Why Did Paul Ordain Elders to fix Broken Churches?

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Church, Church Leaders, Jesus Christ
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Titus – a letter written with a fix for broken churches

Men whose lives display the power of the Living Word and the Presence of the Living Christ!

Paul had left Titus in Crete to shore up churches that were “broken” and had gone renegade.

What is a “renegade” church?

  • Church that has allowed self-focus and self-interests to negate the Power of the Word and the Presence of Jesus Christ
  • A self-focused Church is a deserter from the “Body of Christ”

Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

These churches had not been started by Paul. A short two or three month stop before heading to Rome in Acts 27 was not sufficient to start churches. Besides, Paul was under guarded arrest, awaiting appeal before Caesar. This trip to Crete mentioned in Titus was probably after Paul was released for a couple years. Paul had seen a need among the churches on Crete, and made a point to return and work on fixing the problem. Paul and Titus probably visited Crete sometime between AD 63-67. They preached among the many cities, where churches were already established. What Paul saw led him to leave Titus there to straighten out the “renegade” churches. Paul went on to Greece and sent this short business-like memo to Titus via Zenas and Apollos (3:13). The Letter to Titus is meant to encourage Titus, and to reinforce his mission there on the island of Crete. This memo reveals Paul’s vision of the church, and is foundational for us as we begin GraceLife Community Church. There is no room for churches that do not show forth the power of two spiritual realities-The Power of the Word of God and the Presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. This is the test that Paul applied to healthy churches, and the churches on Crete had failed. They were not influencing the culture of Crete with the power of the Gospel. Rather, the churches were becoming infected with the Cretan way.

Paul charged Titus with an “Elder-Fix”

Two Forces were at Work on Crete

  • The Cretan Island Culture
  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ

These first churches started on Crete when those who were saved at Pentecost returned home. Acts 2:11 records that Cretans were in the audience when the tongues of fire fell upon the disciples. They heard the mighty rushing wind. They cried out “what must we do to be saved?” They repented, came to Christ and were baptized. They went home, told other Cretans, and churches were born.

Something happened to these churches. Instead of growing into Christ, and effecting the culture of the communities around them, the Cretan island culture crept into the churches. They became “broken” as far as demonstrating the power of Christ. Churches went renegade, and Paul wanted to correct the problem.

Crete was called the island of a thousand cities. Evidently they could not get along with each other, could not trust each other, and as a result, would get mad and move and start a city somewhere. This happened with the churches as well. People would get upset and leave to form their own church in a city nearby. Because the churches had become infected with the Cretan Island culture, they were benign when it came to changing people’s lives. The Gospel of Christ had become of no effect.

The character of Cretans was well known in Paul’s day. Just as saying to Corinthianize meant to prostitute, to call someone a Cretan was to say they were liars and not to be trusted. Putting labels on people is nothing new. There were no red-necks in Paul’s day, but there were Cretans.

God’s solution to confront godless culture has always been MEN! God used Noah to rescue His creation. God used Abraham to counter a society of idol-worship. God used Judges to restore order and worship to people who had forgotten the power of God. God used Elijah to stand against a godless nation. God used John the Baptist to prepare a nation for His Son. God

The Church combats Culture & Division with Christ-Led Elders

Set things in ORDER – things that are lacking, failing

„  Picture of a Physician setting broken bones.

Elders were needed because things were broken, things were lacking, things were absent and the churches were failing.

If you have ever broken a bone, you know how painful it can be. I was moving a concrete stop block that weighed over 80 pounds, and dropped it on my foot. It shattered my big toe. The ER Doctor showed me the X-Ray and said there was not much he could do, as it was shattered in several pieces. So he molded it back together as best he could. Now if it had been my arm or leg, you know they would have used as many pins and screws to get it back to normal.

These churches may have known something was wrong, but they needed Dr. Paul to set things right!

In Paul’s short stay on Crete, he saw that the churches were failing to present the true LIFE of Jesus Christ on the island. The churches were failing to impact the culture around them.

1. Christ-led Elders were the “fix” to broken churches.

Titus 1:5-9 indicates how “elders” are the fix to a broken/renegade church. More correctly, an elder team is the solution. But these elders should be of a certain mold. They must be cut from the same cloth. They must exhibit the LIFE of Christ that is within them. Elders are to be the spiritual “Father’s” of the church. They are to be examples of the Living Christ to their people. The Elders are to be the watchful father’s over the church family, fiercely loving and fiercely protective.

If you think of the church community as a flock of sheep, the elders are a team of pastors, shepherds who make sure those sheep are fed by day and protected by night.  They ensure the nourishment of the sheep.  They will kill any wolf that comes near.

Furthermore, the elders will serve as the vanguard for the invasion of Christianity on Crete! The Cretans had an ugly reputation, and it was showing in their churches. They were not influencing the culture, but the culture was impacting the churches.

