Why Leadership Matters

Original Date: 
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Series: 

Titus 1:1-9 The Good Life: Why Leadership Matters

Hazards
When I was in High School my friend Dave got a funny t-shirt. It had a picture of migrating geese on it, flying in the traditional V formation. But the V was incomplete, the bird at the point was missing. A little bit behind the V in the picture was a picture of a flag pole, with one goose all smushed up against it beak first. At the bottom of the t-shirt, the caption read: "The Hazards of Leadership."

Today we are installing four men: Bob Campbell, Mike Schmillen, Craig Van Drunen and Scott Gilderhus into leadership positions in our church. And it can be a hazardous position. Anytime you take on a position of leadership, you are taking on responsibility, you are putting yourself out there, and that can mean some risks. Sometimes it can be very difficult to be a church leader.

But I also want to say, right up front, that it is a very privileged position. There can be enormous joy and excitement that comes with being a leader in the church. Leading in the church is a chance to be a part of something that changes lives and changes the world.

It just so happens that today we are beginning a new series of sermons based on the book of Titus. For the next month and a half we are going to work our way through this little book of the New Testament.

I’m calling the series “The Good Life” because that seems to be a theme of the book. Several times this letter comes back to the idea of “doing good” (i.e. 1:16; 2:14; 3:8). It is a book about living your life in light of the gospel.

But it also just so happens that the very first thing it talks about is leadership. The first 9 verses are about elders in the church. And so, it makes sense that on the day we install Bob, Mike, Craig and Scott we think about what it means to lead in the church.

So let’s read the passage:

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

<>

To Titus
Let’s start with verses 4 and 5.

This is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to Titus. We don’t know a whole ton of a lot about Titus. He shows up a couple of times in the book of Acts and gets mentioned in a couple of Paul’s other letters.

What we can gather is that he is a gentile convert to Christianity. The phrase in verse 4—“my true son”—implies that it may have been Paul himself who introduced Titus to Jesus. Like Timothy, Titus became an important assistant to Paul: travelling with him, delivering letters for him, and eventually being entrusted by Paul to lead a church.

That’s why he is on the island of Crete. Apparently Paul had brought the gospel to this small island in the Mediterranean and several believing communities had sprung up. They needed a pastor, however. So Paul left Titus to lead. It is up to Titus to teach them the implications of believing in Jesus. The good life.

And, as verse 5 indicates, there are several things that need to be straightened out. There were some issues in Crete. As we’ll see in the weeks ahead, there were false teachers in Crete who were leading people astray. There was a reputation for dishonesty in Crete. And there were lifestyles that were not in keeping with the Gospel. So Titus has the task of setting this business straight. Helping the Cretans learn what it means to follow Jesus.

And his first order of business is to appoint elders.

Now, the word “elder” here is a word that means, essentially, leader. There are a couple of church offices that get mentioned in the Bible. “Elder” is one. “Deacon” is another. Sometimes there will be references to “bishops” or “overseers”. And, of course, there are “pastors.” I don’t know if our church offices make a perfect alignment with the offices named in the Bible—polity and structure are certainly different today—but what is clear is that the early church placed a high value on recognizing and setting apart those who were gifted for roles of leadership.

So, when I read the word “elder” here I don’t think exclusively of our office of elder. Rather, it seems to me that Paul has in mind anybody who would lead in the local church: whether that be as a deacon or a staff member or a pastor or a volunteer.

Paul is saying that leaders are important in the church.

*****

A couple of years ago our church board—what we call the consistory--went on a retreat. Our consistory has elders, deacons and pastors. And the purpose of our retreat was to figure out what we were supposed to do. What was our role? What was the point of a consistory?

And what we settled on was that it is the job of the consistory to provide spiritual leadership for our church. We said that it the consistory’s job to answer the big vision questions for the church. The way we put it is that it is our job as leaders is to determine what road the church is traveling on and define the ditches that we need to stay out of. We defined leadership as direction finding.

We have other roles and responsibilities, to be sure. But “big picture” wise we saw this as our primary responsibility: Leaders serve the church by seeing the road and bringing others along on it. We said that as the leadership board of the church it is our job to be “out front.” Asking God where He wants the church to go and then leading the way. We often say: “If we want to see something happen in the church, then it needs to happen in the consistory first.”

Now, today, we install new men as leaders in the church, and we’re thinking about why leadership matters, and there are several things we can learn about leadership from this passage in Titus. So, let me give three observations on leadership from the text. And on the third point, I’ll have three subpoints.

