01 April 2009

Establish Elders [2]

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.
Last week we covered one (apologetic) aspect of this passage, but that's not hardly the most important part of the underlined statement by Paul to Titus.

We covered already the fact that Paul sent Titus to "set things in order", but there's an important attribute of setting things in order which we might overlook here: the means by which Titus must set things in order.

Titus wasn't sent to Crete, in spite of its shortcomings, to lord over it. He wasn't sent with a whip to clear out the household of God and start over. In order to set things in order, Paul tells Titus to establish elders.

And our knee-jerk reaction to such a thing is this: that'll learn 'em. That'll give church discipline to the ungodly: if they had decent elders enforcing the rules, things would be better.

Yeah: except that's not at all what Paul tells Titus to do here. In "appointing elders", Titus is to seek out the men of good character who are also gifted to preach and teach, and make them the elders. But if we read the rest of this letter closely, it turns out that Titus is also exhorted by Paul to make the church a place where this sort of character is grown up.

So Titus' job -- your job, dear pastor reader -- is not just to get you some boys he can send out to the trouble makers so that they can explain it to them. It is to make churches whose objective is to raise up elders. Your church ought to be a place where men like the ones Paul describes here to Titus are made.

That's a tall order. But that's God's order.


Unknown said...

This is exactly what our desire is here. We believe that God will raise up men who will then be discipled after which they will in turn plant churches and continue to do the same.

FX Turk said...

You know: ever man may not become an elder -- not everyone is gifted to be a shepherd. But the truth is that every man should be equipped for the sake of finding his gift.

On the White Horse last week, they made a similar point: the virtues paul is extolling here are not superlative virtues. They are common virtues except for the gift of teaching.

Should we be seeking to understand the Gospel in such a way that it breaks the fruit of common Christian values?

Gary said...


I agree! But, could you make it a bit more explicit through the text? I.E., which passages later show that Titus/TheChurch was to raise these type of men, not just find them?


Anonymous said...

Not to answer for Frank, but in I timothy Paul says that to aspire to such an office is a good thing.

Frank, great word here. As we are in the process of selecting elders for the first time, the most frightening aspect is the reality that there are not many qualified and willing to choose from. So, for elder leadership to be effective a church MUST raise up men continually who are both qualified and WILLING!

I believe in our day and age, the "willing" aspect may be more difficult than the equipping piece. Yet, they go hand in hand.

Good word.

Brad said...

So Titus' job -- your job, dear pastor reader -- is not just to get you some boys he can send out to the trouble makers so that they can explain it to them. It is to make churches whose objective is to raise up elders. Your church ought to be a place where men like the ones Paul describes here to Titus are made.

Bingo. And this doesn't mean men who are necessarily young, cool charismatic hipsters, but humble sincere men who devour the Word and seek to impress Jesus on the community - no matter what they look like or how they present demographically. Good post, Frank.


FX Turk said...

Gary --

I'm trying to keep the posts to bite-sized, and I intend to expand on this point as we roll into what we call chapter 2 of this book.

But consider this: Paul's exortation to Titus as we open up Chpt 2 is this: "speak thou the things which become sound doctrine", or as we say in Standard English, "as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine." That is: teaching should exhort to doctrine and also what doctrine looks like when you are living that way.

I don't want to empty my clip on you here, and I want to save a little of the stuff for when we get there, but if the Cretans are vile pigs, how is Titus going to appoint elders unless he does what Paul exhorts to do in Chpt 2?

Establish elders: grow them yourself. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

You, pastor.

FX Turk said...

Note to all readers:

If you ever have a pastor like Tad Thompson, go on welfare and live in a box before you leave him and that church for a job.

I didn't, and I regret it every single day. I regret it less on payday, but that's because of my sinful heart.

The Squirrel said...

Great post, Frank,

I remember when the light went on, when I realized that the characteristics given in 1 Timothy and Titus were not just the qualifications for pastors, they were the characteristics all followers of Christ were to strive for. As you say, not everyone is called to be an elder, but all should be growing in these characteristics as they mature in the Christian life.

As the shepherds are, so the church will be.


ezekiel said...

Tad Thompson makes a point that I think needs a closer look. Tad, no disrespect intended when I use "you". I am talking about one pastor maybe many but I take Frank at his word. You apparently aren't one of whom I speak.

