It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Bigelow attended Boston College as an undergraduate. He went on to graduate school at Harvard and The Masters Seminary, earning both the Master of Divinity and the Master of Theology, both summa cum laude. He also served as student body president in his senior year. Bigelow received his doctoral degree of ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Ordained to the ministry under John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Los Angeles in 1997, Bigelow entered full time ministry. He has served in both established and new churches, teaching and preaching in Africa, Central America, the Ukraine, and Germany. He is currently the senior pastor at Grace Church in Hartford, CT, a New England church plant now in its 6th year, and a speaker at many seminars and conferences.
Prior to entering pastoral ministry, Bigelow worked in marketing and sales, project management, statistical forecasting, and in small business consulting with the U.S. government. He also taught business classes at the college level.
Visit the author's website.
The church is supposed to be the safest place on earth for Christians, so why is it often a place of deep dissatisfaction? Many Christians suffer from difficult church situations and are unsure how to live and worship with such stress, let alone grow in the midst of it. Much of this pain comes from being under poor church leadership. According to Ted Bigelow, if your church doesn’t follow God’s mandate for leadership as set out in the book of Titus, it is almost certainly headed for disaster.
List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (January 14, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
At first the church looked terrific. Sheryl enjoyed the Bible preaching and the programs for her children. The people were friendly and relationships grew quickly. But then cracks appeared. She witnessed disagreements and spats when she began attending church meetings, and watched as people grew alienated and isolated. There was tension between the people that spilled over into Sunday worship. More and more people retreated to the back, singing quietly to themselves. After worship they quickly bee-lined their way to the parking
Sheryl didn’t grow up in church, but became a Christian in her thirties, while married and busily raising two active children. Soon after being miraculously redeemed by Jesus Christ, she found a church that promised to be a wonderful place for spiritual growth and for making friends with other Christians. But what happened at that church brought Sheryl great sorrow. It wounded not only her and her family, but many Christians throughout that region. Her story of heartache illustrates why so many Christians find themselves in need of The Titus Mandate.
At first the church looked terrific. Sheryl enjoyed the Bible preaching and the programs for her children. The people were friendly and relationships grew quickly. But then cracks appeared. She witnessed disagreements and spats when she began attending church meetings, and watched as people grew alienated and isolated. There was tension between the people that spilled over into Sunday worship. More and more people retreated to the back, singing quietly to themselves. After worship they quickly bee-lined their way to the parking lot. She didn’t pay attention to it at the time, but her church was dying. Why? It was living out a culture of worldliness that reared its head every time decisions had to be made.
Having lived apart from Christ all her years Sheryl first assumed this was a normal part of church. To some extent it felt familiar, but at the same time she felt scared, and even powerless. Some in the church tried to calm her fears by explaining that occasional spats and disagreements are marks of a spiritually healthy church. But she knows better now because the church ended up breaking her heart. Without anybody really meaning to, the people grew loveless. They passed each other in the hallways with only a nod and sat apart from each other on Sunday mornings. The frequent church meetings exposed frustrations as people vented disappointments and differences. Then all too quickly, it seemed, people just began to “disappear.”
That’s when the inevitable came. The church held meetings to “clear the air,” but nothing really got cleared. Instead, people got locked into sides on issues. It all became too much and the flock scattered in every direction, disillusioned and deeply wounded. The church just fell apart, and Sheryl left it too… discouraged, feeling empty, unimportant, and especially, unloved. The sudden loss of so many important relationships stung too deep for words. For months she wandered from church to church, looking for a fellowship that would provide genuine Christian love, stability and unity. Over time her heart grew distant from the Lord and other Christians. She even started to get cynical.
Eventually, she and her family attended another church in her home state with a different sense about it. Although she didn’t know it right away, this church was a safe place for believers in Jesus Christ. Sheryl and her family found true shepherds, congregational peace, and the calm authority of Scripture ruling all things. In words that could only be expressed by one of Christ’s precious sheep, Sheryl wrote to me and said,
“The rewards of living out the Word of God are glorious!
