Summary: Looks at the causes and consequences of bad leadership, and the characteristics of bad leaders.

Greedership: Ringing False

The Productive Life, part 2

Wildwind Community Church

David K. Flowers

March 19, 2006

Last week we looked at Titus chapter 1, verses 1-8, where we see the qualifications that the Apostle Paul lays out for those who would aspire to spiritual leadership. (Explain quickly who Paul was.) I told you that you could summarize everything in that section by saying that good spiritual leadership requires commitment to:

God’s cause

God’s people

God’s truth

Today I want to talk to you about bad spiritual leadership. There are two reasons I want to discuss this with you. First is that it’s written here in the book of Titus, and we’re covering the book of Titus right now! Second and most important is because this is the way God has set up the church to operate, and as part of the church you can only benefit by understanding it. The church is not a government organization. The church is not just one more “non-profit.” The church is not a business. It’s a completely unique institution with its own approach to culture, leadership, and management. So today I want to look at Titus 1:9-16, and take a look at the causes of bad spiritual leadership, some characteristics of bad spiritual leaders, and the consequences of bad spiritual leadership. And then I want to close by looking at the call of the good leader to oppose and correct those who are leading badly in the church. Let’s begin by reading through our whole passage this morning, would you stand for the reading of God’s Word, please?

Read Titus 1:9-16 directly from the (NIV) Bible.

Father, I know it is your will that we know and understand your Word. Show us the truth today, please, because in seeing the truth better we see you more clearly. Amen.

If the foundation of good spiritual leadership is commitment to God’s cause, God’s people, and God’s truth, then bad spiritual leadership will be found where one or all of these commitments is lacking. If good spiritual leaders are building a Kingdom in which they themselves are not the king, then bad spiritual leadership is what happens when a leader builds his or her own kingdom. For a good spiritual leader, this whole thing is about God and ringing true. For a bad spiritual leader, it is about self – getting all one can get for one’s self. That’s why I have entitled today’s message

Greedership: Ringing False

There are a lot of reasons leaders go bad, aren’t there? Some never intend to be good in the first place. But I believe most start out good and then are corrupted. In the church there are two common causes of leadership corruption, and they are both contained in Titus chapter 1 verses 10 and 11.

I’ll give you the two causes first, then we’ll look at each of them. Two major causes of bad spiritual leadership in the church are the pull of the status quo (tradition), and money. Let’s look at verse 10.

Titus 1:10 (NIV)

10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.

Some of you who aren’t all that familiar with the Bible are freaking out. You’re thinking, “What on earth does circumcision have to do with anything?” Well let me show you.

See a guy named Abraham is credited with founding the Jewish faith thousands of years ago. Abraham is so influential, in fact, that he appears in the Jewish Torah, the Christian Bible’s Old Testament, and also in the Koran. The whole circumcision thing started with Abraham.

Genesis 17:10 (NIV)

10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

So God gives Abraham – founder of the Jewish faith – a code to live by and seals it with the sign of circumcision, making it clear that this is binding on future generations of Jews.

Fast forward a few thousand years to the Apostle Paul writing this letter to Titus about how to lead in the church.

He points out that there are starting to be false teachings that are spreading around, and where does he say these teachings are coming from? He says, “Especially those of the circumcision group.” Now I know this is taking a minute to explain, but trust me, it’s worth it. Here’s what was going on. Many of you are aware that Judaism is what gave birth to Christianity – that Jesus was a Jew and did most of his ministry among Jews and considered himself, “King of the Jews.” But Jesus never taught that circumcision is important, never said anything about it at all. So one of the major things that separated early Jews and Christians – other than the Christian acceptance of Jesus as the divine son of God – was this issue of circumcision. The Apostle Paul taught that circumcision was a Jewish thing – a command given to Abraham as a thing between God and him as founder of the Jewish faith. Paul, who had himself been a Jewish theologian and scholar, after his conversion to Christianity, began teaching that circumcision was not necessary, either for Gentiles who became believers, or for Jewish babies born into Christian homes. Now this seems like a strange issue to divide people, but think about it – it’s pretty radical (and painful) surgery for an adult convert to Christianity, so I could see why there would be dudes going, “Wait, are you saying I don’t have to do this? I’m in.” I can see why there would be a great deal of resistance to it if there was any chance that Christianity did not require it. So it was a huge battle.

I know it seems weird to spend time talking about circumcision, and it really IS weird to us, but folks you truly cannot grasp some of the important things happening in the Bible if you don’t realize how significant this issue was at that time. In fact the Bible records that the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter got into a huge argument about this issue because after Jesus ascended into heaven, Peter was going around teaching about Jesus but was still attached to this circumcision thing and was telling Christians they had to be circumcised. Paul publicly confronted Peter about that and eventually Peter came around and agreed that he was kind of mired in tradition, kind of fond of the whole idea, but that circumcision wasn’t really necessary, and that’s what I want to point out to you. See, who were the deceivers and talkers Paul writes about in Titus? Those of the circumcision group – in other words, those who couldn’t let go of the circumcision thing – those who were so attached to that Jewish tradition that they wanted to make all male Christians observe it as well, and they wanted to make it part of this new faith Jesus had introduced, even though Jesus never addressed it.

