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Good morning church! Last week brother Saju gave us a wonderful start to the book of Titus (Read). He shared how Paul and Titus shared a very close friendship in the gospel. It’s a beautiful picture of gospel centered relationships that we need to invest in with other members of the Gathering. He also highlighted key themes that we’ll be looking over the next few weeks:

  1. Proper leadership
  2. Proper handling of error
  3. Proper Christian living
  4. Importance of finding our hope in the Gospel.

Today we’ll be looking at the need and qualifications for proper leadership in the church! Let me begin by asking you all a question. When you think about the word “elder” or “pastor”, what thoughts come in your end? What do you expect from an elder? What does an elder do?

Some common expectations are:

  1. He needs to be a charismatic speaker – magnetic personality who speaks with eloquence and passion.
  2. He needs to be an entertainer – should really know how to tell good jokes during the sermon, should add timely illustrations and stories to keep the congregation’s eyes glued on him.
  3. He should have strong leadership skills – when he talks and walks, you know he’s a leader!
  4. He needs to be good at administration – He needs to be very good at planning events and activities.
  5. Or do we need an elder at all? Can we function as a healthy church without biblical eldership?

That was sort of the place where the church at Crete was. Let’s look into our text:

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,[d] and his children are believers[e] and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer,[f] as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound[g] doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (v5-9)

Paul starts out by saying that he left Titus in Crete to set into order what was lacking. Why does he say that?

  1. The church at Crete was possibly a young church. By young I mean they consisted of believers who were recently converted. The gospel spread far and wide so that in each town they had a church gathering together. So they were growing numerically but they didn’t have elders in place to guide and strengthen the churches
  2. There were false teachers who were teaching wrong doctrine and confusing the church. We see that in the following verses v10-16. If we see something common in the church in Ephesus and also in this church in Crete, the common issue they were facing was “false teachers”. And not only were there false teachers in those days, but we find many false teachers even today. That’s why all the more a need to have good godly elders to confront false teachers and protect the flock of God.

So for Paul this was something so essential and crucial which is why he left Titus there to appoint elders in every town.

Let me ask you was the requirement for elders merely an organizational requirement? Where they had a lot of members and now they needed elders or is it part of God’s design and gift for the church so that these elders can set the pace and lead the church to love, serve and obey Christ?

The answer can be discovered by the definition. Who or what is an Elder? Just to clarify these terms as brother shared last week: Pastor/Elder/Overseer/Bishop mean the same thing. They are used interchangeably in the Bible. Some churches have a hierarchy. Like Pastor, Sr. Pastor, Bishop…biblically there isn’t a hierarchy. They just are different terms used for the leader of the church. The word “Elder” simply means someone whom Christ has called and appointed over you to model what it means to love, serve and obey Christ! Now it doesn’t mean that the elder has to be 60+ to be an elder. But he has to be someone spiritually mature whom you can look up to which is why we come to the qualifications:

A) Shepherding his family well

6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,[d] and his children are believers[e] and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.

The first thing we see here is the qualification to be “above reproach”. What does that mean? It means that the believer should be blameless, unaccused. So someone who has a bad reputation in public cannot be a candidate for eldership. The next thing being mentioned here is that he needs to be “the husband of one wife”. Firstly, I think from this verse it’s pretty clear that elders/pastors are a responsibility for men because God has given the primary responsibility of spiritual leadership in the home and the church to men. Secondly, being a husband to one wife means being faithful to his wife. He is known for loving and honouring his wife. It obviously means that he doesn’t entertain any thought of infidelity or extra marital affairs but it also means that he speaks honourably of his wife. I know it’s a common thing in the world to make wife jokes. You find it all over the internet. However, the way you speak about your wife reveals a lot about how you value her. Therefore, he needs to be a person who loves and cares for his wife not only while talking to others but also while talking to her. That’s one of the reasons I think this qualification is in there is because we can pretend outside of home but our spouse knows us well. Can’t pretend before her. If I’m being a hypocrite, my wife knows. All our sins and weaknesses get exposed in marriage.

Can a person who is single who meets all the other qualifications become an elder? Yes, but it’s going to be a slow process for him. It’ll take a longer period of scrutiny to be able to see his life and then appoint him as an elder.

Then it says “his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination”. Now the actual Greek phrase actually can mean “has faithful children”. I would go with this explanation because it’s not up to the father to save his child. Salvation is completely based on grace through faith. And we know faith is a gift from God. (Eph 2:8,9) So the responsibility on the father is to ensure that his children are faithful and trustworthy. The other reason why I feel this means faithful children is because of the next phrase which says “not open to charge of debauchery or insubordination”. Debauchery means excessive indulgence in the pleasures of this world. Insubordination means being unruly and disobedient. Why is the elder being held responsible for the actions of his children?

  1. Because it’s his primary responsibility as the leader of the home
  2. Because he’s setting an example for what a godly family looks like
  3. Because caring for your family shows how you would also care for God’s church.

4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (! Tim 3:4,5)

If we as elders find our families in a bad condition after a few years with unsubmissive children, I think it’ll be more effective if we step down from the eldership because not only is it calling us to disciple and love our children during that season but it’s also about the responsibility of being a role model for the church. Being an elder is not a position, it is a responsibility! Shepherding our families well is a pre-requisite to be qualified as an elder.

