Issue #183 -------
April 7, 2005
Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered;
yet we have this consolation with us, that the
harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
"The Crisis" -- Dec. 23, 1776
There are some situations in life that are almost too horrific to contemplate! A convicted child molester babysitting your precious little ones. A serial rapist overseeing a shelter for abused women. A baby pulling the ears of a pit bull. A hungry wolf having free run of a fold filled with prize lambs. These are all formulas for disaster; recipes for ruin. No one in their right mind would even consider endorsing such scenarios.
There is another scenario that is equally disturbing. It is a circumstance in which a group of disciples of Jesus Christ find themselves dominated by a godless, self-serving despot. This may be in a congregational setting, a small group setting, or even an Internet Bible discussion group. Rather than finding a loving, harmonious, grace-centered association of believers, one finds a domineering, devious, vicious, satanic spirit tyrannizing those who have come within the parameters of his abusive authority. We have all witnessed such evil despotism within the above venues, and it sickens us just as surely as does the contemplation of a molester's filthy fondling hands on our innocent children. When a lobo (wolf) lords it over a lamb, our Good Shepherd must be equally sickened and outraged. Yet, this happens daily in the kingdom of our God. Such congregational, group, and discussion list leaders would almost have to be from Mars, however, not to know that such behavior is condemned by our Father.
Jesus told His disciples in no uncertain terms, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all" (Mark 10:42-44). There are no "little lords" in the family of our Father. Eph. 4:5 informs us there is "one Lord" -- and YOU ain't it!! This is a fact that some in the church obviously have yet to appreciate.
A perfect example of the egregious behavior to which we have already alluded may be found in an early church despot by the name of Diotrephes. His name occurs only once in all of Scripture -- 3 John 9, but it is sufficient to leave us sickened by his abuse within the household of God. Specific details as to who this man was are lacking, but what he was is made abundantly clear in just a few short statements from the pen of the apostle John. "I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and he forbids those who desire to do so, and puts them out of the church" (3 John 9-10, NASB).
The name Diotrephes is a combination of two Greek words which signify "nursed, nourished by Zeus." The pagan god "Zeus was the chief of the gods in the Greek pantheon. The custom in the early Church was for a Christian Greek to discard his pagan name and take a Christian name at his baptism, the Christian name often being descriptive of his Christian character. Diotrephes had never changed his name, although he was a professing Christian, and a member of the local church of which Gaius was a member" (Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, p. 222). What is to be made of this, if anything, is uncertain. However, it is at least ironic that he whose name signified one who was nourished by the chief of the gods, should himself seek to be "chief in the church!"
Who this man was, and what position he held in the church, is unknown, although there have been numerous theories down through the centuries. Dr. Robertson calls him an "ambitious leader and sympathizer with the Gnostics" (ibid). Adam Clarke feels he "was doubtless an officer in the Church, at least a deacon, probably a bishop" (Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 942). "Diotrephes seems to have held some office in the church; he may have been an elder in the congregation to which Gaius belonged" (Dr. Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 2, p. 583). "Whether he was pastor, elder, deacon, or other office-bearer in the Church, we cannot tell .... But the context favours the view that he was at least a presbyter" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22).
The reason we even know of the existence of this man is because he chose to stand in wicked opposition to the aged apostle John. In the early decades of the church's existence, it was not uncommon for roving evangelists to travel about the empire establishing congregations, edifying existing ones, and exposing, as well as opposing, various false doctrines and false teachers afflicting the church. It was also not uncommon for these traveling evangelists to come carrying letters of recommendation and commendation (2 Cor. 3:1) from known and respected leaders in the church so that they would be welcomed by the saints as genuine workers for the Lord, and thus be assured that they would be shown Christian hospitality. Some feel John is alluding to these evangelists in 3 John 5, and that when he speaks of having written something to the church (3 John 9), he may well be speaking of one of these letters of reference. If this is the case, then part of the problem he addresses in this brief epistle is the fact that Diotrephes apparently rejects both the traveling evangelists, refusing to show them hospitality, and also rejects the letter sent by John recommending them.