Do your actions and personal habits, honesty at work bring curiosity to others about the God you worship?

2. Churches need Men who Live in Christ if they hope to manifest a Living Christ to those around them.

Paul described these men as “blameless” or “above reproach”.

The Greek word for without one single fault (above reproach) is: anégklētos, it means making legal charges against someone in a court of law, but the person is not convictable when a person is properly scrutinized.

Titus 1:6-7(ESV) if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,

Titus 1:6-7 (KJV) If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

There are several Greek words for blameless

  • amémptōs <G274>, unblamed.
  • ámōmos <G299>, unblemished, unspotted.
  • áspilos <G784>, without spot;
  • anégklētos <G410>, legally irreproachable;
  • anepílēptos <G423>, irreprehensible, one who cannot be caught and accused[1]

Who is Blameless in the Bible?

„  Noah was blameless – Gen 6:9 (upright, perfect)

„  Abram was blameless – Gen 17:1

„  Jews were to be blameless when it came to following sorcery and fortune-tellers in the Promised land.

Deuteronomy 18:13-14 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.

„  David described himself as blameless – 2 Sam 22:24-33

„  The Eyes of the Lord run to and fro looking for the man whose heart is blameless toward Him (2 Chron 16:9)

„  Job was a blameless man – Job 1:1

„  Satan was blameless before God, until sin was found in him – Ezekiel 28:15

„  Daniel was blameless – Dan 6:22

„  Zechariah and Elizabeth were blameless – Luke 1:6

„  The Corinthians were called blameless by Paul

1 Corinthians 1:8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

„  You and I are even called blameless

Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Paul described himself as blameless under the righteousness of the law  (before he came to Christ) – Phil 3:6, yet described himself as the chief of sinners after he came to Christ.

From the list above, we can become confused about who is blameless. Clearly some of these people had serious character defects. Noah got drunk, Abram lied twice to protect himself, and had sex with Sara’s handmaid, David was an adulterer and a murderer, the Corinthians were divided and tolerating gross moral sin. The one man whom I would consider the most blameless, Paul, considered himself the worst sinner alive. Who then is blamless?

About Blamelessness

Hebrews 11 is a great chapter about blameless men, men who knew the Living God, men and women who saw Him by faith. Anyone of these men (or women) I would love to have as an elder in my church (except Samson, because he scares me).

Hebrews 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

They are giants of the faith because they dared to see the invisible. They dared to believe the impossible. They set God before them in their life’s journey.

They were not perfect, they made their mistakes, but they were blameless because they lived by faith in God and they did not allow the godless culture around them to drag them down. In fact, their home was not of this world. They looked for the city of God! But something amazing and even unbelievable is written in Hebrews 11:39-40.

As blameless and upright as they were, they cannot be made perfect without you and me!

Hebrews 11:39-40 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Why? Because none of us is blameless and perfect without Jesus Christ! He is the something “better”! We share in the heritage of these giants of the faith when we by faith walk and live in Jesus Christ. We are BLAMELESS in Christ!

Blameless Men are first and foremost Living in Jesus Christ!

Jesus was called amomos-no internal sin and aspilos-no external sin, but was never called amemptos (without accusation or reproach), because Jesus said in Luke 6:26 – “Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you”

Although our Lord in 1 Pet. 1:19 is called ámōmos, without internal sinfulness and spot, and áspilos, without external sin or spot, He is never said to be ámemptos, without accusation or reproach, as He Himself taught in Luke 6:26: “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you.” Although He Himself was without internal and external spot or blemish, yet there were those who spoke evil of Him or who brought momphé <G3437>, blame, against Him which led to His death.[2]

With regard to Titus, he was to ordain Elders who had exemplary lives as far as their civil obedience and family commitment. The Overseers of the Church are to be living examples of the blamelessness of Jesus Christ.

„ Any righteous man regardless of faith in Christ can pass an FBI ‘vetting’ process. „ But can you pass the GOD vetting process? Only if you are living in the power of the righteousness of Jesus Christ!

 1.  True Blamelessness is only in Jesus Christ (on the inside)

  • 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless (amemptos) in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

2.  True Blamelessness is only through Christ (on the outside)

  • Colossians 1:22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless (amomos) and above reproach (anenkletos) before him,

3.  True Blamelessness is to those who are diligent to abide in Christ (before men)

  • 2 Peter 3:13-14 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
  • Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless (amomos) before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Elders are diligent to abide in Christ

Five descriptors tell what blamelessness is not; while seven descriptors tell what blamelessness is.
  • „Blameless as a man, and blameless in his office (bishop is an office)

Paul puts these in the form of a list, because he’s talking to Greeks.  Paul’s list shows his awareness of how the Greeks communicated virtues.  Had he been talking to a predominately Hebrew culture, he would have communicated this in the form of a parable (as Jesus did in Luke 12:42, “Who is the faithful and wise manager?”).  Elders were to be upright, not liars; holy, not evil brutes; and disciplined, not addicted gluttons. They were to be examples of what the culture was not.

