Summary: How was Titus going to "straighten out what had been left unfinished" in Crete? It was an evil land and he was only one man. How did God expect him to do such a daunting task?

How many of you have ever heard of a television show called “This Old House” (the majority raised their hands). It is a popular home improvement show that is now in its 36th season – that’s 36 years it’s been on TV. It’s popular because people are intrigued with how this team of experts take older homes and show how repairs can be made to different challenges.

On one of their episodes, they showed a remodeling project in San Francisco. The home-owners were remodeling an old church into a private home. When the crew went into the basement what they found shocked them - the central beam of the building was sitting on a one foot block of wood; and that block of wood sat on a 6 inch block of concrete; and that block of concrete sat on a half-wall along the foundation.

Now the reason this shocked them was that this is not the way to build a house. That kind of foundation would be unstable at the best of times, but we’re talking San Francisco here. What’s San Francisco known for? Earthquakes! It sits on a major fault line and is a major earthquake zone. Any kind of significant tremor would have dropped that old church building like a house of cards.

Now think about this: the church that built that building that failed to build their building on a firm foundation.

(From a sermon by Gregory Dawson on “By This Baptism”)

This sermon series is called “God’s Building A Church”, and - as you might imagine – God is very interested in how His church is built. God wants HIS church built HIS way so that it won’t be shaken up by the tremors of a world built on a fault line of sin.

Now that brings us to the book of Titus we’re reading this morning.

Titus was sent by Paul to the isle of Crete to strengthen a church in an evil land.

In Titus 1:10-12 Paul tells Titus “… there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach— and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons."

So Paul tells Titus “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished…” Titus 1:5

Now, how’s he going to do that?

How’s Titus going to straighten everything out?

I mean - he’s just one man.

How is one mere man going to straighten out a church that existed in such a mess of a society - such as Crete obviously was?

Well, here’s the deal.

God didn’t expect Titus to do this all by himself.

That would have been like building a house on a one foot block of wood, set on a 6 inch block of concrete, set on a half-wall along the foundation

It would never work.

God never intended His church to be built around one man - one pastor.

I know a lot of churches do that, but you cannot do what God wants done doing it that way!

Let’s take a look at how GOD wanted Titus to “straighten everything out.”

“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.” Titus 1:5

In other words: Titus, you NEED help.

Titus, you NEED to enlist certain men to stand beside you.

Because the strength of any church does not depend upon the man in the pulpit.

It depends on the men who stand beside the man in the pulpit.

Now, as I work on sermons, my mind tends to flit back and forth all over the place, and as I was preparing this sermon, my mind strayed back to something I’d read in the book of Judges.

Judges 2:7 “The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel.”

As long as the Joshua and the Elders lives, the people served God.

But over and over again in Judges we read that God would raise up Godly, moral men, as judges. And as long as that judge lived… the people would obey God.

But over and over again “when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them….” Judges 2:19

As long as there were righteous men standing in the gap, the people obey God.

But when those Godly men disappeared – when they died - there was no moral leadership to guide and protect God’s people.

And so Paul tells Titus: you get yourself some men to stand beside you; because there are immoral teachers out there that will drag your people down/destroy them. There are wolves that will devour the flock.

And that IS the role of the Eldership.

In Acts 20, we’re told that “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.” Acts 20:17

Now, that a pretty fair distance for these Elders to walk to come to Paul. It would seem Paul must have had something very special to tell them. What did he tell them?

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds (pastors) of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!...” Acts 20:28-31a

In other words: Elders are the pastors/shepherds of the church.

Their role is to protect the church from false teaching.

Their role is to keep out the wolves.

Now, Preachers do that too, but preachers were never designed to do it alone.

ILLUS: In too many churches the Elders view their primary role as “running and controlling the preacher”. And while that may be important some of the time – that’s not a healthy view of their role. Ideally, a good Eldership will see themselves as being in partnership with the preacher – protecting men like myself so that we don’t get damaged while standing for God. That’s one of the beauties of my being able to serve here (and why I’ve been here for over 20 years now). The Elders protect me. Now they have taken me aside a few times and disagreed with me on a few matters, but for the most part, they are my partners in ministry.

And in return, my job is to protect the Elders. If they step out of line, it is my job to challenge them on certain things. But in a healthy church, with a healthy relationship between preachers and Elders they will work together to protect God’s children from outsiders.

So now, what kind of men was Titus supposed to be looking for?

“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. 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. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 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.” Titus 1:6-7

Now, notice what I highlighted in that passage.

These men MUST BE these things.

These qualities are not suggestions.

These features are not optional.

This man MUST be these things.

The Greek word that’s used here is “dei”. It’s the same word used in Acts 4:12 where we’re told “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we MUST BE saved.”

