"That is why I left you in Crete, so that you might set in order that which is lacking..." Titus 1:5.
Paul sends his young lieutenant in on one challenging assignment. This community has been planted in Crete, to be " together, in community, on mission around the gospel". This new Christ community is soon reflecting the culture of the day more than the beauty of His glory. With robust apostolic affection, Paul sends Titus in with clear instructions — set them in order!
But what is that thing that is "lacking"? What does Paul clearly indicate are essentials for a healthy strong, community on mission? And then by implication, what are the things that he intriguingly leaves out?
Set in order / set in place / make sure that none of these areas are weak or absent:
- Gospel Centeredness - strongly stated in all three chapters, Paul paints Jesus and his work simply but profoundly - love the amount of truth he teaches in such few lines.
- Apostolic Partnership - I love the affection with which this father writes to his son, from why apostles exist, through to Paul inviting Titus to join him in Nicopolis for the winter [come and hang with me for some rest...], this is not an impersonal journey in a system but a real partnership between an apostle, his son in the Lord and a community.
- Leadership Appointment - This is not a generic checklist but a description of the leadership essentials that Titus must look for in Crete, train them, then appoint them. In fact I think is more about the kind of believer that Paul wants to see raised up than a random list of leadership must do's.
- Cultural Clash - If this cultural piece is not identified and dealt with, any plant will ultimately fail and collapse. The replant must identify cultural mindsets and ways, defeating them through the gospel preaching and direct challenge if necessary.
- Contextual Conflict - Paul identifies 4 groups that are dividing and destroying the community. He has no patience with them but requires Titus to deal with them, putting them out of the church if needed. No PC apostle here.
- Multi-generationalism - A healthy church is a 4 generational one. There is no applause for a one generational, cool, hipster community. The expectation where the church is strong, is where the older look after the younger.
- Intentional Discipleship - As Paul does with Titus, so he calls those who have walked with Jesus longer to do with those who are newer. Discipleship is definitely not a program but a taking of responsibility. Without this component, the church is not healthy.
- Community Connectedness - We all know that gathering a crowd is not a church yet we are still way too mesmerized by the numbers on a Sunday rather than the health of the relationships. Without community, the church will probably be a one generational wonder driven by one personality — and Paul never allowed that to happen in the churches he worked with,
- Sound Doctrine - That should not surprise us . It is the cornerstone of this replant. As Alan Hirsch has written: Christology leads to Missiology, which defines Ecclesiology. Jesus comes before mission or brotherhood. If the sound doctrine piece is missing something else will replace it, and that is very scary.
- Grace and Works - Grace is mentioned 4 times in this book — twice in the greetings. Works are mentioned 3 times. Paul tells Titus to "avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about the law for they are unprofitable and worthless " 3:9 There is Spirit led genius required to teach the twin truths of grace and works well and in freedom.
- Discipline Courage - A replant is invariably a community with very bad and destructive habits that have removed God's blessing — these have to be set in order, recognized, taught through, rebuked or silenced if needed. If this fails these folks have to be put out of the church. This takes heaps of courage, with theological certainty and legal counsel.
- His Return - The days were urgent. The apostle led from a position of Jesus is coming back or we are going to be martyred. This is no long term strategy — either way, get these churches running on their own without long term dependence. They have to grow up quickly and stand on their feet. There were other churches that needed apo help.
It is interesting what subjects Paul does not highlight to Titus as important to replanting. Sometimes the drums that get beaten are not major or essential leadership pieces. What he does highlight he is strong and robust about. In the simplicity of these three little chapters, Paul states what "a replant" needs to endure to become truly healthy, reflecting the glory of this Jesus in a very dark world.