Study 2 SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCH
THE LETTERS TO TITUS AND PHILEMON
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Titus l: 5 – 9)
In Titus 1:5-9 Paul speaks of leadership in the church. There are several vital requirements if the local church is to be a centre of spiritual worship, fellowship and service: the members must be born again (John 3:3); they must be separated (2 Corinthians 6:14), dedicated (Romans 12:1) and spiritual people (1 Corinthians 3:1); and there must be harmony and unity in the church (Psalm 133:1-3). But there must also be the right leaders; for whether a church is strong or weak will depend to a large extent upon the leadership. No one knew this better than Paul. It is one of the main reasons he wrote the Pastoral Letters. Here in Titus 1:5-9 he authorises Titus to appoint leaders in each of the established churches, and then he describes the kind of people who should be entrusted with this responsible position of leadership. He uses two words to describe leaders in the church:-
- ‘ELDERS’ (verse 5). This suggests maturity and dignity. An elder must be a man of spiritual stature and not a novice.
- ‘OVERSEER’ (verse 7). A leader in God’s work is one who ‘sees over’ that work. He is ‘entrusted with God’s work’.
Now notice the qualifications for spiritual leadership (verses 6-9). What is God’s standard in this matter?
1. A SPIRITUAL LEADER SHOULD BE OF BLAMELESS REPUTATION
In verses 6 and 7 we read that a leader must be ‘blameless’, but what is meant by this word? It does not mean perfect, otherwise there would be no leaders! Turn to 1 Timothy 3:7 where we shall find a helpful exposition of the word. To be qualified for spiritual leadership a man must have a clean testimony in the church and before the world. He must be a man of unquestionable honesty.
2. A SPIRITUAL LEADER SHOULD BE OF UNQUESTIONED MORAL INTEGRITY
Verse 6 says he must be ‘the husband of but one wife’. This does not mean that he must marry only once; it means he must not be a polygamist, as were some of the Cretans. A leader must be of unquestioned moral integrity with no suspicion of any wrong relationship or impropriety of any kind. No-one should be given any position in the church whose marriage relationship is questionable or whose attitude towards the opposite sex is careless.
3. A SPIRITUAL LEADER SHOULD BRING UP HIS CHILDREN TO FEAR THE LORD
Verse 6 goes on: ‘whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient’. Turn again to the parallel passage in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 – if a man has not sought to train his own family to love and serve the Lord, how can he be qualified to help the children of God in the church of God to love and to serve Him? His training of his children will qualify him for special ministry in the church.
4. A SPIRITUAL LEADER SHOULD BE OF OBVIOUS SPIRITUAL GRACE AND DISCIPLINE
In verse 7 there are five negatives, all of which tell us that a leader is qualified by what he does not do. In the language of Colossians 3:8-9, he is to ‘put off’ certain things. What are they (verse 7)?
- ‘Not overbearing’ – not pressing his will on others, look up Matthew 20:26-28.
- ‘Not quick-tempered’ – not aggressive or explosive. Our temperaments can be disciplined by submission to the Holy Spirit.
- ‘Not given to drunkenness’ – a leader must be temperate, and must have firm convictions regarding the use of alcohol – look up 1 Corinthians 10:23.
- ‘Not violent’ – he must not be quarrelsome or contentious. What a bad testimony it is when an office-bearer in the church is undisciplined!
- ‘Not pursuing dishonest gain’ – not covetous. A man’s character can often be judged by his attitude towards money and earthly possessions. A leader must be absolutely honest in all his dealings and not a man of sharp practice.
5. A SPIRITUAL LEADER SHOULD BE GENEROUS-HEARTED AND HAVE THE RIGHT KIND OF FRIENDS
What does the first part of verse 8 tell us? The spiritual man must be:-
- ‘Hospitable’ – in the early Church hospitality had a special significance, for Christians had to cling together. They lived in a hostile world and the grace of hospitality was very necessary.
- ‘A lover of what is good’ – that is, loving goodness and doing what is beneficial to others – see 1 Corinthians 10:24.
6. A SPIRITUAL LEADER SHOULD HAVE A POSITIVE, HOLY CHARACTER
In the second part of verse 8 we read that a leader must be:-
- ‘Self-controlled’ – discreet, of sound mind, sane – compare Titus 2:2,5,6.
- ‘Upright’ – ‘fair-minded and discerning’.
- ‘Holy’ – compare 1 Timothy 2:8. ‘Holy’ means Christ-like.
- ‘Disciplined’ – master of himself – look up Philippians 4:13.
7. A SPIRITUAL LEADER SHOULD HAVE SPIRITUAL MATURITY, SETTLED CONVICTIONS, SOUND DOCTRINE AND ABILITY
These four things are all mentioned in verse 9:-
- He must be Spirit-taught. This indicates maturity.
- He must ‘hold firmly to the trustworthy message’. He must have settled convictions.
- He must be of ‘sound doctrine’. He must know, believe and hold fast to the truth of the Bible.
- He must ‘refute those who oppose it’. This indicates ability.
These are the qualifications we should require and look for in anyone who is to be set in a position of responsibility in the local church or in Christian work.