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Marks of a healthy church- Thoughts from the Book of Titus
Marks of a healthy church

Scripture reading: Titus 1

This morning I want to talk to you, from the book of Titus, on the marks of a healthy church.

Before getting into the subject of what makes for a healthy church, here is some background material on the Book of Titus

-Written by Paul to Titus (A Greek convert) and trusted fellow worker with Paul
-Written between his house arrest in Rome and his final arrest and imprisonment under Nero
-Written after 1 Timothy and before 2 Timothy
-Between 62-64 A.D
-Titus left by Paul in Crete (A medium sized island that is part of Greece. 160 miles by 35 miles)
-Crete had a really bad reputation. In Titus 1:12-13 Paul writes to Titus " Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.

In case you think Paul was being overly harsh consider what the ancient historian Polybius (200-118 B.C) said of Crete "It is impossible to find....personal conduct more treacherous or public policy more unjust than in Crete" Histories 6:47. Furthermore, Cicero (106-43 B.C) said of the Cretans "Moral principles are so divergent that Cretans... consider highway robbery honorable." De Republica 3.9.15

APPLICATION: Who is the Gospel of Christ for? Who did Jesus come for? Sinners like you, me, and the Cretans

-To Titus, Paul gave a multifaceted job.

To organize the church on Crete, appointing elders in every town (and then Paul directs Titus as to what qualifications they are to have

To silence the voices in the churches of Crete who were teaching falsehoods and leading the believers astray-- most particularly into legalism and foolish arguments about stuff that didn't matter as it regarded following Jesus. POINT: THE JOB OF THE LEADERS OF ANY CHURCH IS TO "GUARD THE GATE" AGAINST THOSE WHO WOULD HURT/DIVIDE/ STIR UP TROUBLE IN THE CHURCH

To teach the believers about who Jesus is and how to follow Him-growing in godliness. A huge emphasis of the book of Titus is on SOUND DOCTRINE AND HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO THE HEALTH OF THE CHURCH

To encourage good works in the name of Jesus

-
The book of Titus contains one of the clearest statements in the Scriptures as it regards the Deity of Christ. ***

Note Titus 2:11-14 "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

-Titus supplies us with a great summary of the Gospel message, our motivation for obeying Christ, and the hope we have (Titus 2:11-14; 3:3-8)


MARKS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH- from the perspective of Titus

When it comes to health, different criteria are considered. People often talk about ones financial health, their physical health, heart health, dental health, relationship health, and mental health. Very rarely do folks outside of church talk about a persons spiritual health (other than a cursory mention of it).

This morning, from the perspective of Titus, I want to talk to you about spiritual health- and particularly, what makes for a strong and healthy church-- for this was Paul's concern for the church's that he planted.

1. Healthy churches have godly leaders. Titus 1:5-9

In Titus 1:5-9 Paul sets before Titus the qualifications that an elder in the church must have. READ.

Note the qualifications listed: blameless, the husband of one wife, believing children who are not wild or disobedient, not overbearing, not quick tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain, hospitable, a lover of what is good, self controlled, upright, holy, disciplined, holding to the Gospel message as it has been taught, an encourager of others, ready to refute those who oppose the Gospel.

The indisputable message is this: For a church to be healthy their leaders must be pursuing after the things of Christ and committed to being doers of the Word.

Now in making this point, there is a particular burden that I rightfully feel-- for I realize that my spiritual health and the health of Islington are connected. Hence I ask for your prayers that I would have an unswerving desire to live a holy life-- with my tongue, my attitudes, as it regards sexual purity, financially, with my patience, as a husband, as a father, in my approach to the Word of God.

Please also pray for your Deacons: Reindorf, and Olori and Gloria

It is our goal that our talk about Jesus and the Bible and our walk match up (application of Titus 1:16)

ANOTHER POINT: When it comes to adding new elders or Deacons to a church, the standards of Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 must be adhered to. It is the responsibility of the existing elders of the church to "guard the gate" as it regards the church and her positions of leadership. Otherwise the church will weaken.