We will probably never know the exact nature of the letter John wrote to the church, or what exactly happened to it. Most scholars feel it was most likely a letter of recommendation for traveling evangelists whom John knew and trusted, and that the letter was likely intercepted by Diotrephes and destroyed before it ever reached the members of the congregation. Thus, John had to write to Gaius, circumventing Diotrephes, in order to get the word to the members of the congregation. Exactly why Diotrephes opposed John, the reason for his opposition, is purely speculative on our part, and perhaps is not that important anyway. The fact of his opposition, and the malicious manifestation of this opposition, is truly what concerns us most. It all suggests something about the character of Diotrephes, and the picture presented to us is certainly not a pretty one! Consider the following analysis of the specifics of this man's character as revealed in 3 John 9-10.
FIRST --- He Loves To Be First. "I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say" (3 John 9, NASB). We have already discussed some of the theories involving the letter John wrote, and possible reasons for Diotrephes refusing to accept anything that John said. However, at least part of that godless motivation is revealed to us in this passage. Diotrephes loved to be first. It is worded differently in various translations --- "who loves being in charge" (The Message) .... "who loveth to have the preeminence" (KJV) .... "He always wants to be their leader" (Easy-To-Read Version) .... "who loves to push himself forward as the leader" (The Living Bible) .... "Diotrephes likes to be the number-one leader" (Contemporary English Version) .... "who wants to be head of everything" (J.B. Phillips, The NT in Modern English).
The Greek word employed by John in this passage is an extremely rare one -- Philoproteuo. It occurs nowhere else in the Bible, and very rarely outside of the Bible. It is a combination of two Greek words, and signifies "a love or desire to be first or chief" (The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 426). Dr. Kenneth Wuest, in his Word Studies from the Greek NT, regarded this as an attitude of "intellectual arrogance and personal aggrandizement" (vol. 2, p. 222). This man was obsessed with an "unholy love of dominance. Diotrephes loves to be first, to be considered the leader. He wants to be a boss, a dictator, a lord of all the rest, instead of letting the congregation" be the ones who collectively manage their affairs (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. John, p. 586). Rather than allowing the various members the freedom to participate together responsibly as family, even in the determination of their own course, these leaders prefer to be the lords and bosses of the group.
Diotrephes "evidently was not satisfied with the official position he held and its scope of power, but desired to rule the entire church. Robertson, in connection with his discussion of this man's character, says that he wrote an article for a denominational paper on Diotrephes, and the editor told him that twenty-five deacons stopped the paper to show their resentment against being personally attacked" (Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, p. 222). This is a rather humorous account, but it shows just how widespread this lust for preeminence is in the church. It is frightening! We all know of such little lords, and each of us could undoubtedly recount "horror stories" regarding the harm they have inflicted upon the flock.
"Diotrephes had the intention of making himself a leader, probably in that entire province. It was a case of misguided ambition which did not shrink from any degree of insolence" (Dr. Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 2, p. 583). "He magnified himself in his office; he loved such eminence, and behaved himself haughtily in it" (Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 942). "He was ambitious of the highest place and of the greatest power in the Church; he would be first and chief of all, or he would be nothing. An evil and dangerous character in any one" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22). Diotrephes "belonged to the class of those who love to have the preeminence; who are bent, not on the peace and prosperity of the Church, but on their being first in the Church, even at the expense of its peace and prosperity" (ibid). He is the "type of all vain, noisy, self-asserting teachers, whose main object is to get their own way -- an object which they effect by browbeating all who differ with them. Even an apostle is denounced if he ventures to maintain that the truth may be larger than their view of it. Christian ministers now must not be surprised if they sometimes meet with no better treatment" (ibid).
SECOND --- He unjustly accuses others with wicked words. John indicated that he planned to come to the congregation where Diotrephes was and "call attention to his deeds which he does." It is thus possible many in the congregation were not even aware of what this man was up to! They soon would be, however, for John planned to tell them!! Little lords tend to be somewhat secretive in their nefarious dealings. They don't want the light shined upon them; it would expose them for who and what they are. John intended to show up and do just that. He would let the members see Diotrephes as he was. I have heard some condemn John as "sneaky" for sending a letter to Gaius behind the back of Diotrephes, and for declaring he planned to come and expose this little lord to those he sought to dominate. However, there are times when the only way to reach God's people who are being held captive by such dictators is to circumvent these godless leaders. This is exactly what John did, and this is exactly what we may need to do today in similar situations in order to expose these despots and free their captives.
