Summary: Talk 3 in series. Strong leaders are needed to deal with false teaching.
‘I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am the prod’, says the most popular of all leaders. During World War II, Winston Churchill was forced to make a painful choice. The British secret service had broken the Nazi code and informed Churchill that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry. He had two choices: (1) evacuate the citizens and save hundreds of lives but let the Germans know that the code was broken; or (2) take no action, which would kill hundreds of people but keep the information flowing and possibly save many more lives.
We need leaders in times of challenge and controversy. What would you have done? Saved Coventry? Avoid telling the Germans the code was broken? Do nothing? As a leader it was Churchill’s role to protect his people, defeat the enemy and lead his people into peaceful times.
A few thousand years earlier. Moses had a similar role—to rescue his people from the enemy and lead them into peace. So leaders are people who take other people from one place to another place. Amazingly God has rescued his people through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And we are now a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We are a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God, a community on our way to our glorious heavenly home. And in his mercy, the Good Shepherd appoints leaders to tend to us, so we do not wander away, so we do not rebel like Israel did in the wilderness, so we keep our eyes firmly fixed on our heavenly home.
Those whom God appoints to lead his church must be men who publicly exhibit Christ-like Christianity. According to verse 7, such men should not be ‘not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain’. Here is a word for all of us and how true it must be for elders. This list of ‘nots’ is not an not an exhaustive list. The principle is elaborated in Titus 2:12. The gospel teaches us to say ‘“No” to ungodliness and worldly passions’. Run from sin, leave it behind you, it has been nailed to the cross. Get rid of your old, unregenerate self which is disobedient, deceived and enslaved. Lay to rest a life which destroys relationships through mindless manipulation. Leave the old self behind because you have been saved by grace, you have experienced rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Not some of you, but all of you who confess ‘Jesus is Lord’.
So none of us should live according to the old ways, especially elders whom God appoints to oversight the church. Elsewhere the apostle says, ‘Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature’ (Col 3:5). But, friends, understand that godliness is far more than throwing the old self away. We have the Spirit of life within us who fills us with the glory of the resurrection. Don’t you see that? Don’t you know that? Aren’t you living in the shadow of heaven? Titus is to appoint elders who teach and live the answers to these questions. Men who have renounced the old self and who are living the Christian life with strength, character and conviction. So the elder in verse 8, ‘must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, one who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined’.
An hospitable person allows people into their lives. The hospitable elder is a people person—a leader who doesn’t think more highly of themselves than they ought. Not overbearing (verse 7), but hospitable. An overbearing person thinks they are superior to everyone else. In their deluded state, an overbearing person looks down on others. But elders aren’t to be like this at all! They are to be hospitable and open up their homes. Not ‘over-bearing’ but ‘under-bearing’—or as in Tit 3:2, ‘peaceable and considerate, showing true humility toward all men’.
It’s true that some folks make you feel at home and others make you wish you were. For the elder, though, hospitality is about caring for and welcoming into our homes those who need strength, encouragement and support. An elder’s home is a place where he and his wife open their home and their hearts to all sorts of people—not forgetting the lonely, the needy, single people, and those heavily burdened by life.
In Rom 12, Paul makes it clear that practicing hospitality is something for all of us to do. ‘Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality’ (Rom 12:13). And in Titus 1, the apostle tells us this is one of the qualifications for eldership.
Back to verse 8 and you’ll see that an elder is one who ‘loves what is good’ (Tit 1:8). There are so many people in our world who love what is bad. However, the elder must love both things and people deemed by God to be good. A man so filled with the Spirit of God that he enjoys doing good things. For if an elder is not eager to do what is good, then does he seriously expect those under his care to devote themselves to doing what is good?