Tag Archives: church leaders

A job description for church leaders – Titus 1:5-9, Part 5

21 Jun

Hey church leader, have you ever thought that you go to a lot of meetings? So often in contemporary American church life, church leadership teams (elder boards, sessions, etc) have a lot of meetings. It can leave church leaders wondering if there is more to their role. There is more to their role! Or at least their should be. Meetings are not wrong or bad. In fact, I believe meetings are very important, and can be extremely life-giving. If you don’t believe me, I urge you to read the book Death By Meeting. Meetings are needed to discuss a variety of situations and decide what to do about them. But as we conclude our study of Paul’s teaching about church leaders in Titus 1:5-9, we see in verse 9, that blameless leaders are to do at least three things that will likely not take place in a meeting (though I suspect there will be necessary meetings leading up to them):

  1. Hold fast to the faithful message that was taught to them.
  2. Encourage/Exhort/Console/Beg/Appeal the church with sound doctrine.
  3. Expose the contradictory ones.

We’re going to look at each task, but I first want to point out that it is notable that the leaders do all these things.  Notice that Titus is not doing these things.  Instead, Paul says Titus is to appoint the leaders, and then the leaders will do these things.  You would think Titus is the leader of the churches and thus he would get in there and handle what needs to be handled. 

But Paul said Titus’ primary mission was to raise up leaders who would do the work. We have seen this principle taught time and time again Scripture.  There are to be groups of leaders who are responsible for the church. Not one person, but a group.  Not one pastor.  Not one leader.  But groups of leaders, of which all are involved in leading. 

So what are these leaders to do?  Three things.

First, they hold fast to the faithful message that was taught to them.

They heard this message from Paul and Titus before.  It is the preaching and teaching of the good news of Jesus and what it means to be his follower.  They are to hold to the way of Jesus.  They are not to be influenced by other ways.  Leaders lead by example, by how they live their lives.

Second, they encourage/exhort/console/beg/appeal in sound doctrine. I list all those variations of the word because the word Paul uses is translated by many different English words. By seeing them all you get a richer flavor of what Paul is saying to Titus.

Last week in our series of posts on Titus 1:1-4, we saw that sound doctrine is one of Paul’s main concerns in this letter.  And it is the leaders who are the stronghold of sound doctrine.  They hold to the message, and then they encourage and exhort the rest of the church to do the same.  They are to lead the church in knowing Jesus and being followers of Jesus, even in the midst of a culture that might not care all that much, or that might even make fun of them, or that might even persecute them.  Leaders tow the line. 

Third, they expose the contradictory ones, the ones who are teaching something other than sound doctrine.  They refute them.  They shine the light of truth, exposing the falsehood.  They speak up.  In the next passage Paul is going to address these contradictory ones.  So we’ll talk more about that next week.

For now, we see the role that leaders have.

Are you a leader?  This is your job description.  These are your marching orders. 

Maybe you are not a leader?  This is what you can use as your goal: blamelessness.  Let us be a people who pursue the blamelessness of Jesus, and let us be a church that only selects leaders who have distinguished themselves as blameless.

Non-negotiable qualities of church leaders – Titus 1:5-9, Part 4

20 Jun
Image result for qualities of church leaders

In Titus 1:5-9, Paul says leaders of the church should be blameless. This week we have been looking closely at this passage to see if we can learn what blameless leadership is all about. In today’s post, we see that Paul tells Titus to look for leaders who have demonstrated a number of qualities that are non-negotiable.

First, in verse 6, Paul says that blameless leaders have one wife.  Is he talking about polygamy here?  Did the Romans have multiple wives?  It is highly doubtful, historians tell us, that polygamy occurred much in the Greco-Roman world.  Instead, it seems that Paul is referring to the common practice in which Greek and Roman men would have concubines. Sadly, this wasn’t considered aberrant in their culture.  It was accepted.  Paul says Christians will have a different viewpoint.  They will not have concubines.  Christians will have only one wife. In other words, church leaders’ should have a high view of the sanctity of marriage. Why? Their marriages will have a profound impact on those leaders’ relationship to the church, and vice versa. What this means is that Titus should be looking for leaders who have strong marriages, and who protect their marriages from infidelity.

