An Order for a Healthy Church
May 12, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Paul’s letter to Titus is highly informative for church leaders to learn how to structure church. Paul says in 1:5, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order…” We know this is a temporary task for Titus, because Paul closes his letter by encouraging Titus to join him at Nicopolis as soon as possible (3:12). So Titus has a limited amount of time to put things in order so that the church could be healthy.
What makes for a healthy church?
1. Leadership Grounded in the Gospel. In chapter 1 of Titus, Paul gives clear distinctions for appointing elders in the church. Of primary importance is how the candidate treats the truth of God. In verse 9, Paul says, “he must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught.” The trustworthy word is further explained in 2:11-14 and 3:4-7. It is the gospel: all that God has done for us through Christ. To hold firm to the gospel is to keep the truth of Christ as the center of one’s identity, strength, purpose, and measure. All of the character qualifications of an elder (1:6-8) are rooted in and empowered by this commitment to “hold firm” to the gospel. No church is going to be healthy unless her leaders are grounded in the gospel.
2. Holiness Empowered by the Gospel. Paul turns his attention in chapters 2 and 3 to some very practical moral commands: be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, pure, and kind; renounce ungodliness and worldly passions; speak evil of no one; avoid quarreling; etc. Why is moral holiness so important to Paul? Moral holiness is what accords with sound doctrine (2:1). Moral holiness is the intended result and practical outcome of Christ’s redeeming work (2:14). The lack of moral holiness distinguished the false teachers who were harming the church (1:10-16). The fruit of genuine faith in the gospel is growth in holiness. The gospel empowers that growth. No church is going to be healthy unless there is growth in holiness among her people, because the lack of growth in holiness is evidence that the gospel is not being believed.
3. Discipleship That Adorns the Gospel. In the midst of Paul’s moral commands he also calls for attention to one another (2:3-4, 6, & 9). In a healthy church there is a “looking out” for one another’s spiritual well-being: belief in the gospel and growth in holiness. This takes intentionality to engage in relationships with others for the sake of teaching the gospel and what accords with the gospel and modeling a life that is shaped by the gospel. The aim of discipleship is to see the gospel adorned in one another’s lives (2:10). No church is going to be healthy unless discipleship is intentional among her members.
Titus was not going to remain in Crete, so there had to be order in place for the church at Crete to remain healthy. That order centered on the gospel. Is your church healthy? How are you contributing to the health of your church?