I must remember, though, to pray often for my elders —
they have an enormous responsibility to God
and to their flock. Praise God for them!”
Her testimony illustrates The Titus Mandate’s blessings. The Good Shepherd showers His restorative love upon us when we live in a godly and healthy church led by godly men. He led Sheryl’s troubled soul to lie down in green pastures, and to be restored beside quiet waters. Her words above reflect what many believers wish they felt about their church. If you are in Sheryl’s former predicament today, without a spiritually healthy church to call home, keep your hope in God and learn the marks of a safe church. Take some time to acquaint yourself with The Titus Mandate. It will help you in so many ways.
Perhaps you already know this from personal experience, but a story like Sheryl’s is sadly commonplace. You might even have your own story that isn’t resolved yet. I’ve met people everywhere, from a Los Angeles factory where I worked during seminary, to a Louisville restaurant on a Sunday morning, who have told me their own stories of pain and sorrow in churches. I’ve met and ministered to believers in Germany, Asia, and Ukraine who describe a journey similar to Sheryl’s. You’ll meet about thirty of them as you read their testimonies in the sidebars of this book. The Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, has led them into safe churches and they want to tell you about what they’ve learned. Like Sheryl, today they love their church and the power of The Titus Mandate that made it a safe and healthy place for them and those they love.
The Warning Signs?
Maybe the simple truth has been there all along but we have ignored it because we only wanted a comfortable church, not a holy one. Or, it could be that we have a hard time seeing spiritual danger when we get used to it week after week. Some of us aren’t the brightest sheep in the fold. Too often, it seems, it is only after we are deeply hurt that we stop long enough to ask the right questions, and really pay attention to what God says in Scripture.
Like Sheryl in her earlier days, we may be ignoring the warning signs in our church: unresolved conflict, practicing politics, and appointing unqualified leaders. Even with our eyes wide open we find ourselves unable to resolve church tensions. Or worse, we feel powerless to do anything constructive about it. Sometime we are told that conflicts are an important and even necessary part of church life. But in fact they are disturbing warning signs that expose the enemy’s foothold. Worse, they directly violate God’s Word. To counteract these problems, Christians all over the world are going back to Scripture and implementing The Titus Mandate in their churches.
The Titus Mandate is a comprehensive plan for Christians and their churches that is holy and very simple to understand. It is taught in Titus 1:5:
“This is why I left you in Crete,
so that you might put what remained into order,
and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.”
This verse of Scripture and its implications are what this book is all about. By it Titus was granted complete sovereignty over every church on the Mediterranean island of Crete, and given full authority to rescue the Christians there from dangerous churches while simultaneously setting up a safe church just for them. Titus 1:5 is church done right. It’s not a suggestion for or even a recommendation. It was an apostolic mandate from Paul that may at first strike you as overkill, but I assure you it is not. The Titus Mandate is a matter of spiritual life and death for Christians and churches today, even as it was on Crete.
It may not be apparent to you why this verse is so important, or how it rescues and protects Christians from danger today. But isn’t that the way God’s Word often is? Initially it seems a bit plain, but after thinking about it for a while, you realize it is so much more profound and far reaching than you first thought?
This Book Going?
To help you understand The Titus Mandate, we’ll examine our key verse, Titus 1:5, in chapters 1 through 4. Then chapters 5 through 9 will explain how The Titus Mandate applies to any and every church that loves the Lord. In those chapters we’ll cover the controversial issues and, hopefully, if I’ve done my job well, you’ll see how it corrects harmful church practices. In chapters 10 through 13, I’ll defend and apply The Titus Mandate with some in-depth Bible study, and expose the reasons why churches that don’t employ it end up losing the gospel. These are the spiritually dangerous places you need to be aware of. I hope you’ll visit that section often so you can spend time meditating on the sufficiency of God’s inerrant, infallible and inspired book — the Bible. Finally, chapter 14 explains how churches can go about implementing The Titus Mandate today.
