Love Letters: Loving Leaders
Pastor Terry Inman
3 John (NIV)
Anywhere you have a small group of people you are going to have diverse social dynamics. There will be power struggles, personal agendas and individual differences. Churches are not exempt. Every church at one time or another seems to have one or more antagonists.
Pastor Ron and I were just talking about a dear mutual friend who recently resigned his position as Senior Pastor in smaller bay area church. He told his wife when they were first elected “watch that man over there, he doesn’t like me” sure enough this man had a lot of influence and right or wrong he influenced enough people that the Pastor had to leave.
Every church I have ever pastored has always been full of great people but occasionally there are immature but influential leaders that need to maintain power. They often unintentionally become a pawn of the enemy.
Inevitably this leads to some kind of showdown. Ether the immature leader repents and is reconciled or must be removed or at least his influence neutralized. Unfortunately these power struggles take their toll on the local congregation, people take sides and people get hurt.
There are some churches that have a reputation for being Pastor killers. They seem to go though them every two or three years, just long enough for the local power brokers to figure out how to run the show.
Often it is a prominent but unhealthy family that influences church politics. Especially in smaller congregations, if there is family dysfunction in the leadership, it will show up in the extended family. Unless it is healed or carefully removed it will continue to infect the life of the whole body.
Don’t worry I am not getting ready to lower the boom on any bad guys at Harbor Light. God has been so good to us to give us mature leaders.
There was a time when this church went through some family squabbles. The Lord in his mercy turned that around quickly. There really weren’t any bad guys just good folks with a different visions. That’s creates division.
In this final letter written to a dear friend named Gaius John gets personal. He names the good guys and the bad guys. He has been talking about living in the truth, and walking it out in love, now he illustrates his message by contrasting three leaders in a local church.
Gaius apparently was the Pastor or at least a leader in the church. He was a long time trusted friend of “The Elder” John. He had been very hospitable and generous with missionaries that had visited the church.
On the other hand a man named Diotrephes, (diet-refees) the self-appointed church boss wasn’t in favor of receiving and entertaining these missionary guests. Diotrephes must have had a large family and some pretty strong leverage because he succeeded in getting Gaius booted out.
John condemns the actions and motivations of Diotrephes and commends Gaius for his faithfulness. Demetrius, a third leader John mentions is probably one of the traveling teachers that John sent their way. He may have even delivered this letter. John gives him a great endorsement also.
All three leaders paint a vivid contrast of living in the truth and walking it out in love. Let’s start with Gaius.
The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 John 2 (NIV)
Sometimes churches can make you sick. An unhealthy church can be toxic. It could be that Gaius was suffering emotionally and physically from this ordeal. Maybe he needed the affirmation of his elder John
John calls him a dear friend that he genuinely loves. His love for Gaius is not just human affection. If we are in the truth and the truth is in us we will love like God loves.
John wishes him well. This is more than a conventional greeting. You don’t see it anywhere else quite like this. He is actually “praying” that Gaius’ physical and emotional wellbeing will be supported by the condition of his soul. John knew of his spiritual health and prays that this will sustain him in this time of trial.
I have heard this verse taken out of context and quoted by preachers of the prosperity gospel. The new King James Version says, “I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
Prosperity here is not just material wealth. The original term actually means to be successful in reaching a destination. We would say “you have arrived you have reached your goals”. John is praying that Gaius who has been unjustly displaced by division will reach is full destiny in Christ.
This greeting is a prayer for physical, emotional and spiritual success. Some Christians appear to be healthy spiritually but unhealthy physically or emotionally. I believe living the truth should affect our total wellbeing.
Paul writes, “May God himself, the God of peace, (oneness or wholeness) sanctify (set apart) you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” 1Th. 5:23 (NIV)
Cleansing Streams is our ten-week discipleship seminar that focuses on wholeness and freedom. Another awesome in-house one-day retreat is coming up here on Saturday Nov 2nd. It is now open to anyone that would like to attend. You can also return for a spiritual check-up. Register online.
Watch this video with Cleansing Streams President Chris Hayward.
