I have chosen to use Titus 3:1-2 as the guiding biblical principle for our churches as we face this unprecedented shut down of our country due to the dangerous spread of the coronavirus.
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”
Here are some notes and observations that I hope will help you navigate this crisis from a biblical perspective.
How to Promote Missional Living in a Crisis – Titus 3:1-15
We need to Remind Churches of their Mission. vs. 1-2
Reminding the church of its purpose in the world is critical for church leaders. Missional drift occurs quicker than we all realize. Paul charges Titus to the hard work of developing a missional culture throughout the island of Crete.
Missional living starts out of a submissive spirit.
Submit. The word denotes that kind of submission which soldiers render to their officers. It implies “subordination;” a willingness to occupy our proper place, to yield to the authority of those over us. The word used here does not designate the “extent” of the submission, but merely enjoins it in general. The general principle will be seen to be, that we are to obey in all things which are not contrary to the Law of God (cf. Romans 13:1) (Barnes)
“Leaders who have trouble submitting to authority, will usually have trouble exercising spiritual authority. This challenge occurs throughout their ministry, becoming more subtle as leaders mature.” (Clinton)
Missional living flows out of lives that seek to be a blessing.
Three times in this chapter times Paul calls the church to good works.
- “to be ready for every good work…” vs. 1
- “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” vs. 8
- “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” vs. 14
“The ‘good works’ here refer not merely to acts of benevolence and charity, but to all that is upright and good – to an honest and holy life.” (Barnes)
“The Christian must not adopt the arts of the agitator.” (Hiebert)
“So far Paul has been concerned with the internal arrangements of the Cretan churches and the duties of their members to one another. Now he comments briefly on their relationship to the civil power and their pagan environment generally. The point he makes is that they should be models of good citizenship precisely because the new, supernatural life of the Spirit bestowed by [Spirit] baptism finds expression in such an attitude.” (Kelly)
“People who are ever fighting are wretched citizens and neighbors; people who are willing to yield in gentleness are admirable, especially when they follow the gentle spirit of Jesus.” (Lenski)
Missional living builds rapport with the community.
“The question that comes to mind as one meditates on this passage is how can a leader like Titus actually bring about the notion of a Corporate testimony — Christians as a whole on the island of Crete. In this small island culture, Christianity would be branded and known and watched and evaluated by those in the culture. So the corporate nature is there. But how to motivate groups so that their corporate testimony depicts the wonderful character qualities — that is the challenge of leadership. Today in most western societies the challenge is even greater — how to get the sense of corporate Christianity and how to get a corporate testimony”. (Clinton)
The leader reminds, calls and exhorts the church to reflect the beauty of Christ and his message to the world.
We must motivate others towards mission through the centrality of the gospel. vs. 3-8
The gospel is not only the key motivational ingredient that calls us to living missionally but it also has a continued transformational effect on the church as it seeks to be a blessing in the world.
The church has been transformed by the gospel and is continually being transformed by the gospel. This is what makes it missionally effective.
Centrality of the Gospel
“The gospel is not the most important message in history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experience the joy of living their lives by it.” (Bridges)
“This is the whole point of the good news – God forming a people for His glory and the good of the world.” (Wax)
The leader calls the church to a deeper dependence on the gospel as it seeks to further the gospel throughout a known area.
We must deal with the distractions swiftly. vs. 9-11
Paul charges Titus strongly to deal with the distractions to the mission head on. He knows how much emotional, mental and relational energy it takes to deal with difficult people. Every moment spent in arguments are wasted moments in furthering the gospel.
“I have learned that professed Christians who like to argue about the Bible are usually covering up some sin in their lives, are very insecure, and are usually unhappy at work or at home.” (Wiersbe)
Paul’s basic approach to confronting a heretical problem is twofold: 1) correct the damage of the heresy in the church by presenting the truth and/or modeling it; 2) confront the divisive person with the truth and give a chance for change. Give a reasonable time for the person to respond and make sure the person has understood (second time). If there is no positive response, then the person should be avoided by all in the church. The Amish and early Mennonites had a term for this — shunning. To be a part of a community and then to be ousted from it can have a powerful effect — maybe even redemptive.” (Clinton)
We must remind churches to treat the workers of the Gospel with generosity and care. vs. 12-15
Paul encourages Titus to teach the people of God how to treat workers of the gospel. In these generous acts they are reminded that the mission is bigger than themselves and beyond their local concerns. His encouragement to devote themselves to good works drives home the idea of being a blessing to their family, to the community and to the spread of the gospel.
“Two positive benefits of leading productive Christian lives are: 1) Christians provide for the necessities of life in their own setting and are not a drain on society; 2) there is the availability of resources to support the advancement of Christian work elsewhere. Paul is certainly implying that here. Productive lives involve support of God’s work in the world.” (Clinton)
- How are we protecting the church from missional drift? Local, Regional and International?
- What are some of the ways a church can drift missionally?
- What are some of the root causes for missional drift?
- How are we being a blessing to our society?
- How can we protect the church from drifting into practicing only a social gospel?
- What or who are distracting your church from the mission of God?
- How is your dependence on the gospel helping your church further the gospel in your region?
- What percentage of the church’s resources are used in blessing workers of the gospel?
- Where do you see church planting in Paul’s letter to Titus?
- How do we use our mission support to reinforce a missional lifestyle?