The Titus Mandate
Was Written for You
Even though Paul wrote the letter to Titus, it wasn’t for him. Paul had already told him all about The Titus Mandate in a prior face-to-face conversation, reflected in the last words of Titus 1:5, “as I directed you.” Titus already knew what Paul wanted him to do. Paul actually wrote Titus 1:5 so the people on Crete would know what Titus was doing with their churches. But God also wrote Titus 1:5 for us who live far beyond the beautiful shores of Crete in our towns and cities around the globe. God inspired Paul to write to us who live all these years later, which is why we recognize this letter as an important part of our Bible.
The last verse of the book happily bears this out. Paul addresses even you with his final words, “Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:15). By this we are assured that the whole letter was written with the purest of motives to all who have been saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s exactly the way the Lord Jesus wants you to think of this whole letter, including The Titus Mandate in Titus 1:5. It was written from Him to you with illuminating truth for your spiritual safety. That’s what every Christian needs in a world of dark dangers.
Here’s a surprise to some: church can be much more dangerous than the world. The wolves who put on sheep’s clothing in order to eat them do so in the church (Matthew 7:15). That’s why Crete was an incredibly dangerous place to go to church. Rebel leaders and false teachers led many flocks. They were greedy, too, according to Titus 1:10–11. How would you like to go to church, knowing your offering filled the pockets of false teachers, who in turn filled you and your family with hell’s teaching? In Crete the wolves ruled the pulpits and feasted on the flock. Paul’s first word to describe these men is one you need to hear: many (Titus 1:10). They outnumbered the true teachers.
The situation sounds bizarre indeed but it exactly resembles our own day. Many churches with many wolves exist in virtually every town, and as a result, the Christians in them might have no one fighting for their safety. Even those few who do see the evil are usually cowed into silence. A lot of genuine Christians need rescuing. Maybe you, or someone you love, is one of them.
So who had the wisdom and courage to expose them as money-hungry wolves? Who could see past the church marketing, the slogans, the shallow façades, and rescue the Christians from the many false teachers? Our beloved apostle Paul could. And because he saw past the artificiality and hypocrisy, he authorized Titus to reform Crete’s churches into wonderfully healthy and holy places for all who love the Lord. It was a massive undertaking, but you know what? Christ’s sheep are always worth it.
Now, this spiritual danger in Crete’s churches might not come through immediately in some English translations. When Paul writes “put what remains into order” (Titus 1:5) it could sound to us like Paul was only asking Titus to put some finishing touches on Crete’s churches. But Paul’s original words in the Greek reveal a more sinister story. It is the Revised Standard Version that gives a closer translation: “amend what was defective.”
In other words, Crete’s churches were defective. The original word is even stronger — referring to something that is sick, broken, or in danger. It can describe cataclysmic disasters like locust plagues (Exodus 10:5) and forest fires (Isaiah 10:19). Jesus used it too, telling the rich young ruler that his soul was in eternal danger (Luke 18:22). Here it was, only thirty years after Jesus’ resurrection, and Crete’s Christians were living in spiritually dangerous and defective churches. Paul couldn’t just say, “well, I’m not responsible.” His compassion, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, required him to enact a rescue plan. That plan, called The Titus Mandate, not only rescued hurt and malnourished Christians then. It does today as well.
Paul’s compassion for Christians explains why Titus was told to “amend” every church (Titus 1:5, RSV). “Amend” translates a medical word we are all familiar with — ortho. From this word we get orthotics, orthopedists, and orthodontists. These are medical arts that surgically repair broken or misaligned body parts so that they are straight and healthy. We even use this word for other purposes. We call correct doctrines “orthodox” because they are true, upright, and give spiritual health when embraced. So when Paul wrote “amend what was defective,” he empowered Titus to perform surgery because most churches on Crete were broken, unable to stand straight, and spiritually diseased. By apostolic order every church was going under the knife for emergency surgery.
Looking at the surrounding verses we see that the source of the disease: their leaders. Whole families were being overturned in their faith by the teachers of these churches (Titus 1:11). The problem was so widespread that it was impossible for most Christians to know who was true and who was false since many leaders were not even saved (Titus 1:16). In many churches, leadership was framed by hypocrisy.