Next in verse 6, Paul says that blameless leaders of the church will have faithful children.  That’s a tough one because at a certain point, kids who have been raised in a loving home can choose to rebel.  Even if they were raised right, and at no fault of their parents, they might choose to give up the faith.  While grace needs to rule the day here, Paul has something important for parents and kids to consider.  Parents are to parent their kids toward faithfulness, and kids are to choose to be faithful. What you teach your children and how you parent matters.  God doesn’t want leaders who are all about leading in the church but not caring for and leading in their homes.  That is part of being blameless; it’s a lifestyle that you are living, not just a way you behave in one spot.

Paul goes on to tell Titus to look for blameless leaders who see themselves as God’s stewards.  The word he is using here is defined as a household manager.  The leader of a church does not own the church, God does.  Paul says, therefore, that the blameless leader will view the church as God’s work.  None of us should think that we own the church, or that the church is somehow ours. It is God’s. We are simply stewards, managing the church for God.  That means Titus should look to appoint leaders who handle the church like God desires.

After talking about blameless leaders’ various roles and relationships, he talks about their character. Under the general principle of blamelessness, Paul now says that these leaders will be people who avoid five things and attain six things.

The blameless leaders avoids the following five vices.  They are not:

  1. Over-bearing.  This is an arrogance that is the result of self-will and stubbornness.  They think they are so much better than everyone else.  They are always looking down on others, always saying, “I am better.”
  2. Quick-tempered. The person is a bully. 
  3. Addicted to wine. This could be expanded to addiction in any of its many forms.
  4. Violent. This is a person who is ready and willing to pick fights. They are demanding.
  5. Pursuing dishonest gain.  Specifically this word has greed at its core. This person is shamefully greedy. 

As I look at this list of five vices, the word “narcissist” comes to mind. While I don’t believe narcissism encapsulates all that Paul is talking about here, it sure relates to much of the five. What is narcissism? As the Gravity Leadership crew discovers in this fascinating and helpful podcast interview with Chuck DeGroat, narcissism is more than “a person who is in love with themselves.” Narcissists have a strange attraction for many of us, and yet they’ve caused immeasurable damage. After listening to the podcast, I’m convinced Paul would say to Titus, “a church leader must not be a narcissist.”

So what kind of character qualities should Titus be looking for? Paul says that the blameless leader will demonstrates that they are pursuing six virtues (starting in verse 8).  They are:

  1. Hospitable.  This word has a connotation of hospitality particularly to strangers.
  2. Loving what is good.  This person really likes goodness. 
  3. The NIV 84 says the third quality is “self-controlled”, but the word the NIV 84 translates as “disciplined” at the end of the list in verse 8 is better translated “self-controlled.” Granted, they are very much related.  The word here is more about what is prudent.  A person who is sensible, making wise decisions.
  4. Righteous, “upright”. This person does what God requires. Follows God’s ways.  It is more outward.
  5. “Holy”. A person who is growing a heart that is more and more like Jesus. It is more inward. 
  6. Self-controlled. See #3 above. This person is in control of their emotions and choices.

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? It seems like only Jesus would qualify. Years ago I served on a denominational team that was administrating the process of nominating candidates for the role of Bishop. In my denomination, the Bishop is the leader of the whole denomination, and thus we created a list of qualities that we were looking for. We used biblical passages like Titus 1:5-9, and the result had me thinking, “No one fits this. A person would have to be perfect. We’re looking for Jesus, and there was only one Jesus.” But as we discussed earlier in this week’s series, blameless leadership does not equal perfection. You might review that discussion, as the list above could be intimidating. Paul did not intend to give Titus an impossible task, but he does set the bar high.

In conclusion, Paul says, “Titus, look for people who have distinguished themselves using these lists.  Appoint them to be leaders.”

And what will these leaders do?  Paul has a job description for them, which we will look at in the next post.

Can women be leaders in the church? Titus 1:5-9, Part 3

19 Jun
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Can women be leaders in the church? What is your church’s position on this? After establishing blamelessness as the baseline requirement for church leaders, Paul goes on to describe how blameless church leaders handle their lives in Titus 1:6-7. Blameless leaders will have demonstrated four things:

  1. Be a husband
  2. Of one wife
  3. Have faithful children who also cannot be accused of rebellion.
  4. See themselves as God’s stewards.

In parts 3 and 4 of this week’s posts, we’re going to look at each of these four statements.

First he says that blameless leaders are husbands.  The emphasis here is on the male aspect, not so much on the married part.  Paul himself was single, and it is okay for single people to be leaders.  But what about that male emphasis?  So many people through the ages have said, “See, only men can be leaders of the church, as Paul is only talking to the husbands.”  At Faith Church we understand this principle a bit differently.

