It is God’s will for every local church to have faithful brothers serving as shepherds over the flock. In Titus 1:5-11, we learn about the type of men that elders/bishops need to be. There it is written:

5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. 10 For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.

One word that comes to mind as we consider these instructions is “courage.” Yes, sir, God’s church needs its leaders to be brave guides to the sheep. In what ways do overseers need to demonstrate courage?

Courage to be blameless – Paul twice speaks of the need for him to be blameless. It is a “must” (1:6,7). Like all other humans, he will not be flawless, but he needs to be above reproach, living his life in such a way that no one can charge him with having an unresolved sin/fault in his life. It takes courage for him to conduct himself in such a fashion. He will be sober-minded, holy, and just (1:8). Saying “no” to the temptations of Satan and continuing to live a separate-from-the-world life takes serious bravery.

Courage to be a good steward of God – The Spirit calls every elder “a steward of God” (1:7), and God wants every steward to carry out his responsibilities in a faithful manner (1 Corinthians 4:2). He has time, talents, and opportunities for which he is responsible, as do all saints. However, along with his fellow pastors, he has the additional duty of taking care of the family of God (1 Timothy 3:5), taking heed to the flock’s needs and actions (Acts 20:28). Such a task is not for the timid-hearted.

Courage to keep his personal desires suppressed – He is not to be self-willed (1:7). As an overseer, his number one concern is not what is good for him, but what is good for the flock. He may have a strong personality and a background serving as a company’s top-ranked leader, but in the Lord’s body, he is one among multiple brothers who comprise “the eldership” (1 Timothy 4:14). It takes courage to lay aside one’s “bossiness” from the world and approach God’s work with a heart that cares “for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4) and recognizes that the voice to hear is Jesus’ (Matthew 17:5) and not his own.

Courage to practice self-control – Others may be quick-tempered or even violent, but not him (1:7). Others may be alcohol-slurpers, but not him (1:7). Others may be lovers of money, but not him (1:7). He must be “self-controlled” (1:8). Being such a person was not easy when Paul wrote such words nearly 2000 years ago, and it is no less challenging now. Before an elder can exhort successfully other members to keep tongue, actions, and thoughts under control, he must show that he is brave enough to do so in his own life.

Courage to stand on and stand up for the word of God – Okay, we expect that of gospel preachers. But, in Titus 1:9 the message of “holding fast the faithful word” refers to what elders must do. The context shows it. When earnest folks call for a congregation to emulate and fraternize with the denominations around it, elders must hold up the truth about the church’s distinct nature. When misguided members cry for “fluff” sermons that use few scriptures and end in less than fifteen minutes, the shepherds need to recall and remind everyone that it is God’s word that can build us up and get us ready for heaven (Acts 20:32).

Courage to stand up against false messages and troublemakers – Elders must be prepared to use sound doctrine to exhort, refute, and convict those who oppose the truth (1:9). Troublemakers and spreaders of false messages must have their mouths stopped (1:10,11), lest their poisonous leaven influence the hearts and faith of others. Brother overseers, we really, really need you to step up and do this – for the spiritual welfare of God’s people. It is not in the church’s best interest simply to “hope” that nightmare scenarios will just get on a train and ride out of town. When wolves (Acts 20:28-31), a modern-day Diotrephes (3 John 9), or immoral behavior (1 Corinthians 5) threaten to bring harm to spiritual Israel, leaders who are kind, but strong, need to lead the church in standing against them. Be courageous, brothers, be courageous!

— Roger D. Campbell

Leave a Reply