The Blessing of Godly Elders & Church Health
Paul’s Letter to Titus is one of the three New Testament books included in The Pastoral Epistles. In those books Paul is instructing two of his protégés Timothy and Titus how to pastor churches. Titus is the shortest of the three books with only three chapters. In Titus 1:5 Paul gives the purpose for his letter to Titus, “so that you might put what remained into order.” The verb “put into order” was a medical term that was applied to the setting of a crooked limb so that it might heal and be healthy. That is clearly Paul’s concern for the churches that Titus pastored on the island of Crete – that they be healthy communities representing the gospel of Jesus Christ well in a dark world.
What this tells us is that “church health” is the number one priority in pastoral ministry of a local church. God desires His Church to be healthy because a healthy church best represents Him and best ministers His healing in a spiritually sick world. Several years ago a well-known pastor wrote a best-selling book in which one sentence was worth the price of the book, “Don’t concentrate on church growth, but on church health, because healthy things grow naturally.” That is essentially the point that Paul is making to Titus. Concentrate on church health and Titus would have effective churches.
If we ask how a church becomes healthy, Paul did not leave Titus, or us, in doubt. The Book of Titus divides into two parts and both are the keys to a healthy church. Chapter one is Paul’s instructions about qualified Christian leadership. Chapters two and three focus on the importance of “sound doctrine.” What is interesting about that expression is that the word sound means “healthy.” Isn’t that interesting in light of our church health discussion so far? This term is defined by Pastor Jeff Reed, author of The First Principles Series, as meaning “doctrine that is healthy and integrated fully” into a believer’s life.
This is the second way a church becomes healthy – when its members integrate the teachings of Christ into the way they live. A person only can be said to hold to “sound doctrine” when they are living it out in the way they behave and relate to others. This reinforces the vital truth that doctrine is both what we believe and how we behave. A large part of becoming a healthy congregation is emphasizing the integration of sound living into sound believing. That is healthy doctrine. When our churches and families are sound in that way, others see the power of Christ at work affirming the truth we believe.
Now we can begin to see why Paul’s first way for a church to become healthy is through qualified Christian leaders. Again Pastor Reed is helpful when he writes, “Men who lead their own families well are to become part of a team of elders who shepherd the whole community, thus keeping the church solid and stable in the teachings of Christ.” A church with proper leadership will have healthy examples and healthy teaching that will set a plumb line so that people know how to behave and live out God’s design that brings true health. Nothing could be more important in church life.
Now we can see, as we saw in our previous December article, why elders are selected on the basis of spiritual qualifications. Without men of high character and maturity, it is impossible to lead a church into healthy doctrine. The leaders will undermine the very foundation of church health. This is why Paul emphasizes that elders must be spiritually healthy in three areas: 1) family life (1:6), 2) personal life (1:7-8), and 3) public ministry (1:9). We will take those up in another article in this series, but for now, pray for your elders – that they will be men who truly integrate doctrine that is healthy fully into their lives. Any church led by such men is truly blessed.
Your friend, seeking true health with you, Pastor Brian (:-}).