Sometimes it just seems overwhelming in the ministry…

Titus 1:5 – 9
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

If I were to take a poll and ask who was your favorite NT personality, after Jesus Christ, I would get a list as long at the names in the NT. Naturally I like to read and study about each of them, but one person stands up for me above all the others, Titus. Why is Titus such a draw to me? Well, let me list some of the reasons:

1. Titus was a man who refreshed those around him – this is the subject of another piece I am writing.

2. Titus was a man of character that Paul vouched for 100%.

3. Titus was given an impossible task and expected to do it.

4. Titus was everything that Paul told him to look for in other men.

Let’s look at the situation that Paul dropped Titus into as stated in Titus 1.

Paul had been to Crete and saw that many things there needed fixing. He said, “For this cause I left you in Crete,” and then he mentions 2 things. Titus was to fix the things that were “wanting” and to ordain elders in every city. Paul left Titus in Crete because there were believers but there were not any pastors to preach and teach to those that believed. Picture, if you will, a group or groups of people getting saved and baptised and then  joining together because they want to have a church. Picture then the problem found in these groups. There were men who thought they were leaders yet you could buy them off. How many preachers have their been in the world that have been bought off to change what they preach because someone waved some money in their faces? The love of money will destroy a pastor and it was no exception on the island of Crete. Picture also that these self proclaimed leaders would easily take advantage of the lesser members of the congregation and you have the receipe for disaster.

Look at the standard Paul gave to Titus. This is an impossible standard for way too many people. It is not an impossible standard for all people because there are men in the world who will hold to this standard, who will obey the Word of God and who will not fall into temptation. They are not many, unfortunately, but they are among the churches and many, many, many churches are pastored by men who uphold these standards. But, I am not talking about pastors who already are pastoring, upholding the Word of God, I am talking about Titus, a man who was given a task that most men would cower from, run from or flat out say, “That is impossible!” Before we get more indepth into the situation on the island of Crete amongst the churches, let’s look at the standard Paul gave to Titus. This is God’s standard. It is not to be changed, ever. This is a list of items that are non-negotiable in a New Testament church. What are they?

I love the way verse 5 begins: If any be…. Those three words are loaded with meaning. You could almost say, if any dare…. but I digress:

1. Blameless. That one word will eliminate a whole bunch of people. Blameless means just that, not able to blame. Of course, there are false accusers everywhere. I have experienced them in my own ministry. I have been accused of things, by people giving a narrative of supposed point by point statements and actions, that never happened. I am amazed at the ability of people to convince themselves of error or to just plain not tell the truth. But, a man who is blameless does not mean he is never blamed. Jesus was blameless but he was blamed for all of the problems of the day by those that hated him. Blameless means that their charges do not stick because they are not true.

2. The husband of one wife. In the cultures of the early NT church it was still common to have more than 1 wife. No place does it tell anyone to put away their multiple wives if they get saved. It does not say they cannot be born again or join the church, it just says that they cannot have more than one wife if they want to be an elder in the church. I think that is quite clear. In the case of divorce, I do not personally think that this is the phrase that eliminates a man from qualifying to be pastor, I think the blameless portion of the standard would eliminate a man from pastoring if he is divorced – his fault or not, divorce is still divorce and a divorced man is no longer blameless.

3. Having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. Again, the dominos fall on way too many men here. I had a fear when I was on deputation, and that was that my children would be accused of riot or unruly. I thank the Lord that my children were my best asset on deputation and they got me support in many churches. Many times the pastor would ask if he could take my boys home with him for the afternoon, so Lynette and I could rest… I knew what they were doing. I knew they were watching my boys and it was a test. Praise the Lord, only one time did my boys fail that test… and frankly, I think the church looked better with a line of brown spray paint all the way around the building, at an alternating height of 18 to 36 inches…. I know children will be children, and one of the things they do is oppose their parents. But, frontal opposition and bald faced defiance in children towards their parents is a ground for disqualifying the man to be an elder.

4. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God. Again we come back to that “B” word, blameless. But this time it is as a steward of God. In other words, the elder must understand it is not his church. It is not his offering money. It is not his play thing to do what he pleases in order to build his ministry. The people, the building, the grounds, the program, all are God’s and the pastor/bishop/elder must, must, must treat them and administrate them as if God is reading the financial statements and getting the progress report himself. In other words, a man who uses the meeting of the Lord’s people as an end to furthering his means, should do the honorable thing and administrate himself right out of the pastorate. This is a high, high standard.

5. Not selfwilled. Here Paul begins to wax eloquent. Self willed means just that… The pastor is not the dictator, he is the shepard and his orders come from the Word of God. You do not have the right to change the Word of God to meet your own needs. The Bible constantly says to come out from among those in the world and to be separate, I have no right to be selfwilled and to bring the world into the church… just look at the church, if it looks, acts and sounds like the world, there is not reason for the church. A pastor has no right to lead the church in that direction.

6.  Not soon angry. It does not say not ever angry, it says not soon angry. Anger is a misused and misunderstood emotion and it is used way too often and used improperly. The best action is to obey the Bible when it says that the servant of God is not to strive with other men. That is quite clear. I have gotten angry in the pulpit before. I have preached some hot sermons before. But each time my attempt was not to be angry at people, but to be angry at the sin that was hurting the people. A man who has a short fuse does not belong in the pulpit. I have had to learn this discipline, it can be learned, it is possible to conquer your anger and to have self control. The elder MUST have this control.

