SKELETON CREWS COVER TEAMS AT CHRISTMAS and during other breaks in the year. It happens everywhere. Indeed, there are times when others less experienced are left there, to control the chaos, to either sink or swim. I recall one period where the full team wasn’t back together for six months—it even transformed the culture as people had to struggle and adapt.
This is exactly what happened in Crete for Titus. Paul, the apostle, had assisted the church at Crete and Titus was found to be like Timothy—a worthy assistant, young in the trade, but keen and upright.
What do we do when we have problems of inadequate leadership?
We identify more leaders and train them—and quickly. And this is Paul’s charge to Titus; the moral ‘competency standards’ for the elders of the church are detailed early on in the letter. There are leaders in the making; the character traits are made known. Titus simply had to astutely observe and handpick more leaders appropriate for the task of leadership. It was critical that they could lead in the doing, not merely in the saying. Their integrity had to be beyond question.
As life on the island was known for its ‘holiday feel,’ Paul is quick to set down some basic instruction on right living in the presence of a holy God. Indeed, ‘the Cretan’ has been marred with a malevolent name for centuries. They were apparently known for their lying, gluttony and other evil (1:12).
And some of the worst of the ‘rebellious people’ came from within the inside, those Jewish hangers-on; the ‘circumcision group’ (1:10). These recent converts were problematic for the main part because they probably thought themselves of privileged birth. Pride was their main problem. Quick to assume a place in leadership, they were destroying the church and had to be stopped.
So, in this case at Crete there was a critical mass engaged in false teaching and false living that the then present leadership group found it impossible to contend with. It occurs the very same way for us. To transform any culture requires the shifting of the bad critical mass over to the good. And this usually takes several months to several years, ultimately.
This issue was a critical one for the survival and growth of the church in Crete. Should Paul have stayed there longer to make things more certain? Hardly. It would’ve stifled progress and other work that Paul had on would’ve ground to a halt. It is always more important for the people who live in the place to assume responsibility for running the place, and then be left with it, as soon as possible. Only then is this new arrangement self-sustaining.
Paul concludes, as he does with his other Pastoral letters, instructing Titus on ‘doing what is good’ in the eyes of the Lord, both within the church and beyond into society.
And for us, what’s the relevance? There will be times when we, like Titus, are thrust into leadership or positions of responsibility before we’re readily able to cope. Be encouraged, then, that provided you have a good mentor, you’ll be fine.
Finally, if you see a young leader in your midst, help them, guide them gently with encouraging feedback and cooperate with them. There are Titus’s everywhere.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.