2. Healthy churches faithfully teach the Word of God Titus 1:9; Titus 2:1-15

In Titus 1:9 Paul says to Titus of the church elders "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."

In Titus 2, using a variety of Greek words for 'teach", Paul begins and concludes by telling Titus what he is to teach the various members of the church-- starting with older men and concluding with a general address to the church as a whole"

POINT: Teaching the Word of God is expected at church. Instructing in the Gospel is part of church. Doctrinal teaching is part of church-- reviewing who God is, what Christ has done for us, the nature of salvation, the life to come, etc, is important to the health of a church. Coming alongside formally and informally, to teach and instruct as to how to follow Christ is part of the elders job description.

Further: The teaching of Sound Doctrine necessitates the refuting of false teaching***

Over the last 2000 years the church has never lacked for people at her door with a corruption of the Gospel, a legalistic focus, or a desire to weaken the authority of the Scriptures. Vigilance is required. The whole of God's Word must be taught. Whatever we do here or espouse must pass the test of the Word of God. Those who teach something that is contrary to the Word of God, or who bring some "new" teaching that the church has somehow "missed" must be silenced.

The Word of God is our final authority as it regards our faith, our practice, our beliefs about life and the world. As Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17; "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

I trust you will never tire of hearing the Gospel and the Word of God expounded and if you ever think I'm boring in the process, pray for a moving of the Holy Spirit in me and you :)

In summary:

Healthy churches are teaching centers-- places where the Word of God is faithfully and carefully expounded.

Healthy churches, while not afraid of peoples questions about the Bible or debate as to what a text may mean or how to apply it, are places that do not tolerate false doctrine or false teachers.

3. Healthy churches have members who are committed to personal holiness. Titus 2:11-12

As the followers of Christ, we need to be committed to personal holiness. For a church to be healthy, their leaders need to be godly, but too does the congregation. Hence we should pray for one another, and collectively encourage one another to be doers of the Word of God.

Titus 2:11-12 it says; "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age."

In Titus 2 as a whole Paul unpacks to a degree what personal holiness looks like; addressing older men, older women (who likewise to teach the younger women), younger men, and slaves.

In these verses Paul gives Titus many practical ideas of what living for Jesus and personal holiness looks like.

Note once again -as we have so often as we have considered the letters of Paul-- We are told why we should obey Christ and pursue holiness: Our motivation -as revealed in Titus 2:11-14- is the grace of Christ, the forgiveness of sins that we have in Jesus.


4. Healthy churches have people who are eager, ready, and devoted to doing what is good

In the Book of Titus, the word "Good" in various forms appears 8 times

In Titus 1:8, in speaking of elders, Paul writes that an elder must be one who "loves what is good"

In Titus 1:16, in speaking of false teachers, Paul says of them "They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good"

In Titus 2:3 Paul instructs Titus to have the older women to teach the younger women what is good"

In Titus 2:7 Paul tells Titus to set a good example for the young men

In Titus 2:14, Paul speaks of how we are to be "eager to do what is good"

In Titus 3:1 Titus is told to remind the people to be "ready to do whatever is good"

In Titus 3:8 we are told to be "careful to devote ourselves to doing what is good"

In Titus 3:14 Paul says "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives"

What is meant by "good"?

Greek words used "kalos" "Agathos"

-that which is beautiful, admirable, praiseworthy, noble,
-that which is morally good and honorable
-that which is commendable, excellent, upright

Summary

A healthy church has people who are

a. Eager to do good
b. Ready to do what is good
c. Careful about and devoted to doing what is good
d. Ones who are learning about what it is to do good.

We are to be known for our good deeds, righteous thoughts, pure motives

Another verse from another Bible book

Galatians 6:9-10 says; " Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."


CONCLUSION

What is required for a church to be healthy? From the perspective of Titus....

1. Healthy churches have leaders who are serious about being godly and holy
2. Healthy churches faithfully teach the Word of God-- are do not shrink back from refuting error and false teaching
3. Healthy churches have members who are personally committed to being holy
4. Healthy churches have people who are eager, ready, and devoted to being and doing good.