Monday, November 13, 2017

Insight into leadership from Paul's introduction to Titus (Titus 1:5)

In the past few decades Leadership has very much come into the spot light. People are fascinated with leadership and what makes a good leader…Tens of thousands of books have been written, copious theories have been expounded, courses run, seminars given, leadership development programmes instigated and it still seems quite an enigma. What constitutes leadership… When we see good leadership we see things thrive, and we have seen failures in, and abuse of leadership cause immense amounts of harm.

From now until Easter we are going to be looking at the pastoral epistles… 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Letters that Paul wrote to people in leadership positions within the church dealing with hard real life pastoral issues. He writes to encourage them in exercising leadership in the Church, that they may grow in both maturity and in ministry. It’s helpful for us as it gives us insights for Christian life and Christian leadership. We are going to look at Titus before Christmas and then Philemon and 1 &2 Timothy from Mid January until Easter, focusing on leadership, as maturity and ministry.

Now don’t sit back and say, I can relax and turn off here because if Howard is talking about leadership he’s not talking to me. That’s not the case…

 In the first two chapters of Titus we see that Paul talks of leadership in terms of official church structure, governance, and then in Chapter two tell Titus to teach people to lead where they are in the very structured society of first century Crete. As we grow in the Christian faith we are called to use our gifts and talents to minister to others in the church and as we mature in our faith to inspire and encourage one another, to show leadership where we are. In Hebrews 10:24 it says we are to spur one another on to love and good deeds… and how we live out the gospel leads people outside the church to Jesus.

 In the passage we had read out to us today, Paul had left Titus in Crete to  complete the unfinished task of appointing leaders, elders, in the local church. While that was specific to that time and place, God’s work in building up the church and calling people into leadership is an ongoing unfinished process. Not just to keep the existing institution going, but raising up new generations with fresh vision and vigour, and like with Crete because God’s call is always for the gospel to reach into new and different places and spheres, God calls his people to be part of that to lead it. God is calling you?

That’s a good place to turn to look at the passage we had read to us today. You can see it cut into three sections, first the introduction, where Paul gives us extended insight into how he views the ministry that he is called to exercise. Then we have a section where Paul gives Titus a list of qualities for elders and overseers for the Church, that he is to use in the process of appointing leaders in the churches on Crete. Finally we see those qualities in the context of both Cretan society and the challenges that the Church faces. We see how those qualities for leadership are counter cultural and reflect the Kingdom of God rather than the realms of humanity. We are going to look at those qualities of leadership in depth in a two Sundays time.

Paul’s introduction right off the bat tells us some important things about Christian leadership. Paul starts his letter like all his other letters by talking of being a servant or a slave. Christian leadership is not about privilege or position, power or popularity it’s about service. Titus is the only letter that Paul introduces himself as a servant of God rather than a slave of Christ. Now servant of God by the first century had taken on a sort of honorific element from the Old Testament Prophets, it was a term of respect. The church in Crete, may not have known Paul well and he is laying out his credentials here, we don’t know how the church on Crete was started, we don’t have a record of Paul having a mission to Crete, people from Crete are mentioned as being present at Pentecost, the church could have its origins there and be more Jewish than gentile and more used to the term ‘servant of God’. Definitely the main opposition group Paul mentions, the circumcision group, would have understood it having more weight and authority. But it shows that for Paul first and foremost his understanding of his leadership was as a servant. Jesus is the role model for that “The son of man came not to be served but to serve’.  

We also see that he saw leadership as a call to serve others, he was called by Jesus Christ to be an Apostle, to further the faith of God’s elect, and their knowledge of the truth that leads to Godliness. Paul saw leadership as having a specific function and playing a role, which was given to him by Jesus. It is a call to serve Jesus it is a fulfilment of Jesus great commission, “to make disciples from every nation, baptising them in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” We may see this as a more individual thing but by using the word God’s elect Paul is seeing it as a community thing, not about simply bring individuals to faith in Christ but establishing communities of faith, churches. 

For Paul leadership and ministry also meant being faithful to the gospel, the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time and which at his appointed season he has bought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of Jesus Christ. The good news about Jesus Christ is what Christian community and leadership is about. To Lead is to be faithful to that. When Paul talks of “preaching entrusted to me” he is not talking simply about his ability to talk in public, but rather the content of his message… the greek word means proclamation, and to the Corinthians Paul had talked of coming to them not with fancy words or eloquent talk but preaching Christ and Christ Crucified, so that they would see that they had come to faith not because of his oratory but by the power of God, the Holy Spirit moving in their lives as they heard of Jesus Christ.

Leonard sweet defines leadership as “the art of the future. A leader is one in whom the future shines through in support of the present in spite of the past.”  For Christian communities and leadership, that future is the kingdom of God, God’s eternal salvation plan, initiated by Jesus Christ, his incantation, his teaching, his death on the cross and his resurrection. We are called to live out that future hope in the here and now… Christian leadership is not about look at me, look at me and see what I have done… and how it’s made a difference…  but rather look at Jesus, look at Jesus and see what Change Jesus has made and can make. It’s not as a deflection away from a person but the direction of where we are called to go.