Servant of God
First, there is Serving in Leadership. Leadership is first and foremost about helping others, helping the church. Look with me at how Paul describes himself in verse 1:

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness

Paul’s description of himself is “a servant of God.” He is an apostle—at this time universally recognized as the chief apostle, the undisputed voice of leadership in the early church—and yet Paul continues to think of himself as a servant. A slave.

This is such an important perspective on leadership. We often think of leadership positions in terms of the prestige and the honor that come with them. Ambitious people aspire to advance to positions of leadership because they believe they will advance themselves and be able to force others to do as they say. And yet the Biblical perspective is that great leaders see themselves as servants. They see their role not in terms of the glory it can win for them, but for the way they can help others.

J. Oswald Sanders, who wrote a classic book on Spiritual Leadership about 50 years ago, points out that in the King James Version of the Bible the term “leader” is only used six times—3 times in the singular and 3 times in the plural. But, he points out, that doesn’t mean the concept of leadership is missing in scripture. Merely that the Bible prefers different terms, the most prominent being “servant.” “It is not ‘Moses, my leader,’ but ‘Moses, my servant.” (Spiritual Leadership, p. 29)

And, of course, this is consistent with what Jesus taught. About a month ago Jay looked at the passage in Mark where Jesus says: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44)

Positions of leaderships in the church are not about getting others to see how great you are, but about serving the church in a way that is best for the church and brings glory to God. Sanders writes: “True greatness, true leadership, is achieved not by reducing men to one’s service but in giving oneself in selfless service to them…The true spiritual leader is concerned infinitely more with the service he can render God and his fellowmen than with the benefits and pleasures he can extract from life.” (p. 20)

Bob, Mike, Craig and Scott: it’s important that you see your positions as positions of service. It is your job to seek what is best for the church. You will excel as leaders when you put God’s will and the good of the church ahead of your own interests.

Appointed
Second observation: there is Sovereignty in Leadership. Leadership in the church is by divine appointment. Look at what Paul says about himself in verse 3:

3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

Paul did not become an apostle because He earned it or because He was more uniquely qualified than anyone else. In fact, quite the opposite. Paul was the chief persecutor of the early church. He was as antagonistic to Jesus as you could get.

But then, one day, Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus Road and everything changed. Paul was called to a new life, a new obedience. He had the preaching of the gospel “entrusted” to him “by the command of God our Savior.”

And this is an important point for us in the church. We affirm that those who are leaders in the church are there not just because they want to be, or because they are popular within the congregation, but because they have received a divine calling. These are the men that God has chosen for this moment.

That’s one of the reasons we choose our elders and deacons they way we do. Once we have received nominations from the congregation and narrowed our pool of candidates down to four people for two positions, we draw lots. We pray and we ask God to choose the persons He wants to lead in the church at this time, and then we leave the final selection up to Him.

And so, we move forward with the leaders we have believing that their places have been sovereignly assigned by God. They are appointed. Bob, Mike, Scott and Craig, you can lead with the confidence of knowing that God has placed you where you are.

Qualifications
Then, third, there are Standards in Leadership. Paul goes on to list some of the qualities Titus should look for while choosing elder leaders. Here’s where I need to move into three sub-points.

For one thing, Paul says that leaders should be faithful at home. Verse 6:

An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

The catch-all phrase Paul uses to describe an elder is “blameless.” He’ll use the same word again in verse 7. But this doesn’t mean “perfect” or “flawless.” If that were the case then the only person who would ever qualify to lead in the church would be Jesus Himself.

Rather, the word “blameless” here means “unaccused” or “above reproach.” It means having a good reputation. It means that anybody who wanted to discredit you wouldn’t have a rung to stand on because those who know you know there isn’t anything there.

This means there is nothing in your life that calls into question your leadership. It doesn’t mean that people won’t still talk about you. It just means that you haven’t given them something to talk about!

And here, it’s in regard to family. A leader is faithful at home.

That means, if the leader is married, it is exclusive. The NIV translates it “the husband of but one wife.” Another way to translate it would be “A One-Woman Man.”

I don’t think this is talking about marital status. Leaders don’t have to be married. Paul wasn’t. It’s talking about fidelity to your spouse. It’s talking about purity of mind and heart. And a single-focused-ness.