Is the name of Jesus optional when it comes to being saved?

Of course not. So, if salvation by the name of Jesus is not optional, then neither are these qualities in Elders.

ELDERS MUST be good fathers and husbands.

These men MUST have a good reputation.

These men MUST NOT BE overbearing, or quick-tempered, or given to drunkenness, violence, or pursuing dishonest gain.

These men MUST hospitable, love what is good, be self-controlled, be upright, holy and disciplined.

AND these men MUST hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that they can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Notice that the character of the men who would be Elders is mentioned before how they handle doctrine.

Why is that?

Well character is mentioned first, because these Pastors are to lead the congregation with “clean hands.”

In legal circles there is a principle known as coming before the court with “clean hands”. In a lawsuit between two parties, if the plaintiff has done something that was improper and caused the person he is suing to do what he did, it is said that the plaintiff did not come before the court with clean hands… and more than likely he will lose his lawsuit.

In the same way, Paul is telling Titus that the man he selects must have “clean hands.” They have such a high level of morality that their lifestyle doesn’t undermine their ability to lead the congregation.

This passage out of Titus (and the similar one out of I Timothy) reads like a “help wanted ad”.

• If a trucking company needs drivers they might say “MUST have CDL license”

• If a welding company is looking for workers they may say “MUST be able to weld.”

• If an accounting firm is looking for help they may say “MUST be able to add and subtract.”

Now, why would companies make those kinds of demands in their help wanted ads?

Because they’re looking for qualified workers.

They’re looking for people who can DO THE JOB!

And that’s what Paul is telling Titus: Find men who can do the job.


As I told you earlier, my mind tends to flit a little when preparing my sermons.

And about this point in my sermon prep, I reflected back again on the book of Judges.

Do you know one of the saddest things about the stories out of Judges for me?

When the righteous men died… the people fell back into evil.

“when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers…”

Now, why would that happen?

Why would the nation fall back into evil when the good men died?

Well, it happened because there were no men stepping up to be that kind of leader.

The other men said to themselves:

• Let those other guys do that job

• I’m not interested.

• I can’t be bothered.

• I’ve got other priorities in my life.

And so, when the good men died, when the moral leaders passed away - there was no one to replace them… and evil came in like a flood.

ILLUS: A few years ago Don Allison shared about a conversation that changed his life. He and Barb were part of the Treaty Church of Christ in Treaty, Indiana and one day the preacher came for a visit.

Now this preacher was more bold than I tend to be. He sat down in the living room with Don and Barb and got right to the point. He asked Don why he wasn’t doing anything at church. He said God needed men to step up and become teachers and leaders in the congregation and Don was just sitting in the pew when he should have been standing for God.

That conversation changed Don, so that eventually he became a Sunday School teacher and then an Elder, and eventually he helped found the congregation you and I are a part of.

So men – here’s the deal.

Are you satisfied to sit on the sidelines?

Are you satisfied to let someone else do your religious stuff for you?

Or are you ready to stand up like a man and step into the gap for Jesus?

Well, you might say: well I can’t do THIS – and I can’t do THAT.

That’s ok… just do something.

ILLUS: Back when I was Bible College I got in an argument with another student over the qualifications for an Elder. His view was more stringent than mine and I argued that if a church held to his position (that Elders should not be divorced men) that many churches wouldn’t be able to fill the post (I’ve since found his position more Biblical than the one I held then).

But my friend told me two things that changed my view of this:

1) If God wants Elders in a church, He’ll find them for you. My viewpoint was based upon doubting God would intervene in such a way.

2) A man did not have to be an Elder to be of use in the church. In fact, in this church there are many men – who are not Elders - who have significant impact on this congregation. You don’t have to be an Elder to serve God in a powerful way.

All you have to do is to want to be used by God.

ILLUS: Years ago, my brother Jack and I were putting in an overhead garage door opener for my folks. Jack was very good at stuff like that… but I wasn’t.

Now, I could have pulled up a lawn chair and sat in the corner of the garage and watched him. I could have had a great conversation with him as he did all the work. But would that have been a good idea? Of course not.

I didn’t know the first thing about putting in a garage door opener, but I decided to do what I could do… I became his gopher… I anticipated his needs. If he needed a wrench or a screw driver, or needed a nut or bolt picked up off the floor. I didn’t know much, but I could still make a difference… and that is what God is looking for in men.

So men, if you love Jesus you need to start saying to yourselves:

I will be a man for God in this church.

I will step up and make things happen.

I will do what I can do for Christ!

Because that is what men of God do.

Now, there are a couple of things I want to talk about before finishing this sermon:

1st – some might ask: “What about the women in the church?

(Wait until someone asks that question)

I’m glad you asked.

I didn’t say anything about women did I?