The Christians didn’t know it, but they were in churches whose teachings and culture were sinful (Titus 1:12). That’s still a familiar problem in our churches, isn’t it? It’s hypocrisy to say we’re salt and light when our church tastes and looks like the world. So The Titus Mandate meant surgery, and guaranteed a healthy recovery for all the believers.
This explains why Titus was to teach “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Here Paul uses yet another word from the world of medicine — the word from which we get “hygiene,” a word connoting cleansing. Our broken souls and sick hearts are cleansed when we are nourished by solid, biblical teaching week-by-week. God Himself uses such teaching to bring us health.
Few Christians on Crete were experiencing the kind of spiritual health that good teaching brings. As a result they lived frustrated, broken and guilty lives. Imagine being told to walk with Christ on broken legs, or to sing praises with ruptured vocal chords. Shallow teaching inflicts pain and often does more damage than good. Without the healing that sound teaching brings, Crete’s Christians would remain in sorrow and defeat for the rest of their natural lives. And their churches? Well, without The Titus Mandate, the gospel was being lost.
This is why the rest of the letter reads like a life and death diagnosis for spiritually sick believers. Every type of Christian, male or female, young or old, receives a personal rehabilitation plan. It’s do or die on Crete. Without spiritual health, a hypocritical witness for Christ will continue on the island, and without a true witness for Christ, the churches are doomed to cultural insignificance. My former pastor, John MacArthur, hit the nail on the head when he wrote that Titus “is an evangelistic letter whose ultimate purpose was to prepare the church for more effective witness to unbelievers on Crete.”1 The only way the Christians could bear effective witness for the gospel was for their lives to be healed in the context of a safe church.
Without The Titus Mandate surgically repairing and healing churches, health is only skin deep at best. We Christians need truth that penetrates our very souls, and we need each other helping us live it out. In other words, we need church. That’s why, if your church is ever to be healthy, it needs godly leaders.
Let’s take another look at our key verse:
“This is why I left you in Crete,
so that you might put what remained into order,
and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.”
Crete’s believers will be rescued from danger by a simple but important change at the top called eldership, which Paul mentions there in the last phrase. It’s so easy to understand it only takes a single word to name it. But how can something so seemingly small as eldership rescue believers like yourself from grave danger? It’s as simple as this: a group of godly men, and none but godly men, are properly appointed and entrusted to lead you and your church. Sounds good, right? So why is it so rare?
Eldership, as designed in Titus 1:5, has been covered up by the accumulated dust of centuries of church tinkering. The only reason it is now making a comeback is because godly men are going back to the Scriptures and teaching us verse-by-verse. And as we understand God’s Word verse-by-verse, wonderful things happen. Understanding leads to embracing, and embracing God’s Word leads to spiritual life.
Over time we learn that our Christian lives are greatly influenced by the church we worship in, and in particular, the kind of leaders that govern us. Verse-by-verse teaching shows us that God wants a holy church, and in order to bring that to pass He has a plan that places holy men in leadership called The Titus Mandate. It’s so different than the way men have designed church over the years. It actually protects Christians.
Eldership is easy to find in the New Testament. There is more instruction in the New Testament on it than there is on communion, baptism, marriage, child-raising, and work, combined. The larger passages on eldership, if you want to check this out for yourself, are Acts 15:1–29; Acts 20:17–38; 1 Timothy 3:1–7; 1 Timothy 5:17–22; Titus 1:5–9; and 1 Peter 5:1–4. The smaller passages are sprinkled throughout Acts and the letters to the churches. If you look for it you will discover jewels on it everywhere in the New Testament. So if this is your first time looking at eldership, the vast amount of verses could be overwhelming. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Eldership is easy to understand. God has just seen fit to give us a lot of teaching on it so we get it exactly right, because so much is at stake.
