Damaged and Damaging Pastors -Titus 1:5–9

The false teachers described in the book are coming from within Titus’s churches on Crete. They are elders who are not spiritual leaders and have defected from sound teaching and are behaving in a way that brings dishonor to the church. The list of qualifications in Titus are concerned with reputation of the elder outside of the church. The main reason for this is the elder is a model of spiritual life for the congregation. If the elder has a bad reputation in the community, so too will the church become associated with that bad reputation and therefore be shamed.

Danger ChurchNotice that twice Paul says the elder must be “above reproach” (1:6-7). The noun ἀνέγκλητος has the sense of “free from reproach, without stain, guiltless” (TDNT 1:356), even a sense of innocence. Like 1 Timothy, the ideal elder is one who lives the “quiet life” and has a good reputation with outsiders. Perhaps this helps explain the always-difficult requirement the elder be a “husband of one wife.” The emphasis may be less on gender than reputation in the community. If the elder is a womanizer he will likely have a bad reputation in the community or created enmity in the community.

Titus must therefore examine the family of the potential elder as well. His children must be believers and models of Christian faith and behavior. This is another difficult text to apply since most people know a “pastor’s kid” who did not follow in their parent’s faith. Should that pastor be removed from ministry? Paul’s concern is for the reputation of the community. The child of a church leader cannot be open to the charge of “debauchery or insubordination” (ἀσωτίας ἢ ἀνυπότακτα). The first word can have the sense of being wasteful (financially) but is also associated with “wild living.” The second refers to rebels or flagrant law-breakers (BDAG). In short, even the family of the elder ought to live a quiet life that gains the respect of everyone in their community.

Verse nine indicates the elder must guard the faith as well. Elder were the people who were especially educated and trained by Titus. Perhaps they are the members of the community who have been Christians the longer and therefore have devoted themselves to more study than the others. The elder was to be a shepherd for the congregation, guarding them from potential threats. They are responsible for teaching proper doctrine and practice to the congregation. This seems to be one of the source of the problems on Crete: elders are not teaching proper doctrine as it was handed down to them from Paul and Titus.

The solution is for Titus to “put things in order” by appointing qualified elders. The current leadership is “broken” and cannot be restored; it must be replaced. Titus is told to appoint qualified leaders, and in doing so, he is replacing the “unqualified leaders” who are destroying congregations.

It seems to me one of the greatest threats to the church are church leaders themselves. Christians are not spiritually damaged by outsiders very often, it is usually an elder, pastor or other church leader who hurts people and drives them from the church. What is more, these damaging leaders create a bad reputation for a local church or denomination. Why attend church if you are going to be judged and treated without respect? How can Paul’s guidance in Titus help a modern church create a church leadership that builds a good reputation in the community?

8 thoughts on “Damaged and Damaging Pastors -Titus 1:5–9

  1. If the point of the instruction to Titus was in fact that the elders will not be damaging than we must look at applying those things that are in the list in Titus but also must consider additional topics when evaluating potential church leadership. Longenecker offers this as one way to view this passage explaining that the list given could be a few qualities and not an exhaustive list (269). When the passage is looked at through the lens of it being a few qualities this gives one the opportunity to create the list based on what your church or denomination considers to be important. If the point is to protect the congregation and to keep a good reputation for the church that this may change slightly depending on the culture of a particular church. For instance, in some areas it is unacceptable to drink. Christians are known for separating themselves from the activity of drinking. In other areas, consuming alcohol is not a problem. Depending on the situation, prohibiting the consumption of alcohol may be a topic that the church may want to discuss as a qualification for leadership. Paul gives a description that sounds like Paul is asking them to be generally moral people and to be hospitable (Titus 1:8). I think that these requirements are largely dependent on the culture. For some areas, it may be necessary to participate in community activities and for others it may be that the individual should be involved in community service. This requires that church to know what it is that the community considers valuable.