One of the dastardly deeds of this devious man was his slanderous accusations against John. He was "unjustly accusing us with wicked words" (NASB). The "us" in this passage probably included the evangelists John had hoped to send to the church there. Other translations render this phrase -- "slandering us with malicious words" (Holman Christian Standard Bible) .... "He lies and says evil things about us" (E-T-R Version) .... "spreading vicious rumors about us" (The Message) .... "prating against us with malicious words" (KJV) .... "spreading evil nonsense about us" (NAB, St. Joseph edition) .... "gossiping maliciously about us" (NIV) .... "He lays baseless and spiteful charges against us" (NEB) .... "with malicious insinuations he is talking about me" (Charles B. Williams, The NT in the Language of the People) .... "attacking us with gossip" (CEV) .... "the terrible things he says about us and the lies he tells" (Today's English Version).
In an article titled "The Diotrephes Syndrome: A Strategy for Using Church Discipline as a Weapon," our brother in Christ, Craig W. Booth, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, uses Diotrephes as his "model" for how best to destroy those in the church who differ with you! This article may be read in its entirety on the web site The Faithful Word.org (under the category that is titled "Church Discipline"). Notice Booth's following observation -- "Diotrephes used a wonderful and almost unassailable attack. An almost perfect strategy. He attacked the character of the apostles, not their doctrines or theology, but rather their character, 'unjustly accusing us with wicked words.' This is so precious! For it should be noted that Diotrephes was able to sidestep his real problem. He could not address the doctrines because he had no Scriptural leg to support him, so he attacked the character of those with good doctrine in order to discredit them and, by association, everything they said. How beautiful that strategy is. How do you counter a character assassination? He said, she said, someone said, all leaves impressions in the minds of the hearers and truth becomes secondary and ultimately lost. The focus is no longer doctrine but whether the person has a good reputation, which by the way was just defamed by the very accuser who is trying to hide his own doctrinal failings in the first place."
The Greek word that is used by the apostle John in this phrase, and which is translated "unjustly accusing" or "prating against," is phluareo, a verb which appears only here in all the New Testament writings. It comes from the root word phluo (meaning "to bubble up or boil over"), and signifies "talk which is both fluent and empty" (Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, p. 223). "To talk nonsense about; bring unjustified charges against" (Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 862). "To utter nonsense, talk idly, prate; to bring forward idle accusations, make empty charges; to throw up bubbles ... since bubbles are hollow and useless things, it means 'to indulge in empty and foolish talk'" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, p. 655). "To raise false accusations" (W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words). This word also appears as a noun only one time in all of the NT writings -- 1 Tim. 5:13, in which we find younger widows behaving as "gossips and busybodies."
"The holiest man is exposed to the venom of the tongue of the slanderer. Arrogance leads to terrible extremes; it dares to calumniate the most beautiful-spirited apostle. When a man has done wrong to another, he finds it necessary either to confess the wrong or to say false and wicked things against him he has wronged, hoping thereby to justify himself. So Diotrephes prated against St. John with wicked words. The slanderer frequently assails the very best of men. Our Lord was thus attacked -- 'A gluttonous man and a wine-bibber!'" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22). Those who dare to oppose the little lords in the church will quickly find themselves the victims of slander and defamation. These people have no desire whatsoever to try and refute one's teaching ... indeed, they can't. Rather, they prefer to assault one's character!! So, beware when dealing with a Diotrephes! It can get "ugly" very quickly!
THIRD --- He seeks to prevent others from receiving their brethren. In other words, Diotrephes, and similar despots in the church today, will do all in their power to prevent their disciples from having any kind of intimate fellowship with those they deem "unworthy" ... or whom they deem a threat to their personal power or party preferences. "Prong two is the stroke of genius to the master plan. Cut off fellowship between those who have true biblical discernment and those on whom you are trying to impose the erroneous doctrine. Once fellowship is broken, it becomes impossible for anyone to contradict you. Those who remain in fellowship are those whom you have already won to your point of view (who lack appropriate discernment), or are those who are too intimidated to invoke the Word of God against you or against your faulty doctrine. The result is that no one is left to raise any dissent or to contradict you, or worse, raise a valid biblical debate. In other words, you win by default. You have silenced all your detractors and you win. You do not have to be right, because you win!" (Craig W. Booth, The Diotrephes Syndrome).
