The book of Titus was written by Paul to, you guessed it, Titus, from Nicopolis in AD 63, after his release from his first Roman imprisonment. Having left Timothy to minister in Ephesus, Paul then goes with Titus, one of Paul’s spiritual sons, to the island of Crete with a mission of evangelism and church planting. Here, Paul, having left ministry oversight on the island of Crete to Titus, writes to Titus of the importance of keeping on guard against false teachers, doctrinal truth, and good conduct amongst believers.
Here in Titus chapter 1, Paul gives Titus clear instructions on the level of character that should be looked for when appointing elders “in every town” as verse 5 states. The term elders can bring many varying mental pictures to our minds - for most being that of the older generation, maybe a grandparent, for instance. But it should be noted that the word elder here is actually referring to someone who is solid in the faith, where spiritual maturity, not age, is the key determining qualification. This standard of maturity was so important because these elders would be tasked with taking care of the day to day needs of the church. Their role would include overseeing the local church, performing all pastoral work and duty both in and towards the church as a whole. One theologian put it this way - “They were ordinary fixed pastors, who labored in the word and doctrine, and were over the churches in the Lord.”
So what are the character qualities and virtues that Paul instructed Titus to ensure each of these appointed elders or pastors possessed? I think the Message translation spells it all out clearly. Verses 7-9 say:
“As you select them, ask, “Is this man well-thought-of? Is he committed to his wife? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?” It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it.”
In these verses Paul is, in essence, telling Titus, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” It’s not always the most charismatic members of the community that are the most qualified and called to the position of elder, pastor, overseer. In fact, verses 10 and 11 go on to explain in more detail as to why the presence of this high level of character and virtue are so important.
“For there are a lot of rebels out there, full of loose, confusing, and deceiving talk. Those who were brought up religious and ought to know better are the worst. They’ve got to be shut up. They’re disrupting entire families with their teaching, and all for the sake of a fast buck.”
So what must be done in order to identify these “rebels” and “disruptors”? We must pray. We must dig into scripture. Yes. But we also must spend time TRULY getting to know one another. We must relearn as a society what it means to truly spend face to face time with those in our day to day lives, not allowing ourselves to be more concerned or mesmerized by the flashy bits of one's life than we are with their character and who are truly are behind the scenes, if you will.
What a powerful reminder that what we see in life is not always what we get, especially in a society overrun by social media posts and an unhealthy obsession with the lives of others lived out in reels that highlight a very small portion of someone’s day. My prayer for each of us today is that we will become intentional, not just today but EVERYDAY from here on out, to put down our phones and be present in the moment we are living. To stop scrolling the reels that highlight the lives of others, most of whom we will never meet, let alone do life with, and TRULY get to know our neighbors, our co workers, or bosses, and our leaders, and to rediscover once again who our friends and family members really are.