"So, for elder leadership to be effective a church MUST raise up men continually who are both qualified and WILLING!"

I would venture a guess that in a room full of people that there are more willing folk there than what some preachers think their are.

But really now, what do we need them to be willing to do? Watch you perform every sunday and wednsday? Watch you in all your glory, demand tithes and insist they be nice to their wives and everbody else? That is about as deep as it gets in a lot of churches these days.

Maybe you need them to rubberstamp your vision of bigger buildings, new prayer centers and your best life now.

Speaking from my experience now, when I was humbled, broken and moved to get involved with my local church it didn't turn out to well. I had the right pedigree (I am what some might call a successful business man), I wore the right suits and I was putting some nice checks in the plate. I was asked to usher, was in a SS class with all the movers and shakers in the church and then something odd happened.

The more I read the bible, the harder it got to pass the plate down that row of hungry, needy people. It got harder and harder to sit every sunday and watch the preacher preen in front of his audience and it very quickly became something that I was totally unwilling to be part of.

The point is, we might see a lot more willingness on the part of prospective elders if what they are asked to participate in more closely resembles what we read about in the bible.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

If the church did so, their pastor would come from within the congregation. Also notice the plural here as in other passages.
There is to be a plurality of elders, under one senior elder, who handle the spiritual affairs of the church. Deacons or trustees are to handle the physical matters.

Stefan Ewing said...

Yes. Recipe for a body of men suitable for eldership:

* Expositional preaching of the Word;
* A ministry of witness and outreach to non-believers;
* Discernment of newly professed believers;
* Ongoing discipling of believers;
* Training in Biblical literacy and interpretation;
* Shepherding through small groups;
* Repentance and humility;
* Discipline in love;
* And lots and lots and lots of prayer.

It all goes together.

Jmv7000 said...

I also find it interesting that Paul doesn't say, Titus and Timothy, go find men exactly like yourself in the way you dress, think, act, likes and dislikes AND of the same social class. But faithful men who fit the qualities of Titus 1/ Timothy 3.

(Now I agree that these men should be like-minded in their theology) but it seems a potential danger is the "good ole boys club" . . . what do you think?

donsands said...

Elders need to ne ensamples to the people of God, as they oversee and rule. So character is essential for sure. And so not laying hands on too soon is very important; being patient, and continue to preach the Word and pray, and the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts and minds of some of the men to become elders. I have seen more than a few elders, who weren't really elders become elders, and it was a mess.

One other thought: "quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent"

These all seem to fit together. In my little town in Maryland, we had a man in a bar the other night beat another man to death in the bathroom. Amazing.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Stefan; excellent recipe


donsands said...

"Don Sands ;Where in MD are you"

Catonsville MD. It's a basically old quaint town a few miles outside Baltimore. There's an old bar right in town across the street from Friendly's named Morseberger's Bar.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

years ago helped start a worl in Bel Air with Steve Gonella,
preached for a methodist John McKnight in street, went to a camp metting in north east. aLSO PREACHED IN cHASE AT COMMUNITY BAPTIST.

FX Turk said...


Do you attend a church today?

Mark Patton said...

How do you "raise up" elders within the church if the church does not see the need for elders?

If the church does not see the need for elders (I as their pastor does), should I be greatly concerned, or should I be glad that we get most things "right" (e.g. the gospel, evangelism, discipline, church membership, etc.) and that no church is "perfect?" (I came to my understanding of needing elders after I had already been called to my church).

Jmv7000 said...


If you are the only "elder" as it maybe seems is the case, I think the responsibility falls on you to train some up. Ephesians 4:12 indicates that you are responsible to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."

Since we understand the NT design of elders, I would view this situation and conclude I need to find a few faithful men, who are teachable, and begin to work with them in private so that they can be elder qualified. This might even include a few sermons on God's design for the church - including the relationship between the body and elders.

It might be a slow process requiring much patience and an understanding from the body to move in that direction; but one that will be more beneficial to your church in the long run.

(just my penny of thought)

Anonymous said...

Amen, Frank!

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Mark Patton;
Get Strachan's book on Biblical Elders for free from
Chapel Library
2503 West Wright Street
Pensacola, Fl

FX Turk said...

