Titus 1:5–9 – Damaged and Damaging Pastors

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.

Keep out of the 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 says the elder must guard the faith. 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 the letter of Titus help modern church create a church leadership to build a good reputation in the community?

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

  1. This is an interesting blog as this can be a touchy subject with those who have had bad experiences with their pastor or any leader in the church. This makes it more bittersweet to leave the church as they are leaving a church family behind but as well leaving a toxic environment. I can only imagine what Titus must have felt like to correct what is damaging the church. Fortunately, Titus was a companion to Paul who call Titus his “partner and fellow-worker” (2 Cor. 8:23) (Long, p153) With the guidance from Paul, he mentions three things that an Elder is to be: “blameless, faithful to his wife, and an individual whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient” (Longenecker and Still, p268). This is also similar to how a Bishop should behave as well in the church. They are to be: hospitable, a partner of kindness, well advised, honest, devoted, and have self restraint (Longenecker and Still, p269). Now with this knowledge, there is a solid solution of strengthening the church and keeping it more healthy.

    If only we could follow these straight-forward aspects to be an elder/bishop, then we would have less toxic churches. This reminds me of a time when someone I know had a toxic situation with a pastor’s wife of inconspicuous verbally attacking different women in the congregation. There were many witnesses where she took advantage of getting to know a person, but then abused the knowledge and put shame on them. What makes it more toxic is that the pastor/her husband knows her actions but not taking any action.

  2. The appointing of elders within the church is an important task for Paul, and one that he leaves in the hands of Titus. In verse five, Paul says that he left Titus in Crete so “that you [Titus] might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5). Paul then gives Titus some qualifications for someone to be chosen as an elder. A qualification that Paul starts each list with is that the elder should be above reproach. Within their community, they should be respected and known to have good character, so as not to taint the reputation of the church and other believers. Longenecker says that this characteristic, like some of the proceeding ones, are possibly a guide, not a standard, or possibly an inexhaustive list of necessary qualities for church leadership (Longenecker, 269). The elder’s family should also be taken into account, as they should also have high character, having the respect of those around them. The elder should be able to lead a household that is not “wild and disobedient,” but follows direction and follows after God (Titus 1:6). And finally, Paul says that the elder should hold to the message as it was taught to them (Titus 1:9). They should be able to adequately explain and defend the message of Christ should the need arise. These characteristics are important in the lives of all believers, but when considering who to choose as elders, these qualities need to be clearly evident in the candidates as they represent the church as a whole.

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