I recently heard the story of a pastor who got in a predicament. The story goes like this: “A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short on time and couldn’t find a space with a meter. Then he put a note under his windshield wiper that read: ‘I have circled the block 10 times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. ‘Forgive us our trespasses’.’ When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note: ‘I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket I’ll lose my job. ‘Lead us not into temptation’.”
Maybe you know the feeling. It is a human condition to be tempted and fall into it. Yet we followers of Jesus are called to live differently. Therefore in this series of posts on Titus 1:5-9, we’re going to try to answer the question: Is it possible to be blameless?
In this blog series we are reading other people’s mail. Ancient mail, yes, but it’s still mail! Last we looked at the beginning of a letter from one of the earliest Christians, a guy named Paul, who was writing to his friend Titus. Today we continue studying that letter. If you’d like, you can read Titus 1:5-9, which will be our focus this week.
Let me review a bit of the background to this letter that we studied last week. We need to remember that Paul invested in Titus, discipling him, helping Titus become a leader in the fledgling Christian movement. Titus had even traveled with Paul to the Island of Crete, which is right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. There they spent time talking with people about Jesus and starting churches in towns across the island. When I refer to “churches,” don’t think of buildings. Instead they were groups of people who believed the message of the good news about Jesus, and gathered together. Think of house churches. Paul knows there is still much work to be done among these new Christians on Crete, and he has a plan. Paul’s plan is a mission to send Titus back to Crete with a very specific goal. I encourage you to pause reading this post, and read Titus 1:5-9 to see if you can discern the mission that Paul has for Titus.
Think about these brand new Christians on Crete. They have no Christian history like most Christians do around the globe in 2019. In America, for example, we are used to centuries and upon centuries of Christianity being the major religion in our nation. But for the Cretans Paul is writing to, Christianity was totally new. They had no Bibles to read. They had no leaders to guide them. All they had was maybe a few weeks or months with Paul and Titus. They were far from established.
And what’s more, they were in Crete.
The Cretans were, well, Cretans. Peek ahead to verse 12 and we get a taste of why the word “Cretan” is still used today to describe people that are out-of-control. Their own poet, Epimenedes, said that they were liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons. We get the idea that Crete is Mardi Gras all the time. OK, maybe that is an exaggeration, but life in Crete was wild. Contrast that to the fact that when Paul and Titus were on Crete, they had preached a whole new way of living life. That new way of living was the way of Jesus. Paul knows that these very new Christians are in the middle of a Cretan society filled with opportunity for them to turn away from the way of Jesus. Cretan Christians were going to be faced with difficult life choices. How could Cretans live the new way of Jesus? Would they be able to live a new way? Would they be tempted to live the old Cretan way? Sure they would. Paul is very concerned about this.
To make matters worse, there were Christians who were causing lots of trouble in the churches already. We’re going to talk about them further next week. For now, look at verse 10, where Paul calls them the “circumcision group”. Scan through verses 10-12 and you can see how destructive these people were to the church, and Paul is not reserved in his feelings about them.
Suffice it to say, society and culture in Crete could be tough for the new Christians there, and Paul is rightly concerned. There is some serious work to be done, or this young church could fall apart.
What is Paul’s response to this very tricky situation? He sends in Titus. Look at verse 5. He writes that is he is sending Titus to deal with what was left unfinished. Paul and Titus had started the churches together, got them off the ground, and then had to move on. So these young churches are in a precarious position, and Paul wants to strengthen them by sending Titus back to them. Now Paul has a very specific mission for Titus.
See how he describes Titus’ mission in verse 5? Titus’ main objective is to appoint leaders in every town. This tells us that church leadership is very important to Paul. He talks about godly leaders in many places in his various letters. In this week’s posts, then, we are going to study Paul’s teaching about Titus’ mission to appoint leaders in the churches in Crete.
First of all, Paul uses the word “appoint.” It is not a vote. Titus is to do the choosing. Titus is making the picks. It is not up to the Christians in Crete. This is not a democratic process. At this juncture it is important to note that this letter was to be read in public to the churches. Paul wants all the Christians in Crete to know that they don’t get a say in who their leaders will be. Titus is choosing.
That means that we don’t need to elect our leaders in our church. Many American Christians think that we should always vote for leaders in the church, that somehow God works through elections. I think, though, that we have very good reason to doubt that idea. Yet we Americans especially are accustomed to elections in our society, so we figure we’ll hold elections in the church. You won’t, however, find elections and voting in the Bible. You also don’t find elections and voting condemned in the Bible. So I think we would do well to approach this with caution and wisdom. At Faith Church, this teaching from Paul is the foundation for why our Leadership Team selection is not just a vote, but a process where we try hard to only have candidates on the ballot whom we are okay with being on the Leadership Team. Therefore, when we vote, we’re okay with any result.
We also need to see that the public reading of this letter to Titus is some accountability for Titus. Why? Because Titus doesn’t get to choose whomever he wants. Paul goes on to give Titus some very specific guidelines he can use in the choosing process. And the people listening to the letter will hear these guidelines too. They will know if Titus is following Paul’s instructions or not based on how Titus makes the selections. So what kind of people should Titus be looking for to become leaders of the church? Take a look at the next post, as we begin to look at what Paul has to say about who should be selected to be leaders in the church.