It’s a character word. If you are married, then you are married to that one person. Your spouse is your focus. That’s your spouse and no one else is! Your main squeeze. You don’t pursue intimate relationships with other people either physically or emotionally! You don’t entertain lustful thoughts about other people. You are a one-woman man.

If you aren’t married yet, then you aren’t “a player.” You are responsible in your dating relationships and you are practicing now for the fidelity you will show after you are married.

Faithful at home.

That goes for children too. A Christian leader will be faithful with his children. Especially faithful to teach and train them.

The NIV translates verse 6 as, “a man whose children believe...” but I think that the King James is a better translation here. It says, “having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.” It seems to me that the question of whether or not children will believe is ultimately out of a parent’s hands. We know that is a decision we cannot make for our kids.

And this doesn’t mean that Christian leaders will never have children who misbehave. I’ve always been careful not to put that kind of pressure on my kids. I’d hate to have my kids living with the idea that if they ever make a mistake daddy will lose his job.

Instead, I think this is a question of teaching and training and engagement. Is the leader faithful at home? Is the leader carrying out his responsibilities as a Dad? Paul is making it clear: leaders should not sacrifice their families for the church.

Next, leaders should be faithful in character. Verses 7 and 8:

7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.

Verse 7 talks about temptations that all men deal with.

We are all tempted to be overbearing (prideful), quick-tempered (angry), given over to our pleasures and desires (like strong drink or other addictive past-times), using our strength to overpower others (violent), and our love of money.

If verse 6 talked about controlling our children, verse 7 talks about controlling ourselves.

Verse 8 uses the word “self-controlled.” Paul uses that word several times in this short letter. We’re going to see it again and again. It’s a character question. Christian leaders should be able to show restraint. These are bad personality traits that leaders get out of their lives.

But there are also positive character traits leaders should exhibit. It’s not just what leaders don’t do, but also what they do.

Like being hospitable. Using their resources in ministry–whether those resources are a home or whatever. If it is a home, they open their home and love people with their home.

And they love what is good. They love righteousness and seeing righteousness done. They value holiness and they are disciplined in prayer and study.

Now, one of the hard things about being a leader is that you have a hard time figuring out if you are one on your own. I mean, what humble godly guy is going to say, “I think I’m hospitable, loving what is good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Choose me to be your elder!”

Like we said, nobody is perfect. If being blameless meant we needed our leaders to perfectly check every box on this list then we wouldn’t have any leaders at all. The idea is that we can see God developing these traits in our leaders and, if you are in a leadership position, you know what you should be aiming for.

Then, third standard and probably the most important, leaders must be faithful to Gospel Truth. Verse 9:

9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

This is, arguably, the most important thing that Christian leaders do: they teach the truth of the gospel and defend the truth of the gospel.

The gospel has been given to us as a sacred trust. Here is it called “a trustworthy message.” And church leaders must be faithful to it.

“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught...”

We are not allowed to change it! That’s why I am so careful in my preaching—one of the reasons I use a manuscript rather than just come up here and talk about what’s on my mind—because I want to show you that what I am saying is coming from the Bible. My goal isn’t that you will listen to me, but that you will read the Bible for yourselves. That you’ll be confronted by what God says in His word, not my opinions.

We are not allowed to stray from it either! We don’t help anybody as a church if we ignore the reason why we exist. We are not a social club or a charity organization or a volunteer agency—not primarily anyway. We are a church of the crucified and risen Savior and our task is to proclaim that good news over and over.

Mike, Bob, Scott and Craig, your primary calling as leaders in the church is to make sure we never forget that is the reason we are here. Your primary job is to make sure we stay faithful to gospel truth!

Why it Matters
And that leads me, finally, to the title of the sermon. I called this message Why Leadership Matters. It’s important that we see what is at stake here.

Let me take you back to verses 2 and 3. Paul is talking about his calling as an apostle, but really he’s talking about what all leaders in the church are called to do:

2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

This is about the “hope of eternal life”. This is about how lost sinners can be reconciled to God. This is about pushing back the darkness and bringing hope to a broken world. That’s the job of the church, that’s the message we’ve been entrusted to deliver.

And it starts with leadership. It begins with leaders who are called by God to serve the church by being faithful. Leadership matters because it is up to our leaders to see the road and bring others along on it.

Hope Church, you have good leaders. I have served with great people over the several last years, and I’m excited about this new group. Let’s follow our leaders as they follow Christ.