Little church lords like Diotrephes do not dare allow those whom they seek to control to have any kind of open dialogue with those with whom they differ. This is seen especially, in these modern times, on various ultra-conservative and Non-Institutional Internet Bible discussion lists. These list lords guard their members with an almost obsessive-compulsive passion. There are regular purges of the members, and daily "witch hunts," to make sure absolutely NO fellowship is allowed with any discerning disciple who may succeed in exposing their motives or refuting their narrow dogma. They will also typically employ a list watchdog, who is free from accountability to list rules, and who is allowed to roam about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. If anyone slips past the list lords, one can be sure they will NOT slip past the list Rottweiler. He will have these "liberals" cornered and mauled in short order, all to the applause of these little lords and their hellish horde of goose-stepping supporters.
Wherever you see a power hungry, party protecting, prating person denying fellowship to those he opposes, then forcing those under him to do the same, you will find a Diotrephes in the church. And brethren, they abound! Diotrephes "had the complete 'dog in the manger' principle; he would neither do, nor let do; and when good was done that he himself did not approve, he endeavoured to undo it" (Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 942). "Not content with undercutting John with pernicious words, Diotrephes refuses to accept the itinerant Bible teachers whom John had commended to the church, and prevents (hinders, forbids) those who after mature consideration desired to welcome them" (Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, p. 223).
The Pharisees and lawyers of the Lord's day were equally egregious in this practice of seeking to hinder any of their followers from engaging in anything with which, or anyone with whom, they themselves disapproved. "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered" (Luke 11:52). "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in" (Matt. 23:13). Just two verses later, Jesus informed these legalistic despots that they were making their followers "twice as much a son of hell as yourselves!" (Matt. 23:15). Harsh words! But then, Jesus had absolutely zero tolerance for people like Diotrephes. These are dangerous men, and, unless they are exposed, they will drag down to hell all who follow their lead. Yes, Jesus was hard on these people. So hard that His disciples came to Him and said, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?" (Matt. 15:12). The Lord's response was, "Leave them! They are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (vs. 14).
The apostle John was determined NOT to allow the members of the church where Diotrephes was reigning as a tyrant to remain in the dark regarding the character of this man and his works. He would open their eyes to the countless abuses of this man. He told Gaius that he hoped to come to that congregation, and, once he got there, he said he would "speak publicly of what he is doing!" "There is nothing vindictive in this! The apostle would vindicate his own authority and the commission of the missionaries, enlighten the Church, and rebuke Diotrephes. There is a certain class of men on whom pity has no effect, and compassion is lost; and the only thing which can be done is to deliver them over to Satan" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22). "There seems to be an implication that Diotrephes' misdeeds were not yet fully known to the congregation; and perhaps it was the elder's hope that once they were revealed, the church would either censure or expel Diotrephes from his position" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 375). For members to remain passive before such despots only perpetuates their evil. They must rise up and deal forcefully with them! They will never be free until they do. And they are culpable before God if they don't.
FOURTH --- He bans those who will not bow to his will. "And not satisfied with this, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and he forbids those who desire to do so, and puts them out of the church" (NASB). Those who will not submit to the authority of a Diotrephes will soon be banished from his presence. One thing a despot does not dare allow among those followers he seeks to dominate is a questioning, doubting, resistant spirit. These must be quashed, and he must do so quickly! Quelling opposition is the first order of business for those who would lord it over others. "How do you break fellowship between the discerning and the deluded? This requires careful scheming and impeccable execution. You must 'put them out of the church,' just as Diotrephes did" (Craig W. Booth, The Diotrephes Syndrome). Historians, who have examined the tactics of tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, to name just a few more recent ones, have shown that invariably one of the first things these despots do is order mass purges of all those within the population who dare to think independently, and who might dare to raise doubts or objections that would reflect poorly on their efforts to dominate the people.
Notice how several other translations render the phrase in 3 John 10 -- "He makes these people leave the church" (E-T-R Version) .... "he expels them from the church" (Holman CSB) .... "Worse yet, instead of inviting them in he throws them out" (The Message) .... "he casteth them out of the church" (KJV) .... "he tries to drive them out of the church" (TEV) .... "he even excommunicates them!" (J.B. Phillips, The NT in Modern English). "The harshest treatment of all had been directed against those whose conscience required them to extend hospitality to the brethren. Because they dared to disobey Diotrephes on this matter, they had been cast out of the congregation" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 375). This passage "points out the viciousness of Diotrephes, and his unholy love of dominance" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. John, p. 586). "He is throwing out of the church those who do not take his orders. This first church boss was a very thorough church boss!" (ibid, p. 587).
