Monday, April 25, 2011

Titus' Contextual Challenges

Take Google Earth. Zeroing in from space right onto your house, is a little like the transition from culture to context. Culture is the big brush strokes. It provides the big picture pieces that fashions the nation as a whole. Context "google earths" you to the local realities of leading that church, with that history, in that city, with those people, on that campus, with those stories, and those dreams - one might say it is the macro / micro convos. It requires a very skilled craftsman to face the challenges of that unique community.

In fact, the difference between planting and replanting is like having your own children vs adopting or fostering a child with a history - generally it is going to be a very challenging journey. Titus is sent to an existing church. He is not going to plant one. This community has not been well planted, so Paul sends Titus in to replant her. But it is not going to be an easy task.

I do suspect that much of our work here in the USA will be about replanting. The stats indicate that around 3500 churches are closing their doors each year. Behind each closure is a story of pain, tragedy, trauma and unmet expectations. These churches must have been launched out in a clear conviction of divine intent, but many things could have led to their ultimate end. Paul equips Titus to face this, the most difficult of all situations, with full throttle.

Paul's frames the challenge that Titus will face in Titus 1:10 - 16. Here is my breakdown of the essentials that Titus must identify, then deal with. Establishing the right questions is always one of the most important matters when facing a God mandate. I think it is one of the silent catalytic characteristics of a true apostle - helping leaders identify the right questions. If they are not asked, will the correct answers be reached? As the Father asked Jeremiah: "What do you see Jeremiah?", so we need to empower 'replanters' with the right questions:

1. Is the church fragmented into "camps"? What are they? What is the hill they are dying on?
2. What is their theological framework - if any? What is the energy that drives them?
3. What is their attitude toward leadership - especially when leadership crosses them, takes them where they do not want to go, what is the heart that gets revealed?
4. How is sin identified and dealt with both individually and corporately?
5. What is the current DNA that defines them?
6. What is the outward evidence of their 'faith'?
7. What are the major battles that require priority attention? Not all the "surgery" can be done at once. You must choose your battles wisely, in order of true kingdom value, not simply based on personal preference or prejudice.

This text describes these ingredients as follows:
1. "Especially the circumcision party..." we now know that there were camps and one of the strongest was the legalists, who are still driving after some semblance of the law being upheld,
2. "Devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth..." Titus must ensure that he is a student - especially if he wishes to deal with those who seek to blur the lines of grace with law, who still want to drag new Christ followers into the arena of legalistic bondage, some form of law based conformity driven by sets of rules and laws that determine spirituality,
3. "For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers..." Paul readies Titus that he is going into a community that does not respect leadership or authority. Titus cannot go into the church, expecting to be automatically honored simply because Paul sent him. He is going to have to earn trust and respect and that will influence the pace of change that he will bring,
4. " But both their minds and consciences are defiled..." These are weighty statements! Paul is instructing Titus that even their sense of morality is fragile. Quite amazing - don't even start preaching appealing to a preset godly conscience. That is simply not there. They are not going to respond to you from a biblical position.
5. "They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for any good work..." Paul is certainly not soft soaping anything. Their DNA is simply deplorable. Yet he has not given up on them. They can be redeemed. They can be restored. That is why he is sending Titus in - but he is going to have to start at the very beginning and relay the foundations just as a tough contractor would need to do,
6. "They profess to know God but they deny him by their works..." Their testimony in the marketplace is not good. They are not even known by good works. They probably do not tithe, do not have a great heart of expansive generosity. It is like Paul is saying to Titus: "Let us get this straight, assume nothing, everything needs to be revisited and requires change."
7. "But as for you teach what accords with sound doctrine..." Paul gives Titus his first strategic step - you have to fight the theological battle first. The new chapter in this church's story has to be framed around the sacred text and the theology and doctrine it produces. This is not the time for pleasant little topical talks or motivational moments ["You can be the best you, you can be"]. This is the assault on a tough community through the simple power of the Word preached.

Any volunteers?


  1. Hmmm...tell me about some possible "replants" and I will think about it. Chipotle

  2. Yes! May many strong, loving, courageous Jesus warriors/recce commandos, filled with The Spirit faith,hope....arise & go forth (re)planting Gospel communities wherein & thru & by the light of the the gospel of Jesus & His kingly Reign may shine to every tribe, tongue & nation till the whole earth is filled with the glory of our God! Christ in us the hope of glory...we being changed from glory to glory ..have been given this ministry of reflecting the glory of God as we go being transormed....