Posts Tagged ‘church leadership’

These short letters are often overlooked, but there’s some good stuff in there.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a sermon on these, save one on 3 John by D A Carson.  Here are some thoughts in seedling form…

Truth, Believed and Lived

“Truth” is an important concept for John.  The word shows up 25 times in his gospel, 9 times in 1 John, but a remarkable 11 times in these two little letters, roughly ever 2.5 verses.  That’s a lot.

What I find interesting is the way John talks about truth.  “Walking in truth,” “whom I love in truth”- I’m not sure I quite get what it means.  It’s obvious, though, that there is a practical, living side to truth.  “Walking in truth” tells us that assenting to facts does not exhaust the goal of the Christian life.  Some of the same themes from 1 John show up in these two letters- obedience, faithfulness, loving brothers and sisters in Christ.  So even if I don’t know exactly what it means to “love in truth,” I think I can do it.

Protecting the Community

Like a number of NT letters, these two epistles are largely about protecting the community of believers, from both influences outside (itinerant false preachers in 2 John) and inside (Diotrephes in 3 John).  I bet if you polled most pastors today regarding their roles in leadership, “protector” might not show up too high on the list.  Yet, most of the letters in the NT were written in part to protect the community from false teachers or teachings.  This is, of course, only one part of church leadership, but it is still an important part.

Protecting from False Teachers

I won’t spend a lot of time here, other than to say this is a non-negotiable for pastors.  I suspect some churches do this well, while others hardly give it a thought.  Not a single church asked me what I would preach on when I used to do guest preaching at various churches when I was in seminary.  Maybe it was enough that I was a Gordon-Conwell student, but you’d think someone would ask.

Protecting from In-house Leaders

3 John tells us about Diotrephes, a leader in the church community.  Diotrephes was not, it seems, a false teacher.  At no point does John say “watch out for his heresy,” which is something he doesn’t mind doing when necessary.  Instead, Diotrephes’ problem was that he wanted to me “the man,” (my colloquial translation of “loves to be first”).  John and other leaders were a threat to his control, so he slandered them and refused to accept fellow believers.  But going beyond that, he would expel people from his church who would dare to accept them.

Diotrephes is an example of a power hungry leader.  These types are a major threat to the health of the church.  In many ways, these guys are more dangerous than false teachers.  Many churchgoers can spot a false teaching, but give them a charismatic leader and they’ll blindly follow.

Hospitality & Itinerant Ministry

I won’t say much here, as I hope to write a separate post on the topic.  I think one reason these letters are often neglected, besides their size, is they both focus on aspects of dealing with itinerant ministers.  It’s not that we don’t have itinerant ministers today, but the social situation is so different.  Travel is easier, checking up on traveling speakers is easier and, generally speaking, guest speakers are invited; they don’t just show up from denominational headquarters with the hopes you’ll put them up.

Regarding 2 John, the church is not to extend hospitality to false teachers.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that you insult them or otherwise act unChristianly (what do you mean that’s not a word?).  I would imagine if the choice was between housing false teachers and letting them be ripped apart by wild animals, John would tell them to open the door.  It’s doubtful the choice came down to that; after all, there are public inns for them to stay in and so on.  But considering most churches met in the largest home available, and that home would probably be the one to house an itinerant speaker, not accepting them in makes a lot of sense.  We don’t get all the particulars in 2 John, which is typical of a situational letter.  But we do get the point; there are limits to hospitality and church leaders should take care to distance themselves from false teachers.

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