Rebellion in the Church!

Many Americans think the church is a democratic system run by the majority opinion of the local congregations. But what does the Bible teach?

Our first look is at a man mentioned once in the Bible.

“Diotrephes. This man is not elsewhere named. He was evidently an ambitious and unscrupulous church official, who rebelled against the apostle’s authority (receiveth us not), and who refused to heed the letter. The letter may have been sent by those whom Gaius entertained.” – Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament.

Here is the Biblical text that exposes rebellion in a local church.
“I did write a letter to the church, but Diotrephes, who wants to be head of everything, does not recognise us! If I do come to you, I shall not forget his actions nor the slanderous things he has said against us. And it doesn’t stop there, alas, for although he wants to be leader he refuses the duty of welcoming the brothers himself, and stops those who would like to do so – he even excommunicates them!”

“Never let evil be your example, dear friend of mine, but always good. The man who does good is God’s man, but the man who does evil does not know God at all.” 3 John 1:9-11 (Phillips NT)

Here is verse 10 in the New Living Translation.
“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.”

And again from another version.
“For this reason, when I come I will bring up what he’s doing. He’s not satisfied with saying malicious things about us. He also refuses to accept the believers {we send} as guests. He even tries to stop others who want to accept them and attempts to throw those people out of the congregation.” 3 John 1:10 (GW)

In the days that the original apostles walked and talked with Jesus they were the only credible witnesses of the truth about Jesus. Their eyewitness testimonies were obviously treasured more than anything to make sure the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth was actually communicated to the followers of Jesus. John and his trusted and trained teachers were traveling far and wide to make sure everyone had an unfiltered chance at knowing the Good News of Jesus and His valuable teaching.

The New Testament was not fully written and broadcast yet so these teachers were in great demand among the local churches. But Diotrephes became infamous because he decided to rebel and forcibly take control of a local church in spite of other church members who wanted to learn and hear the sacred truth of God’s will. Even if he had a group of like minded friends their rebellious actions only proved that “the man who does evil does not know God at all.” Their actions proved they did not belong in the church because they were not real believers.

Who has God put in charge of the church? The people or the pastor?

Hebrews 13:7 (AMP) “Remember your leaders and superiors in authority [for it was they] who brought to you the Word of God. Observe attentively and consider their manner of living (the outcome of their well-spent lives) and imitate their faith (their conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things, the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Christ, and their leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness)…”

Hebrews 13:17 (AMP)
“Obey your spiritual leaders and submit to them [continually recognizing their authority over you], for they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare, as men who will have to render an account [of their trust]. [Do your part to] let them do this with gladness and not with sighing and groaning, for that would not be profitable to you [either].”

As much as Americans hate this idea, the people are not in charge of the church, the pastor is… therefore submit to the authority given by God. If you overthrow God’s authority and try to control them you are in rebellion against God. If you serve God then what He commands is the law over you and God uses human authorities, like pastors, to represent Him.

In fact, many American Christians complain about pastors and accuse them of being dictators if they are not allowed to rule through voting on everything. Make no mistake, every time you rebel against God and demand control over your authorities you are resisting God, not the pastor! And if it is you that is acting this way, it is a good possibility you are another Diotrephes.

It is evil to disobey the direct command of scripture to overthrow the pastor, or contradict his leadership and cause conflict.

So who is in charge of your church? Look at this example of Paul’s authority.

Acts 20:16-17 (AMP) “For Paul had determined to sail on past Ephesus, lest he might have to spend time [unnecessarily] in [the province of] Asia; for he was hastening on so that he might reach Jerusalem, if at all possible, by the day of Pentecost. However, from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church [to come to him there].”

But then we need to make sure we know who elders are. Paul spoke to the elders of the church at Ephesus and we can read the clear wording that Paul uses and see he calls them the pastors of the church.

Acts 20:28-31 (NLT) “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.”

1. Elders are not just old people, but the shepherds appointed by the Holy Spirit
2. Shepherds are pastors, which means the Elders of the church are the PASTORS
3. The history of the church is proof of this warning, people inside will rise up to take control, “to draw a following” against God’s appointed pastors.

“Paul turned to the future responsibilities of the elders in Ephesus. First, they were to guard (prosechete, “attend to” in the sense of taking care of) themselves and all the flock. Significantly before they could provide for the flock they had to care for their own spiritual well-being.”