We believe that Paul was speaking to the cultural situation of his day.  The surrounding culture of the Roman Empire was so thoroughly patriarchal, that Paul argues for male leadership in the church.  Paul also taught that men and women are totally equal in God’s eyes, so he could be accused of being contradictory. I don’t think he is.  Here’s why.

I think the question we should be asking is why he had to bring this issue up so much.  Did you ever think about that?  Paul mentions gender roles in the church repeatedly.  It comes up in 1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, and here in Titus.  In such a deeply patriarchal culture you wouldn’t think this should be an issue that Paul would need to talk about.  Why? Everyone in the Roman Empire assumed that men would be leaders.  It’s just the way it was in a patriarchal culture.  Why then does Paul bring it up so often with these Christians?

He has to refer to gender roles so often because of what he already taught them.  Paul was bringing a new radical teaching to their society, that there is new life in Christ, that Jesus had ushered God’s Kingdom into the world, a kingdom where men and women were equal in God’s eyes.  In fact, read Galatians 3, and Paul concludes that in Christ Jesus there is no male or female, but all are one.  In God’s Kingdom there is no patriarchy.  That was earth-shattering stuff for those Greeks and Romans.  The women, of course, embraced it.  It was empowering for them, as it should have been.  There are indications in Paul’s writing that the women were grabbing hold of this new teaching and owning it, to the point of breaking cultural norms like cutting their hair, speaking in public, and so on.  And why not?  God’s Kingdom had come to town and it was a new day. 

Except for one really important matter. The rest of the culture wasn’t buying this new message. Paul knew, to preserve what was being built and being taught, to preserve the church, that these Cretan Christians had to be careful to not lose the main goal and point, which was the mission of God’s Kingdom.  His heart was to establish the church so deeply, that in time it could be an influencer of culture, viably creating a society that reflected Kingdom values of oneness and equality between gender. At this early stage, though, the church was far from ready for that. To preserve that mission, then, Paul taught them that it was going to have to male leadership only. 

But what about a different culture, one that didn’t have patriarchy, a culture where men and women are equal?  Can you think of any cultures trying to be like that?  Any cultures where men and women have equal access and opportunity?  Any culture where the women’s national soccer team, for example, scored more goals in one World Cup game than then men’s soccer team scored in all their games in the previous four World Cups combined?  I think I know a place like that.  In a place like that, we believe that Paul would have taught equality in gender roles in the church.  Because we live in one of those cultures where men and women are equal, we believe it is most faithful have gender equality on our leadership team.

I have great respect for Christians who disagree with our approach. Some of them are pastors in my own denomination. Many biblical scholars and theologians have undertaken projects to provide a rationale for male headship in the church and family. Those scholars have done due diligence, and I understand from Scripture why they disagree with the approach I describe above. I hope we can graciously agree to disagree. I will admit that I do not know for certain if my viewpoint is correct. Of course I think it is correct, but I could very well be wrong.

The one word that should define church leaders – Titus 1:5-9, Part 2

18 Jun
Photo by Nick Abrams on Unsplash

What one word do you think should define church leaders? In part 1 of this week’s posts on Titus 1:5-9, we learned that Paul had sent Titus to the Island of Crete to appoint leaders in the churches there. So what kind of people should Titus be looking for to be leaders of the church?  Paul says these leaders, he calls them “elders,” should have one key word that defines them.  Read Titus 1, verses 6-7, and see if you can find that word.

You see the word Paul repeats there? He uses it like bookends, one time at the start of verse 6, and the other at the end of verse 7.  The word is “blameless.” Some translations use the phrase “above reproach.” What is Paul talking about? Blamelessness is the idea of someone that cannot be accused of anything…because they didn’t do anything wrong.

We’ve started the next presidential election cycle.  How many of you have a sense that it is going to be brutal?  I think it’s about to get really ugly as politicians make accusations against each other.  We have a name for the TV commercials that get nasty: attack ads. 

When Titus is selecting leaders, the he is to look for people that could not be the subject of attack ads.  They are blameless, above reproach, meaning they haven’t done anything wrong. 

When I hear that, I think, “Wait a minute, Paul. Are you saying that leaders in churches should be perfect?”  The only way that someone would be truly blameless or unable to be accused of any wrongdoing, is if they were perfect, right?  And that’s a problem, because no one is perfect! 

I am certainly not perfect.  There are ways that I have misstepped.  In fact, I know our Faith Church Leadership Team members well enough to say that none of them would say they are perfect either.  By saying that, am I disqualifying myself and our leaders?  Is Paul saying that church leaders have to be perfect?  No.  Let me explain.

