17 June 2009

Mature men

by Frank Turk

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 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.

I know you are all chomping at the bit over the next phrase in this letter from Paul to Titus, but we need to get seriously serious for a last time here regarding the question of what it means for an elder to be "blameless" or "above reproach".

Almost everyone reading this thinks that Paul could not have meant "blameless" because Christ is the only truly-blameless one, right? And our problem is that we are either "without any sin" or "just a sot".

Let me say this plainly: that's not the comparison Paul is making here. Paul is saying that the one who ought to be an elder is (as we mentioned last week) the mature believer, the one who has received grace through faith and is justified before God, but is also thereby sanctified -- manifesting the gifts of the spirit. And that would be love, joy, peace, patience, etc., not tongues, signs, prophecy, card tricks, etc.

That's why Paul assumes the elders have a wife, and a family, and children, and all the other stuff we'll see in the letters to Timothy: they are mature men and not barely men. No offense to anybody.

But here's the thing: not only will these kinds of guys be good elders for the church: they will also be men in whom we can place our confidence in a way which is unlikely to be betrayed.

All men are human, and human beings will fail. But our hedge against that is calling men with godly character. If character comes first, rather than being allegedly built on the job, trust comes built-in, having been earned.

The elder must have blameless character; he must show the fruit of the spirit.

We'll find out why next week.







30 comments:

Jude said...

Good post Frank. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Doug Hibbard said...

I was going to say something meaningful.

But I have to go practice my card tricks for Bible Study tonight.

I think there's a lot to the idea of mature men, and I think also to the need for more churches to seek out men that have matured in their observation. Maybe not the completely homegrown idea, but not just relying on 5 references on a resume for character assurance.

Just remember: fruit of the Spirit. Not a spirited fruitcake.

Doug

Andrew Faris said...

Frank,

As a pastor, I'm always encouraged (read: convicted) by these posts. Which I appreciate.

Here's a crazy idea on how to get more men like the one(s) Paul describes here into ministry, instead of those who turn out to be anything but blameless: what if we started evaluating their credentials based on passages like this rather than simply on whether they are self-starters who can preach and play guitar? Or whatever other performance-based, business-derived characteristic we want to talk about.

What if the questions in interviews for pastors were more like:

What is your prayer life like?
What does your Bible reading and study look like?
Tell me about a typical week in the life of your marriage.
In what ways do you actively seek to mortify sin and guard your heart on a daily basis?

And so on. Inspired by a pastor Cent post, I posted something along the same lines not too long ago.

I don't know, maybe I'm crazy, but it's just a thought...

Andrew Faris

Andrew Faris said...

Whoops. That was supposed to be "past Cent" post, not "pastor Cent" post. For what it's worth.

Frank Turk said...

It's slips like that, Andrew, which humble and cause more prayer and fasting in my house.

Ouch.

stratagem said...

manifesting the gifts of the spirit. And that would be love, joy, peace, patience, etc., not tongues, signs, prophecy, card tricks, etc.

Golly, but the latter are so much easier to mainfest! Plus, you can be a despotic TV preacher at the same time with the latter list of "gifts."

That's why Paul assumes the elders have a wife, and a family, and children, and all the other stuff we'll see in the letters to Timothy: they are mature men and not barely men. No offense to anybody.

Frank, this seems to be a bit different than what you said in the last article, when I suggested that perhaps Elders needed to be, well, elder. Have you changed your mind on this point?

Frank Turk said...

Nope.

Frank Turk said...

Nope.

CJ said...

The point for elders is that they need to be able to be respected within the entire church body. This means they must act respectable.

-CJ

Frank Turk said...

CJ --

I'd be careful with that phrase for only one reason: sometimes you can fake "respectable". It happens often.

Father of Eleven said...

I would also add that they should be respected for the reasons listed in the text. I know many who respect a pastor for his ability to turn a phrase rather than his character.

Jugulum said...

"Paul is saying that the one who ought to be an elder is (as we mentioned last week) the mature believer, the one who has received grace through faith and is justified before God, but is also thereby sanctified -- manifesting the gifts of the spirit. And that would be love, joy, peace, patience, etc., not tongues, signs, prophecy, card tricks, etc."

Was there a reason you called them "gifts" of the Spirit there, instead of "fruit"?

Either way, good post. Leaders are to be mature in the fruit of the Spirit's sanctifying work in their lives--plus the only qualifying gift of the Spirit: Teaching.

Frank Turk said...

Jug --

Because we don't really earn them. We acquire them because of God's grace. I have no problem calling them "fruit" (I did last week, and even made a nice graphic). I was stretching our vocabulary.

Frank Turk said...

This is something I have inside me after every week of this series, and I had better say it today before I forget again: it's important to remember that being an elder is not an entitlement.

You may want to be an elder. It is a good thing to want to be an elder. That doesn't mean you're qualified to be an elder.

Concern yourself with the qualifications, and when God;'s time for your work is here, he will have prepared you.

LUCKY said...

First I ask for patience from you'all because I've only been walking with Christ for a few years so if I say something offbase let me know.

When you mentioned blamelessness the first word that camed to mind was integrity. Maybe this is because I am studying for the GRE and learning word associations.

Integrity has nothing to do with standing blameless before God at the last day because of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

But I think men of Intergrity are a part of what Paul is asking for here.

In the world the modern man stands having his loins girt about with religiosity and having on the breastplate of respectablity. His feet aer shod with ostentatious philanthrophy; his head is encased in the helmet of spread eagle patriotism. Holding in his left hand the buckler of worldly success and his right the sword of "influnce," he is able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

I would compare this with a man that Paul would likly label as a mature Elder and his discription can be found in Eph 6:10-18

stratagem said...