“Here the elders are described as overseers (episkopous, from the verb episkopeō, “to look for, to care for”). The term “elders” has primarily Jewish antecedents and stresses the dignity of the office, whereas “overseers” is mainly Greek in its derivation and emphasizes the responsibility of the office, namely, “to look after” others.”

“The value of the flock, over which the elders were to be shepherds (poimainein, pres. tense infinitive; cf. 1 Peter 5:2), is underscored by Paul’s calling it the church of God (i.e., the church that is owned by God) and by his referring to its purchase (cf. Ps. 74:2) by His own blood. Nowhere does the Bible speak of the blood of God the Father. The Greek here can read “by the blood of His own,” that is, His own Son. The Greek word for bought means “acquired, obtained.” – The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty.

The history of the church is proof that over and over again people rise up and challenge the pastor’s authority given by God, and try to steal control. Some split churches and steal the Lord’s sheep from His local church. But others are charismatic and politically powerful enough to chase off the pastor and take control. They twist the truth of scripture and form new movements and denominations that move the next generation an inch further away from God’s will. This always broadens the gospel to include more and more sin inside the life of the church.

Over 2000 years some groups are plainly recognized as lost people wearing sheep’s clothing.

Another thing that is clearly Biblical but not popular for Americans is the fact that elders are appointed by the spiritual leadership.

In Titus 1:5 (NLT) we read, “I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you.”

Americans want to have elections and grumble if they do not have control or things do not please them. Church elders are chosen leaders and are the pastoral team. Americans cannot continue to try and add politics, then claim the pastors are political. They want to vote on everything, which is control over the pastor’s leadership and every move the church makes. But I admit, it makes sense to allow a congregation to approve of the head pastor, rather then destroying the church through strife, conflict and dissension.

But then you must remember, even in government politics the people of America only vote for the head of the country. We vote for president but he picks his staff and they create rules, establish actions, policies, etc.  We do not vote for anything else.

Even second pastors, the other elders, and deacons are appointed by the lead pastor according to the Bible. Of course this must be done only according to the strict qualifications as written in Titus and Timothy. The leaders do not get to do their own thing and contradict the Word of God. That is what Diotrephe tried to do.

Also  remember that politics means the focus on policies.

The policies of the church are not chosen and voted upon by people, but the policies of the Bible are learned and obeyed as commanded by Jesus the true authority (Lord) of the church. God’s word controls the policies of the church, not the culture or American methods of politics and governing.

This does not mean pastors are not open to the input of his leaders to draw out the plans and vision of how the local church can implement what God calls a church to do. Nor does it mean pastors do not ask for feedback and advice from the flock, but the scriptures alone are our politics! The politics of demanding control of the little things of the church facilities, etc is counterproductive.

The paid staff’s job is to manage the business and daily operations, but the the people’s job is to do the work of the ministry. God gave the leadership to run the church and coach the people to serve [be the slaves of Jesus] each other in the church, and reach out in the community with the love of God and the Good News of Jesus. Pastors must train them to look away from the stuff and instead focus on the people lost and dying in their sins. Also the members must become the support system for building each other up to be the ministers of the local church.

Paul explains this in Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT) “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”

1. Each pastor, preacher, missionary, evangelist and teacher are a “person gift” to the church. If qualified the lead pastor must appoint real elders and stop using a Board of Directors that contradicts the scriptural mandate of plural elders. Then change the Board of Directors to the Deacon Team, your servant helpers.

2. Elders and deacons do not have free reign to do their thing, they are directly responsible to the authority and leadership of the lead pastor. This control comes from the top, not the bottom.

Only allow teachers to teach who submit to the authority and approved teaching by the pastor. All businesses understand this concept. Employees are not allowed to do whatever they feel like. It creates chaos instead of unity of the faith.  Do not allow the cycle of chaos to take control by giving people free reign to challenge the pastor’s authority and then cause division and arguments in Bible studies.

3. This kind of church is constantly sidetracked from God’s mission, in an uproar, and confused from the contradictory studies given. Pastors must take control… they are the shepherd and charged to “guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church…”

Finally, it seems the pride and arrogance of many American church attenders has derailed the effective ministry of the church. Without humble submission to the pastor’s leadership many supposed churches are nothing more than disorganized rebels who have collapsed the vital work of God in their communities.