have not felt youthful energy and excitement for big ideas like justice. A budding leader can make a lot of mistakes during that early phase, though.

Moses, who lived to be a supernaturally vigorous 120, needed four decades in the desert and an encounter with a burning bush to prepare. Today’s developing leaders probably cannot train for so long. But they do need time to seek guidance from God, time to watch and work under other leaders, and time to learn the importance of planning.

As leadership expert John Maxwell wrote, “God prepares leaders in a crockpot, not a microwave. More important than the awaited goal is the work God does in us while we wait. Waiting deepens and matures us, levels our perspective, and broadens our understanding.”

In our own culture, there remains much in the way of injustice needing to be cured and problems needing to be solved. My concern is whether enough people are taking the time to hear from God before trying to lead others. Impulsively burying a body or two in the sand won’t make a long-term difference.

The good news is the right leader, properly prepared, can do wonders. When a fully formed, God-inspired Moses returned to Egypt, the Hebrews left their chains behind and crossed the Red Sea in a remarkably rapid way. Moses went in with God on his side, and it didn’t hurt that plagues fell upon the Egyptians rat-a-tat-tat.

As we consider leaders around us in all our institutions, large and small, let’s look for sober judgment, sound reasoning, and a clearly expressed desire to follow God’s will both personally and professionally. With such servant leaders in place, our world might improve faster than we expect.

Lord, raise up for us new leaders where they are needed. We pray fervently that many have been preparing themselves through the years and are ready to step forward. Amen.