Series: A Sound Church
Article 2: God’s Leaders
In this article we will delve into the importance of following God’s instructions in church leadership, using the teachings of Paul in Titus 1:5-6. Paul emphasizes the need for order and leadership in the church, especially at the local level. He sets requirements for those who would serve as elders, and it’s important to follow these biblical principles to ensure that the church functions properly.
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— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.
Following God’s Instructions in Church Leadership
This week I was putting together some furniture for my office. You know how it is when you’re putting together furniture – you’re tempted to bypass the instructions because you think you know how to do it. Later you realize, “Wow, I totally messed this up.” It’s important to remember that instructions are there for a reason, and following them will ensure that it works properly.
In the Christian world, it’s especially important to follow God’s instructions. When we obey His commands, we can walk, live, and function as we were designed to. God has a plan and purpose for us, and He has clearly communicated how we should live and behave. This is especially important when it comes to the life and ministry of the Church. It’s imperative that we closely follow His commandments and teachings, for only then can we truly do church right.
And that is why we study Titus: to help us understand and be more faithful to what Jesus desires for us. As the head of the church, Christ has made it clear how His church is to be run. So we turn to Paul’s teachings on leadership in the church to hear what he says. It’s important to remember that leadership is something that Jesus Himself appoints, and He sets the requirements for those who would serve in this role.
Order in the church
Today we’ll look at verses five and six, and the first thing we see is that God desires order in the church. In verse 5 Paul says
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking
Paul says: Titus, I left you in Crete for the express purpose of putting things in order. Now I am writing to instruct you on what that should look like and what you should do.
Lack of leadership as a problem in the church in Crete
It’s noteworthy that Paul identifies a lack of leadership as a problem in the life of the church in Crete. Crete is a large island with several cities along the coast. In his message to Titus, Paul emphasizes the importance of establishing leaders in each of these cities.
Origin of the Church in Crete
While the exact origins of the churches in Crete are uncertain, historical records indicate that Cretans were present on the day of Pentecost and witnessed the powerful manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the upper room. The phenomenon included speaking in tongues and other miracles. It’s possible that some of them became Christians and brought their faith back to Crete. As a result, Christian churches have been established on the island, which is a positive development.
Paul’s observation about the lack of proper structure and leadership
However, when the apostle Paul visited Crete, he found that while Christians were present, they lacked proper structure and leadership in accordance with God’s desires for His church. The church in Crete needed to be organized and led by qualified individuals in order to flourish and fulfill its purpose. And so Paul is saying that qualified leaders must be appointed in these places to ensure the health of the church.
Key Points on Leadership
There are a few key points that need to be emphasized. First, it is clear throughout the Bible that God’s people need strong leadership. In fact, Paul explicitly states that the absence of leadership results in something lacking. Therefore, it is assumed that the church will have structured, organized leadership because God is a God of order. It is crucial that these leaders are not only qualified, but also recognized and respected as such.
Christians belong to a church
The other point is the assumption that Christians belong to a church. We live in the age of the wandering Christian, don’t we? We live in a time when many Christians wander and float from church to church or don’t attend any church at all. However, God’s people are supposed to be committed to a body with leadership. This body should have an organizational structure and leadership because Christ, the head of the church, seeks order in His body. This is what Paul is addressing. The importance of leadership cannot be overstated.
There’s a non-Christian man whose words I always remember. He said, “Leadership is the problem and leadership is the answer. Every time.”
The biblical pattern of a local church
When we think about leadership, we see that it begins at the local level of a church. Paul mentions that there should be appointed elders in every city. We live in a time characterized not only by the wandering Christian, but also by parachurch and small group ministries. Particularly in Heidelberg, which is a university town, we have campus ministries, as well as individuals who focus on missional communities and related initiatives, and that’s all well and good.
The limitations of parachurch and small group ministries
While these efforts are commendable, it’s important to note that they are not consistent with the biblical pattern of a local church and cannot serve as a substitute for it. Simply gathering together as a group of Christians without any form of organizational leadership is not what the apostle Paul, and ultimately Christ, had in mind for His people. The Holy Spirit ordains individuals to serve as leaders within the church, and it’s clear that this leadership is to be localized, with authority residing in the local church. In order to ensure that leadership is in accordance with biblical principles, it’s important to follow the requirements that Paul lays out for someone to serve as an elder.
The need to adhere to the requirements for elders
When we study leadership in the context of the church, we’re essentially exploring the kind of people God intends to be in leadership. It’s worth noting that there are a variety of leadership models that have been adopted by different churches throughout history, and it’s not necessary to go into all of them. But it has always been understood that there should be leadership.
Focus on the qualities and character traits necessary for leadership
The specific focus of the apostle Paul’s passage is on the qualities and character traits necessary to fulfill God’s requirements for leadership. Because it doesn’t matter how biblical your system is, if you have the wrong people in leadership positions, things can easily become problematic. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand that the type of man God requires for leadership in the church is of the utmost importance and is non-negotiable.
The Responsibilities of Elders in the Ministry of the Word
In verse 9 we see the work of the elders in relation to the ministry of the Word. While we won’t spend too much time on this, it is worth emphasizing that the responsibilities of the elders include overseeing, governing, and caring for the church. Part of their responsibility is to shepherd the church, which includes providing care and guidance for its members. In addition, the elders are charged with holding fast to the doctrines of the faith. This means that they are not to manipulate or change the doctrines of the faith to suit their own interests, but are to uphold them as they have been delivered once and for all. It is the duty of leaders to remain steadfast in their commitment to these teachings.
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