A Tale of Two Leaders: Diotrephes and Timothy


I am saddened every time I think about Diotrephes. He was a man we would all recognize – ambitious, driven, in charge, domineering, and commanding attention. He thought he had it all together. He thought he had God’s favor because his ministry was large and growing. He was a prominent leader.

Read 3 John 9-11. Diotrephes was driven to be first – so much so that he didn’t want anything to do with the apostle John. Can you imagine that? Diotrephes wanted to be the star. He wanted the spotlight – the focus of attention. John was a challenge, a threat.

Take a moment to compare and contrast Diotrephes with the ministry leaders and pastors in your part of the world.

What Diotrephes did feels right to our flesh. It seems so natural. A leader can look wildly successful yet have Diotrephes’s heart.

Now contrast that with what Paul says about Timothy in Philippians 2:19-21.

What is the difference between Diotrephes and Timothy? One operates in the flesh building his own empire. The other operates in the Spirit, counting others as more important than himself.

Take a minute to consider. In our day, which one of these would be more esteemed? Many would say Diotrephes because of his strong leadership. In Jesus’s eyes which one will be rewarded?

More on this next week.



Leadership in the Kingdom of God

Leadership in the kingdom of God is much like a rafting trip. It’s the big-picture view that will keep us moving forward, facing the rapids of opposition or sinful pride or our own nagging sense of inadequacy. Without perspective, we may not be able to get down that river well–or guide and shepherd others.

We are living in a time when it’s particularly hard to get a perspective on leading God’s people in a way Jesus would recognize. The clamor is for big numbers and quick results. Offering a cup of cold water to the least of these does not build a reputation for success, not in this current climate. The pressure is to be the hero, the strong leader who won’t take “no,” or the guy who’s the boss.

 rafting brown    Border         hiking brown2

Where is our faith in the power of the Gospel, rather than sheer human effort?

Much like my Grand Canyon trip, we can begin this journey of being a leader–a Christian leader– with the best of intentions and high ideals, but this does not sustain. When the going gets rough, we will feel swamped, and the tendency is to do what comes naturally: dominate and control, go with the flow of what other leaders around us do. We will strive to be the hero, the focus of people’s attention, and the leader of a vibrant ministry organization or church.

“Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross…” the write of Hebrews said. In other words, this big-picture view of eternity with the Father and hearing Him say, “Well done,” was the motivation and the prize. Even for Christ. Some people call this an “eternal perspective.” It’s not unlike that beautiful big-picture view of the Grand Canyon that kept me paddling and hiking up a canyon wall. The reality that we will stand before Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, shapes our perspective on what it means to lead as Christ led.

Before I became a Christ follower, the idea of leading–and leading well–captivated me. As a manager I was trained to think in terms of an even wider variety of accomplishments. In the military I learned to measure success by position. But when I read the life of Jesus and began to follow Him, God turned many of those ideas upside down.

Guest Post: Sacrifice

Guest post today from David Toth.
Using the Gospels and focusing on Jesus Christ’s words in particular, I find one defining aspect that separates Biblical servanthood from other perspectives on servanthood. That one aspect is sacrifice. Jesus said:

“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great  among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many [emphasis added].” (Matt. 20:25-28)


Jesus uses himself as the example of one who serves by giving himself. There is no higher sacrifice than to give oneself. Therein lies the key to a biblical style of leadership and discipleship. One may have a fairly good  handle on the competencies required but biblical servant leadership does  not take place until the leader is giving himself/herself to others sacrificially, for the benefit of others and for the benefit of the mission.

Taking the sacrificial attitude of Jesus Christ is an intensely personal and painful step. It is also the step to freedom and joy. Apart from two thousand and some years, there is little difference between the world’s  expression of leadership then and now. Mostly, it flows from an  organization, a position, a person, where authority and power are used to promote one’s personal and/or corporate agenda with no or little concern for how others are used or worse, abused. Even in faith communities (local churches and Para-church organizations) the situation is not very different. Leaders in these organizations view themselves as servant leaders mostly because they try to be nice but within controlled contexts and/or during  allotted time slots and while using legalistic standards for accountability.

Biblical sacrifice calls for one to “give his life” for the benefit of others. Quite frankly, this is a personal struggle. I enjoy using my marginal time for my personal pursuits. Using a portion of that time for others, a  sacrificial portion that painfully detracts from pursuing personal pleasure, is not easy. Jesus, known as the suffering servant, showed the way by  giving himself for others. This is how the Gospel gets into the picture. The cross was the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but it was neither surprising nor unexpected. He started out giving himself to others without regard for other pursuits, then his sacrificial attitude and lifestyle reached  a crescendo at Calvary.

As we engage in leadership development and discipleship, how is Jesus’ sacrificial attitude expressed in our lifestyle? Do we give ourselves sacrificially to others for their benefit? Do we find joy seeing others grow and go beyond us? When someone experiences true sacrificial leadership  and/or disciple making, transformation takes place more quickly and  deeply. And that brings great joy to us, to our disciples, and to the Father!

Serving Him,
David Toth

Servant Leadership Part II

bibleiconIn my business classes and textbooks, I hoped to encounter the model of truly effective leadership.  I wanted something like a blueprint to manage and motivate people, and the business department of a university seemed to be the logical place to look. While my classes were stimulating, the foundational principle seemed quite similar to the one I applied every day on the hamburger line: A good leader is the guy who gets people to do what he wants done.

Before I could make progress in my studies, however, President Richard Nixon sent me a personal letter inviting me to take a free physical. Rather than take my chances on being drafted, I decided to enroll in the Army’s Officer Candidate School. If I had to slog my way through the jungles of Vietnam, I at least wanted to be the one giving the orders.

In the army, the smoldering fire of my raw ambition burst into bold flame…While I had no intention of making a career of the army, I deeply subscribe to the basic philosophy of leadership it espoused.  Whether military or civilian, being a leader was, in some way, a matter of climbing one’s way up an invisible ladder to the top. There, at the top, the reward was power–power to make things happen, power to control the options, power to influence others…

I suppose I would have continued full speed ahead, except for one thing. The reality of death was beginning to stare me in the face. I was training as an infantry officer, and I knew I could easily be carried out of the jungle feet first. I had buddies just like me–young, ambitious, and full of life–who had left for Vietnam and come home in flag-draped coffins. Their funerals broke through my ambition and stripped me of my idealistic illusions.  What difference would it make to rise to the top if what awaited me was only the cold, gray question mark of death?

I began reading the New Testament in search of answers.