B) Symbolized by a godly life

7 For an overseer,[f] as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. (v7,8)

The starting of v7 once again reminds us that elders are God’s stewards. We are called to manage and supervise God’s house for which we will need to give an account for. Would you entrust your home or property to a thief or a careless person? Absolutely not. How much more important it is for us to have the right people with integrity to be taking care of God’s house which is his people?

  • He must not be arrogant: does what pleases himself, he is self-willed. He is his own boss. He only does what he wants to do
  • He must not be quick tempered means he shouldn’t be prone to anger. Not someone who is always flaring up and getting angry
  • He must not be a drunkard: shouldn’t be devoted to wine
  • He must not be violent: He shouldn’t be quarrelsome, always ready to fight
  • He must not be greedy for gain: greedy for money.

What Paul is trying to say is that the person who aspires to be an elder shouldn’t have a lifestyle characterized by these qualities. If these qualities are what characterizes him, then he is not qualified or fit to the lead the church! I think the “greed” part alone is enough to disqualify many pastors today.

Instead he should be characterized by the following qualities:

  • But hospitable: generous to guests, a lover of hospitality…very essential because the elder will need to be hospitable and approachable when visitors come. And not just that but when the elders are being approached by members of the church.
  • Lover of good: promoter of what is good. He is someone who delights and promotes good works. Whatever helps, benefits and edifies people is what he will support and encourage as the leader.
  • Self-controlled: in control of his desires and impulses. His life isn’t marked by excess or lack of control of his desires.
  • Upright – he makes fair and impartial judgments. Not biased when judging a matter or sharing advice.
  • Holy – Reverence and purity are very important to him. His lifestyle is one worth imitating.
  • Disciplined – curbing and restraining himself in order to do what God has called him to do. The lifestyle for an elder contrary to some entertaining pastors in the world may seem monotonous. It seems like they do the same thing over and over again. Same pattern. And there is a reason for that. There is a reason why biblical elders don’t party all the time. You won’t find them chasing after the latest movies and keeping up with the latest trends and TV series. In fact you’ll find them have a linear kind of life. While they are ministering to people, they will have exciting experiences but if you were to just look at their week, it’ll probably seem unadventurous. The reason for that is this discipline puts them in a place where they can love God and love people the way God calls them to. There’s a reason why Daniel prayed three times a day. There’s a reason why Jesus frequently went away to the mountain to pray. With discipline…it may appear boring to the world but it sets you up in the best place to hear and do what God tells you to do. One quote that I think of comes to my mind. It goes like “There is no discipleship without discipline”. Having a disciplined life in itself is not the goal, it’s the starting ground to open up your heart to receive from God what He wants to grant you. Discipline is not boring, it’s for your joy! That your joy may be full! For an elder, discipline allows him to prioritize his relationship with God and ministry to people.

C) Skilled handler of the Word

9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound[g] doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

We spoke a great deal on character qualities but the elder also needs to be competent with the Word of God. Firstly he needs to hold fast to the “trustworthy Word”: which is the gospel. He needs to be convinced by the truths of the gospel as covered from Genesis to Revelation. He knows he can’t add or delete anything from the gospel but understands the power and the beauty of the gospel is expressed only when he presents it as it is! Last year when the whole demonetization thing happened, there were a lot of fake notes that were going around and being seized. The difference between an original 500 Rs. Note and a counterfeit 500 Rs. Note is very marginal. There might only just be one small difference. Now as ordinary citizens, how can we know it is fake? Not by studying the fake note but by studying the original. Thoroughly study the original note and you’ll know the fake when you see it. The same idea it is with the elder. He needs to know the gospel, live out the gospel, preach and teach the gospel day in and day out and even if he encounters false teachers some day, he will know how to refute and respond to them. Why because? The goal is to become like Jesus. The more Christ’s church hear and listen to pure sound doctrine, the more it becomes into Jesus. What you believe, is what you become!

Even though today we learnt how God desires godly, qualified leaders to look after His church, I don’t want us to go back home today thinking, “Oh this was a message for those who are elders and want to become elders…it isn’t for me”. You would miss the point then. When you look at this list: shepherding your family well, having your life symbolized by godliness and being a skillful handler of the Word….do you think Christ exempts you from pursuing that? Is it meant for some spiritual elite? No, in God’s kingdom there is no elite club but these qualifications are also to be viewed as what Christ desires from your life. Elders are pace-setters and role models but this is what God wants from all of us. He wants holiness, self-control, discipline, lover of good, blamelessness, uprightness. He doesn’t want you to be arrogant, violent, greedy for money, quick tempered. Or maybe it’s in your family life where you’ve not been a good steward. Would you repent and turn away from this today?

Let me say also one thing here…there is only one person on the face of the earth who has perfectly exhibited these qualities. He is our chief Shepherd – Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus, none of us perfectly display these characteristics. The truth is that in the eyes of Holy God, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. We all deserved judgment for our rebellion against God. We all pointed a clenched fist toward God. In His love, He sent His only Son Jesus to absorb the wrath that He was going to pour on us. Jesus died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice. He was buried and rose again on the third day. He is the only reason why we were accepted and saved. So that should make us run to Jesus helplessly seeking His grace and mercy to empower us to serve Him. It’s amazing how Christ uses us in our weakness to still accomplish His purposes!

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