Titus has never gotten a lot of play, so I am going to try to put him in the spotlight for a second. Timothy was Paul's shining son, and he gets most of the good press. That's cool. There's almost certainly a reason Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, and Titus in Crete. Timothy had something that Ephesus needed, and Crete needed someone so they got Titus.
Titus's letter is smaller and less dramatic than either of Timothy's, but it is straightforward, and that makes it my choice for this series. Quotes in this post will be from Titus 1.
5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
Like I said, straightforward.
There are some things to conclude from this.
First, Paul was willing to leave Crete without appointing elders. We don't know how long those churches had been leaderless, but consider just how dramatic that is! The church can survive without elders. With nothing but Jesus, the Holy Spirit and rank and file believers, a church can be born and live. I think that's pretty cool.
Second, a church should not live without elders for long. Bad things happen when no wise, spiritual people are identified as responsible for the witness of the church.
Third, Paul has a term for leaders in the church - old men. (I will recall for everyone that I am an egalitarian - I believe that this term here means old person, but I won't go there tonight. For this night, only men can be elders. We'll stick to frying one fish at a time.) I don't think this term came about by accident, and I think it's important. Old men don't fight like young men do. They're not indefatigable like young men. They're not still trying to figure out how to be a man.
Old men don't shift like water. When you know an old man, you know him. He's going to be that same man tomorrow, and next year. Young men run hot and cold as their passions flame and cool. Patience ebbs and flows with them.
When Paul runs through this list, you can look at an old man and know whether he is most of these things. If he is today, he will be next year too. If he's not, don't try to "groom him for the ministry". It's not likely to work.
6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God's household, he must be blameless, not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
I quote that whole passage at once because I count 18 requirements there, but the first 15 have nothing to do with doctrine. Amusingly, also note that the elder in verse 6 is also the bishop in verse 7. This version translates the word as overseer, which is great, but it is translated bishop elsewhere. Elders are bishops.
Titus's elder candidates must already have proven themselves leaders. It's not complex, and you can read the list as well as anyone. You can pick an elder. They tend to stand out, actually. He's the one you like to visit, because he likes to have you over. He's the one that saw your kid knock over the the flowers and didn't get mad at either of you, but took the time to teach him how to set the flowers back upright before running off.
He's also the one who holds firmly to the gospel as it was given to him.
10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach, and that for the sake of dishonest gain.
I have heard numerous talks on how these men (and, yes, I will say "men" here. If it's fair for the goose tonight.... ;-) were making money off the gospel. I frankly don't get it. Big words like peripatetic philosopher (one who teaches while walking around, and collects tips in jars or some such) get thrown around, but the truth is nobody was getting rich off this stuff. These members of the circumcision who were spreading lies about how to please God must have been charging a little something for their "personal trainer" skills, but they were not living high on the hog.
Pastors did not yet exist in Crete. That much is clear. So, there might have been a little money floating around, though we can hardly conceive of just how little. It seems to me that the first people to earn a salary off the gospel were probably people in the line of these rebels.
An elder had to be able to silence these rebels, and do it without being a mercenary.
It might also be worth suggesting that these rebels did their foul deeds household by household. The odds on shot, according to the archaeology I listen to, is that they were meeting in those households. There probably was not often a meeting of the church in a larger group than could meet in a house. The best current guesses I know of suggest that it was quite a while later that the church started meeting in actual auditorium-like buildings. Being a new religion made that pretty much mandatory.
If that is true, then we can begin to scope out how large a group an elder might oversee.
13 ... Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith
Rebuking ain't easy, and rebuking sharply requires a great deal of confidence and ammunition. How do you think our newly minted elders are going to do at this? I think they are going to be terrible.
But, did you notice that this word of command is spoken to Titus?
Titus is to go and pave the way for them. Sure, in time those elders should be able to rebuke as necessary, and sharply at that, but it will be a little while before they are good at it.
There is an old, old story told in the army over and over and over. Some Spec4 (between private and sergeant) will be promoted to be the Sergeant over all his buddies. The buddies go to the Staff Sergeant, and complain that Specialist Jones "ain't never gonna be no sergeant." The Staff Sergeant just looks at them and says, "The stripes will make him one."
Responsibility changes a man.
These men are old, so they know that they are taking on responsibility, not power. They will be slow to slam the ones that see things differently than they do, and quick to make sure everyone is treated well. If an old man's family is happy, he has probably already figured the important things out a long, long time ago, and just needs to learn how to adapt them to his new role. Titus is going to dump a huge responsibility on him, but by now he won't let it go to his head. He's seen too many kids do that before.
So, to revisit my questions:
Which of these battle fronts is most important?
I see nothing here that answers the question better than Ellen did. Whichever front the fight's on at the moment.
Which of these battle fronts does a seminary education prepare a man to handle well?
What training method would best prepare a leader to handle all of these things?
Living is the best training method. Paul tells Titus to look to the man's character and his family's character. We learn character from life.
What training method would best teach a leader when not to react?
Well, that sure ain't seminary. I read in a commentary about Titus 1:9 that "The overseers need to be doctrinally sound, so they can detect and correct even the slightest deviation from the truth." I'm sorry, but if you correct every slightest deviation from the truth, you are going to kill the flock. People cannot thrive under that much correction.
Overreacting teaches people not to overreact, if they are good learners. Let them make those mistakes at home, not in the church.
Here is one of my main points. If you take a young man, and give him a piece of paper that says he knows how to care for the flock, and start paying him to do it, you are hurting everyone. I believe with all my heart there's a job for him, but not pastor. (And not scrubbing toilets, either! I hate those ersatz tough-guys who want to torment the young to prove how hard everything was when they were kids. That is a false strength, and I wish we would quit encouraging that kind of attitude.) I will get back to that young man's role later, and I will get to what a pastor might be later. Life teaches old men not to overreact and not to underreact.
How can you know a leader?
I hereby retire my answer for Maeghan's.
Cool but firm.
Firm but loving.
Loving but right.
How many leaders does our church of 200 need?
Paul has not given us a clear answer. Maybe, though, the size of the meetings is a clue. We are talking about household-sized meetings. Houses were smaller then, but people didn't mind being close. Maybe 40 people, give or take? Maybe a couple of elders per group?
So far, I'm seeing our church of 200 split into groups of 40-ish segregated by neighborhood as much as possible. I hope to see 2-3 elders per group, so that's 10-15 leaders. Realistically, finding that 5% to 7.5% of any given population meets the description of an elder found in this book is a stretch. Now throw out 50-60% of your possibilities because they are women and the odds get steeper. Throw out another 50-75% of the possibilities because they are too young. Now you are hoping that fully one-third of your seniors can bear the responsibility of elder.
Let's pin some stripes on them and see whether they don't rise to the responsibility.
What that responsibility is will be found in Titus chapter 2.