Angela opens the expected e mail and groans at the number of attachments. She really wants this job but process and stress to get it seems almost too much. The first document is the glossy brochure telling the world how wonderful the company is, then there is the formidable application form, an interview schedule, a job description, a person specification and an online task all to be returned in the next three days. How is she to convince the appointing committee that she is the ideal person? If only they just truly knew her and her heart for an opportunity like this.
Paul’s preaching and teaching tour of Crete has left small scattered house churches across the island but now to continue to grow in their faith and mission they need some more formally established leadership. Paul has given Titus the job of appointing these elders. Titus 1.5 They are not jobs for the faint hearted, Cyprus is famous for its lax morals and prevalent dishonesty, v12 a place where the culture lays traps for the newly converted disciples of Jesus. The church has also come under the influence of Jewish groups that are adding to and distorting the apostolic gospel. v14 Surely then Titus must pay special attention to skills, organizational structures, eloquence of speech and commanding presence. It appears these are not considered essential in the person specification although they may have been desirable. Paul has one overriding priority and that is the character of the person. He then subdivides it into three areas.
The fact that Paul did not appoint elders at the foundation of the churches is relevant. It takes time to grow and assess Christian character. In 1 Timothy, Paul counsels, ‘Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands.’ v5.22 He adds, ‘The sins of some are obvious … the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.’ vv5.24,25 The appointment of leaders is not to be rushed.
Public reputation is vital firstly expressed in their family life. What the neighbours see reflects on the standing of Christ in the community. Twice Paul asserts an elder must be, ‘above reproach.’ vv6,7 The conduct of the family and the faithfulness of any marriage should give a positive testimony to the elder.
The individual conduct is also crucial, under the phrase self-controlled comes an absence of drunkenness, quick temper and violence. v7 Motivations are equally important, an elder should not be arrogant, a lover of good, holy in their inclinations and disciplined in their approach. These things all bear strongly on how they will relate to the church and to the community as they reach out in mission. They could well find their perfect expression through hospitality, v8 taking a lead from Jesus’ lifestyle where he delighted to spend time with ‘sinners,’ not to join in their activity but to lovingly share the gospel. What will differentiate the sacrificial leader is the time they give to people beyond their own inner circle.
The final characteristic Paul emphasizes is the person’s understanding and sharing of the gospel. This being the basis on which they relate to church members, ‘holding firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.’ v9 This implies the capacity to go beyond simply quoting scripture and includes wise and loving interpretation and application.
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