Text: Titus 1:5-9
Except for the Twelve, Jesus would always minister to people and then let them go. He would either leave them or He would ask them to go home. He never sought to establish an organization or a structure where people would commit themselves through regular gatherings. He was not trying to build an institution. Paul and his companions did the same. They would proclaim the good news of the kingdom through words and deeds but then they would not really organize those who believed. Instead, he would consider them as part of the church in a particular place and then he would appoint elders to oversee them or take care of them. This may involve gatherings every now and then. But the main emphasis was in creating a “flock” in a particular place wherein one or more “elders” are responsible for watching over them and caring for them. Once this was done, the work was “completed” and it was entrusted to God. The workers will then move on to preach in other places.
We don’t know exactly how many elders per town or place. We can only guess. Antioch had about five (Acts 13:1-3) while Jerusalem had more than twelve (Acts 15:4). Doing this kind of “work” is different from what we are accustomed to. We usually try to create institutions or organizations, which we then try our best to grow until, hopefully, it becomes successful. The early church did not have this kind of “mission.”
What if we try to do it this way? We would go to a place and preach the Gospel. Then whoever believes becomes part of the “church” in that place. Then we will appoint at least one person (more might be better) to oversee and care for them as they go about living their lives by faith. Every now and then the “church” in that place may choose to “gather” for various reasons. But it would not become an institution (as we understand it today, organized and everything); instead it would be a community of believers in that place, living normal lives, and being salt and light to that part of the world. Wouldn’t that be awesome and more biblical?
Now, what kinds of people can take care of a flock of God in a particular place? Paul gives us only two requirements: a lifestyle of integrity and the ability to teach the truth faithfully and boldly.
We need not wait for everyone in a community to mature before we can entrust it to the Lord. But we need to identify “elders” or “shepherds” who will oversee them before we can leave them (or entrust them to the Lord). Paul summarizes the qualifications of those who would be qualified to fulfill this role. First, they must be people who exemplify a lifestyle of integrity (Titus 1:5-8). This includes integrity at home (v.6), at church, and outside the church (vv.7-8). In addition, they must be people who have the ability to teach the truth faithfully and boldly (v.9). These two requirements, if followed, will result in strong communities of faith. In other words, well-chosen leaders create strong churches.
The way we do ministry today is focused on building our own little kingdoms rather than the kingdom of God. Instead of focusing on building organizations, why don’t we focus on building people? Let’s proclaim the Gospel in many different places and then, when there are believers, let’s devote our time developing key people who can become “elders” or “overseers” of that community. Once we have those, let’s move on to other areas and repeat the process. If we do this, we will see a greater harvest for the glory of God.