True Story:

I have recently visited a church in which there is only a pastor and deacons, and the deacons are committed to single-elder rule by constitution.

In that church, once a month, the paid staff meets with the "church council" to discuss the business of the church. The "church council" is comprised of the Senior Deacon, the Sunday School leader, the finance committe chairman, the building committee chairman, the missions committee chairman, and the other committee chairmen.

They discuss church business, vote as necessary, and pray for the church.

There are no elders on paper except the senior pastor. I wonder what in fact is happening there since it seems like they have elders running the place -- I think what is happening there is good.

See: should we be concerned that we are slapping the label "presbyteros" on men (or some word which we say means "presbyteros" in English), or should we be concerned that we have men who are of good character, good to their families and known for good character in the community standing up in our churches and making sure that our church is doing the work which adorns the Gospel of our Savior?

I think it's a wise pastor who doesn't force his people to use a word they don't understand -- or that they perhaps will misunderstand -- in favor of actually doing what the Bible says to do, and then calling it what-have-you.

You know: having people who understand the Pastoral letters and then live that way is much more useful, practical and intersting than having a church which is very concerned and troubled about whether they have labelled everything to the rank and file of their denominational (or non-denominational) box.

I think faithful people want to be treated like faithful people, and a pastor who seeks faithful people and feeds faithful people and nutures a faithful people and then calls up a faithful people will have a faithful people to present to God on the final day.

And the others will have what they have, and they will have to show that to Jesus. I'm not sure I want to be those guys. I am sure I don;t want my pastor to be one of those guys, and as long as I have the ability to influence him with love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, joy, and self-control I think he won't be.

No matter who he turns out to be.

Pray for your pastors, people. Pray for them especially if they are not what you think they ought to be, and then pray for yourselves that you can be the poeple God wants you to be in spite of the fact that there has to be a man in charge of the place.

Mark Patton said...

Trying to interpret: If we have men who are qualified and capable of serving as elders, they are serving in many of the duties of elders (even as deacons), then I should not be "hung up" on the term elder.

If that is what you are saying, I think I agree. However, these men who are doing these things carry no "weight" when it comes to shepherding the church.

Is it simply a matter of "function" before "terms?" In other words, should I be taking these men who are willing and qualified and systematically putting them in position to do the work of an elder and then (however long after the fact) say, "hey church ... these guys ... doing the work of an elder ... see, nothing to fear ... only made us function better."

Mark Patton said...

I am on the east coast ... Wed. Bible study approaches. I will be back to interact if others are helping me. Thank you for your encouragment in this. I desire to be one of those faithful pastors who has a faithful people to present. Frank I read daily (here and at yours and Dan's other blogs), but rarely comment because I have knack for being an idiot. You guys are a blessing to me. Thank you for you ministry.

James said...

Just A thought:

a mentor of mine who has since passed away once told me when I was fretting over the "Men's Ministry leaders," call; "to remember to milk the cow, and stir the pot and allow God's man to rise to the top" The cream always rises to the top!!

Do you remember the deliveries from the "milk man" and glass bottles of milk? How creamy the milk was at the top!

Its our call as leaders to, minister to other men, "disciple" they will take God's word and run with it, as the Holy Spirit moves. We plant, water and with God's grace harvest!!

Thus completing the contineous cycle! Eph. 4:11-16

God said "My word will not return to me void."

Stefan Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Ewing said...

I feel like Eeyore even writing this, but...

Write a post about an SBC blog poll, and there are 49 comments in the few hours before the plug is pulled.

Write a post about raising up men to be elders, and you get barely half the comments over twice the time period.

Thanks for plugging away at these epistles, Frank.

Stefan Ewing said...

Oh, and in light of Jmv7000's comment, regarding my "Recipe for eldership" earlier:

All those things don't happen overnight, and do require prayer and perseverance.

Our church went to a plurality of elders some 30 years ago, after many years of preparation and stewardship by the Senior Pastor at the time. Many of the elements I listed were introduced over the course of the ensuing 30 years, to ensure that there would be a constant flow of cream rising to the top of the milk bottle (to use James' illustration).

And by the way, I don't consider myself to be elder material. I'm just glad that by the grace of God, there are men in our church who are.