"One masterful, power-loving man in a Church may work incalculable mischief and injury; therefore (1) let us guard against the presence or growth of such a spirit in ourselves; (2) let us take heed that we afford no encouragement or countenance to such a spirit in others" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22). One cannot condemn too strongly the sin of one man seeking to lord it over another! And when such a despot tyrannizes an entire group of disciples, the offence against both God and men is thereby magnified exponentially!
Brethren, there are would-be LORDS among us. Wolves among the sheep. Despots among the disciples of Jesus Christ. Paul warned the elders in Ephesus to be on the alert, because these little lords would be looking to gain a following (Acts 20:29-31). That is good advice for us today, as well. Let us look to ourselves, evaluating our hearts and minds and motives very carefully, lest we become a Diotrephes. Let us also look very carefully and prayerfully among our fellow disciples. If we see any among them begin to elevate themselves above the rest, demanding compliance to their will and whims, effecting sanctions against those who differ with them, take immediate action to quash the rise to power of this would-be lord of the church. There is only "one Lord" over the church (Eph. 4:5; 1:22), and none of us have the right to assume that position over the rest. Those who do so, and those who allow it, and those who refuse to expose it, are the enemies of Jesus Christ and His One Body.
From a Minister in (Unknown):
Bro. Maxey, Thank you for the great article about Bro. Modgling, and for all of your encouragement and support for him. I've known John since he was a small child. I knew his father, who was a Church of Christ preacher that I heard preach at my former "home congregation." I know John's mother; I am a guest preacher at the congregation where she used to attend. John is a good man, a good preacher, and just a good human being. Thank you for encouraging him.
From a Minister in Indiana:
Brother Al, Thanks for weighing in on the Schiavo case. My sentiments agree with yours. Yet it seems that the overwhelmingly popular "Christian" opinion was that she should continue to "live." I'll admit that I don't know all of the facts. And I probably could not defend my position biblically, but common sense says that the family should "let her go." I have kept my opinions to myself, though. I thought, "Well, perhaps I'm 'missing' something. I just don't get it" (wouldn't be the first time). I appreciate you, brother!
From a Ph.D. in Mississippi:
Al, I just had to write to say, "Praise God for young men like John Modgling." I suppose a lot of us have "been there, done that." In more than 30 years of preaching experience I've dealt with my share of rule-makers and point-parsers. It's usually a no-win situation. I've dealt with critics, accusers, and antagonists. I've been threatened and fired. Despite those negative experiences, I've discovered that Jesus is full of love and grace and mercy. He's the savior of imperfect people who not only can't, but haven't, kept the rules. He doesn't excuse my mistakes and sins, rather He forgives and urges me to work on my failures. He isn't interested in how much I trust myself and my ability to get it right, He's interested in how much I trust Him and the perfect life He's already sacrificed. It's not that He doesn't want us to do right, it's that He's made it possible for us "unright" people to be made right in His blood, and then re-worked into something that brings glory to God. May we be less interested in which side of the aisle we passed the communion tray from (just as an example), and much, much more interested in the Jesus who died to set us free from our sins. May God bless all the "John Modglings" who must endure trials in order to see freedom given in Jesus. God help us to have a better faith than one pickled in formaldehyde. Love you, brother!
From a Minister in Oklahoma:
Well, I have to say that I admire brother Modgling's dedication to the Truth, and I pray that he will soon find a fulfilling and profitable area in which to work. He has chosen a difficult calling, one which requires a great deal of maturity and wisdom. In my opinion, many of our congregations are among the very worst "employers" I have ever seen. God bless our preachers!! And best regards to you, brother!
From a Minister in North Carolina:
I hope that because of brother Modgling's sermon being reprinted here, and because of his stance for the Truth which he preached in love, that he will be engulfed in offers to come and preach for congregations who need a loving, enthusiastic, and Truth-seeking preacher! We need more men in the pulpit like John. And, as Paul instructed the young preacher Timothy, I would say to brother Modgling -- "Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." Thanks, Al, for this powerful testimony! Hang in there, John! God won't allow your labor of love in His service to go unrewarded.
From a Minister in Massachusetts:
Al, Regarding brother John's sermon -- he thankfully demonstrated a wisdom far beyond his years. It reminded me of a time when I was accused by another Church of Christ preacher in front of my young sons of being a "false teacher" because of the practice of our congregation of eating a potluck dinner once a month in the church basement. How sad that a living relationship with Him is so often traded for rules, regulations and traditions. John and his wife are in my prayers, as is the whole household of faith. Thanks for sharing!
