Summary: Today we’re going to look at the second half of the list of qualifications for Elders from Titus 1:8-9 and then we’re going to take a brief look at the role of Deacons in the church.
Today is my 25th birthday! Some of you look skeptical because you’re sure I’m older than that. Through the witness of my college roommate, I was born spiritually on October 3rd, 1979. Actually, I wish I acted older than I am. While I’m thankful for all the changes that Christ has made in my life, as I have spent some time studying the qualifications for pastors and Elders, I’ve been greatly humbled. I know that I’m allowed to shepherd this flock by His grace, and that in my own power and strength, I am nothing. These Elder expectations are high and I want to grow in each area.
Today we’re going to look at the second half of the list of qualifications for Elders from Titus 1:8-9 and then we’re going to take a brief look at the role of Deacons in the church. Last winter, the leadership of the church had a retreat in which we looked at the structure and systems that we currently have. We spent some time refining the roles of Elders and Deacons and realized coming out of our time together that we all needed some teaching on this topic. Actually, this has become a recurring refrain when we discuss certain issues. Inevitably someone will say, “Pastor, we need some teaching here.” This series called, “Fortifying Our Foundations” is in response to that.
We concluded last Sunday by talking about vices that overseers are to avoid. Let’s look first at verse 8 to view the virtues that Elders are to emulate: “Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”
1. Hospitable. This word literally means, “stranger-loving.” The Elder must be one who is fond of being a friend to those in need. In the country of Crete, it was imperative for believers to offer hospitality because of the persecution that took place, leaving many Christians homeless. In addition, traveling preachers needed a place to stay because there weren’t many “Motel 6s” around and those that were available were expensive, dirty and immoral. The home of the overseer must be open to the downhearted and discouraged.
The majority of our Elders shepherd small groups and have people in their homes on a regular basis. This is not just the responsibility of the Elders as Romans 12:13 states: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” The word “practice” here is good because for many of us, we need practice in this area. Peter reminds us that when we do open our homes we must do so without complaining about it: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Do you know that there are a number of lonely people in this church? It is human nature to talk to people that we already know and to hang out with those we consider to be friends. But, we must also reach out to those who are strangers to us. It grieves me to see someone come to church and leave lonelier than when they arrived.
For many years Dr. Frances Schaeffer and his wife Edith ran a Christian hospitality house in Switzerland called L’Abri. They opened their hearts and homes to hundreds of people seeking Biblical answers to life’s challenges. In her book “What is a Family?” Edith offers this counsel: “Every Christian home is meant to have a door that swings open.” God can use your home and your hospitality to meet the needs of hurting people. Does your door swing open? When the service ends today, instead of talking to someone you already know, look around and initiate a conversation with someone that is new to you.
2. A lover of good. An Elder must spend time with things that are good and love those things that are worthy in this world. Overseers must see that which is intrinsically good as Philippians 4:8 states: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” Elders must also be examples of good. This is stated in Titus 2:7: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”
Aren’t you thankful that God loves to do good things for us? Some of you may have a difficult time believing that today because of what you’re going through. I love John Piper’s insight: “God will not turn away from doing you good. He will keep on doing good. He doesn’t do good to his children sometimes and bad to them other times. He keeps on doing good and he never will stop doing good for ten thousand ages of ages. When things are going ‘bad’ that does not mean God has stopped doing good. It means he is shifting things around to get them in place for more good, if you will go on loving him.”