Over the past few years I have written and spoke at length from Paul’s letter to Titus. I think it is unique. It’s not primarily theological or pastoral or corrective. He is simply but forcibly telling his young protege Titus what a new covenant church looks like and how to establish it. Ultimately, Paul is hoping that through some very specific priorities, Titus will be able to get these Cretan groups (probably 10 or 15 or so) up and running and “on mission”.
His final comments are almost entirely focused on the need for these new believers to “get out of themselves” and use the gifts they have been given to positively affect the culture where they have been planted. Listen to this apostolic repetition:
“Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for GOOD WORKS” 2:14
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any GOOD WORK” 3:1
“…I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to GOOD WORKS” 3:8
“And let our people learn to devote themselves to GOOD WORKS” 3:14
And directly to Titus and all leaders Paul states:
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of GOOD WORKS” 2:7
Some years ago I got connected to a group called The Gospel and Our Culture Network. They are a group of 7 or 8 theologians who attacked this deficiency in the church—-the constant drift to becoming a group of consumers who were more trying to survive our culture rather than to influence it. Rather than consumers, the GOCN folks called the church, every church naming the name of Christ to be “a people sent on a mission”. This is how Jesus solidified the identity of his followers in His first major sermon. After describing His kingdom disposition in these 8 radical beatitudes He unabashedly says this:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to the whole house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” Matthew 5:14-16
These good works proceed from the impartation of the Holy Spirit given to every believer, everyone who Jesus has rescued from a world culture that ignores God and daily seeks to deceive us into believing that my life is my own to do with what I please, to pursue my own advantage at all costs, to realize the American dream and use the church for my own priorities rather than to submit wholeheartedly to the only mission worth pursuing, following this resurrected and reigning King into the consummation of this age. And in process, to represent Him accurately to a culture hell bent on satisfying every whim and direction opposite to the very clear and direct call of Jesus. And Paul.
There were no established churches on Crete when Paul wrote to Titus. And the Cretan culture was nasty. Perhaps not sacrificing babies on Molech’s altar like the Canaanites but profoundly self absorbed, undisciplined and driven by the unending demands of unredeemed flesh.
Leadership is hard work. But it never means trying to accommodate a consumer orientation, especially within the church that Jesus redeemed for himself, to form a people “zealous for good works”.
We are the light of the world, Jesus said. And this great Identity informs the great mission to which He has called us.