The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. Titus 1:5
How hard can it be to find qualified people to serve in critical leadership roles? Tough! Just ask any pastor. If biblical precedents are followed in the vetting, the number of candidates dwindles significantly.
When I was growing up, our family attended a local independent Baptist church. It was small, less than a hundred people. Our hometown of Petersburgh, NY was home to barely a thousand people. The teaching was somewhat sound, but the leadership lacked. The pastor favored politics and wealth over biblical integrity. For example, one of the head trustees was a crooked politician who boasted of having had multiple affairs over the years. Some were even women in the church. Not only did this man hold a church office, but he escaped accountability and church discipline for his blatant immoral behavior. Why? Because he was a big donor and because he had connections.
Titus made no errors like this in judgement, most likely, even though his pool from which to choose elders was small. The churches were in trouble, full of carnality and false teaching. Appointing leaders was stressful. Not only did the candidates need to be mature enough, but they also needed to be able to withstand controversy and criticism. False teachers wouldn’t back down without a fight. Old learned behaviors involving pagan worship were part of their defaults. What should have been shocking and repulsive was second nature to them. Paul warned Titus that people were confused about what was holy and what was sinful. Elders were appointed to defend the faith, expose sin, while also loving the people into Christlikeness.
Leading others in the process of sanctification is messy. The same pride that keeps men and women from coming to Jesus is the same pride that works in the hearts of God’s people after conversion. Living by the flesh is more attractive than living by the Spirit. Paul knew that. Seven years earlier, he had written the book of Romans to address this in detail. I’d like to think that Titus had access to a personal copy as he discipled leaders about the war of the flesh and Spirit-filled living. Though Paul was in Asia, the Holy Spirit was with Titus as He is with us. This timeless Counselor still indwells, still changes hearts, and still teaches wisdom – the likes of which makes it possible for us to do the work God has set before us.
Titus, in heaven, still reviews Your faithfulness. Amen