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  2. This was an interesting topic, and I think I commented on another blog about this subject. There were many qualifications and high expectations for elders of the church, just as there are today. I think that we need to know the people we put into place in our churches, knowing that they will lead our congregation in the right direction. Too often, from what I have seen, elders are elected almost based off of popularity, not on qualifications, and that can damage a church. Longenecker gives a list of the things that the elder was to be, not necessarily what they needed to do, coming from the book of Titus. They were to be blameless, faithful to his wife, and whose children believed and were not open to rebelling, basically (TTP 268). I agree with what you say about why would you go to a church if you were just going to be judged. I think you are also correct in saying that a lot of the threats to Christians come from the leadership in the church, if it is not correct, but I think there is still a huge spiritual influence that can happen from ‘outsiders’. I think the world has a very big influence on people as well. But, I do agree that much of what turns people away from the church is poor leadership. If churches put the right people in leadership and know how to take care of their congregation, then they can keep a good reputation.

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  3. I do agree that a damaging church leader is one of the most damaging things that a church can encounter. While having people in your congregation that do not believe correct things can be a hinderance, they can simply leave the church if they want to find something different and if they are spreading false teaching, the church could also kick that person or people out.
    There were a lot of requirements for church elders and I think that Paul made sure to spend time with the leaders he was setting up so that he could make sure that they were truly Christian and that they would not make the congregation stumble and lead them astray. Allyssa says in her blog that elders were to be blameless, faithful to his wife, his children must believe and did not rebel. Churches should definitely take extreme care when appointing leadership because it will make or break the church.

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  4. I agree, many people that do not attend church do not do so because they had either one really bad experience with someone in leadership, or many bad experiences with people in the congregation, which can reflect on leadership. I understand that not one can be perfect in a leadership role, but who you are as a leader reflects the congregation you shepherd, more so if the congregation is rude to newcomers, or nonbelievers. I have heard of gang members that try to go to church and leave because they said that they have found more of a family in the gang then in the church. This is the opposite of what the Bible says for us to act, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”(John 13:35).

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  5. It is interesting to me that the list of qualifications for elder given to Titus is very similar to the one that Paul gave to Timothy. I think this is because great leadership either makes or break a church. Bad leadership can absolutely destroy in an instant what took good leadership years to build. While Paul says that desiring to be an elder is a good thing, based on his list of requirements, it is something not to be stepped into lightly, nor something that everyone will make the marks for. Paul’s guidelines to Titus can help a modern church avoid heartache if they are simply followed. I have experienced recently a church split where the congregation did not choose their elders well and one subset of elders sought to remake the church how they saw fit and everyone else either went along or was removed. This kind of leadership damages the church’s reputation and their membership fell way off. This happened in a small town where news travels fast, the testimony of Christ took a big hit in that town. Leadership is the most visible part of a church body, if it goes bad, it is not only the church that bears witness to it. These qualifications exist for a reason, and if they were followed more often, I feel like the church would have a much better reputation than it does in the eyes of some people.

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  6. In the process of choosing deacons at Take Hold, Pastor Shane made it a point that our leaders follow Biblical principles put in place within some of the pastorals. When we chose our first deacon he struck me as the kind of person who would treat others with respect and be involved as a family member. This distinctly set him apart for two reasons: he was selfless, and absent of pride. Pride is a poisonous sin that corrupts churches everywhere. When pastors are full of pride the church draws near to their certainty and authority rather than the authority put in place by God in his Word. I have agree with Ian that in small towns news travels fast. This is the sort of thing that really burns churches badly. When word gets out there is no control to be had. The pastor is at the mercy of his own reputation.

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  7. I think some reasons people in modern times don’t go to church is because they think they will be judged for their actions, or they believe they have to “get better” before going to church. Matthew 7 says not to judge others when we ourselves are hypocrites and have our own sin (or an even bigger one). In Romans 14, it says we are to be especially careful not to judge those who are “weak believers” or unsaved.

    As for the leaders of the church, like Paul says, I think I respect a pastor more if their children are followers of Jesus and you can tell the pastor loves his wife and respects her (Titus 1:5-6). And if he is a well-rounded, even tempered, all around good person (Titus 1:7-9), that just makes him more likable by those inside the church, and those who are thinking of joining or become a Christian. The leaders are who people see as the face of the church so it is important for them to do like Titus 1:5-9 says. I know they can’t always help if their children are believers or not, but it is still very important to raise them up to be Christians as good as possible because other people are watching.

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