The Challenge of Spiritual Leadership

Seminary started up again for us this week with the first classes meeting on Thursday. I usually preach in the first two chapels of the new year. I decided that if the Lord allows, I am going to do a series on spiritual leadership in the local church. I doubt that I’ll blog about all of the messages, but I did want to share a portion of the first one. The text was Titus 1:5-16.

The point of this message was the need for spiritual leadership in the local church. The Apostle Paul did not believe his missionary ministry was complete until the local congregation was formed with godly and gifted leadership in place. Until leaders were in place, the church was not in proper order (v. 5). While there are many positive reasons for this, it seems clear from the NT that one significant reason for the appointment of godly leadership was the threat of false teaching and false teachers. That seems to be the case at Crete, and Paul’s instructions to Titus are aimed at protecting the flocks on that island. So, to cut to the end of the message, I challenged the men with three applications based on this passage that answer the question, “How should we respond to false teachers?”

We must silence them (v. 10) by reproving them severely (v. 13).

This passage makes it unavoidable that a chief responsibility of the spiritual leaders within the local church is to engage false teachers and false teaching energetically. To do any less is to be unfaithful to God’s call and commands. For those within the flock that are disinclined toward confrontation, you must remember that it is God’s will whether we feel comfortable with it or not. And those who are inclined toward combativeness need to remember that the goal is restoration, not destruction!

The tendency to minimize doctrinal purity is a problem all by itself. People might criticize us for being too hung up on doctrinal matters and for being too critical of those who are teaching other doctrines, but there is great danger in relaxing our commitment to sound doctrine. There is overt danger in false doctrine, but there is also a more subtle danger in accepting the belief that doctrine doesn’t matter.

We must multiply the number of godly and gifted men who can teach the truth and confront error (vv. 5, 9).

The text reminds us that we can’t just curse the darkness, we must light candles! On one very important level, the answer to false teachers is biblical teachers. The very existence and presence of those who are teaching empty words for sordid gain means that we must equip and train those who can teach healthy words for God’s glory! The purpose of the seminary is to assist local churches in the equipping of men for this great work.

We must maintain the standards established in the Scriptures (vv. 6-9).

Crucial to the point just made is to remember the burden of this text. It is not just a matter of appointing leaders. It is a matter of appointing the right kind of leaders, leaders that meet the qualifications of this passage. The local church has an obligation to maintain the standards taught here so that it can honor God by its commitment to biblical truth. When a church ignores or violates these standards, it is revealing a loyalty to man that transcends its loyalty to God. We must acknowledge that some of these standards are broad enough that exact applications will be debated. However, we must have a heart commitment to do what we believe to be God’s will in the application of these standards.

We cannot afford to adopt our culture’s approach to identifying and elevating leaders. People rise to leadership too often because of ability, attractiveness, or assertiveness—they can do things better than others, possess magnetic qualities that draw followers, or push their way to success and power. This text reminds us that none of those are central. Godliness is. The church does not need entrepreneurs, celebrities, or driven people in places of leadership. It needs men who walk with God and can faithfully handle the Word.


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