Today’s reading: Titus 1-3 and Philemon.
“How should churches choose their leaders?”
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 1:6-9
In modern politics the emphasis is on appearance and speech, but church leaders should be chosen based on their character. Paul describes the ideal character of a church leader in Titus and also in I Timothy 3. The words for church leaders – elder, overseer, and shepherd – are used synonymously and have an overlapping meaning. To call someone an elder was to describe their status as a respected senior member of the church; to call them a shepherd or overseer was to describe their duty.
To the elders (presbuteros) among you, I appeal as a fellow elder (presbuteros), a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds (poimainō) of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers (episkopeō) — not because you must, but because you are willing… 1 Peter 5:1-2
Paul lists a set of positive qualities leaders must possess and negative qualities that should not be found in them.
- blameless; without any accusations against them
- husband of one wife; not meaning they can’t be single, but if married they should have only one wife, “a one-woman kind of man”
- father of well-behaved children who share the Christian faith
Must not be:
- overbearing; self-willed, caring only for their own interests, arrogant
- quick-tempered; habitually angry, one who nurses his anger along
- drunken; one who is always abusing alcohol, or by extension one who lives a debauched lifestyle (but not a condemnation of the normal moderate use of alcohol)
- violent; one who abuses people physically or verbally
- given to dishonest gain; one who is greedy and will stoop to any means to profit himself
- love goodness
- self-controlled; of a sound mind, temperate, with his own desires bridled
- upright; righteous, virtuous
- holy; free from sin and wickedness
- disciplined; having a strong control of his own person
- holding to the truth of the Gospel
- able to teach believers and argue the faith effectively with doubters
The process of appointing church leaders has very limited discussion in the New Testament. In Acts 6 the congregation of the Jerusalem church chose the deacons. In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas chose the elders for the Asian churches. Here, in Titus, Paul charged Titus to choose the overseers for the Cretan churches. First Timothy 4:14 suggests that eventually elders began ordaining other elders. As the church developed, its method of ordination changed. In the beginning only the apostles appointed elders. Then those chosen by the apostles began appointing elders. Eventually the elders began appointing other elders.