2021 – The Others
3 John 3
This morning, we get to the conclusion of 3 John. Let me recreate for you what I think happened in the background of 3 John. All the letters in the New Testament have a background. Something happened, there is a problem, something needs to be addressed, there is a situation that brought about the writing of each of the 27 New Testament books. Here is my educated guess at what is going on… in the background. It is a sad story about church politics. But we can be thankful because we can learn some important lessons about church leadership from this situation.
The old guy, John, most likely, John, the one whom Jesus loved; one of the 12. John might well be in his 80s, perhaps, close to 90. He is the last of the 12… all the rest had been martyred. John writes regular John, first, somewhere around 80 AD. Then, a few years later… 1, 2, and 3 John, before being exiled to Patmos, where he wrote the Revelation.
John is probably in Ephesus. Ephesus is a hub for the expansion of the church. Paul, Timothy used Ephesus previously. Now, John is using it as a launching point of the Gospel. There is some historical evidence, not much, but a little, that places Gaius in Pergamum when John writes to him. Remember Pergamum is one of the seven churches of Asia that John writes to in the Revelation. Pergamum is 72 miles from Ephesus… a couple days journey.
The Old Guy sends some of his young missionaries on a mission trip. John sends a letter with the young missionaries to Pergamum addressed to an elder of the house-church, in Pergamum; a guy named Diotrephes. But Diotrephes refuses to read the letter of recommendation to his congregation. He also refuses to give John’s young missionaries hospitality. He turns them away from his home and his church. This is an insult to the Old Guy.
Instead, John’s young missionaries end up going to Gaius’s house, where they receive hospitality. Then, Gaius sends them on with their mission. After their mission, these guys return to John and tell him about both Gaius and Diotrephes. So, John writes, what we know as 3 John, as a thank you note to Gaius and a promise to deal with Diotrephes.
3 John is brought to Gaius by another young missionaries; Demetrius. John wants Gaius to offer hospitality again to Demetrius.
Got it? Summarize…
--Old guy sends missionaries with letter.
--Diotrephes rejects letter and missionaries.
--Gaius offers hospitality to John’s missionaries.
--Demetrius brings 3 John to Gaius as thank you note.
All this has a 38% chance of being exactly right. But it is approximately right. Life principle #18 I call the Eugene Philosophy… It is better to be approximately right then absolutely wrong.
Now, we are ready to read the conclusion of the letter. Then, I have some observations about church leadership. This is going to be important in a few weeks when we re-start our study of elders. I am excited and a bit nervous. We are going to spend our Wednesday nights, after our shared supper to work on 4 things…
--Church leadership, in general.
--Elders in particular.
--Women in the church.
--Can women be elders?
Beginning August 18… Make your plans!
Back to this sermon… The conclusion of 3 John along with 5 observations about church leadership.
3 John 9-15 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So, if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true. I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them.
#1 Observation about church leadership:
Church leaders never put themselves first.
3 John 9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first...
There is a fundamental difference in church leadership and secular/Other leadership. How churches are lead is different than how businesses or government organizations or the military is lead or the lab. Church leadership is upside down.
Most organizations have an org-chart… with the CEO at the top and grunts at the bottom. There is a flow of hierarchy from top to bottom. From those who are paid the most to those who are at the bottom of the pecking order… much like Tanya’s chickens there is a pecking order.
But the church is upside down… Church - Elders
Church leadership is very flat. Elders are servants who put the needs of the church first. It is not an office. It is not full of prestige. It doesn’t pay much. It is not at the top of an org-chart. Church leadership is placing the needs of the congregation before the desires of the leaders.
John learned this many years before…
Mark 10:35-37 & 41-45 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And he said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." (We want to be at the top of the org-chart right below you.) 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones (the megas) exercise authority over them. (Top-down bosses ruling as they see fit.) But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great (mega) among you must be your servant, (diakonos) and whoever would be first (top of the chart) among you must be slave of all. (A slave at the bottom doing the will of the others.) For even the Son of Man (LORD Creator of the Universe) came not to be served but to serve, (To be submissive to all) and to give his life as a ransom for many."
No lording over the church. Not exercising authority over others. Rather the leadership of the church has the authority of sacrifice; the authority of example; the authority of relationship… the authority of love.
Church leaders are submissive to the needs of the congregation… No bosses at the top of the org-chart.
#2 Observation about church leadership:
Church leaders never abuse others.
3 John 10 So, if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
One of the saddest things is church leaders abusing others. John lists three types of abuse…
--Verbal abuse – slandering others – good leaders are confidential… watch their talk… Good leaders are careful with their words. They never beat up others with words.
--Lack of hospitality – leaders must be hospitable – connected to congregation… in touch – Hospitality is two things… eating with others… protecting the others.
--Threats of putting others out of the church. Church leaders never threaten… Good leaders are never bullying.
Perhaps, Gaius who did offer hospitality to John’s young missionaries had been threatened by Diotrephes to put him out of the church.
Church leaders are submissive to the needs of the congregation… not abusive!
#3 Observation about church leadership:
Church leaders imitate the love of God.
3 John 11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.
Theology is important. Knowing who God is. Modeling the love of our LORD, leads to good leadership! It is important…
--Understand God loves all of his creation!
--The LORD’s steadfast love endures forever.
--God’s grace is deeper than the ocean and wider than the sea!
--God is good. All the time.
Church leaders are submissive to the needs of the congregation… just as our LORD loves us unconditionally.
#4 Observation about church leadership:
Church leaders are spoken of highly.
3 John 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
Here in verse 12, John changes to talk about Demetrius. The Old Guy is commending Demetrius to Gaius. Following the Jewish law of having two or three witnesses… John lists three… everyone, truth, and the Old Guy’s testimony.
Here is a clue when it comes time for us to select elders…
--Those we chose to be elders must be spoken of well by all.
--They must be solid in the truth of the Gospel!
--Commended by previous leadership.
Church leaders are submissive to the needs of the congregation… as they are spoken of highly by all.
#5 Observation about church leadership:
Church leaders confront wrong... gently.
3 John 10, 13-14 So if I come, I will bring up what Diotrephes is doing… I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.
This is interesting for two reasons…
First, John wants to confront Diotrephes face to face. This is important. Emails, texts, even Zoom all inhibit gentle confrontation. It is easy to write something… hateful. It is easy to misunderstand the emotions of writing. It is better to sit down around a table and discuss problems…
Back to our LORD…
Matthew 18:15-18 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
There is wisdom in working out sins/problems/wrong/disagreements face-to-face.
The second reason this is interesting is that the Old Guy does not say he is going to come for the purpose of throwing Diotrephes out of the church. Church discipline is meant to be restorative not punitive. All of God’s punishments are restorative. Modeling our Lord, John intends, I believe, to restore Diotrephes. Gentle reprimands are the way of the LORD.
Church leaders are submissive to the needs of the congregation… even as they correct wrong.
Healthy churches have healthy leaders who…
--never put themselves first.
--never abuse others.
--imitate the gracious love of our LORD.
--are spoken of highly by all.
--confront wrong... gently.
This is a two-way street. Healthy congregations allow their leaders to be these things. Congregations must be responsive to the guidance of submissive leadership. Healthy leaders must be humble in all they do.
I am excited and a bit nervous about our re-starting of our elder discussions. I will attempt to follow these same principles as I lead this discussion. Wednesday, August 18… after supper. We haven’t done new elders in 20+ years…
3 John 1:14-15 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace be to you.
July 11, 2021
Los Alamos Church of Christ
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