Paul as a leader was aware of the context in which he was called to serve God in. In his introduction he uses words like God’s elect to talk of the people of God, again a term which has Old Testament roots. It points to the fact that the church in Crete had a strong Jewish influence. But he also talks of God as the one who does not lie, he is aware of Cretan mythology and their gods who play tricks and deceive people, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not like that he can trusted to be faithful and keep his promises. Later in the chapter he will quote a person the Cretan’s consider a prophet, and his perception of the issues facing the church in Crete society is quite insightful, and colourful. Paul as a Christian leader is aware that God’s call is to serve God in a specific time and place, that does not change his mission or his message but he adapts it so it will be heard.  A good example is Billy Graham’s salvation tract “Steps to peace with God” which was effective in communicating the gospel to a generation that had gone through the second world war for whom peace was important.

Paul models Christian leadership being about developing other leaders. In the pastoral Epistles we see people that Paul has spent time in developing and now sends out to do ministry. He disciples Titus as his true son which may mean he lead Titus to faith, Titus definitely had been part of his ministry team and had learned about leadership from Paul. Just like Jesus had spent a large portion of his time investing in the disciples who became the leaders of the first church, and Baranabas had mentored Paul, so we see Paul mentoring other leaders. We don’t know as much about Titus as we do Timothy, but he seems to be Paul’s trouble shooter, he gets the difficult situations. Here we also see that Titus’ leadership is about developing leaders in the church in Crete. Leadership can get caught in wanting to hold onto power and ministry and not letting it go, but the Jesus model Paul uses is to empower and enable others to do what you do.

In youth ministry we used a four step process for developing leaders, it was I do it You watch, we do it together, you do it and I watch and then you go and teach someone else.

Titus’s task gives us insight into Church governance. Like any organisation the church needs organisation. This is one of the only places in the New Testament that talks about the structures of Church governance. Titus was to appoint Elders in each town in Crete. Now St Peter’s is a Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian means a church that is lead by elders, our governance structure is that we believe that Christian leadership is a group activity. Biblically, we see it in the emphasis on group leadership in scriptures like Timothy and Titus. Although on Crete it could be that because the churches were small elder’s plural here could mean one per church. Historically that has been emphasised against the distrust of power being held by one person, that comes out of the reformation and the power of bishops and the pope.

 In our Presbyterian Church the church is governed by elders and the minister (which again emphasises the idea of servant) is set aside as the teaching elder, set aside for the teaching of the word and the right observance of the sacraments. Alongside that is another layer of leadership which you could call decans but has in the past been the board of managers, which are responsible for the more practical running of the church. Because of our size as a parish we have a parish council which incorporates both those functions. Over the top we have a system of governance for regional and national levels, presbytery and national assembly, and elders and Ministers from each parish are involved in those bodies. As Presbyterians we don’t believe that our form of governance is the one the scripture expounds as being the right way of doing things, when you are ordained as and elder or minister, you acknowledge that our form of government is agreeable with scripture. Let’s face it all the different flavours of Church governance look to the scriptures for their validity…

It would be great if Paul had given Titus a handbook or a book of order (which is what we Presbyterians call our rule book) so we’d know the process and procedures that he and the church in Crete used to set up leaders, but we don’t. Paul’s emphasis was on two things on the character of the Elder, and how it reflected Christ, rather than the society around them, and their faith, that they were able to teach and encourage the church in the gospel and defend the church against false teaching. It’s about maturity and ministry, knowing the good news of Christ and living it out. We will look at that more in two weeks time.

This is not an exhaustive look at the leadership needed in the church either it was the basic governance structure and God calls people to serve in a whole raft of different ways and roles.

In our strategic plan the parish council identified leadership as one of the eight key areas we need to focus on… That the development of leadership in all areas is a priority.  That we need to have in place processes for identifying, training and mentoring new leaders as well as providing training

opportunities for, and reviews of existing leadership. We are going to come back to this passage and explore Paul’s list of qualities for Elders after next weeks cafĂ© service.

Many years ago a women came up to me in Church and handed me a piece of paper and said this is for you and walked away. On the paper were written the words ‘I will give you all the gifts you need.” I wondered about it, and came to realise that this was talking about the Holy Spiit working in me but alos the development of teams and  but for many years I kept it in my wallet, until the paper disintegrated and occasionally I would take it our and read it and would be encouraged. You see most days I find myself saying “who me God! Come on you’ve got to be joking right… right!”  I wrestle with self-confidence and question my own abilities, but God has used this amongst other things to make me realise that leadership and ministry are reliance on God to provide for the things he calls us to do.

We may be tempted to see Paul’s greeting to Titus ‘Grace and peace from God the father and Christ Jesus our savior’ as a generic, things you write at the start of a letter, sort of thing. But in blessing Titus with God’s grace and Peace Paul is letting Titus know God will supply all he needs to carry out the mission God has given him. What was true for Titus is true for us as well. AS God calls us to leadership, we can trust that he will give us the grace and the peace that we need.  The “who me!” is answered by Jesus promise, “and lo I am with you to the end of the age”.

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