I want always to able a little boy and to have fun, grins Peter Pan. Then with one grand leap, he stretches out his arms and flies into the night toward the brightest star and Never Never Land.
As children, millions of us followed Peter’s pixie-dust trail to his land of rollicking adventures and returned with hearts full of fantasies. As grown-ups, we never lose our admiration of Peter—the boy eternal. With magical whirl, he always manage to evade the hook of adulthood. Nothing, not even the ever-ticking, clock-swallowing crocodile, spoils his fun or his freedom.
A little bit of Peter Pan resides in all of us. He’s our spirit of youth who likes to crow from time to time. Problems arise, however, when we always want to live like Peter Pan. The late psychologist and author Dan Kiley in his book The Peter Pan Syndrome, describes people with this attitude:
They don’t want anything to do with school, work, or anything else that smacks of adulthood. Their desire is to do whatever they must to remain just what they are: little children who won’t grow up.
Kiley actually sees Peter Pan as in illustration of a confused adolescent.
For all his gaiety, he was a deeply troubled boy…caught in the abyss between the man he didn’t want to become and the boy he could no longer be.
Spiritually, we can get stuck in that same abyss, becoming adolescence in adult bodies. Our playful desire to never grow up can backfire, affecting not just us but those we love.
Although Diotrephes is mentioned only once in the Bible, the brief reference speaks buckets about this type of person.
Diotrephes, who loves being in charge, denigrates my counsel. If I come, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account for spreading vicious rumors about us.
As if that weren’t bad enough, he not only refuses hospitality to traveling Christians but tries to stop others from welcoming them. Worse yet, instead of inviting them in he throws them out.
Friend, don’t go along with evil. Model the good. (The Message, 3rd John 9-11a)
This is a Church Bully. He is not the appointed leader, he is the self-appointed leader. He is not the anointed leader, he is the self-anointed leader. He wants his way and he is going to get it…at all costs. Diotrephes lives on with no sense of decency.
A recent statistical study conducted by Southern Seminary discovered that 116 pastors are fired every month in the Southern Baptist Convention. Another study I read found that it only takes five (5) people to get rid of the pastor.
When my friends and I get together and share our hearts, unfortunately a great deal of our time is spent encouraging each other and giving counsel on how to deal with the “Church Bullies” in our churches. Because before long you begin to feel like the Lord is leading you somewhere else.
The only problem is there is a Diotrephes waiting there…anxious to have you come.
Now, I don’t mean that every disagreeable person is a Diotrephes. That is not my point. But I am saying that it is easy if you are frequently negative, and have a steady bad attitude regarding the leadership of the church—it is easy to fall into a Diotrephes syndrome. That is part of adolescence–not wanting to grow up.
Well-Intentioned Dragons, Marshall Shelley:
Dragons, of course, are fictional beasts–monstrous reptiles with lion’s claws, a serpent’s tail, bat wings, and scaly skin. They exist only in the imagination.
But there are dragons of a different sort, decidedly real. In most cases, though not always, they do not intend to be sinister; in fact, they’re usually quite friendly. But their charm belies their power to destroy.
Within the church, they are often sincere, well-meaning saints, but they leave ulcers, strained relationships, and hard feelings in their wake. They don’t consider themselves difficult people. They don’t sit up nights thinking of ways to be nasty. Often they are pillars of the community–talented, strong personalities, deservingly respected–but for some reason, they undermine the ministry of the church. They are not naturally rebellious or pathological; they are loyal church members, convinced they’re serving God, but they wind up doing more harm than good.
They can drive pastors crazy…or out of the church.
Some dragons are openly critical. They are the ones who accuse you of being (pick one) too spiritual, not spiritual enough, too dominant, too laid back, too narrow, too loose, too structured, too disorganized, or ulterior in your motives.
These criticisms are painful because they are largely unanswerable. How can you defend yourself and maintain a spirit of peace? How can you possibly prove the purity of your motives? Dragons make it hard to disagree without being disagreeable.
I am sure Diotrephes never set out to tear up a church. But he just had to have his way. I am convinced that if a Diotrephes is still reading this article they are blind to their bullyness. They will not be able to tell they are the problem. In addition to prayer, it usually takes someone or several someones to stand up to the bully and challenge them to live by a different set of standards.
When you are tempted to manipulate and dominate, remember the lordship of Jesus. Who is ultimately in charge? We don’t have to push our way if we’re willing to trust our true Master.