Celebrate Recovery is an every Friday night gathering for people overcoming together any number of life controlling issues. IFM as we call it is a three to four hour intensive therapeutic prayer session focused on a primary issue. It also brings great insight, breakthrough and freedom.
There are many opportunities here at Harbor Light to experience what John hopes for his friend Gaius. “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” 3 John 2 (NIV)
The “brothers” Gaius received and hosted returned to tell John of his love and faithfulness to the truth.
It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.3 John 3, 4 (NIV)
The people John had brought to faith “his children” were still walking it out even in the face persecution, conflict and division. I can identify with John. There is noting more fulfilling for me than to see people I have influenced serving God and growing in their faith.
John especially commends Gaius for hospitality shown to the brothers sent his way. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 3 John 5-6 (NIV)
Some of the church leaders where inhospitable, even outright hostile to Gaius. He took a risk to embrace these unknown brothers. This is agape love. Several scriptures mention hospitality as an expression of love.
Rom. 12:13 says, Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Heb. 13:2 says, Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Showing hospitality especially to God’s servants is a way of participating in their ministry. John says, “It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.” 3 John 7-8 (NIV)
Most of ministry guests we have at this church are missionaries or ministries who depend on the church for their recourses. We always try to show them hospitality and give generously of our time and our funds.
Earlier this week Mary and I were asked by David and Beth Grant to share at a Project Rescue event for eighty Pastors and business leaders. They wanted us to talk about how you have embraced them and the ministry of Project Rescue in India. You have given very generously to rescue and restore children from trafficking. Fremont Christian Students gave shoes to the children in the homes of hope.
Our Project Rescue small group has hosted an information and prayer booth at Fremont’s Indian Cultural Festival and just a few weeks ago at the Newark Days Event. Dr. Beth Grant was in tears as she talked about the day Mary and I spent with them in New Delhi when they lost the director of their Project Rescue School to cancer.
I told the leaders at the event that the Grants and Project Rescue have given us access to the women and children victimized by human trafficking. The bible says, “Rescuethe poor from those too strong for them (Ps. 35:10 (NIV) “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Prov. 31:8 (NIV)
Gaius was a leader that risked his life to love like Jesus loved. He validated what it means to walk in the truth. John contrasts him with Diotrephes (diet-refees) the church antagonist.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. 3 John 9-10 (NIV)
Diotrephes was apparently the man in charge who had removed Gaius. John had communicated with him but apparently he had rejected John’s appeal for hospitality and support of the missionaries he was sending.
He doesn’t appear to be one of the false teachers John has often referred to as antichrists. He was probably a follower of Christ but a very insecure leader who was threatened by other leaders. His failure to walk in the love and truth was just as dangerous to the church as false teachers.
John is prepared to come and confront him in love and truth. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Unfortunately one of Satan’s greatest schemes is to attack the church from the inside though unhealthy and insecure believers.
Paul told the Corinthian church to forgive “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” 2 Cor. 2:11(NIV) Let me ask you are you being outsmarted by Satan because you refuse to make things right with another leader or fellow believer?
John concludes this final short love letter to Gaius with an honorable mention of another exemplary leader.
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. 3 John 11-12 (NIV)
In a previous church I served, a leader in the congregation became part of very small group of church antagonists. When the church wouldn’t listen to their petty grievances, they took their false accusations to the local media and finally to court. Fortunately they and their lawyer were tossed out of court and told to resolve their differences.
One day as I was praying for these folks the Lord warned me that this leader was not evil but evil surrounded him. His lack of spiritual and emotional wholeness had given Satan a foothold in his life and it was now affecting the whole church. The bible says, unresolved conflict grieves the Holy Spirit and can give a foothold or position to the devil. Eph. 4:25-30
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Heb. 12:15 (NIV)
Finally this loving elder of the church signs his love letter with warm affection characteristic of a leader who is walking out the truth in love.
I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. 3 John 13-14 (NIV)
Church is not always peaceful. Sometimes we get caught in the crossfire of controversy. It gets personal and we get hurt. It’s easier to just escape. Confession and confrontation is uncomfortable but it deepens our affection for God and each other. It’s a way to walk out the truth in love.
I leave you John’s prayer for Gaius. “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 John 2 (NIV)