OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #228 Snapshots of Character
When I was home on PEI for vacation, my mother presented me with a photo album of pictures from both sides of my family. There are pictures of my grandparents going back into the great-great’s, aunts and uncles, my parents, and lots of snapshots from when I was young. She spent months talking to relatives and assembling all these pictures, some of which I had never seen. It was a real labour of love and I understand a little more about my family and myself as I look at these pictures.
Snapshots of character are what Paul has in mind as he writes to Titus. What are the character traits of a godly leader? What is Christian discipleship? What does truth look like in the context of competing teachings? These are the kinds of things he writes to tell Titus about as he leaves him on the island of Crete to finish the work that was started (1:5).
It seems likely that Paul was released after Acts 27 and eventually visited Crete since he seems to know a lot about the situation of the churches there. In any event, there was unfinished work and Titus, Paul’s longtime travelling companion (see Gal 2:1), was the man for the job. He needed to appoint church leaders, “elders,” in every town (1:5) and teach various groups of people according to sound doctrine (2:1) in order to overcome the influence of rebellious factions (1:10). And so we have these snapshots of groups within the church and what Titus needs to teach them about leadership and Christian maturity.
The first snapshot is of the elders (1:5-9). Paul is very clear to Titus about the high, moral qualifications required of these leaders: Blameless, exemplary marriage and home life, patient, sober, peaceable, honest, hospitable, upright, self-controlled, holy, disciplined, sound in doctrine.
It is interesting that so much of what Paul tells Titus to look for in a spiritual leader is about life at home. How do we know if someone if qualified for spiritual leadership? We see it in the everyday decisions about regular life, and this begins in the home. Christian maturity is about closing the gap between belief and action. Long before Jan and the boys hear me preach at church, they watch me live at home and they know if there is a difference between what I say and what I do. No one expects perfection, but at the same time they will not respect me or follow my leadership at home if I prove to be a hypocrite. Christian leaders must be people who set a good example and so if I do not display maturity at home, I will not be a good spiritual leader in the church.
To me this boils down to two issues, corporate and personal. Corporately speaking, how do we recognize what good spiritual leadership looks like? Obviously, a person needs leadership skills, but in the church this is not enough. Godly, mature character is critical.
I happen to think that spiritual leadership, whether as clergy, board members, Sunday school teachers, or even youth and children’s leaders, requires mature, godly character. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we don’t always use this principle. The pressure to fill a board, run a program or provide a service overwhelms our judgement and we appoint people who aren’t mature enough for the position. I’ve done it, that is, I’ve asked people into leadership who weren’t spiritually qualified, and later regretted it because jagged edges of their character cut deep wounds. Sometimes we learn things the hard way.
As I look at this snapshot of a leader, I also think I need to read this personally, as a call to examine every area of my life. Can I honestly say there is no gap of maturity? We need constantly to be growing so that others around us can see a living snapshot of what Christian maturity looks like. The goal is not to be recognized as a leader, but to be spiritually mature.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published July 29, 2010. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at http://www.onfireletter.com/ Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com