Paul had left Titus in Crete after some work they had shared there near the end of Paul’s life. Several churches had successfully been birthed across the island, an island that seemed an unlikely place for the gospel to take effect. He wrote the letter we are studying as an encouragement to the key task of putting things in order (Titus 1:5) in Paul’s absence.
As we proceed in our calling to build church and advance the gospel across our city and beyond we’ll find the book full of pointers for biblical mission.
At the outset, Paul draws attention to the nature of the mission itself – God’s rescue plan for the world, which was held back throughout all ages, but was now revealed in the coming of His Son Jesus – and through the preaching of men like Paul.
You can’t escape the profound sense of wonder in Paul’s words. In fact the claims he makes would come across as the ravings of a deluded maniac – if they were not true. But people find this a struggle in our culture. We are happy to see Paul as a wise teacher of religion and his message as a very worthwhile idea – but nothing more. Paul himself won’t leave that option open. He, like Jesus, was either a dangerous madman to be avoided to this day – or his message was completely true – and the most important thing ever proclaimed.
Paul knew the expansion and impact of his message depended on the establishing of healthy growing churches – and this, in turn, depended on the right elders being appointed. So he sets to this theme immediately.
We need new elders as a church as a matter of some urgency. This is for two main reasons: firstly, we are growing and reaching new people all the time and the more sheep there are, the more shepherds are needed. Secondly, we are in a process of saying goodbye to a whole tier of senior elders who are gradually stepping down (plus Pete Lyndon who is moving north).
The next two elders we are appointing (this October) are Steve Boon and Matt Davis. Over the next few years there will be several others.
[And quite apart from the specific issue of eldership we are in need of leaders of all kinds. This is relevant to us all – called to eldership or not… In some way each of us has leadership potential to fulfill. The fact is we cannot succeed in our mission if each of you doesn’t intentionally seek to progress in your walk with God and look to take a role somehow leading others forward.
This year alone we have seen well over 140 respond to the gospel amongst us. This is phenomenal – but very, very challenging indeed! There is a terrible danger that we will have two churches under one roof. One which is made up of new people who drift in (and sadly very often out); and the other is made up of those who are mature believers who have been faithful for many years but barely rub shoulders with new people – failing to see the massive difference they will make by simply befriending new Christians – taking a lead in their lives.]
With this in mind it makes sense for us to have a good look at what the right elders will look like. Paul lists some characteristics:
Things which must be present: integrity – men without reproach; marital purity; good spiritual leadership in the home (or how can the guy be trusted with God’s household – the church?
Things which must be absent: arrogance; shortness of temper; drunkenness; violence and greed.
Further things which must be present: love of goodness; self control and discipline; hospitality and uprightness.
Something which must be firmly held to and fought for: the word of God. This must never be taken for granted – especially at a time of generational transition. We need men who love and stand up for the gospel in all its comprehensive truth.