Blameless leaders aren’t perfect.  If perfection was the standard, no church anywhere would ever have leaders.  But there are Christians who demonstrate blamelessness.  They follow the way of Jesus, they practice the life habits of Jesus, they spend much time with Jesus, and as a result, throughout the course of their lives, they become more and more like Jesus.  Are they perfect? No. They mess up from time to time, but they admit it and they deal with it.  They seek forgiveness, they make things right.    

That is what some have called the pursuit of holiness.  And that pursuit is for every Christian.  Not just leaders. 

You might say, “Well, Paul is talking about leaders, Joel.  Not everybody.” To that I would counter that Paul is saying to Titus, look for the people who have achieved this blamelessness in their lives.  They are not currently leaders.  And they are not necessarily blameless because they thought, “Well I want to be a leader, so I am going to become blameless.”  No, they pursued being blameless because it is the way of Jesus.  Jesus calls all people to this.  This is an expectation for us all. 

As followers of Jesus, we are to pattern our lives after his, we are to do what he did, to live like he did.  It is astounding to read how many times this comes up in the New Testament.  Whenever you’re reading in the New Testament and you come across words like “holiness, righteousness, purity, etc.,” look and see if that writer is referring to a way of living life.  They are likely talking about the way of life that followers of Jesus should live. 

The tricky part about living a blameless life is that it can be hard to know what that look likes in 2019.  So I would encourage you to think about real world people.  Who do you know that is doing a decent job of living the blameless life?  Ask them how they do it!  Learn from them.  If you are a part of Faith Church, look at our Leadership Team members. All of our Leadership Team members are excellent examples of this.  They’re all humble, so if you ask them about it, they’ll say this sermon makes them think they shouldn’t be on the Leadership Team. But that humility is just more evidence of their blamelessness, and why you should ask them how to live a blameless life. So for all us of followers of Jesus, blamelessness is our goal.  For leaders of church, blamelessness is a requirement.

Christians, justice and leadership in the Church [God’s heart for good government, part 5]

16 Nov

In this series of posts, we have been studying God’s heart for good government in Deuteronomy 16 and 17.  In those chapters, God created levels of governance for Israel: local, national, and over all, the king.

What have we seen in all these levels of government that God had for his people? Many things:  Justice is the foundation of governance.  All people are equal and to be treated fairly.  While there will be leaders, local and national, and they are to be people of high character and wisdom, it is God who is truly king, and we must follow his law.

So how might this passage matter to Christians?

First, these are principles that can apply to any nation, and Christians can work, and I would say should work, towards having national governments that are based in justice for all.  Where there is injustice in society, we Christians should work to correct it.

I’ve been so impressed with our sister church in Chicago, Kimball Avenue, (and even though they changed denominations recently, in Faith Church’s heart and mind, they are still our sister church!) and their Justice Watch group, and how they have for years worked on bringing God’s justice to their community.  It was in Chicago that I learned about babies in the water, which is a thought-provoking story to help us learn about justice.

We should be passionate, therefore, about justice inour community.  Are there any ways we seeinjustice around us? What can we do to address it?

Second, not only justice for the community, but also justice and godly leadership should be our goal in the church.  We can read in the New Testament numerous passages that talk about selecting leaders in the church, and here at Faith Church we have summarized them with the phrase: the spiritually mature should lead the church

But the leaders don’t do all the work.  Just as God wanted Israel to have lower courts and higher courts, we divide up into groups.  The top leader is not to handle it all.  In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul wrote that the church leaders were to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the church may be built up.” Leaders, then, have a job, to raise up others, train them up, help them grow in their faith in Christ, so that more and more people can serve.

We seek to do this at Faith Church.  We have our Leadership Team and ServeTeams.  The Leadership team is focused onleading the church spiritually, while the Serve Teams direct the various areasof ministry.

Leaders in the church must follow theprinciples of leading with justice and fairness.  Leaders in the church must make God theirking.  It is not our church, it is hischurch, he is the one true leader. Pastors, staff and leaders are not to be put on a pedestal, worshiped,because that is a place reserved for God alone!

So let us be a people that pursue God’s heart for justice and worship him alone.

Is it weird to preach a sermon about leadership that is mostly for those who aren’t leaders?

3 Mar

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Have you ever been asked to lead something in the church and thought “What? Me? No way!!!”

