Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Our reading from Titus 1:1-9 opens a window into church order around the middle of the first century. Specifically, Paul tells Titus of his big mission in Crete. He is to appoint elders in every town (v. 5). This might not seem to be such a big task to us, unless we have ever served on the nominating committee of a local church congregation, and until we realize that the elder, as described by Paul, is also called an "overseer." This is the same word used of pastors and of bishops. Titus is appointing pastors who are likely to end up in a supervisory role over other pastors. That's a challenge.
I know what most of us think of when we consider a church call committee. They are looking for someone who will be the pastor to the local church. They want someone who is young and energetic, with forty years of pastoral experience. They want a scholar who reads everything and has plenty of time to play with the teens of the church. They want someone who will lead the church in a brand new direction of ministry to the community, adding vitality, and changing nothing whatsoever. Of course, all this is impossible.
Perhaps that's part of the reason that the churches in the towns don't seem to be selecting their own elders/pastors/overseers/bishops. Titus appoints them. It isn't so much a matter of the local congregation exercising its muscles and attracting someone.
Do these elders come from within the town? Are they outsiders? We really aren't told. We do know, though, that they have an assignment and are expected to be there. They don't seem to have a whole lot more choice in the matter than the churches do.
Is it just a matter of having a warm body in the office of pastor? Not precisely. Notice that Paul gives lots of qualifications, including being the husband of one wife, having believing children, and generally being of a good reputation. I know there have been lots of debates over the years about whether pastors may be unmarried and childless. Paul appears to have been unmarried and childless, though he wasn't precisely a pastor. However, I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect that some unmarried and childless people would end up as pastors.
All the other characteristics, if we think of them, are perfectly normal for a godly man. If he is to be an example of Christian piety and if he is to be of a good reputation in the community, all these characteristics are quite understandable. None is something exceptional. Yet we must realize that they are markers of someone who takes the Christian faith seriously.
Titus appoints elders. The main job of these elders seems to be that they should teach and correct false doctrine. It isn't an easy job. But someone's got to do it. The elders, the pastors, the bishops we have today, we must remember, are a gift from God. They have a vital function in the body. We need to welcome them, accept them, pray for them, and encourage them to do their work well. In this way they will certainly be a blessing to the Church.
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