01 June, 2006

Leadership: Titus and the tone of the church

Paul has an established track record for "writing style". He starts out with doctrine, and finishes with practical advice. In writing to Titus, he has completely skipped the doctrine part so far. (He pretty much does the same thing with Timothy.)

He has just one more little chance here in chapter 3 to tell Titus that the most important thing for a minister of the gospel to do is preach the Truth. Then he is going to wrap this letter up, and start getting ready for the Nicopolitan winter.

I have not made this point with enough force, yet.

If you believe that the holy appointment to preach is the most important function of the leader, Paul has let you down so far. He has not just let you down, but he has left you swinging in the breeze! Of the first two chapters, only in two places has he even vaguely called for doctrine, much less preaching. In verse 1:9-11, Paul has recommended that doctrine be used to shut up gainsayers - hardly what I would call a Sunday sermon. In 2:15, Paul calls Titus to speak "these things," but "those things" were that people should live with high character and sound works.

Paul has yet to lay "feed Christ's sheep" on Titus. He keeps talking about caring for people, and teaching them to care for each other.

Let's see what chapter 3 of the letter to Titus has to offer.

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

Paul ain't done talking about good works, yet. Always be gentle to everyone. Could a statement be more direct or more forceful?

4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Ah! Paul finally preaches one of his trademark little sermons. Paul is pulling out the doctrine.

8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

The King James says, "these things ... affirm constantly". ESV says, "insist on these things".

Preaching is certainly one tool for stressing, affirming, and insisting on things, and a valid tool at that. This is the first verse to Titus that can definitely include preaching within its scope. Therefore, let it be recorded here that I affirm my agreement with preaching. Preaching is good and helpful and wholesome. We must have preaching. In the proportion that Paul gives it in his letter to Titus, preaching is a glorious and wonderful thing. Preaching should be a wonderfully important 1/46th of our total Christian experience in the church.

And preaching should lead to people devoting themselves to doing what is good.

So, to the question:

What should be the tone of the church?
What should underpin everything else the church does?

Titus 3:4&5a But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us

All through this book, over and over, Paul calls out kindness and gentleness as goals for Christians. Titus is enjoined over and over to be kind, even to those who oppose him. There are a bunch of good reasons for this, but I think the main one is that we need to be able to live in the church.

No one can live well in an unkind environment.

Imagine growing up in an unkind family (or remember, as the case may be.) The smallest task demands a fearful concentration, because the smallest error will be attacked. DON'T spill the milk!

The kindness of the Lord was revealed, and now the kindness of His children should be revealed. The overall tone of the church should be kind. Every member should know that they can serve, be served, and even mess up in safety. Every brother and every sister will be kind. We need this before we can risk and expose ourselves, before we can give love confidently.

9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn divisive people once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

Paul finishes with intensely difficult instructions on dealing with those who cannot hear spiritual things.

Paul tells Titus to unburden himself of warped people, and not to allow them to burden the church. Dead limbs that bear no fruit ought to be pruned. When a brother splits and kills two or three profitable activities of the church because he cannot hear spiritual things, don't just ignore it. Act.

This is a hard, hard thing to do. It's hard because it's harsh. It's hard because it's scary. It's hard because you don't know whether this divisive person is warped, or just going through "a phase." It's hard because he has friends in the church who will be mad when you throw him out. It's hard because this person is attacking something that you love, and you don't know whether you are correcting him out of jealousy or love - and you don't know which is bad.

This verse is EASY to write, and HARD to do.

You don't want to upset the church, but you cannot let the church be hurt by inaction either. The man who will handle these problems has to do it with spiritual grace beyond any book wisdom.

Keep the tone of the church in mind. I have shelved the question of why having old folk in charge is important. It is time now to pull that question back off the shelf.

The hardest task an elder faces is when and how to act against those who oppose themselves to the gospel, but who are in the church. Often conflict in the church comes down to one man against another. Often a series of conflicts in the church comes down to the same two men pitted against each other repeatedly. Often both are elders. Often both are gifted.

What kind of a man can succeed in the kingdom of God when there are those under him (or beside him) who want to engage in sophistry and win fruitless arguments? What kind of man can correct those who are obviously wrong, and who are spreading their error far and wide, and even gaining followers, without becoming unkind? What kind of man can reject a divisive person decisively, and know when the time has come to do it?