We have many modern versions of this today. There are some churches that can’t let go of the King James Bible, and think that any church that doesn’t use the King James translation of the Bible isn’t really teaching God’s truth. Or what about the tattoo thing? Do you realize the only place where tattoos are prohibited in the Bible is in Deuteronomy? In other words, it’s in the same book of laws that were observed by all the ancient Jews. Orthodox Jews had about 613 rules they had to follow – many of them written in Deuteronomy – almost none of which were subsequently observed by Christians. So out of all those rules, why are we stuck on the tattoo thing thousands of years later? Because of the power of tradition. Here’s the fact of the matter. Tattoos have negative connotations to some people in our society, and rather than just say, “I don’t prefer tattoos,” instead they choose to say, “God hates tattoos.” Likewise, Jews in Paul’s time who had converted to Christianity – instead of saying, “We’re fond of the idea of circumcision as a sign of commitment to God,” were saying, “God will not accept believing men who do not get circumcised when they convert.”

I’m not here to defend tattoos this morning, I’m here to tell you one of the reasons the leaders in the book of Titus went bad, and it’s the same reason why a lot of spiritual leaders today have gone bad. Spiritual leadership goes bad when it sells out to the status quo. See there were people in Crete who were just really, really stuck on the circumcision thing and were telling everybody (well, all the guys) that they had to be circumcised. People were going, “What? We’re not Jews, we’re Christians. We don’t do that, do we? Or at least it’s not REQUIRED, is it?” And it was confusing everybody. And rather than let go of their little circumcision—tattoo—King James Bible—have to sing only hymns—have to wear dresses and ties to church—thing, they were okay with drawing lines between themselves and the other believers, making themselves out to be spiritually superior because of their dedication to a Jewish tradition that had nothing to do with Christianity.

The pull of the status quo will keep spiritual leaders from being effective. When spiritual leaders allow their own preferences and traditions to become demands they place on others in the church, confusion is the result. And then those poor souls who are looking for strong leadership, looking for courage, looking for resolve to listen to God and not to men and women, are left in the lurch wondering what’s going on.

Spiritual leadership goes bad when leaders are not willing to buck the status quo when necessary in order to honor God and make His Word available to others. Jesus said to the spiritual leaders of his day,

Matthew 23:13 (NIV)

13 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

He also said,

Matthew 15:3 (NLT)

3 Jesus replied, "And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?

Spiritual leaders must have eyes open for when things around them get to the point where it is no longer God being worshipped, but our own traditions and preferences. That’s why we’ve been very careful not to say, “We’re a church where people don’t dress up.” Though it’s true that we’re open to people not dressing up, and most people here don’t, we also want to stay open to people dressing up, lest pretty soon people come to think there’s some spiritual reason why it’s important to not dress up. The fact is it doesn’t matter and we have to be clear about what does and doesn’t matter.

The next thing that causes good spiritual leaders to go bad is money. That’s no big surprise, huh? Most people aren’t struggling today with finding circumcision all that spiritually necessary, but boy we still have the money thing don’t we? These false teachers at the time of Paul were teaching things they shouldn’t teach because they were making money doing it.

Titus 1:11 (NIV)

11 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.

Interesting, isn’t it, that people would rather pay someone to tell them what they want to hear than listen to the truth for free. Here’s Paul and Titus, laboring away, preaching the gospel truth for no money at all, and yet the hucksters were getting rich off of preaching lies – why? Because the lies were what many of the people wanted to hear. Many people were mired in their traditions and wanted their leaders to support the status quo and were willing to pay for that support. There are always people who will pay someone to say what they want to hear, and there are always leaders willing to take the money and say whatever they are paid to say. And caught in the crossfire are always the innocents who truly don’t know what to believe, who become casualties of the confusion.

So two of the causes of bad spiritual leadership that we see here are the pull of the status quo and the lure of money.

What are the characteristics of bad spiritual leaders?

