I arrived early Sunday morning for my first service preaching at the Baptist Church in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I’d been invited by the chairman of the board to fill the pulpit for a month to see if I was interested in becoming the pastor.
Moments after I arrived, a woman in her early 90s came in, looked me square in the eye from across the room, and marched toward me. My name is Vera and I’m in charge here. I was speechless.
Days later I spoke to the church board about the need to reach beyond vacationing Americans and Canadians to English speaking Mexicans. Vera again spoke up … We already have Mexicans and they belong to me!
Five weeks of head-to-head combat with Vera resulted in my decision not to shepherd the congregation.
The Apostle John broke the etiquette of modern Christianity by giving the name of a trouble maker in a church. Diotrephes had rejected the words of John, those sent to the congregation by John, and even threw out members who welcomed John’s emissaries. We know little more of Diotrephes. He may have been a pastor, but more likely a layman who loved being number one.
Every congregation has a Diotrephes. He is selfish, self-centered, and self-seeking. He wants to be in charge of something, recognized, afforded special attention, and promoted. His ministry isn’t really about Jesus; Jesus is just a means to self-glory.
Back home in Portland was another woman named Vera. She was a widow in her 80s, fragile, and more quiet than a church mouse. Each Sunday she sat alone on the end of the row in the back pew. Vera spoke very little, but when she did it was often the same, Pastor, thank you for telling me about Jesus today. I can’t do much, but I pray for you every day; and though I don’t have much to give, I give what I can.
Her smile each week as I preached, faithfulness to pray, and generosity in giving the little God enabled was enough.
Don’t be a Diotrophes.