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Elders



LMBC 11/1/1998

I was send an interesting article this past week comparing people to Potatoes
Some people never seem motivated to participate, but are content to watch others do?.They are called “Speck Tators.”
Some people never do anything to help, but are gifted at finding fault with the way other do things? They’re called “Comment Tators.”
Some are always looking to cause problems and really get under your skin? They are called “Aggie Tators.”
There are those who are always saying they will, but somehow, they ever get around to doing? We call them “Hezzie Tators.”
Some people put on a front and act like someone else? They’re called “Emma Tators.”
Then, there are those who walk what they talk. They’re always prepared to stop what they’re doing to lend a hand to others, and bring real sunshine into the lives of others. You can call them “Sweet Tators.”

The elders and deacons should be the Sweet Tators kind of people. What are the kind of people which Paul suggests should be leaders in the church according to the letter he wrote to Titus.

Paul wrote to Titus who was still following up on the island of Crete after a series evangelistic meetings. He was encouraging Titus to complete the task of organizing the churches. Opposition arose in the church . People who thought they knew what they wanted didn’t know what God wanted. They were interested in their own pleasure and entertainment. Titus 1:16. These kind of people were taking over the church and destroying it.

Paul instructed Titus to go from tow to town to appoint elders. Paul and Titus had traveled to the various cities on the island of Crete and evangelized. Families had believed and now it was important to organize the believers because of the potential for things to fall apart with people bringing dissention into the church.

I would like to make 3 observations about verse 5.
1.) Titus was asked to appoint leaders. Organizing the church was not done in a democratic election of leaders. One man was making the appointments as being lead by the Holy Spirit. The individual making the appointments was one of the men involved in establishing these communities of believers.
2.) I do not believe as I study the history of the church that this style of choosing leaders (one man making appointments of leaders) is a pattern which the Bible makes as normative for all time to be practised in every group for all ages to come.
3.) There was a plurality of leaders in every city. There was not just one elder appointed in each city but elders appointed in every city – a group of men of sound character to lead each of the assemblies

What were these men to be like? What kind of person were they to look for? It does not look like your typical “ideal man” for which a pastoral search committee puts together. There is no mention of being a gifted preacher like Peter, wise counselor like Solomon, outstanding teacher like Jesus, prayer warrior like Paul, published author, earnest evangelist, skilled musician, or organized administrator. There are 3 items which might be classified in the skills abilities department. Have raised obedient children, encourage believers and refute false teachers.

There is a clear emphasis on the character of the individuals who are to be chosen. They are to be blameless. That in itself is a tall order. Who would declare themselves as blameless. Never having done anything wrong. There are 5 nots, no negatives, and 8 lots ofs, the positives, in this list.

The negative list looks like this. Not overbearing, Not quick-tempered, Not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

The positive list looks like this: Blameless, a faithful husband, believing children who cannot be accused of profligacy, debauchery, dissoluteness, dissipation or disobedient.
Lots of hospitality, lots of loving good, lots of self-control, upright, holy, disciplined and steadfast.
These are the kind of men who should be leading the church.

I personally have been challenged by verse 6 and have had to try to understand this verse. Certainly some have tried to interpret this in various ways. The first part tells us that an elder is to be the husband of but one wife. Commentators tell us that this means that the husband is not to have two wives. I question this interpretation for two reasons. First that having more than one wife was not very common in those days. Second the terminology in the original language is also used of women and I doubt that women were polygamists. In I Timothy 5:9 it uses the same expression for the woman as we have here for the man. For the woman it is translated - faithful to her husband. I believe the restriction Paul is telling Titus is that of being divorced and remarried.

The second part of verse 6 has also not been heeded in our modern day. The second part refers to grown children when it speaks about children who are not wild or disobedient. The first word asotias- is translated in English by various words profligacy, debauchery, dissoluteness and dissipation. I did not know what these words meant so I had to look them up in the dictionary. They mean prodigal or immoral. The second term a child is not to be accused of is being rebellious. These terms can be applied to one of my sons which disqualifies me from working in the church as an elder. Pray with me that all my children would be obedient and on fire for the Lord.

Don’t be’s Other qualities a leader is to have is that he is not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

Do Be’s The positive list looks like this:
given to hospitality willing to share his home and entertain others.
Thinking of others and enjoys doing kind things for others.
He has to have lots of self-control. He can control his eating, his appetites, his mind and his emotions.
He is to be upright. In his relationships with others they can trust him and know that he will not take advantage of them.

He is to be holy and pure. His thought life must be under control. I was at a meeting in London about a month ago for my company. I was talking to a stranger, not a Christian, when he blurted out. Look at that woman. I couldn’t believe how open this man was to express his lust. Christian leaders are to control their thoughts. God has called us to be pure and holy.

He is disciplined. This means that he is organized and keeps his life under control. The last quality he is to show is that he is to be steadfast. He is not to be moody or fickle. He is to work hard and be dependable.

Scripture gives us some challenging responsibilities for these leaders. My favorite comes from Hebrews 13:17. This verse is a charge to the congregation but it is indicative of the responsibility which is entrusted to the leaders of the church. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” As elders your responsibility is not program oriented but people oriented. Your responsibility according to this verse is that you have a charge before God to watch over the spiritual well being of those entrusted to the care of this church. This congregation can only grow as we do that job well. Why should God entrust more people to our care of we are not taking care of those currently attending.

Our challenge as a church is that we are to be using the talents, abilities and spiritual gifts which God has given each of us to the furthering of His Kingdom. What an awesome responsibility. May the Lord help us. That is why I believe that the focus needs to be on character rather than abilities. Men of Character will respond in a godly manner and rise to the challenge. Men of ability could waver and fall when responsibilities increase. because of a lack of character.

Each believer needs to submit to the guidance of the leaders. We are charged to use our spiritual gifts. We are to be willing to sacrifice by doing good and sharing with others of the blessings entrusted to us. The leadership is then accountable to God for the wise use of the spiritual resources of the congregation. This people focus is a different way of looking at the leadership of the church. Most churches are organized with a program focus.
This kind of accountability to God seems like a real burden and challenge. The blessings and rewards which come as a result of faithfulness are greater. May God grant each leader the ability to fulfill his responsibility.

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