TODAY’S READING: Titus
Titus was an uncircumcised Greek whom Paul left in Crete to oversee the work of church planting on that island. Titus helped Paul relate to the Corinthian church and through this letter was being tasked with two essential missionary activities post the initial indigenous church being established: the appointing of elders and the halting of false teaching.
Plural Eldership. A critical missionary mistake is to establish a new church that is over-reliant on one person or family. The church was not designed to have a singular voice, the Spirit is never contained or interpreted by only one person, and church governance is never healthy if all power is concentrated in one individual. When missionaries only know one person, disciple that one person, trust the reports of that one person, and empower (teaching, funding, relationship) only that one person, they set that person and church up for disaster. Plural eldership not only protects the church-to-be, it protects the leader. None of us were designed to rule over others; all of us were designed to have robust accountability constraining and protecting us. Paul expected Titus to appoint a plurality of spiritual leaders, and this must be our standard in the church at home and abroad.
Plural eldership is not antithetical to apostolic leadership. Paul himself is an obvious example as is the instruction he gave Titus throughout this epistle (Paul empowered Titus to make some unilateral, forceful decisions). However, none of us are intended by God to be without covering, without boundaries, without other leaders who can correct and protect us from ourselves and the blind spots we all have. As missionaries, let us love the new churches we plant and the new leaders we raise up enough to correct and protect them by refusing to install systems or expectations that lead to ecclesiastical monarchies.
Sound Doctrine. Paul began this missionary letter by reminding Titus that truth leads to godliness and that the Word of God is manifest by preaching. Paul demonstrated that missionary work (especially at the pioneering and catalytic stage) demands pointed teaching and the defense of sound doctrine. Leaders are by sound doctrine both to exhort and convict those who contradict. Some mouths must be stopped. We should rebuke some sharply that they become sound in the faith. We should speak the things that are proper for sound doctrine. We should speak, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. We should do all this avoiding foolish disputes and rejecting divisive men when they don’t listen to admonition. Missionaries have the mandate to teach and preach sound doctrine forcefully. Let no current embarrassment of universal truth lead us to adopt methods that subtly suggest truth is in the individual.
Forceful leadership and submitted accountability, forceful teaching and genuine humility have this in common: They are both based in Christ’s character and example. Jesus gave Himself for us, in kindness and love, according to great mercy, lavishing unmerited grace. Missionaries are indeed to be forceful leaders who are great in kindness, love, mercy, and grace.