Frank

I guess I have to be more specific. Last time you said you don't care how old or young an Elder is. This time, you're saying that they must be mature men, not barely men, which seems to imply something to do with age at least on a prima facie basis. There is an obvious dissconnect there in the absence of more explanation. "Nope" doesn't go very far in explaining why its not a disconnect.

donsands said...

"..not tongues"

In the Assemblies of God, the elders have to have the gift of tongues.

Great post.

Mature. There's a good word. To become spiritually mature quickly is really impossible. I would think it takes years. The making mature looking men elders, who are still immature is falling right into the enemy's snare.

eric opsahl said...

Are you suggesting an Elder is to be married?

Eric

Jugulum said...

"I have no problem calling them "fruit" (I did last week, and even made a nice graphic). I was stretching our vocabulary."

Actually, you even called them fruit at the end of this post.

You were calling them "gifts" as part of a (good) contrast with certain gifts. I suppose I asked because I think you could make the same contrast with all the spiritual gifts.

The fruits of the Spirit are the marks of Christian maturity, as opposed to any gift of the Spirit--gifts being given today, or gifts that aren't. No gift qualifies you for Christian leadership--not administration, not evangelism, not any other gift.

And as you've been saying, not even a gift of teaching, unless it's accompanied by maturity. (An immature Young, Restless, & Reformed guy shouldn't be a pastor/elder even if he can expound with insight and elegance. Not even if he's a fantastic blogger.)

Daryl said...

Eric,

I don't think he's saying that, I think Paul's saying that.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Andrew wrote:

"What if the questions in interviews for pastors were more like:

"What is your prayer life like?
"What does your Bible reading and study look like?
"Tell me about a typical week in the life of your marriage.
"In what ways do you actively seek to mortify sin and guard your heart on a daily basis?"

to which I would add,

"What are your besetting sins (that is, the sins you easily stumble into)?"

Every person ready for leadership in the church should be able to honestly answer that question. Then follow it with, "What are the external signs you are succumbing to this sin?" Take note and watch him for this (these).

Now in business (where my job is), the only acceptable answer to a question like "What is your weakest area?" is "I tend to be a workaholic." They don't consider it a real problem.

We Christians ought to in our leaders - it is a sign of immaturity: not being able to keep important things balanced. And it may be a sign that family life is being shirked.

Frank Turk said...

Strategem:

Live with the tension. Embrace it and let suffering be a tutor.

Frank Turk said...

Eric --

What Daryl said.

__________

Daryl: don'tt let it go to your head.

Daryl said...

Frank, it's tempting. I mean when a guy gets one thing right, it's gotta mean something, right? Right?

Seriously though,

I'm loving and hating your series on elders Frank, I mean it seems to me to be bang on.
And that's the trouble, I want to be an elder and fight against assuming that I'm qualified, and then I go back an re-read your post and Timothy and Titus, and think a little on it, and I can only conclude that I'm just not qualified. And it kills me.

I want to be, but I want to be an elder to my kids more, and again, I just don't get it done.

Sorry to unload here, it's just been weighing on me of late.

Thanks for what you do brother. The Lord is using it.

Chad D. said...

Frank,
1st "blameless" Doesn't it seem there is a picture of humblely caring for all sin in a persons life in such a way that no other person can make an accusation against you? Seems to fit the need for an elder to be an example.
2nd "maturity" This is not an age gained attribute. Daniel was very mature even as a young man. To quote John Piper from this past Moody Pastors Conference. "The problem with young pastors is they have not yet suffered enough." So an addition to the list of questions given to a pastoral candidate would be; "What has God allowed you to suffer maturing you in the faith?" "And how have you dealt with those situations? "Blamelessness".

Chad D.

Sir Aaron said...

Eric:

I had this dicussion with Frank many posts ago. You might take a look at the past metas on this series. The conclusion I came to is that there is a legitimate exception for men who remain chaste and single for the purpose of serving God. However, this is a calling that is exceptional. Frank may disagree on that point, although he never committed to disagreement. Where I think he was clear, is that the expectation and reality is that most men get married at some point in their lives (or are not chaste). When Paul recommended singleness in serving God it was in the context of a chapter where he also talks about the persecution Christians were experiencing at that time. So I think the context of that adds legitimacy to the idea that most men will be married.

The emphasis on the elder is that you are looking for a man who is mature spiritually and personally. Paul lists the things that give us an indication of that.

Strategem: If you look closely at Frank's comments in previous metas, he did say that a young man could technically be qualified as an elder. But it was implicit in his comments that this was exceptional rather than the rule. It is possible for a 28 year old man to be married, be spiritually mature, and have children, even adolescent children. But more often than not, I think we'll see men of a more advanced age, yes?

P.S. Frank, I hope I'm not stepping on your toes.

Sir Aaron said...

Chad:

With all due respect, I think those questions sound spiritual but are questions that are easily answered with a bunch of nonsense that also sounds spiritual.

Maybe we should first consider the qualifications Paul put before us and then see where that gets us. That alone would weed a lot of people out of the Pastorate without adding a bunch of additional questions.

Respectabiggle said...

I had a hard time with "blameless" for a while (see previous metas), but I got a lot better handle on it by thinking of both of my Grandfathers.
Neither one was sinless, by any stretch, but any Christian should have been proud to have them represent his church as an elder. Their lives were (are) fine examples of mature, well-seasoned and tested faith, and provided no opportunity for laying shame against the Church. Blameless.

humanitasremedium said...

Great post and thoughtful comments. was really fun to read. thanks.

Gary said...

This series has me broken. I'm just thinking about those young college punks I "lead" when I myself was a young college punk. It's a miracle of grace that my blind leadership didn't lead those blind followers into a hole. Also leads me to pray for all those Crusade kids leading other Crusade kids after just a few weeks training.