In our consumer-driven culture, people are enticed to constantly be on the lookout for a better deal. Whether it’s the best bargain on a new car or the best job offer on the table, we naturally look out for our best interest. This mentality influences what we look for in a church as well. Instead of looking for a congregation that stands for truth, ministers to the poor, and seeks the lost, we often scope out congregations that have the best youth group, facilities, and programs that will fulfill our desires. While there is nothing inherently wrong with good youth groups, nice facilities, and various programs, they often can blind us to what a church really needs to be pleasing to God.
Paul understood that every church needs good leadership. He told the young evangelist Titus that he left him on the island of Crete, “so that you might put what remained into order and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Tit. 1:5). This tells us that, when a congregation is lacking elders, it isn’t complete—there is work that still remains.
With the passing of three of our previous elders and the installment of a new shepherd on the horizon, my mind has turned to leadership recently. Every congregation seeks good men to step up and lead. We realize though that this job isn’t for everyone; there are a select few to whom the Spirit finds qualified for this important task. While many of these qualifications are familiar to us, there is one that is unique to Titus:
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith (9-13).
God’s shepherds must be willing to use the rod of correction on the flock that they oversee—specifically on those who are teaching false doctrine. Rebuke doesn’t have to be rude, but it does need to be decisive (sharply) and instructive (that they may be sound in the faith). This demands that the elders know the word of God, to the extent that they give instruction and know when it is being contradicted. If overseers don’t understand God’s word, they may find themselves supporting unbiblical teaching and opposing truth!
Rebuking someone in sin is never pleasant and shouldn’t be a cherished activity—but it is a necessary one. The entire flock (myself included) needs rebuke at times. We should learn, as a congregation, to humbly submit under the guiding hand of the elders (Heb. 13:17). We need shepherds who are intimately involved in our lives so that they can guide and lead us to our heavenly reward. Those of us who are honest about our weaknesses and failings understand how much we need the oversight of good, godly men.
The needs of a church are many, but one of the greatest is good leadership. When people are looking for a new church to be a part of, they should always consider the shepherds. What kind of men are they? Do they love the church? Are they really shepherding them? Do they love the church enough to rebuke them at times? These are the type of men I want watching over the spiritual welfare of my family.