7. Not given to wine.  I think the teaching here is clear. In order to avoid drunkenness, an elder is to be in control of himself so as that he is never given over to the wine. A man who is not given to wine is a man who is in control of himself. Drunkenness is when a man loses control of himself. I think the teaching is clear, an elder should never be subject to alcoholic beverages, he should not partake of them.

8.No striker. An elder should be someone who does not look for a fight but who uses his hands to work for people and to provide for his family. Open hands should not be for striking, but used when his arms are open for comforting.

9. Not given to filthy lucre. Filthy lucre is fancy English for money. An Elder should not be someone always looking to make a buck. I have seen at least one man quit the pastorate to earn his second million… he earned his first million as pastor….

10. But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate. I’ll combine these. These are similar to the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, an elder should love God’s people and be known as a godly man. This is a list that implies a way of life that is not worldly. This is truly a high standard, indeed.

11. Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. The elder needs to be teachable and loyal to the Word of God. He needs to be skillful in teaching, apt to teach, so that not only can he convince the godly, but he can also convince those that try and undo what he has taught. A pastor that does not make an effort to know the Bible has no business teaching it.

So, this is the standard. Culture cannot change it and neither can necessity. If I live in a pagan culture the standard is still the standard, no man is to be an elder unless he shows these qualities. Lack of a pastor is no reason to bend the rules. If a church cannot find a pastor it should not lower the standards to get a “pastor.”

So, Titus gets this list from Paul, who got it from the Holy Spirit. What does he do? Does he go down to his local Bible college to choose his men to teach and train to pastor the churches? Well, no, because there is not anybody out there who meets the standard yet. Remember, he was left there to fix the trouble, and then to ordain the elders. So, he had to right the ship, plug the holes and then train the people. So, with whom was he working?

Titus 1:10-12
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.

Well now, isn’t that a blessing? No, not really. Some important words are found in these verses: many unruly, vain talkers, deceivers. Paul would often go to the Synagogues to preach because it was there that the faithful would first be found. But, among those of the Jews that were to be found on the island were people who would not listen, who wasted time when they talked by saying nothing of value and who set out to deceive others by their words. Paul told Titus in verse 11 that Titus needed to shut them up. He said, Stop their mouths! Not only did they lead astray one or two people, but they led astray whole houses. The word subvert means to dig under to cause to fall. These men, religious no doubt, were using their “sermons” to make families fall… and they did it for money! In other words, they were being bought off to harm those that were in the congregation. They were putting out spiritual “hits” on unsuspecting people like some sort of mafia dons. They taught things that harmed, not things that helped and they did it for money.

I love what Paul says in verse 12. He says that one of their own prophets says that “The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” Paul said the sterotype was true of those people was true, you could not trust them.

Titus 1:13-16 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 14. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Paul told Titus to rebuke them sharply. Titus was placed into an impossible situation, but human standards. He was told to uphold the highest of standards when looking for men to put in EVERY city. Titus had to swim against the current and he had to do it among the sharks. Titus did not shrink, he did not shirk, he did not run for cover. He did not start farming for Jesus because the people would not listen. Titus was told to stay, told to work, told to fix, told to endure, told to rebuke and told to build. He was not to leave until the task was complete.

So, what can we learn from this? There is something that is not stated but it is implied very clearly. It does not say in chapter 1exactly, step by step,  how to go about this, but he is told what the result will be if he were to remain faithful. The implication here is that even with an “impossible” human standard that, unruly, lying, backstabbing, money hungry people could be changed to have a heart for God, to become elders and to have the high standards set forth by Paul. The Gospel “works” in changing lives. God’s standard, when upheld, will bring fruit.

If you find yourself in a “hard” place, look at Titus. What was he told to do? Follow the teaching from Paul as if the teaching was written directly to you. Plan your work and work your plan. Your outline is found in chapter 1, work it and the results will follow. You think you have it tough, you probably do, so find someone with a task who was even more difficult and copy them. Titus is your example, the Word of God is your sword and the results will come. You can do it, dear Christian worker. You plus God and his Word and his standard is a winner every single time.


About bjnibbe

Missionary, pastor, director of RU Romania, church planter, husband, father, friend, lover of that which is right and those that do good in their lives. I live in Cluj-Napoca, Romania with the lovely and gracious Lynette Nibbe, the wife of my youth. I have 4 boys with my name and one more who we call a part of our family. I love the Hebrew language and my goal is fluency. I love to write, love to preach and love to help people find the answers to their troubles. I am very opinionated but have been known to change in mid sentence if I find my position untenable. I think the mind is a terrible thing to waste and push for mental development through spiritual enlightenment. I think that God made everything, that mankind wrecked whatever it has touched and that only Jesus Christ has and is the answer to all of the problems. I loathe extreme positions and believe that all things are done decently and in order. I also admire someone who will try the "impossible" because with God, all things are possible. I like basketball, golf and softball and I love the Minnesota Vikings (a labor of love, not of pure pleasure, I can assure you...) I love my wife, without her I am just an empty suit.
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One Response to Sometimes it just seems overwhelming in the ministry…

  1. Home says:

    Appreciate your words and your example. Thanks

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