From a Minister in Arkansas:
Dear Brother Maxey, That was an outstanding Reflections. I can honestly say I know how this young preacher felt. Every church around here several years ago falsely accused me of "false teaching." The accusers had never even come to hear me preach the Truth of God. They were simply mad because a number of their young men obeyed the Gospel of Christ and had chosen to come worship with us, instead of staying with them. If these others truly want to be called "Christians," they need to quit acting like the scribes and Pharisees did to Jesus. Keep up the good work, brother Maxey.
From a Minister in Florida:
How tragic that this young man had to be the victim of such traditionalism and legalism. But, some of us have endured such treatment for years. I hope his faith will be made stronger through these trials. One of the well-known legalists around here, who has stirred up so much strife and contention in my area, has succeeded in splitting the congregation for which he preached and in which he served as an elder. I was reminded of your recent article on Obadiah. Seems that people of his ilk are not faring too well, as the congregations for which they preach are dwindling and dying. Someone recently made this observation to my wife, "I know the congregation where your husband preaches is all right, because he's been written up!" She intended this as a compliment, and I received it as such. But, has it really now come to this? How sad!!
From a Reader in Michigan:
Al, I agree wholeheartedly with the sermon of the fired brother from Texas. But I wonder if he made the mistake of hitting his congregation too hard too fast? After all, he had only been there for six weeks. He was still a "new bee," not fully known and ingratiated within the congregation, I suspect. I wouldn't be surprised if those that decided to fire him had already tuned him out after the first two minutes and never really heard the whole sermon. It can be a delicate balance between pushing so hard that the congregation pushes back and not pushing hard enough so as to move anyone. Perhaps a little patience would have served the fired preacher better. He would likely still be there to help them wake up.
From a Minister in Ohio:
Dear Al, Thank you so much for your latest Reflections. John's sermon, and even more so his actions, were so encouraging to me. Way to go ... both of you!
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Al, Someone (that fellow "Someone" really said a lot of things, didn't he?) once said that "money isn't everything, but it's far ahead of whatever is in 2nd place." I know the matter of John Modgling has a more important message than "just" money, but if those of us who profess support for those on the "front line" in the battle against legalism are not willing to part with some of our "abundance" in order to help those who have a need, then we are simply offering "lip service" (or so it seems to me). Can you put me in touch with John, or someone else who might be able to help me understand the extent and expected duration of his need? I know a guy who might be able to help. His name is "Someone." I believe "Someone" is ready to stop "saying" so much and start "doing" more in his support of those who possess sufficient bone density in the region of the backbone to stand for Truth. Perhaps there are several "Someones" out there in this category.
From a Reader in Texas:
I love your Reflections articles; thank you so much! I was so glad to see your views on the Schiavo case. As a retired medical social worker, I used to have to deal with these family battles. I always thought a Christian would want to go on and be with the Lord, and yet the media seems to infer it is the Christians who are wanting to keep those in a vegetative state alive. I agree with you, and I signed my living will last summer. God bless you!
From an Elder in Missouri:
Your last Reflections was excellent! The young brother who lost his "job" will surely find a place where he can be "allowed" to preach the good news according to the freedom in Christ he has seen and experienced for himself. He truly has been a soldier of the cross, and I wish to encourage him to keep the faith. I also appreciated his sermon, and may use some of it as a starter for myself sometime in the near future when I preach. I too have experienced the closed-mindedness of those steeped in "rules and regulations."
With regard to the "right to die" question, we too have been there when families have had to make this type of decision. We have made our own wishes known to our girls, and other family members, that we want no heroic measures taken if our life is on the line. We do not want to become a burden to them if we are in a vegetative state as this young woman was. I agree with you, Al, that based on the information we have at our disposal the "tube" should have been "pulled" some time ago. I agree also that the "government" should never have been involved, and am sorely disappointed in President Bush and Governor Bush for their leadership in that. Surprisingly enough, the courts came down on the side that I think is right. As an elder, and also as a counselor with training in the ethics of end of life decisions, I have been asked over the past several weeks my opinion on the matter, and have been met with surprise and even shock by some who think my thoughts are "unchristian." Others, of course, agreed with my view. I am certain we have not heard the last of this very difficult topic.
From a Reader in Florida:
You know, Mr. Maxey, no matter how many times I remind myself that God's timing is perfect, I am still so often surprised just how perfect it is. Your last Reflections could not have come at a more appropriate time in my life. Thank you. I pray for you each time I read these messages.