Yet for many the issue of church leadership is a dark hole of uncertainty. It’s often claimed that how a church is led is a “gray area” in the Bible. One encyclopedia devoted to explaining the Bible claims, “to discover in definite detail what kind of church government is mirrored in the New Testament is, no doubt, quite impossible.”2
Such statements are as plenteous as they are mistaken, for Titus 1:5 shows it’s more than possible. Church government is clear and unmistakable in the New Testament. Paul is commanding Titus to implement the exact same governance for all churches: eldership. If it was a “gray area” Titus couldn’t have obeyed Paul. But since Titus knew precisely what Paul was telling him to do he boldly took strong steps of faith in order to protect God’s people. Ignorance, especially in leaders, breeds carelessness and danger.
We like flexibility, and truthfully, flexibility is needed in most situations. But in this one great matter — the love and protection of God’s dear children according to God’s design — Titus was denied flexibility. The stakes were too high. Paul’s mandate couldn’t be fulfilled until every church on Crete had the exact same form of governance. It’s so clear, one would almost have to be opposed to Paul’s words in Titus 1:5 not to see it.
Here’s another way you can see just how clear it is. The first book written in the New Testament is the epistle of James, a letter sent to every church in the Roman Empire around 45 A.D. That means it was written within fifteen years of the Lord’s resurrection. James instructs Christians to “call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him” (James 5:14). That means every church he wrote to had a group of elders, and it’s easy to see why this is so. If even one of those churches didn’t have elders, his command would have been meaningless: “What does James mean, ‘call for the elders?’ We don’t have elders!” James’ words could only puzzle his readers unless he knew every Christian had elders in their church they could call on.
We see this again in one of the last books to be written in the New Testament, 1 Peter. Peter wrote to hundreds of churches over a vast region of the Roman Empire these words: “I exhort the elders among you…” (1 Peter 5:1). Peter would have been exhorting thin air if even one church didn’t have eldership. Confused, the Christians there would have read his words about “the elders among you” and said, “Huh?”
So from start to finish eldership was virtually universal when the apostles lived. If we had the apostles living today they would make all their churches eldership churches just like they did in the First Century, because having godly men leading churches was the apostles’ way of ensuring spiritual safety for all the Christians. But today Christians are broken and abused because they don’t have any true elders to “call on” (James 5:14), and who provide a godly example (1 Peter 5:2). You see, godly elders are not incidental to your life of godliness. God’s design for you is to have loving, sacrificial, mature male Christians in your life providing you biblical guidance and care. Without such men you have a hole in your life and in your church. The Titus Mandate remedies that critical need.
The only First Century churches that didn’t have elders were those that didn’t start with the oversight of Apostles. This is what happened on Crete. On Pentecost (the church’s birthday!) Cretan men were gloriously saved (Acts 2:11). They took the gospel back home and preached and planted, and God blessed! I detail it out further in chapter 10, but basically these newly saved preached Christ and started churches. God blessed their energetic evangelism and aggressive efforts so much there was at least one church in every town, as Titus 1:5 shows. But when the apostle Paul arrived on Crete about thirty years later, he rightly took apostolic control over every church because they were now dangerous places for Christians. He took this step to rescue Christians from the influence of dangerous teachers who had taken control of their churches. Just like today, right? You too need godly men protecting you from Satan’s dark strategies that bring compromise, sin, and shame.
In spite of the unambiguous testimony in the Bible that eldership is for every church, people still want work-arounds. I’ve heard it claimed that eldership is good for large churches but impractical in smaller ones. Evidently, Paul didn’t see it that way. The Titus Mandate wasn’t finished on Crete until the church “in every town” (Titus 1:5) had its own elders, and based on archaeology, some of Crete’s towns were pretty small.
I’ve also heard people say that today’s churches are at liberty to be governed in the way each sees fit, according to its “unique identity and mission from God.” It’s a matter of freedom, in other words. But Titus 1:5 took that freedom away from every church on First Century Crete. What makes us think we’ve earned it 2,000 years later?