FX Turk said...

Mark --

Maybe this will be helpful to you. In some sense, the elder(s) of a church wield authority, yes? There are things they have to do (which we haven't fully covered yet in this series) which indicate they have a charge or a warrant to do.

In that sense, they have and are authorities.


They do not have to be authoritarian in order to be effective authorities. That is, they aren't lording over anybody.

Here's what I think about that: as Americans, we respect a certain kind of leader and sort of have a leadership paradigm shaped by our populist expectations.

And not for nothin', but those expectations usually get us demagogues -- people (usually men, but Joyce Meyers comes to mind here, as does Oprah) who obtain power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices. In some sense, rabble-rousers. They exist on the left and the right, and ultimately we think we want leaders like that because they tend to reason by absolutes.

Example #1: Every death caused by drinking is an avoidable tragedy, and being drunk is a sin, so we should outlaw alcohol.

Example #2: Every single mother who is in poverty is a tragedy twice (once for her; once for her children), and being poor is an avoidable social ill, so let's make abortion legal to maintain a woman's right to choose her own social and financial destiny.

But it turns out that this is not the way Paul exhorts Titus and Timothy to lead. This is in fact not the way Paul lead. And when we can see that, we will be able to see a path which is neither authoritarian nor so undefined that it is useless. And we will stop looking for absolutes for every situation and rather seek to apply the Gospel to every situation, which turns out to be a far more personally-costly and personally-involved process.

Does that help?

Jmv7000 said...


If I had to guess, I would say your alluding to servant-leadership. . . I can't wait.


Patience is indeed the key isn't it? Changing this paradigm in a church takes time. You certainly want people on board with this as well. I think it was Alex Montoya who said, you preach the Scripture, teach them, and disciple them and wait for the congregation to come to you and say, "we need elders."

Then you act on what you have been laying the ground work for the entire time.

Morris Brooks said...

Paul did not give Titus a time table for the development and appointment of elders, but did give him the qualifications; and between the lines is don't pick the fruit until it ripe as it goes without saying that you don't appoint a man until he can meet the qualifications. So the time table is the readiness and willingness of the men.

Titus would have to work with the men God provided in each locale, just as we do in our churches. That is not a bad thing as we should be modeling the exact thing that we want our men to be like...Christ. Our goal is not to make them elders per se, but to make them more like Christ. The more like Christ they are the more they will meet the qualifications for deacon and elder.

Mark Patton said...


Absolutely! Thank you (as mentioned before from someone else) for patiently going through important topics. Humbly serve and raise up a group of men who humbly serve.

ezekiel said...


Yes and the water is pretty clean and the grass is pretty well untrampled. Just my opinion of course. Have a real good sunday school going with lots of involvement and interaction. Surrounded by deacons and most about 20 years my senior. Deeper in the word than the weekly "what did you do this week" classes I have seen elsewhere.

By the way, I am not elder material either. I don't rule over my house very well. In fact, it is most unruly on some or most days. Disqualified.

But that doesn't keep me from hunger or thirst. I don't really know how it fits with Mat 10:36 either.

What I do know though is week after week of messages like "your stealing from God if you don't tithe 10%" or "be nice to your wife because nobody is happy unless momma is happy" or "if you sacrifice your time, money and energy here, every time the door is open, God will bless you" sort of messages don't do anything to fight antinomianism or expose it for what it is. For that matter, few if any other pitfalls and trip hazzards are going to be avoided either.

2 Tim 2:21-22, 1 John 3:10,1 Peter 1:14-16 come to mind among others.

So what you see in what I write is frustration directed at a group of men that are more interested in the money flowing and preaching peace, peace than they are in teaching sound doctrine. More intersted in teaching your best life now, or 2 weeks of sex or it's ok to cuss from the pulpit or it is ok to cuss other folks because culture says it is ok and everyone else does it.

Just look at the blowback that Phil got on his sermon at the conference. Preachers standing in line to argue with solid teaching.

Look at the responses you get when you very gently teach on what preachers ought to be doing. We can almost hear the crickets chirping.

But thanks for asking. I hear what you guys are saying and agree with a lot if not most of it. You guys keep up the good work.

Troll rant over.