A parent who survived the teen years.

Yes, I am serious. I would rather be led by a man who has good children in their twenties or older than by anyone else. Anyone who has raised a 16 year old son has had to engage a sophist without hurting his feelings!

Give me a flawed man any day whose children still love him after the battles of the late teens over a man who has a degree from my favorite seminary. That man knows that there are days when his best friend acts like his worst enemy, and he knows how to wait those days out with his mouth shut. That man knows that sometimes you have to make the first move, and that sometimes you have to wait for the first move to be made. That man knows that sometimes you have to simply state, "this will end."

Give me a flawed man whose wife can oppose him without fear and who still loves and respects him, over any man who can teach me deep doctrine without boring me. There are some incredible preachers out there. So what? What are they going to do when the children of God oppose them? I will tell you a secret. Many eloquent men don't know how to handle opposition. Show me what he does when his wife opposes him, and I will tell you what will happen when you try it. (And if I have never seen his wife oppose him, then I will be truly afraid.)

Give me a man who has treated his enemies with kindness, a man who knows how to ask for help, who knows how to be wrong and admit it. I will be safe following that man.

This man will know how to handle Titus 3:9-11:
9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn divisive people once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

I see this passage differently, knowing the man who will do these things. Don't you? Don't you see the warnings being done slowly? Don't you see that man distance himself from the divisive person wisely? From some, he distances himself with a hopeful ear always cocked in their direction. Others, he sends away and never looks back. This man is much more likely to know which is which. Chances are really good that at one point his own children looked like enemies to him, so he might know how to be patient with God's people.

There are other ways to learn these things, but these are the things that make a man a safe leader to follow. A man without children can learn patience in other ways, but it's patience that matters. That a man knows sound doctrine is a good thing. That he knows how to love with patience is a great thing.

Let's quit picking elders because they can run a business successfully, and start picking them on things that matter.

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Next up: Gifted leaders. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, preachers, teachers.

8 comments:

DugALug said...

CP,

Preaching should be a wonderfully important 1/46th of our total Christian experience in the church.

How true that is... great point.

I would rather be led by a man who has good children in their twenties or older than by anyone else.

Without question there are few better proofs of good leadership than having children of excellent character. As far as a preference desiring this is certainly nice and there are other reasons why this is true to. If his children are grown up, not only does he have wisdom, he has the time to focus on the church: younger children require more attention (especially those in the teens).

But then I go back to the prodigal son story. That father is considered a good father, and allowed his son to stray. This happend to Billy Graham too.

A man's children can't be the whole picture. And for those who are struggling with 'wayward' children, Billy Graham's story gives hope.

God Bless
Doug

Milly said...

I need to read this again. My husband was talking and it needs quiet attention.

I did think of my minister he is young with young children. He has a lot to learn I’ve seen that. His wife is a beautiful confident woman. I think that if he can hold on he will become a great leader.

I know that he enjoys hearing you don’t agree when it’s done properly. Then again he loves thinking. Would he be the leader for Codepoke? I don’t know, you’d love talking with him.
I have to give this part of leadership to God. I’m sure that part of our feelings in his leadership are based on feelings, we love his wife and him. We don’t always agree but you know I stay quiet about that. ;-}

Milly said...

I finally got a moment to read it all without my man interrupting me.

You have some great points about letting some people who are causing problems in the church go. At first for us it caused elephants and some very large ones. Now they are much smaller and several are gone.

Good job sir. :-}

codepoke said...

It was a wierd article for me.

I think you are right that there are some good points in there, but it did not flow at all for me. I doubt highly that it flowed for anyone. Sorry for making you read it twice. ;-)

Milly said...

Codepoke,

The husband interrupting me made me have to read it twice. It wasn’t that it didn’t flow it’s that it’s (Looking for a Millyism. . . Ahh here it is) It’s the rice on the side. You look at it, you taste it, but it’s rice and not something to actually pick apart too much, it is what it is. It’s needed to move on to the vegies, bread, and meat. Or is it the salad? Silly Millyisms *-*

codepoke said...

Rice on the side. Yes, that's just about how I felt writing it.

I literally only wrote it because it was there. I do not like to write about how to handle dissent in the church, but Paul handles it. My next one might be a little more fun.

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