Others assume the culture of Crete was open to elders, and that Paul knew eldership would fly on Crete because he knew it reflected their social values. This thinking allows us today to choose for ourselves whatever form of church governance fits our values, but it’s a dangerous and worldly assumption. It’s also wrong. First Century Crete was Greek in culture and Roman in governance. Eldership is neither, but more Middle-eastern in social value. It would have had little to no value in reaching Cretans with the gospel.
Some claim God’s blessings on their church exempts them from The Titus Mandate. They have seen in the past, or are experiencing today, His blessings on their ministry without elders. But the same could be said of Crete’s churches. They were started by men saved by Peter’s preaching at Pentecost, and it’s hard to get more blessed than that! Crete’s churches were so fruitful that by the time Paul arrived on Crete there were one hundred or more on that small island. Yet in spite of their blessed history and present fruitfulness, every church there came under The Titus Mandate. So in spite of God’s present blessings on a church, there is never a good reason to ignore what Paul says on any matter, and certain danger when we do.
“In Every Town”
The Titus Mandate may do more than bring spiritual health and safety to your own life and church. It even has the potential to rescue others where you live. In what may be the most surprising element of The Titus Mandate, Paul told Titus to appoint elders over the believers “in every town,” not “in every church.” At first this may seem like a possible “slip up” to us, or perhaps we think to ourselves that “in every town” really means the same as “in every church.” This is when we need to be reminded that Paul’s words here are Scripture. They are chosen by God right down to their very “jot and tittle” (Matthew 5:18, KJV). The words “in every town” are indeed correct, and comprise a key component of the apostle’s brilliant strategy.
Let’s consider the word “town” in Titus 1:5 a bit. The word “town,” or as some versions translate it, “city,” simply referred to a place where people worked and lived. It could indicate a small village in Israel called Nazareth (Matthew 2:23), or even the greatest city of that day, Rome (Acts 18:2, Acts 23:11). Apparently, Crete had a lot of them. Judging by historical records and archaeology, First Century Crete had at least thirty-five cities and towns.3 And apparently some towns had more than one church in them, like the towns and cities you and I live in. It might even be that many towns on Crete had multiple churches. Bible scholars affirm this. I. H. Marshall observes that “the geographical reference ‘in each city’ suggests that there were at least several different towns with house churches.”4 Another writes, “ what was known of the composition of the church in any one area? It may be that the church of a town was understood to be composed of several smaller house congregations.”5
Therefore, since Paul told Titus to appoint “elders in every town,” Titus’ ministry merged each town’s churches into one new church. When The Titus Mandate was finished, every town had one new church with its own set of godly elders overseeing that one new church. For some, the idea of merging is exciting and filled with potential. For others, it is threatening. You can see why. Picture all the churches where you live being merged together, and you begin to get a feel for the radical nature behind Paul’s mandate. If merging is something you want to know more about, then skip over to chapter 9. But don’t be freaked out. Paul wouldn’t command Titus to do anything that exposed the Christians to greater danger.
And Aggressive Splitting
All of this raises some important questions. How did Crete’s towns come to have multiple churches, and why did Paul see the need to merge them? The answers to these questions are straightforward, but they are also a little disconcerting. Crete apparently had a church history like that of our present day — that of aggressive planting and yes, aggressive splitting. It’s that last one that often brings so much hurt to believers’ lives. If you have lived through one, you can relate to Crete.
By the time Paul and Titus arrived on the island of Crete, thirty years of explosive ministry had resulted in at least one church in every town, as Titus 1:5 tells us. Tracing back through those thirty years, we can extrapolate the rest. Crete probably started with one church, which quickly expanded and began planting others. In turn, they too planted churches. Soon, they were even planting churches in each other’s “backyards,” that is, in towns with existing churches. That’s one way a town gets multiple churches.
However, the letter of Titus bears witness to a sinful influence that brought a multiplicity of churches to the same town, and it’s one that’s crucial to understanding our present day. It’s likely that many churches in the same town were the result of ugly splits, those awful realities that give sad testimony to the world of the presence of pride and rebellion in the church.
Immediately after discussing the godly qualities of elders, Paul explains the evil men Christ’s sheep must be rescued from:
“For there are many who are insubordinate,
empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.