The thought of being a leader can raise a number of feelings.  Here a few that I have heard:

  1. It’s too much responsibility. What if I make a bad decision?  I don’t want to have to deal with the consequences.  What if I have to weigh in on a difficult situation?  What if I don’t know what to do?  I don’t want to know about the dark underbelly of the church.
  2. It would be too hard.  I don’t think I’m leader material.  I don’t like to be up front or in charge.
  3. I don’t think I’m called to be a leader. God never told me that I was to be a leader.
  4. I’ve never been a leader before, so I can’t be one.  I don’t know what to do!
  5. I’m too shy, too quiet.  I don’t like to speak up, and I certainly don’t want to be up in front of a crowd.  I hate public speaking.
  6. I don’t know the Bible well enough.

Have you heard these before?  Maybe you have heard them coming out of your mouth!  Are there other reasons that you have heard, or that you have used, to suggest that a person shouldn’t be a leader?

And most importantly of all, should these concerns invalidate a person from becoming a leader in the church?

As we continue our series through 1st Timothy, we have arrived at chapter 3, and it is all about leaders.  Who should be a leader?  How should they become a leader?  At Faith Church we have wrestled with these questions numerous times.  In 2014 we updated our approach to leadership, and we said we made these changes based on biblical principles. For those of you a part of Faith Church, read what Paul says to Timothy, and then answer: how well do you think we did?

Check out 1 Timothy 3.  Read the selection, then continue reading below.

Paul gives Timothy quite a long list of qualifications for leaders, doesn’t he?  One of my concerns as I prepare this sermon is that at Faith Church we currently have 9 people on our Leadership Team.  Maybe the rest of the church will hear the topic and think “Oh, this sermon is just for those 9 people on the Leadership Team.  So I don’t have to listen in.”   If you’re thinking something like that, I encourage you to still listen in. Here’s why:

This sermon is mostly for those who are not leaders yet.  It is for the rest of the congregation, those who might become leaders, and even those who won’t.  Why?  Because those 9 current leaders have already achieved these qualities in large measure or else there is no way they could have been considered for our Leadership Team.  Our current leaders can hear these words from Paul as an important reminder, for sure.  But it is best for all the rest of us to see Paul as speaking primarily to us. Everyone can and should see these qualities as describing how a disciple of Jesus should live.  Therefore, Paul’s words are for all of us.  Let’s all pay close attention to the life that Paul describes here.  Let’s all ask God to speak to us through his word, as perhaps there is something in these descriptions of overseers and deacons that we need to hear.

Join us Sunday, March 3, at Faith Church to learn more!

How to submit to leaders and not hate it – 1st Corinthians 16:5-24, Part Two

5 Nov

In this final section of 1st Corinthians, Paul mentions a bunch of leaders that were familiar to the church in the city of Corinth.  At one point, he urges the church to submit to it’s leaders.  Submit is such an ugly word.  It has definitely been abused by many leaders.  As a leader in a church I can hardly stomach hearing those words on my lips.  “Submit, you peons!”  It’s so brutal.  obey

I know that it is much easy to submit to leaders who are awesome leaders.  Paul describes the leaders that way. They were mature, faithful, caring leaders, and as such, the people should submit.  I don’t know that good leaders will make it easy to submit for all followers.  Some of us just have a hard time submitting to anyone.  I think Paul is saying that it is possible to submit to leaders and not hate it.

What does it look like to submit to leaders?  Here are some thoughts.

Pray for them! Regularly. Make it a part of your daily practice to pray for the leaders in your church. Pray that they will be able to depend on the Spirit’s power to serve as leaders, that they will have wisdom and guidance.

Submit to their decisions, even when you disagree. It is possible to disagree with leadership and still humbly submit and follow their lead.

Talk with them about your concerns. It is possible to present ourselves when we are concerned and disagree with leaders, in a loving way.

What do we do when we disagree and are concerned about a decision that our voted on leadership has decided on?

First, we need to ask ourselves humbly and honestly (and we need to get wise mature people to evaluate us in this as well): Are we being influenced by consumer culture? Consumer culture is the water we swim in. We get to consume, we get to have choices about what we consume. We don’t like one brand, we go with one of the 15 other brands. We do that for everything. We have learned a sense of entitlement that has us thinking that we deserve choices. And it is our right, and what is best for us, when we don’t like what we get, that we can make another choice. The same goes for churches

But what about learning to submit to leaders, and allowing them to fulfill their God-given role of leading? Even when we don’t like how they are leading? Even when we disagree? Yes, it is possible!  Maybe we just need to try.