1.  MUST BE A GODLY LEADER OF HIS FAMILY

Titus 1:6-13 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

It may sound ironic, but when a leader puts his family first, the community benefits.  When a leader puts the local community or the church community first, both his family and the community suffer.  Titus 1:6 insists (along with 1 Timothy 3: 5) that starting at home is always the key to affecting others in a positive way.  Leading one’s household well gains credibility to lead the family of God.  You don’t need an MBA to manage God’s church; but you do need a mature marriage and strong parenting skills.  (Maxwell 2007, 30)

It is inaccurate to think of the elders primarily as a board of directors overseeing a 501(c)3 tax exempt non-profit organization; or some religious version of a for-profit corporation.  It is misguided to think of the eldership like the United States Senate, or some power-based body.  When we do that, we will inevitably get frustrated at the comparison because the church will seem so back-woods.  We read Titus 1 about the elder being the husband of one wife and children who must not be incorrigible.  We think, “What’s up with that?  What’s Paul got against women?   And what does parenting have to do with knowing how to run an organization?”

Fundamentally, the church is a family.  In Titus, local churches met—not in mortgaged facilities—but in homes!   Titus 2 lists the typical groups in a family structure!   So, the church is a family.  God’s plan for the organization and leadership of the local church family is derived from His plan for the organization and leadership of the nuclear family.  As husbands/fathers in marriage/family have been divinely called as servant-leaders to initiate in providing and protecting the family entrusted to them, so such godly husbands/fathers are divinely called to the stewardship of providing and protecting the spiritual church family.   The family and the church family are the only two places where God has called and expects godly, Cross-bearing, Christ-focused husbands/fathers to be the initiating servant-leaders.   Headship is not about “calling the shots” or being “bossy” or “getting the final say” or having the “final word”; headship is the divine calling to be the first to be nailed to the cross.  To be the first to feed the sheep, protect the sheep, and stay up all night to watch the sheep; and if need be, lay one’s life down for the sheep. Furthermore, a spiritually healthy eldership will ensure that all the gifts from all the believers—children, students, women, men—are being fully utilized for the building up of the entire church family! 

2.  MUST BE DILIGENT STEWARDS OF GOD

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God;

a.  THE DON’TS:

    • „ not self-willed,
    • „ not soon angry,
    • „ not given to wine,
    • „ no striker,
    • „ not given to filthy lucre;

b.  THE DO’S

    • „ But a lover of hospitality,
    • „ a lover of good men,
    • „ sober,
    • „ just, (conformance to man’ laws)
    • „ holy, (conformance to God’s laws)
    • „ temperate;

3.  MUST BE A TEACHER & DEFENDER OF THE WORD

„ Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Elders are to protect believers from false teaching by teaching sound doctrine and refuting inaccuracies about Christ and the Gospel. The Gospel that has transformed these elders!  They’d better master that which has mastered them!   Those who were once foolishly enslaved, and deceived (3:3) have been changed by the best news ever—the Grace of God has appeared!  Grace has come to prodigals and predators—and now some of them are elders!  Only Jesus can do that!  

4.  WHY ELDERS?

Only a transformed liar can reach other liars. Only one who stands against the culture can transform the culture.

For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;

Our culture needs rescuing. Our society is failing. We need men and women of faith, not afraid to see Him who is invisible, Not afraid to follow Him who the world mocks and jeers at. Not afraid to stand counter to their culture, to show them the way to Jesus Christ.

The people are going down a slippery slope, after money, after themselves. They need to see visible evidence of the power of Jesus Christ!

Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England in the early 1500’s was known as the man for all seasons, for he stood against King Henry VIII who made a mockery of the church and divorced Catharine of Aragon for Ann Boleyn. His stand cost him his head, but his influence upon the politics of England endured for centuries. He was called the man for all seasons!

Elders are men for all seasons! In season, out of season, they stand upon Jesus Christ. They hold fast to His Word. They follow Him who is invisible!

Reinhold Messner became famous as the first person to climb Mt Everest without supplemental oxygen. In fact, he has climbed all 14 mountains over 26,000 feet without oxygen.

Yet, one day between his conquests, he found himself locked out of his house, and was climbing his fence to reach an upstairs window when he fell, injuring his leg. I thought to myself, here was a man who could conquer mountains, but could not conquer his home. We need men of God who lead their homes in following God, and in so doing, they conquer the world with the Power of Christ!

What good does it do if he succeeds in the world but fails at home? God needs men of the Word who conquer at home, live Christ at Home, raise families devoted to God’s Word and change the godless culture of the world around them!


[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “ámemptos”.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “áspilos”.

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Comments
  1. Ray says:

    Amen Pastor…Amen!

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