Know whose slave you are and whose slave you are not. Submit to those in authority, but do not be their slaves.
Remember whose slave you are and whose slave your are not. As a believer you are called to be a Slave-of-Christ. You are not called to be “slave” of your husband, your wife, the pastor, or any other person of authority within the church or any other ministry.
Theoretically this should not be difficult as those in authority are supposed to be the slave of all. Jesus stated in Mark 10:42-45 that believers in positions of authority are not to “lord it over” others, explaining: whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.
But the sad truth is that there are local churches in which pastors and elders do lord it over others in the congregation. There are spouses who lord it over the other spouse. And it should come as no surprise that the body of Christ has more than a few “superstars” in national and international ministries who genuinely, and sincerely, although incorrectly, act as though they are God’s “anointed” and that the rest of us should bow down and serve them.
We see an example of this in 3 John. The Apostle John writes to the “beloved Gaius.” It seems that Gaius and the local church were struggling with a leader named, Diotrephes, “who likes to put himself first.” Diotrephes was a “control freak” (not sure there is a Greek term for this) who wanted to be in charge of everything and to tell everyone else what to do. Diotrepehes refused to recognize the authority of the Apostles and ex-communicated or threw people out of church if they did not obey him. John dismisses the actions of Diotrephes as evil and urges Gaius not to imitate such evil ways. John gives us insight as to how to deal with such men, walk away from them if you can, and let the Lord deal with them. But even if you cannot walk away, know that you are not their slave.
This is not to say that we should not follow our leaders. Paul describes this as submitting. All Followers-of-Jesus are called to submit to civil authorities and to church leaders. Similarly wives are called to submit to their husbands. But to put this in proper perspective, in Ephesians 5:21 Paul urges all the believers in Ephesus to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. It is interesting that the call that we should all submit to one another is no different then the call to submit to leaders and others in authority.
In contrast, in Ephesians 6:5, actual slaves are called to obey their earthly masters with fear and trembling. But nowhere are believers called to obey husbands, wives, pastors, and other ministry leaders with fear and trembling as if we were the slaves of such men (women).
Much more can and should be said on the subject of “leadership abuse,” but that is not the intent of this study. Chapter 10 is the caution to make certain what we are saying and what we are not saying.