From Bro. John Modgling in Texas:
Al, Thank you again for doing a Reflections article on my lesson. Now that sermon has reached far more people than it would have if I was preaching it. I hope that it helps someone. The people who have responded to it have been very kind to me and my wife. Thank you for forwarding their letters to me. Again, I'm honored and humbled by all the prayers and encouragement that I have received from you and your readers. It does my heart good to know that there are so many loving people out there willing to be ambassadors of Christ. I enjoyed the article, and am anticipating the next one. You always force people to think. That's good. The problem with legalism is that it forbids people to think. Continue to pray for the enslaved. God bless you!
From a Minister in California:
Dear Brother Modgling, Your congregation may have fired you for your sermon, but there was a person out here in California shouting "Amen and Amen" at his computer screen as he read it. As I read of your plight, I was tempted to feel sorry for you. But the Holy Spirit challenged my sinful nature. How could I possibly feel sorry for someone who is out there serving God to the best of his ability and is being persecuted for the sake of righteousness? Great is your reward in Heaven, my brother. In fact, now I'm struggling with envy! God is going to pour out His blessings on you more than we could ever calculate or imagine. Please take counsel from Hebrews 10:32-39. While I cannot be there with you in Texas to support you physically, know that I stand "side by side" with you in spirit. "Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded." I am honored that you saw fit to share your struggles with Bro. Maxey's readers, and that I have the opportunity to know you through your struggle. You have strengthened my resolve to "contend for the faith." Attention all legalists and patternists: Bro. Modgling is taking back Jude 3 for his own use now. Consider yourselves duly warned! Best wishes to you and your wife. She is without doubt an amazing woman of God in her own right!
From a Long-Time, Ultra-Legalistic
Critic of Mine from North Carolina:
Al, I could not believe my eyes as I read of such rudeness to fellow Christians as was demonstrated by this young preacher in his sermon. I only ask what sin were they guilty of? I believe that any preacher, whether young or old, would have been fired in any congregation of the Lord's people for preaching what he did to them. In fact, I am really surprised that he was not stopped before he completed his sermon. I just hope there were no visitors there at the time.
From a Reader in Kentucky:
Brother Maxey, I am a friend of the "Doctor from Kentucky," one of your Reflections subscribers. He and his wife are such wonderful examples of those who have come out of the "Anti" church. We have been friends for almost three years, and until I met them I had no idea what an "Anti" church was. I was raised in the Church of Christ in North Carolina, so I knew we had "issues;" I just never knew what I know now. Thank you for sharing the story of this precious young couple (the Modglings). I bet they will have, if not already, many "job" offers all over the US. I believe this happened to them for a reason, and may they never stop sharing the Grace of God. Just curious, how many subscribers do you have to your weekly Reflections? Thank you for using your talents and abilities to make us think! I would love to hear your reflections on your war experiences. Were you a Christian then? I know it was not easy (my husband is currently serving in the military), and probably no fun remembering! So my apologies if I am stepping somewhere I shouldn't.
From a Reader in Missouri:
My dear brother Maxey, I am almost in tears! If I was not at I work I probably would be. What a wonderful, courageous, and enlightened young man John Modgling is! I pray this young man and his wife will continue to uphold the blood stained banner of our Lord and Savior. As an evangelist's wife, I know first hand the heartbreak these men too often suffer at the hands of those they try to serve and lead. Thank God they do it for His sake, and not for the praise of man, otherwise many of us would be lost. I continue to glean so much from your articles. May our God continue to be Lord in your heart.
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
Dear Al, I appreciate your thoughts about Mrs. Schiavo's case. It is difficult to know the truth about her situation. I have a different perspective about the quality of life as it pertains to decisions of life and death than you expressed in your recent Reflections. I was torn up inside when I found out that it was illegal for willing family members to care for a disabled daughter. I realize that her quality of life may have never improved significantly, but the image of God cannot be measured by IQ. For it to have been a crime for Terri Schiavo's parents to feed her is beyond my comprehension at this time. Thank you for letting me share this perspective with you, especially since you may disagree with some of my conclusions. I appreciate your willingness to think through and discuss ideas with people, and I always benefit from your Reflections, even when I occasionally disagree with you.
From a Reader in California:
Hey Al, I just plugged your Reflections on my BLOG site. Just wanted to let you know when I do something like this. Don't worry; it's all good ... at least, I hope so!!
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