Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders in the cities of Crete in order to put order to the things that were lacking there. Those elders were to be the testimony of God’s authority that would help propagate the life of Christ there. They were not to be hierarchal leaders that would control the religious order of those cities. They were to be people who would activate, facilitate, and release the growing life of Christ. They would be community minded individuals that would serve God in bringing about the expressions of God’s community in the earth.
Titus 1: 5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—…
Paul was writing to his spiritual son Titus. His words were words based upon relationship with God and relationship with a son of God within Paul’s God-given responsibility in life. In his instructions we can find clear principals for leadership material. Paul didn’t tell Titus whom to select. God is the One who makes the selection of people. Paul simply told Titus what kind of people were those God would select. The fruit of community leadership would be in their lives before they were selected to serve in the community of God for such a cause. Paul presented the qualifications of a leader to Titus and these qualifications are still true today. He was letting Titus know that he was to look for people who manage their own lives – these are the kind of people that are the potential material for God’s appointment in serving as apt to teach leaders in a community of Christ.
Titus 1:6-9 …if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
I don’t believe that Paul intended his presented criteria to be used as a legalistic form for the selection of leaders in the church. He was presenting the basic character of a leader who could set direction in the church. The word bishop is the Greek word episkopos (SG1985), meaning, a superintendent, i. e. Christian officer in genitive case charge of a (or the) church (literally or figuratively). This is not some high and lofty hierarchal controller in the church. It is a proven Christ-character individual appointed by God for parental responsibilities in the church. Those appointed to this role of responsibility in the church would have to correct, direct, and even stand against people who would be insubordinate, idle talkers, or deceivers of others. These leaders would have to be able stand to stop the mouths of those who would oppose God’s direction from being heard in their God-given areas of responsibility. Simply stated, the kind of leaders that Titus was to look for were leaders of covenant character. These would be the types of people God would select. Their selection would be by the Holy Spirit’s guidance in any decision Titus would make in their appointment, but Titus needed to be looking at the correct field of selection in order to hear God’s voice clearly. Paul was presenting that character of leadership was more important than gift of ministry. I believe this is important to understand in the selection of leaders in the church. The church is the expression of the community of God. It is a corporate expression of God’s family among the communities of the earth. It is not about works of ministry, gifting of ministry, or some form of Christian service or ceremony. The church is the testimony of God’s family, thus leaders must be family-minded people with covenant keeping qualities in their character. They must guide, lead, nurture, protect, and grow to maturity family members in the family of God. Love is the essential attribute of an overseeing leader in the church. The kind of love needed to be a leader is the love of a covenant partner to their spouse or a parent to their children. Leadership is not merely a matter of equipping people for some religious task; it is one of loving them in their growth to maturity.
Paul’s instructions for leaders were not instructions for some law of leadership qualifications. They were simply foundations for understanding the needed character for leadership. I don’t believe that these were people who had never seen any failure in their own lives or leaders who had never made mistakes in their past. These people were obviously sinners in their past, but they had discovered and embraced the overcoming power of God’s grace in their own lives. We were all sinners in our past, but we are being saved by the power of God’s grace to reign in life. Bishops, apt to teach leaders, are people who lead the community of God in the life-transforming testimony of God’s grace. Paul was presenting that leaders are people who have discovered favor with God and men in the community of the church. These were covenant-keeping men who knew how to be husbands and fathers in their own families. Paul was not addressing the testimony of their entire lives, but presenting where they were in the present reality of Christ at work in their lives. Many people have taken Paul’s instructions as a form of legalism against anyone who has experienced a divorce or some other form of failure in their past. Not everyone who has a failed relationship has failed character. God’s children have all been rebellious at times, does that make God a failure as a Father? God’s wife, Israel, sought foreign lovers, did that make God a failure as a husband? I don’t believe that this is the point of Paul’s instruction. Paul was presenting the qualifications of a covenant keeping, life giving, man or woman, as God is always covenant keeping and life giving in His character. Paul’s instructions were in regard to the present qualifications of those being selected, not merely the fact history of their past. Leaders must be people who have discovered the life-changing grace of God in their lives. These were people who were willing to give their lives for the sake of others. They lived for their own families, thus they would be able to serve the family of God. They were not self-seeking individuals, but those who had discovered the secret of sacrificial love for others. In order to deal with problematic situations in the community of God they would have to be individuals who had learned how to overcome problematic situations in their own lives. Any expression of God’s church is an expression of family. It must be a community of Christ before it can do the ministry of Christ. These things are true today and must be embraced in the role of appointing leaders in the church.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson