Archives For Leadership development

St. Titus “The Tough”

Chris —  March 7, 2017

Spiritual leadership requires guts and grit. You have to be tough to lead. Consider the biblical example of Titus.

When I left the corporate world and went to seminary, I pictured spiritual leaders as clean cut guys in starched white shirts and blue suits. I understood that spiritual leadership wasn’t always easy. I knew that piety was essential. But I didn’t think much about the need for a spiritual leader to be a gladiator.

You might wonder how I missed what was so obvious in Scripture. Had I read about Moses? Or David? Or Jesus! Didn’t I know that Paul wrote to the Ephesians that we are in a spiritual war?

I would have said at the time I knew toughness was important. But I didn’t really know. The dusty world of the Biblical slingshots, Roman soldiers, and stonings seemed so far removed from our modern age.

Twenty six years later I’ve realized what I should have known all along: spiritual leaders are walking the way of the cross. The face of spiritual leadership looks a lot more like the image to the right of Wisconsin wrestler Isaac Jordan (from The Faces of College Wrestling) than that of a button-downed executive. To be a spiritual leader is to go to the front lines of a war. Figurative bruises and black eyes are sure to come. Bloody lips are part of the call.

And the more bruises I get as a leader, the more I can relate to the guts and grit of the biblical leader Titus. If I had deeply understood more about Titus when I began in spiritual leadership, I would not have been so surprised the first time I got flattened.

On the one hand, we know little about the first century church leader Titus. He is not mentioned in Acts. Some have speculated that Luke omitted Titus’s name because he and Luke were brothers: an intriguing theory, but only a guess.

Outside of Acts, Titus’s name appears 13 times in the New Testament (2 Cor 2:13, 7:6, 7:13, 7:14, 8:6, 8:16, 8:23, 12:18, Gal 2:1, 3, 2 Tim 4:10, Titus 1:4). From those passages, we can sketch a preliminary picture. Titus was Greek and one of Paul’s converts (Titus 1:4). He became one of Paul’s most trusted partners and maybe the toughest.

The case for Titus’s toughness is built by reflecting on four assignments entrusted to Titus by the Apostle Paul.

First, Titus represented uncircumcised Gentiles at the Council of Jerusalem.

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. . . But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Gal 2:1, 3

In 50 AD Paul received a special revelation from God that he should travel to Jerusalem for a meeting that was sure to be a showdown. The central question in view was the matter of circumcision. For more than 2,000 years the people of the living God were circumcised as a covenant sign of their relationship with God. Now, under the jurisdiction of the New Covenant, it was rightly argued that circumcision was not required (Gal 2:1-10). The matter was a tremendously contentious issue for the early church. For Titus to go — as something of the token uncircumcised Gentile — meant the authenticity of his faith would be scrutinized and questioned by articulate and combative Judaizers. 

Second, Titus was Paul’s messenger and intermediary with Corinth.

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 2 Cor 8:16

Given its location, the church at Corinth was of strategic importance. Yet, it was full of problems (see 1, 2 Corinthians). The relationship between Paul and the church at Corinth was strained to say the least. Indeed, Paul had so severely rebuked the Corinthians that he wasn’t sure if they were up to another round of correction directly administered by him (2 Cor 2:1). Instead, Paul gave Titus the job of delivering Paul’s severe or sorrowful letter.

Titus delivery of Paul’s severe letter to the Corinthians couldn’t have been a pretty scene. The Corinthians expected that Paul would be arriving in person. Doubtless, those who supported Paul were disappointed to hear he wouldn’t be coming. On the other hand, Paul’s opponents seized on his absence to accuse Paul of breaking his word.

To make matters even more difficult, Titus’ role as messenger included the task of taking up a collection for other young churches (2 Cor 8-9). It takes a tough leader to relay the message of a rebuke while also leading a giving campaign.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating the difficulty of Titus’ assignment, notice, Paul was by no means sure that things would go well. He was so distressed about how things went for Titus that when Titus did not return as expected, Paul left a ministry opportunity and went looking for him in Macedonia (2 Cor 2:12-13). After hearing good news from Titus when he found him, Paul asked Titus to deliver 2 Corinthians.

Biblical scholars believe that Titus probably represented Paul to the Corinthians on three different occasions. And given that 1,2 Corinthians are in the New Testament today, our sense is that Titus was effective in his role. Even so, he took some body blows.

Third, Titus traveled with Paul for extended periods of time.

As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 2 Cor 8:23

To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. Titus 1:4

As seen above, Titus was with Paul at the Council of Jerusalem (50 AD). He was a key intermediary with the church at Corinth (51-56 AD). We also know that Titus accompanied Paul to Crete (62-64 AD). Putting all of this together, it is also reasonable to assume that Titus was at Paul’s side (or representing Paul) for a large part of Paul’s ministry. Partnering with Paul was one of the toughest ministry assignments ever. Beatings, shipwrecks, or death were never far away. Yet, Titus persevered.

Fourth, Titus stayed behind in Crete to deal with troublemakers and appoint leaders.

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—Titus 1:5

While the book of Acts does not document a missions visit by Paul to Crete, we know from Titus 1:5 that Paul and Titus visited Crete together. The traditional understanding is that Paul was released from his first imprisonment in Rome and he and Titus made a missions trip to Crete. The gospel took root in Crete. But, as we learn from the book of Titus, Crete was a notoriously difficult culture. If the gospel cause was to go further, someone needed to stay behind, appoint qualified leaders, and take on divisive leaders. Paul chose “Titus the tough” to silence the circumcision group in Crete and to deal with other difficulties.

Almost 2,000 years later we don’t know what Titus looked like when he traveled to Jerusalem, Corinth, and Crete. But of this we can be sure. He was a warrior. He has a black eye or two. And so do all leaders who make a difference. To be a spiritual leader is to be called into a battle.

See also:

Grit: What Athletics Have to Do With Academic Success

The Bible Project on Titus


A Vision Verse for God’s People!

Chris —  January 31, 2013

Church leaders would do well to memorize Nehemiah 12:43. It envisions joyful worship.˚

In the past, I have objected to Proverbs 29:18 being used as the rationale for a church vision statement (See “Where there is no vision the people perish, one of the most miss applied verses in the Bible”).  Proverbs 29:18 calls for the proclamation of God’s Word rather than writing a mission statement.

Having said that, local churches clearly do need a vision of how they dream their local church will move forward. And the vision for any local church should include joy. Currently, I am memorizing Nehemiah 12:43. You don’t need to be a Hebrew scholar to appreciate how this thought from Nehemiah should shape our vision for the days to come.

And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away (Nehemiah 12:43).

What would happen if everyone on your board or committee accomplished three modest task between now and your next meeting? How encouraged would we be if everyone could share three specific things they took the time to do? It does not have to be anything huge. Leaders know it is helps if you only carry one crumb at a time.

The Red Brick Church deacons have a meeting in five days. I am going to send them a copy of this post. How they do will between those in the group, but I wonder what sort of difference it would make if each of our deacons accomplished three small tasks in the next five days.

Here are some ideas:

Eight or nine people will be in the room for our next deacons meeting. We’re going to go around the room and see what we have to share. And I am going to count writing this post as one of my three things.

Well worth 5 minutes of your time.

Confronting Idols & Making Disciples from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.


I’m not dropping hints to the Bricks.  Jamie and I were already able to go to Cedarly.  But, if you are looking for a Christmas present that will both bless your pastor and church (see Motivation for Caring for Your Pastor), then consider giving the Christmas present of a retreat at Cedarly.  It is a bargain.

Cedarly is a retreat center that focuses on spiritual renewal for pastors and their spouses.  Pastors (and spouses if they are married) arrive on Sunday and stay until Friday morning.  Each participant maps out how he or she will pursue spiritual renewal during the week.

Jamie and I have been to Cedarly three times.  And, each time we have been renewed.  The facilities are beautiful.  The food is excellent.  And, the focus is truly on spiritual renewal.

You learn a lot more from the below video.  This would make a wonderful Christmas present for your pastor.


Mark Driscoll talks about a mistake they made at his church, and in so doing offers a timely challenge for the Red Brick Church.

Tim Keller on Proverbs

Chris —  May 3, 2010

I often encourage people in our church that reading Proverbs should be part of the rest of their life.  Whatever day of the month it is, read that day’s chapter of Proverbs.  Today is May 3.  Read Proverbs 3.

A recent post by Tim Keller offers some great insights that will make your time in Proverbs more profitable:

Some years ago I preached through the book of Proverbs, and I learned two things I hadn’t known about it. First, the Proverbs only give up their meaning cumulatively. No one proverb gives you the whole picture. If one proverb says, "the morally good always have a good life" and a later proverb says, "sometimes the morally good suffer" we think it’s a contradiction. That’s because we think of each proverb as an individual stand-alone promise. But they are not. All the proverbs on a given subject are meant to be taken together, each one modifying the others like the parallel clauses do. One gives you information about a topic; then subsequent ones come along and answer questions raised by the first one, or they condition and nuance a more blanket statement made earlier.

Chapters 10-15 tell us that the hard-working have enough to eat and the lazy will be poor. But starting in chapter 16, the exceptions to the customary-way-life-works come along. There is an order God has put into things that we must abide by, but, on the other hand, we can’t see it all and so must expect exceptions. An example of how the Proverbs only give up their meaning cumulatively is the famous Prov 16:25 — There is a way that seems right to a man, but that way leads only unto death. I’ve never heard this invoked except when the speaker wants to say to the listeners "don’t trust your feelings." But earlier Proverbs repeatedly said — "The way to destruction appears right to the fool." That is, fools are terrible at making plans because they reject the way of wisdom (not getting counselors, not being humble, not watching your words or controlling your emotions, etc). But 16:25 comes along and says — "But the way of destruction can appear right not just to a fool, but sometimes to anyone (to ‘a man’.) Even if you follow the way of wisdom to the "T" and make your plans as well as can be — sometimes your life can still blow up! This is a broken world. The wise know that sometimes all paths may run ill.

Read the rest here.

One of the things we encourage our leaders to do is to read the day’s chapter of Proverbs.  It’s not something we’re legalistic about – – not a big deal if you miss a day – – but, I encourage leaders to plan on reading Proverbs the rest of their lives.

Wisdom is the saw we use to cut our way through life, and Proverbs sharpen our wisdom saw.

Today Tim Keller had a post explaining how a mini-guide to Proverbs is found in Proverbs 3:3-12:

In my regular, daily Bible reading over the past year I read through Proverbs 3, a passage I’ve studied and preached through many times. But during this reading, I realized that in verses 3 through 12 we have all the themes of the rest of the book, and therefore a kind of mini-guide to faithful living. There are five things that comprise a wise, godly life. They function both as means to becoming wise and godly as well as signs that you are growing into such a life:

1. Put your heart’s deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:3-5a)

2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don’t think you know better than God’s word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.

Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5b-6)

3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7-8)

Here to read the rest from Tim Keller.


Other posts on Proverbs:

Leaders know how to pick up a crumb and carry it into the next room

Don’t let failure give way to failure

Sharpen your wisdom saw today

image One of my biggest goals for the next 5 years with the Bricks is to see God develop men as leaders (see these posts).  An excellent summary of this approach can be found in The Trellis and the Vine.  It isn’t so much that this book changed my thinking, as that I found myself agreeing with it.  It did help me organize my thinking and brought my thoughts into clear focus in many areas.  It is an excellent book.

I won’t take the time to write a proper review, but Tim Challies has already given an excellent overview on his blog.

The Trellis and the Vine is a metaphor Colin Marshall and Tony Payne use to introduce a mind-shift in ministry that they insist will change everything. That is no small claim. A trellis, of course, is a structure that is used to support, to hold up, a vine. In this metaphor the trellis refers to the administrative work within a church, those tasks that, though important, are not actually directly related to discipling people. Vine work, on the other hand, is those tasks of working with the vine, drawing people into the kingdom through evangelism and then training them to grow in their knowledge of God and their obedience to him. As the authors say, “The basic work of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of God’s Spirit, and to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel.” The problem, though, is that trellis work tends to take over from vine work. Perhaps it’s because trellis work is easier and less threatening; perhaps the trellis work looks more impressive. But for one reason or another, many Christians, and pastors in particular, soon find themselves consumed with trellis work, leaving them little time and attention for the vine. “Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that in many churches, maintaining and improving the trellis constantly takes over from tending the vine.”

What Marshall and Payne suggest in this book is that most Christian churches need to undergo a radical re-evaluation of what Christian ministry really is. They need to go back to the very basics to understand the aims and goals of ministry, to learn how it proceeds and to see afresh the part we play in it.

Here to read more from Challies.

I can’t really move forward unless I learn more thoroughly the gospel’s content and how to apply it to all of life. Real change does not and cannot come independently of the gospel. God intends his Good News in Christ to mold and shape us at every point and in every way. It increasingly defines the way we think, feel, and live.  Tullian Tchividjian.

One of our central emphases in leadership development for the “Bricks” is to demonstrate how the Gospel should transform every area of life (see What is the Gospel?).  The Gospel is not just a way to avoid hell – it is the power of God at work in our lives.  Tullian Tchividjian recently wrote an excellent article about this for Leadership Magazine.

I once assumed the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth. As Tim Keller explains it, the gospel isn’t simply the ABCs of Christianity, but the A-through-Z. In other words, once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it.

In his letter to the Christians of Colossae, the apostle Paul portrays the gospel as the instrument of all continued growth and spiritual progress, even after a believer’s conversion.

"All over the world," he writes, "this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth" (Col. 1:6).

After meditating on Paul’s words, a friend told me that all our problems in life stem from our failure to apply the gospel. This means I can’t really move forward unless I learn more thoroughly the gospel’s content and how to apply it to all of life. Real change does not and cannot come independently of the gospel. God intends his Good News in Christ to mold and shape us at every point and in every way. It increasingly defines the way we think, feel, and live.

Read more here.