We see one principle characteristic here and that’s corrupted minds and consciences.

v. 15 – Nothing is pure to those who are corrupt. What does it mean to be corrupt? It simply means to lack integrity. To ring false. Bad spiritual leaders are those who are not in it for God’s cause, God’s people, and God’s truth, but for themselves. They are seeking dishonest gain. To the pure all things are pure. You know those people who are so sweet and honest that they just can’t believe someone said something with the intention of deceiving them? Don’t you love people like that? They are like that because they have a purity to them that causes them to see others as pure also. They are honest, so they assume others are honest. To the pure, all things are pure. They see the world in the image of what is in their deepest heart. To the self-seeking liar, all other people are liars and have ulterior motives. To those who are corrupted, nothing is pure. They see the world in the image of what’s in their deepest heart. You don’t look out at the world objectively as a non-interested third party. You always see the world through whatever lenses you wear. If your lenses are clean, you will see the world that way. If your lenses are soiled, the world will appear dirty. Notice something. If you have clear lenses, you will be able to learn to see impurity for what it is. But if you have dirty lenses, you will not see purity no matter how pure it is. Jesus said this:

Matthew 6:22-23 (NLT)

22 "Your eye is a lamp for your body. A pure eye lets sunshine into your soul.

23 But an evil eye shuts out the light and plunges you into darkness. If the light you think you have is really darkness, how deep that darkness will be!

And that’s what Paul communicates to us. To the pure all things are pure. To the corrupted, nothing is pure. Bad spiritual leadership comes from a corrupted frame of reference – a character that does not see truth clearly and cannot call a spade a spade. Paul says at the end of v. 15, “in fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Their minds would be their mental sense and intelligence, and their consciences here would be their perception of the sameness or difference between the way they live and the way God has asked them to live. They cannot see themselves or the world clearly.

Paul goes on in verse 16 to refer to them as “detestable” individuals, and he’s using that word in direct reference to the way the false teachers would say, “It’s detestable to God if you eat pork, it’s detestable if you are not circumcised,” etc. Paul says, “It is the false teachers themselves who are detestable, and that’s why they see everything else in the world as detestable.”

Let’s look at the consequences of bad spiritual leadership.

Titus 1:11 (NIV)

11 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.

The consequence of bad spiritual leadership, quite simply, is that it destroys people and families. It can do that in a number of ways. The whole family together might accept bad teaching and be led astray spiritually. Part of the family might accept it and part might not, and the result is then division in the household. Families are a huge influence on each other spiritually. The McLauglin family is a well-known and beloved family in our church. Some of you aren’t aware that the McLaughlin family is in this church today because Greg attended my youth group when I was a youth pastor in 1997. There he committed his life to Christ and gradually influenced his mom and brother Matt to start coming to church where they committed their lives as well. Shortly after that Mike began coming. Greg and Jenny became friends as they attended youth group together – friends, friends, dating, dating, dating, dating, engaged, married, married, Zack! And now a new one on the way. Mike came to faith in February of 2003 after we started Wildwind. Jenni Christian is Sue McLaughlin’s niece and attends Wildwind today with her husband Al and little Julie largely because of Mike and Sue’s influence. Courtney Hrink is Jenni Christian’s sister and she and her husband Josh and their four kids and one on the way are at Wildwind today because of Mike and Sue. Matt married Sarah and they attend Wildwind together. It’s incredible the way families influence one another. Ingrid Weidman began coming alone to Wildwind when we first started, and last year we baptized their whole family, except for the baby. Cindy Perkins showed up without her husband the first week and Chris is in the church today because of Cindy’s influence. Chad and Heather McDonnell discovered Wildwind and that’s why we have Dwight and Ellen Murphy, Heather’s parents, in the church today. I could go on and on. Families have a huge spiritual influence on one another. Every church that is in the business of teaching spiritual realities will also be in the business of either building up or tearing down families – depending on what they teach and how they teach it. Remember, too, that households often were churches! There were no church buildings, so people met in homes, so what Paul also is implying here is that bad leadership is causing division and dissension in the church.

That’s why, finally, every spiritual leader in the church has a call to do everything in his/her power to stop bad teaching and bad leadership from pervading the church. Paul says to Titus in verse 9 that a good spiritual leader must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine (belief) and refute those who oppose it.

Do you see how unique the church is? The church must take seriously it’s task to hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, and to keep confusion from splitting apart families and friends in the church, and in fact splitting the church itself. That’s why it’s so important that you make a decision about how you’re going to play your role in the church. You can come to church with your mind already made up about everything and then constantly believe the church is wrong when it disagrees with you, or you can entrust yourself (never easy) to a church where you see that the leaders ring true (find that church and commit to it!), and allow God’s Word as taught in that church to shape your world view. It’s personal, deep, important work the church is doing, and that is why you absolutely must be able to trust your leaders, be they pastors, worship people, small group leaders, those who are teaching your children, or those making policy and financial decisions.

As we finish chapter 1 of Titus, I hope you have seen how seriously the Bible takes sound leadership, and that we take it seriously here too. My guess is that if you’ve attended here for more than a few weeks you already know that, but hopefully now you see how that conviction is rooted in Biblical teaching. It can be said of Wildwind that we are different, unique, even unconventional, but never let it be said that we do not teach and follow God’s Word faithfully. Let’s pray.