They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families
by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”
There were so many dangerous men in Crete’s churches that only an island-wide reformation could stem the evil tide. God revealed these leaders in Titus 1:10 as insubordinate deceivers — just the type who easily split churches. Christians are waylaid in their walk with Christ by these emissaries from the evil one. These are men (and women) who infiltrate churches, obtain leadership roles, and influence the whole church to embrace compromise and hypocrisy. Even today, these wolves lead churches in virtually every town. They are Satan’s most prolific form of spiritual danger, and in order to protect yourself and those you love from them, you need to understand The Titus Mandate. They are everywhere, and their presence explains why today there are so many hurting Christians in every town, and why churches are often renowned for being places of hypocrisy.
So based on Paul’s mandate to appoint elders “in every town,” and not simply “in every church,” Titus merged each town’s churches into one new church with a single set of godly leaders who all met God’s qualifications for godly leadership in Titus 1:6–9. As I’ll discuss in the next chapter, the Christians had no choice and no say in the matter. They were under Paul’s apostolic authority which he had from Christ. We should be grateful for his authority. It was a great plan then, and it’s a great plan now.
Of course, Paul could have told Titus to appoint one elder for each church in each town. But that wasn’t the apostolic way. Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. explains the goal of Titus 1:5: “Paul intended for each church in Crete to have a plurality of elders.”7 Such men join together as equals to take spiritual responsibility for all the believers under their care. As always, they have to be men of proven spiritual worth. Only by that grace can they mature the body of Christ to be more like Him.
We can now understand Paul’s rationale for The Titus Mandate. Prior to giving Titus the mandate, many of the churches had leaders who were masquerading as shepherds of their churches. The masquerade had fooled the truly saved believers, but not Paul. To rescue the Christians from the evil before their eyes but which they could not see, Titus went about appointing elders in every town to make one healthy church for all that town’s believers. Far from some vague ecumenical get-together, The Titus Mandate was a call from Christ to make every church healthy and evangelistic. Doctrine wasn’t “dumbed-down.” Instead, The Titus Mandate raised the bar of obedience to Scripture so high it drove the false teachers and their followers away. It created an intensified framework of godly accountability.
You see, Crete’s “many” false teachers would have despised Titus from the start. Paul’s description of them in Titus 1:10 as “insubordinate” captures the inner restlessness of every false leader. These are people incapable or unwilling of submitting themselves to true and godly spiritual leadership. Since such people can’t humbly serve within a team of godly leaders, they use deception to gain authority and employ politics to keep it. False shepherds love power, have an agenda, and will stop at nothing to call the shots in the church. They slander those who threaten them and skillfully pit people against each other. Paul pulls no punches when he tells us why: they aren’t saved. They are “detestable, disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16, NASB).
If anything, the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world is in Crete’s exact condition today. It may even be worse. Many church leaders profess to know God but deny Him by their ministry works. They despise the Lord, kick His sheep, and steal the liberating truth of the gospel from everybody. They ingratiate themselves to the unsuspecting and intimidate any who might call attention to their error. In virtually every town and city, people like this are leading churches of all stripes and flavors. You may be in one yourself and not even know it. Or, you may have been chased out of church by one. Such people slander the godly, deceive the naïve, despise true doctrine, resist accountability, and cause deep heartache for Christ’s true sheep. God’s plan for His church replaces such men with godly shepherds who will lay down their lives for you.
This explains why the believers in the churches of Crete lived week-in and week-out in grave spiritual danger, and why so many do today as well. Many true believers sit Sunday after Sunday under just such false teachers. They need to be rescued, and then protected. Others have been kicked out of church by such evil men, and need to be found and helped to come back to a church with godly shepherds.
So Paul could not leave Christ’s beloved sheep on Crete under the influence of evil men, and neither will godly shepherds today. Such evil men have to be confronted and exposed, and the Christians rescued from spiritually dangerous people. Paul’s command in Titus 1:5 “to appoint elders in every town” removed a thousand ills from the lives of First Century Christians. It will do the same today, as well, if our churches will raise the bar of their accountability to Scripture.