And there’s a reason for that.

I didn’t talk about the women, because Paul didn’t.

Soooo… why didn’t Paul talk about women here?

Well, how many of you have noticed that there is a difference between men and women?

There’s a difference between men and women – you have you noticed that haven't you?

Now I know that TARGETĀ© may not have realized that there’s a difference… but I’m pretty sure you have. And there is a big difference not just physically – but also mentally and spiritually.

In a lot of ways, those differences make women the backbone of the church.

Even if the men won’t show up… the women will.

We just had our monthly free lunch where over 100 people were served here at the church building. There were a few men that showed up to help, but mostly it was the women that made this happen.

On Friday we had a free clothing giveaway. Over 200 people visited our building, and while there were a few men who showed up to help, again it was the women who made this event work.

Women are not only the backbone of good churches, there are generally more women than men in any given church. Sometimes there are as many as 10 times as many women as men. The reason for that is that the women seem to intuitively understand the basic message of Christ’s gospel.

But there’s a reason God put men in positions of leadership in the church and it has a lot to do with those differences between men and women.

Godly women ARE critical for a good church to grow, and a wise eldership will ask the opinions of the women in the church. But when it comes down to decisions being made… God holds the men responsible for what happens in the congregation. And I can prove it.

Your remember back in the book of Genesis where Adam and Eve are in the garden?

Who was it that was tempted to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree?

It was Eve wasn’t it?

You’d think Eve would get the blame for her deed.

But fast forward to the New Testament – who does God blame for the sin in the garden?

It’s Adam… not Eve.


Because God held Adam responsible for not stepping up and being a man.

Adam failed!

He could have stepped up and protected his wife from Satan’s evils – but he failed.

He didn’t stand in the gap and so God held him responsible for his failure.

When men are weak in a church those churches are themselves weaker and less solid doctrinally.

Now let me review:

Men need strong women in the church.

And women need strong male leadership in the church.

You need BOTH or you’re not going to have a really SOLID church.

One last thought:

Neither the men nor the women in the congregation…

Nor the Elders, nor the Preacher of the congregation…

are in charge in the church.

Who is in charge in a Godly church????

GOD IS!!!!

Paul writes Titus these words:

“Paul, a SERVANT of God and an APOSTLE of Jesus Christ…” Titus 1:1

You know what Paul’s saying here: I’m not in charge!

He’s saying “I SERVE God.

And I am an apostle – one who is sent out - of Jesus

Everything Paul wrote were the words of God.

Everything Paul taught were the instructions from Jesus.

There are false teachers out there who will try to tell you that some of the things that Paul wrote were merely his opinions. They’ll try to convince you that not everything Paul wrote was the Word of God. Don’t listen to folks like that. They are heretics and they seek to undermine the power of Scripture in our lives.

Peter wrote about Paul’s writings and said this:

“… His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” II Peter 3:16

Paul was very clear – his writings and teachings belonged to God.

And the churches Paul helped start didn’t belong to him either.

They belonged to Jesus.

Now, Paul’s been dead for over 1900 years. How can I know what God’s will is in HIS Church in this modern age?

That’s right. You read it in God’s Bible.

II Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So, what Paul was telling Titus was this: Look for

Men who are willing to give themselves to God.

Men who are willing to stand ONLY on His Word.

Men who are willing to stand up and be counted and are willing to stand in the gap to protect God’s kingdom.

That’s what Paul said Titus needed to be looking for.

Titus could not do this alone… he needed strong men to stand beside him

That was God’s blueprint for the foundation of strong and safe church in the midst of an evil land.

CLOSE: In ancient Greece the King of Sparta once bragged to a visitor of the mighty walls of Sparta. But the guest didn't see any walls, and finally he said to his host, "I'd like to see those walls. Show them to me!"

And the Spartan ruler pointed with great satisfaction to some of Sparta's mighty army, and he said, "There they are! Those are the walls of Sparta!"

Sparta was so confident in their soldiers that when Philip of Macedonia threatened:

"If we capture your city, we will burn it to the ground."

The king of Sparta replied with this one-word answer: "If."

The Spartan King could speak with confidence because his great military city viewed each soldier was viewed as a brick in a mighty wall. A wall that would stand against the attacks of an enemy.

And that’s how Jesus He looks at us:

We are bricks in a mighty wall that surround and protect Christ's family.

We’re told - We are "living stones... built up a spiritual house" I Peter 2:5


Footnote on opening illustration regarding the converted church building on the shaky foundation (contributed by Scott Jewel)

I've learned about the house conversion while seeing if they show the foundation repair (I did find a brief description- replaced a wall and bolted the building to the foundation for stability)- it was originally a Mormon church later a LGBT synagogue, so you could definitely say it already had a shaky foundation spiritually speaking.