It's All Good Week One - "Good Leadership"
Have you ever asked yourself, "What's really good about being a Christian?" Or maybe you've wondered what sort of good comes from being part of a church. Or obeying all of the commandments that are in the Bible. Or sharing your faith.
The answer to all of these questions, according to the Apostle Paul in his letter to Titus is "It's All Good." Hence the name of the series...
Did you know that recent surveys indicate that only 4 out of 10 Americans indicate that they are a member of and/or attend church semi-regularly. And by semi-regularly, I mean some. Some could be defined as at least Christmas Eve &
Easter. So when you break it down the percentage of Americans who actually attend church on a regular basis is pretty low.
On the other hand, nearly 90% of Americans would identify themselves as spiritual even if they don't want to be part of a church, or necessarily define themselves as Christian. In fact the fastest-growing religious affiliation in America is "none."
When you contrast our emerging culture with the culture from even 25-30 years ago, you will find a huge difference. There was a time when the vast majority of Americans defined themselves as "Christian" and the number of people affiliated with a church was much higher.
There are a number of reasons for the change, but I think the most important reason lands right on those of us who call ourselves Christians.
I think that we've lost our passion. We spend way too much time apologizing for our beliefs and trying to fit in to society. We've lost our sense of what's good about following Jesus.
It's time we raised the bar a bit.
When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to Titus, this was just the sort of thing on his mind. He wanted to impart to his young disciple just how good it was to be a Jesus-follower. Paul wanted Titus to elevate his passion and raise the bar for those who God called to the church in Crete, where Titus served.
Who was Titus?
He was a Gentile Christian, which means he was one of those converts that Paul led to Christ, who wasn't Jewish. He was also a guy who seemed to always get the nasty jobs. He was given the task of taking a harsh letter from Paul to the church at Corinth, which was probably a drag. He also got saddled with the task of ministering in Crete, which was one of the most decadent, hedonistic places in the known world. Some scholars believe that Titus may have been Luke's brother---Luke is the guy who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
Paul also thought the world of Titus. He called him is "true son," a "brother," a "sharer in the work," and a man of the "same spirit."
The basic purpose of Paul's letter to Titus was twofold: A pep talk and marching orders. Like I said, he wants Titus to elevate his passion and raise the bar for the Church.
So where does Paul begin his pep talk? With a treatise on "Good Leadership," of course.
If we are looking for a definition of a Leader in the Church? This is a good place to start: "The Christian offer is nothing less than the offer of a share in the life of God." - William Barclay. So, if those of us who call ourselves Christians are sharing in the life of God, it's like....we're family. So when Paul uses "elder" or "overseer," which makes us think of a steward that is taking care of a house, this fits the whole family/household/steward concept pretty well.
Which leads us to our main point: In God's House, Leaders Must Be Faithful In All Things. If we are going to elevate our passion, if we are going to raise the bar for what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ, then we have to begin with leadership.
Read Titus 1:1-9
First the bad news...
Here are the things that Paul says are absolutely the wrong attributes for someone purporting to be a leader in the Church.
1. A Prodigal Family Life - the word that Paul uses here is the same word that Jesus uses when he describes the Prodigal Son, and the way he speaks to his father. We might use these words to describe the family life of the wrong kind of leader: wasteful, willful, rebellious, undisciplined and unfaithful. The Scripture extends this kind of behavior to the children of the leader in question.
2. Overbearing/Angry - this a person who is intolerant, condemning and always angry. This isn't the kind of person who just flys off the handle and then cools off right away. This is the kind of person who has long-lived, purposeful anger. In other words, they like being angry, they thrive on it.
3. Controlled by Addictive/Violent Behavior - the way that Paul describes this is someone who acts like they are drunk even then they are sober--in other words, their decision making appears impaired. Paul also says this person is a "striker," someone who always seems to be looking for a fight.
4. Defined by Dishonest Gain - this kind of person is unscrupulous, greedy and has a distinct lack of morality.
Now the good news...
A good Christian leader is:
1. Hospitable and open - a person who is authentic, warm and inviting
2. Unselfish - Paul describes this a person as a lover of all good things, who is not interested in his own gain, but in what is good.
3. Prudent - a person who wisely controls his instincts
4. Just - a person who respects others and reveres God
5. Pious - reverences decency
By now you might be saying, "Wow, Leon, this is pretty extensive, and fairly hardcore." I admit, it appears pretty stringent.
Have you ever had a lousy boss? Seriously, think about the worst boss you've ever had. You would want your lousy boss fired, wouldn't you? This would not bother you in the least. Because you have standards for leadership in your workplace, don't you?
So why don't we have the same kinds of standards in Church World?
You might be saying at this point, "But Leon... it's Church. We can't tell people no in Church. And how do you hold people accountable for things like this anyway?"
Here's the thing, a person's life is capable of measurement because the characteristics are observable.
Think about this for a minute... How many famous church leaders do you know who had some sort of moral failure that publicly ruined their ministry and gave Christianity a black eye? What about the sexual abuse scandals that are rampant in the Catholic Church, and the way that the leadership seems to always cover them up? What about televangelists and preachers who always ask for money.
And if you're sitting there saying, "yeah, those rotten pastors...."
What about the way some elders and deacons in churches cause division, gossip, undermine the pastor, try to get their own way, use money as a weapon, could care less about discipleship and live lives that are absolutely devoid of any kind of holiness whatsoever.
"But Leon, I'm not a pastor..."
It's no wonder that people don't see anything good about Christianity. Our standards for leadership are terrible. Did you know that when you lower your expectations, people will lower their standards to meet them?
In God's house, leaders must be faithful in all things. If we are going to elevate our passion, we have to raise the bar.
If we want to change people's perceptions about the goodness of being Christian, it will begin with good leadership.