Last night Jim Smyrl gave a sermon on the book of third John, much of it dealing with gossipers in the church, and what should be done with them. He used the man "Diotrephes" from 3 John 9-10 as his text:
9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
Smyrl applied this to gossipers in the church and defined gossip as this: causing one believer to doubt the integrity and intent of another believer, causing one believer to doubt the sincerity or passion of another believer. Jim said based on his 20+ years as pastor, the sin of Diotrephes is the great sin hindering Baptist churches today. So Jim's standard of gossip is pretty low - not "lies" about people, just if you're calling into question someone's integrity or passion. Wow...then he and Mac are guilty of that just about every single week from the pulpit.
Jim went on to declare that not just gossipers are dividing the church, but people that listen or read "gossip" are just as guilty as the gossiper. Not if they spread the gossip, but just reading or listening to it is bad. He said in fact if you read "gossip" you are just as much a divider of the church as the person who originates it. Hmmm....so simply listening to someone gossip is dividing the church. Really? On what basis, Jim?
Jim addresses those who might respond by saying that "gossip" is "important information that we need to know"...Jim says something to the effect of "Really? Does it [the 'information'] stir you to be like Jesus? Does it cause you to walk in godliness?" Well, if there are problems in the church and you're reading about them or listening to someone express concerns about the church, no, that doesn't cause me to walk in godliness exactly. But that doesn't mean I'm dividing the church by listening and using my brain to be a discerning consumer of information. Using Jim's standard we must never read the newspaper or watch TV because it does not cause us to walk in godliness.
Again, cultic tendencies. Jim can't stand for people at FBC Jax to be confronted with facts about what is happening at the church. He is using this scripture to intimidate his listeners into not even listening or reading about information that might call into question the integrity of another Christian. He wants people who might listen to another Christian express concern about our church, or those who might happen upon this website, to think they are guilty of dividing the church just by taking that information in. Cultic, Jim.
Jim gave I think a partial view of who Diotrophes was and what was his position and standing in the church. Commentators on this passage on Diotrophes say that he was not some lay person just calling into question the integrity of another as Jim said. In fact Diotrophes was likely a leader, a very prominent man in the church. John says he was a very prideful man. He wanted to be first. He put his concerns and desires first. In fact he wanted power so much that he put certain Christians out of the church that he might have to share power with. He wanted the church to do what HE wanted it to do. In his quest for power, he walked over people. He used his power and position in the church to put down other people, to slander them and tell lies about them. He has split the church, pitting believers against one another. Imagine a church leader who would do all of those things? Unimaginable, right? An out of control leader like this? One who the people in the church are unwilling to stand up to? A bully that must be stopped because no one in the church is willing to stop him?
Well, John was saying in effect...if you guys won't stop this abusive leader, I'll come in and do it, and confront him, and let everyone know of his sin. Apparently those in the church were powerless, and/or unwilling, to hold their leader accountable for his abuses. Huh, imagine that.
Sorry to have to say it, but Mac Brunson fits the mold of a Diotrophes more so than those who are expressing concern over the abuses at our church (that Jim would classify as "gossipers"). Mac is the one who accepted a land gift and never told us and put his family on staff and built a million dollar home and had a pastor's suite constructed in our Children's Building. "...but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them..." It was Mac and his trustees that changed our bylaws changing conditions of membership and transferring power to the pastor and his trustees. Its Team Brunson first, like Diotrephes. "Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth"
Mac is the one who week after week whips his congregation with his anger and his criticism and his condescension and accusations. We have endured the wrath of Mac calling us a "hotbed of legalism", "worshipers of the past", and we've listened to Paige Patterson characterize the FBC Jax treatment of Mac as wanting to "kill him" when he first came. "prating against us with malicious words..." Mac is the one using his power and his position to slander Sheri Klouda from the pulpit and never apologize. Jim Smyrl was the one telling us about blasphemous self promotion at FBC Dallas, it was Jim who called Catholic Priests "cult leaders" (ok, we'll give him a pass since he doesn't consider them Christians so its OK to call into question their integrity), and Jim: IT WAS YOU WHO LAST WEEK POSTED ON YOUR BLOG CALLING INTO QUESTION THE INTEGRITY OF THOM RAINER, THE HEAD OF LIFEWAY. Come on, Jim, at least if you're going to be that narrow about what gossip is, live by your own standard or confess when you've violated it.
Mac and his Trustees are the ones issuing trespass warnings to put people out of the church and treating several of our former staff members very poorly as they were dismissed. "...neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church."
So good people of FBC Jax, you have to be very discerning these days when you listen to sermons by Mac Brunson and Jim Smyrl. Do your own research into what they say. Measure their words from the pulpit against their own words and actions, and as Mac has taught us, look at historical context, the whole picutre. And consider their biases they have toward protecting their own power in the church.
And don't be afraid to listen to, or read criticism of your church and its leaders. Ask the members of Trinity Baptist Church and Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.