What makes a church a good church? When someone is searching a community trying to find their next church home they look for a good church. But, what is a “good church”?
Is it the number of people who go there? Is it the music program? Is it physical things like the building, property and technology that make it a good church? Is it the busyness with good things and worthy causes? Is it the preacher and his preaching? Is it the methodology employed by the church in how it conducts ministry? Is it the positive image it has? Is it how modern or traditional the church is that makes it good? Is it whether or not it has A/C?!
What makes a church a good church? The question is important not just for people without a church but for people with a church. We do well to look ourselves and see if we can be described as a “good church”.
Titus: The Book
For the answer of what describes a good church we turn to the book of Titus. Written around 64AD Paul sends this letter to one of his protégés, a man Paul considered to be his “true son in the faith”, a man named Titus. This letter is one of three letters that together are known as “the Pastoral Letters”. They are called this because they were written to two young pastors to guide them in what to focus on and what to accomplish in their pastorates. The other 2 letters are 1 and 2 Timothy, which Paul wrote to his other beloved disciple. You will find Titus right after 2 Timothy in your Bible, but right before Philemon. If you hit Hebrews you’re too far.
The reason our series is titled “a good church” is because 8 times in these 3 chapters Paul uses the word “good”. For instance, in chapter 1 verse 8 he says elders of the church are to “love what is good”. In chapter 2 verse 3 older women are to teach younger women what is “good”. In chapter 3 verse 14 it says, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good.” The word is repeated so many times that you begin to realize that Titus was tasked with teaching the churches on the island of Crete how to be “good” churches devoted to what is good, teaching what is good, loving what is good and so on. I like how Dr. Henry Ironside points out the difference between the letter to Timothy and the one to Titus: “to Timothy the apostle stresses the importance of sound doctrine, whereas to Titus he dwells on sound behavior.”
There are 3 chapters in this letter. A rough outline could look like this: Chapter 1 focuses on the qualities of leadership in a good church. Chapter 2 focuses on the activity of the membership in a good church. And chapter 3 focuses on the witness of the local church to the world around.
The letter is very practical but it does contain some doctrinal gems. We find one in each chapter. In 1:1-3 Paul begins the letter by stating, “…” Then in chapter 2 verses 11-14 we read, “…” And finally in chapter 3 verses 4-8 it explains, “…”
Yet you can see that even in these doctrine-rich verses there is a strong practical point: godliness. Notice 1:1 says, “knowledge of truth that leads to godliness”. Then 2:12 says “[God’s grace] teaches us to say no to ungodliness…” Then in chapter 3 verse 8 he says believers “must devote themselves to good deeds”.
Paul wrote this letter with several purposes in mind. First, Titus needed to finish what Paul and he had started before Paul left Titus on the island of Crete (1:5). Second, Paul wanted Titus to be notified that when Artemis or Tychicus arrived to relieve him he needed to take off and meet him in Nicopolas (3:12). And thirdly, it seems as though Paul may have wanted his apostolic authority to be clearly in view to the Cretan’s which would help Titus deal with a people described as “lazy, brutes, and evil” (1:12; 2:15).
Titus: The Man
Of course, before we go too far in the book we should get to know the man it is named after. Whereas Timothy was half-Jew and half Gentile, Titus was all Gentile. Being that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 2) Titus must have had some special place in Paul’s heart, even as we see him called “my true son in our common faith” (1:4). Maybe Paul led Titus to Christ personally or maybe Titus came to Christ through the ministry of those who heard Paul directly. Since Titus is not mentioned in Acts we don’t know the history behind their relationship. But somewhere and at some point Paul found Titus, took him, and began to mentor the young Gentile. Let’s look at four worthy traits of the man whom this letter was addressed to.
First, Titus was a man who could be fully trusted. Titus was the man Paul sent to the Corinthian church for some very important tasks, tasks that require a trustworthy and reliable man. The first was collecting and transporting the money being raised from all the churches. In 2 Corinthians 8:6 Paul mentions that Titus began fundraising in Corinth and then had returned later to finish the fund-raising. Furthermore, Titus proved he is Paul’s go-to guy when he was trusted with bringing the letter we now know as 2 Corinthians to the Corinthian church. Without wire-transfers and email these tasks are extremely important and require very responsible men to carry them out.
Next, Titus was a man confident in his faith. In Galatians 2:1-3 we see Paul recounting the great Council in Jerusalem, which we can read about in Acts 15. One of the battles the early church faced was what to do with all the Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. Specifically, should Gentiles be required to follow the Law of Moses and be circumcised after becoming Christians? Paul’s argument was NO! while some believers who were Pharisees said YES! (Acts 15:5) As a result the big council of Jerusalem took place to resolve this issue. The resulting decision was that Gentiles coming into the faith do not need to follow Moses.
Interestingly, Paul brought Titus with him to this council in Jerusalem really as a model for all the Jewish believers to see. In Titus there was a Gentile convert, no Jewish background, no acquaintance with the Law of Moses, uncircumcised – fully Gentile in every way. Yet as a born again child of God with the Holy Spirit in him he personally felt no need to “become Jewish” and be circumcised. He knew he was loved by God and saved by the blood of Christ. He knew religion and outward rites had no effect on his standing before God in heaven. He knew he served God not by the letter of the law but by the Spirit of God from love. He was confident in his faith and confident his faith was the basis on which God accepted him. Are you confident in your faith? Are you confident that God accepts your faith and so you don’t have to do anything else to gain His acceptance?
Thirdly, Titus was a man like Paul. In 2 Corinthians 8:16 Paul says, “I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.” Speaking again of Titus in 2 Corinthians 12:18 Paul says, “Titus did not exploit you did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course?” Like a son imitates his father Titus imitated Paul. He was, after all, Paul’s “true son” in the faith. This is important for us because we all need role-models. Who are your role models? Who are you trying to become like? Do they help you become like Paul? Like Titus? Like Christ? Follow people who can say, “Imitate me because I imitate Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1).
Lastly, Titus was experienced in dealing with difficult problems in churches. Titus spent a lot of time in the quintessential problem church: Corinth. Anything would have been peanuts after dealing with the Corinthians. Still, the lessons he learned about how to lead in a troubled church would help him greatly in his next task: the Cretans. There’s a reason the name has become a byword for people with bad character today, “Miserable Cretan!” Titus had his hands full while on the island of Crete (Read 1:10-16), but, in many ways Titus was the man for the job.
We want to become a church that is a good church in God’s eyes. Let us learn from the man and the book named Titus.