A pastor’s calling is to teach sound doctrine again and again. 3:1 says remind them. There’s no need to come up with something new and profound. I’m thankful for this! I’m thankful for the historical orthodoxy from which we teach. I am thankful for the richness of confessions of faith. I think it is extremely important for a church to be confessional. We know where the fence is! The fence helps us know where our unity should be and who is outside the fence.
It is very clear that Paul always weaves the gospel into his instructions about good works lest we forget that our relationship with God depends not on what we do. Paul never leaves that in question.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7
Paul also reminds Titus to help those he is teaching to remember who they once were. It really changes how you treat others when you can easily relate. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” – Titus 3:3
Why does Paul want Titus to speak confidently about the gospel and good deeds? So that they might be fruitful like the picture above. Notice this clear statement: The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. – Titus 3:8
These things are excellent and profitable…fruitful! Yet, for the church to remain fruitful there must be something done about those who are unfruitful and want to remain unfruitful. A contrast follows verse 8. “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” – Titus 3:9-11
There are things to be avoided that are worthless and unfruitful. Verse 10 uses the singular “man” or “person.” It only take one among you to stir up division. The one person will recruit. The foolish man will gain some followers. It will grow if left alone. I have not seen this done very well in my lifetime. I’ve had discussions with other pastors who have that one person and his group who are continually harming the church and her witness in the community.
You invite someone to come but they bring up so and so’s name. They want no part of it. Upon investigating, you find out he’s been doing this for years. The church family just makes excuses for him. “He’s always been that way.” “We just overlook him.” “It’s no use.” “He gives more than anybody else.” “If we do something about it, what will the community think?” “We haven’t done anything for years, why do something now?” I could go on but that should be clear enough.
I have wept many tears over this. You feel so helpless and alone. Especially among churches that follow the single pastor model instead of a plurality of pastors. You can teach. You can get agreement. But you cannot move anyone to action. They will often choose the community over what is right. And in choosing the community they didn’t choose the community. They chose the foolish man who keeps the community cut off from them.
I’ve said too much even without being very specific. It is so sad. Many churches cannot reach their community with the gospel because of the influence of one person. And it’s generational, too. They pass it on to others. How do you fix it? You either stand up for the truth and cause a huge fight and then get fired. Or you leave and go somewhere else. And this cycle never seems to end.
I don’t know the answer. The best option is to teach sound doctrine for years and years. You pray earnestly for other mature believers to join the work. You hopefully win some along the way. And then maybe after several years and some have passed on there will be some glimmer of hope. A new identity emerges for your local church. You may never see it come to fruition. But you labor. You train up leaders to carry on the work. Be faithful. Be patient. Love the Lord and love people. And maybe the church will be healthier someday due to God’s amazing grace and your faithful labors.
For the one who left and didn’t stay. I know your pain. If you need someone to talk to, I would be glad to do that. It might help me too. Just know that Jesus loves. Do not lose heart.
Grace be with you all. – Titus 3:15