It always goes back to Scripture. With simple faith in health-giving doctrine, you can be rescued, protected, and restored. The Titus Mandate is God’s New Testament rescue plan for every church in every part of the world. It comes from your Lord, so you know it is good and holy. If you or your church are just beginning to study eldership, then you are embarking on a journey into the Word of God that will bear great fruit if faithfully followed. You might also consider picking up The Titus Mandate Study Guide to help you and your church prepare for the greater accountability of Paul’s mandate. It’s available at Amazon.com and other retailers. Or, perhaps, if your church is already one of the tens of thousands of eldership churches, then this book can help you understand precisely how you can help fulfill her glorious call. Either way, your individual role in The Titus Mandate is vital to your church’s ability to serve Christ. Without eldership, you are vulnerable and probably exposed to guilt and shame before God. To unmask this spiritual danger that may well be lurking on your doorstep, let’s quickly turn to chapter 2.
Chapter 1 Endnotes
RESCUING CHRISTIANS FROM DANGER
1 John MacArthur, Titus, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series (Chicago: Moody, 1996) xi.
2 E. J. Forrester and G. W. Bromiley, “Church Government,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989) 1:696. One recent seminary textbook states, “The New Testament provides no specific command or teaching providing details of how the Christian church should be governed” Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology (Geanies House: Mentor, reprint 2006) 939; so also Rodney J. Decker, “Church Polity and the Elder Issue,” in Grace Theological Journal, 9:2 (1988): 259. The broader idea that the Pastoral Epistles are unreliable source documents on church order, polity, and governance is refuted by Andreas J. Köstenberger in “Hermeneutical and Exegetical Challenges in Interpreting the Pastoral Epistles,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 7:3, (2003): 5–18.
3 I. Howard Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1999) 152. See also David W. J. Gill, “A Saviour for the Cities of Crete: The Roman Background to the Epistle to Titus,” in The New Testament In Its First Century Setting: Essays On Context And Background In Honour Of B. W. Winter On His 65th Birthday, edited by P. J. Williams, Andrew D. Clark, Peter M. Head, and David Instone-Brewer, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2004) 223.
4 Marshall, Pastoral Epistles, 152.
5 Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006) 680.
6 George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, NIGTC, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992) 288.
7 Mark Dever, “The Doctrine of the Church,” in Daniel Akin, A Theology for the Church (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2007) 804.
Testimonial on page 9:
Being in a church that is governed by a plurality of wise and godly elders has been a tremendous blessing and has brought me much needed comfort throughout my life. There is peace of mind, knowing that the pattern of leadership follows God's design and therefore engenders confidence that the church is in the best position for God to bless. The elders of our church are a great source of comfort, wisdom, teaching, and prayer. I have seen firsthand how their loving care and guidance has been used to bring back straying sheep. God's wise design works.
Brian S., Community Bible Church, Vallejo, CA, page 13
Testimonial on page 13:
Perhaps one of God’s greatest provisions for the New Testament church is that of eldership. As overseers of our souls, elders shepherd us in Christ’s likeness. I am so grateful for their selfless care even to the point of church discipline and restoration. It brings me great comfort knowing such trustworthy, faithful, godly men fill this biblical role in my church. We do well as a body by humbly submitting to and respecting them.
Theresa H., Grace Community Church, Jacksonville, FL, page11
Testimonial on page 16:
I have enjoyed the oversight and care of elders in the churches we've had the honor of being part of. The biblical qualities of maturity, character and gifts have been a means of manifold grace for my family. I have watched the process unfold: the discerning of the call, the testing of the servant, the equipping, and ultimately, the ordination and installment of the pastor. I've also witnessed the careful laying aside of this high calling due to failure on the part of the shepherd. The skill displayed each time this process unfolded and concluded only deepened my trust in elder-led churches. God's sovereign care through the pastors and overseers of our dear church families has served us so well through the years.
Peggy B., King of Grace Church, Haverhill, MA, page 13