Church Health: Lessons from Timothy and Titus

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Have you ever noticed the relationship the apostle Paul had with his younger proteges? In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote like a father figure, calling Timothy, “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes more like a professor to a student: “Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering…” (2 Timothy 3:10-11). Timothy has journeyed around the Developing Others square with Paul, knowing what he teaches, and how he conducts himself in a range of circumstances related to church life. The relationship blossomed to the place that Paul calls Timothy “my fellow worker” (Romans 16:21). He was a colleague, or as Paul was famous for saying, “a yoke-fellow.”

Paul also had a close relationship with Titus, a Greek Christian whom Paul calls, “my loyal child in the faith” (Titus 1:4). Unlike Timothy, who had grown up in the faith through his mother and grandmother, Titus was a testimony to a changed life in Jesus and how Gentiles were being grafted into the church. Titus, who spent 15 years in missionary trips with Paul, was the one who carried the second letter to the church at Corinth (“the severe letter”). Paul identifies Titus as his partner and fellow worker (2 Corinthians 8:23). Paul knew that Titus would handle matters in Corinth in the same spirit and style as himself.

There was a lot of physical movement in Paul’s role as the apostle to the Gentiles, so frequently Paul sent Timothy as his ambassador. First Corinthians 4:17 tells us Timothy was sent to Corinth to remind the people there of Paul’s ways and teachings. Paul told the believers in Thessalonica he was sending Timothy to strengthen and encourage them in their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Correcting false teaching and establishing sound doctrine was always a priority (the young New Testament church had to be discipled). We also see Timothy appointing elders and establishing church administration. (Paul’s letters tell us Titus did similar work.)

In Ephesus, Paul left Timothy behind to oversee the church. Paul had given three years of attention to the church in Ephesus, and it is known as one of the healthiest of the New Testament churches.

Paul also empowered Titus, sending him to straighten out Crete. Crete was the wild frontier where the gospel had only recently arrived. Paul describes the Cretans as, “rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision; they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach. It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said, ‘Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons’” (Titus 1:10-12).

Paul gave Titus a ministry action plan, “I left you behind in Crete for this reason, that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you…” (Titus 1:5). In other words, “be a living example of what a Christian should be. Don’t just go there and teach what a Christian should be like, but show them what they can be, just as you were transformed in Christ.”

What a great compliment to both Timothy and Titus that they could be trusted lieutenants who could be assigned to a church and a region that allowed them to be the second generation of leaders in the New Testament church.

Summary

What do we learn about church health from the parallel stories of Timothy and Titus?

  • Pastors/leaders have different backgrounds and different personalities. Timothy appears to be more tender-hearted and prone to melancholy, and yet an able teacher for furthering and defending the gospel. Titus seems competent and trustworthy to carry out his assignments – even if he is working with brutes and liars. Paul invested heavily in both young men.
  • Churches are in different stages of development and can differ in the challenges they face. Even mature churches will face challenges when the glory isn’t channeled back to God. We have no other choice than to work out of our present reality.
  • Discipleship is the ongoing work of the church. Sound teaching is great, but it is only impactful when the fruit of the Spirit is evident in the lives of the leaders, and they are living their lives in community with the church and neighborhood.
  • Development of future leaders will always be the ongoing work of the church. True mentoring is a lot of work and takes a lot of time – Titus traveled with Paul for 15 years. Because of Paul’s skillful, intentional development of Timothy and Titus, I am certain these men took to heart the charge from 2 Timothy 2:1-2 to purposefully pass along the faith and ministry skills they learned to other reliable men and women. Timothy and Titus could mentor well because they had been mentored well.

Titus’ successor, Andreas Cretensis, eulogized him in the following way: “The first foundation-stone of the Cretan church; the pillar of the truth; the stay of the faith; the never silent trumpet of the evangelical message; the exalted echo of Paul’s own voice” (Philip Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians).

Titus and Timothy were excellent proteges who faithfully followed Paul as Paul walked in the footprints of Jesus. Brothers and sisters, isn’t this the same echo we want to resound in the young proteges who are under our care? May the faith go forward with the future Timothys and Tituses to come.

Dedicated to developing others,

Greg Williams

6 thoughts on “Church Health: Lessons from Timothy and Titus”

  1. Thanks so much for reminding us of the importance of sound mentoring. While entailing hard and patient work it is so wonderfully rewarding to see the fruits of that labor in the lives our young developing leaders. Jesus spent over three years with His chosen 12 apostles in intense daily contact teaching while at the same time living out His message. I pray that we may prove worthy to bear the name of our Savior as we interact with our communities preaching the gospel both in words and in deeds.

  2. Thank you for all the time and effort spent teaching and mentoring our church leadership. With years of experience comes a personal responsibility to model and share what we have learned with the younger members of each of our congregations.The women who are leading us now are great examples for us to follow as we move forward…upward and onward in our faith!

  3. Reaching Out to Others

    I have been amazed by the countless calls our ministry has received during the years to help churches become more outreach-oriented. Then, when help is offered, people exert a minimal amount of effort to continue what God places as a top priority.

    Reaching out to others isn’t something we should pay lip service to. It should be a top priority of living the Christian life.

    It takes determination and commitment to stretch ourselves to help others, but that’s how God wants us to live. God says that when you truly give and pour yourself out for others, He will use you. “Your light shall dawn in the darkness and your darkness shall be as the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10 NKJV).

    If you reach beyond your own situation and bring Christ’s love to others, the circumstances you face will fade away and disappear. And you’ll experience the wondrous joy of making a difference where it counts.

    What if you decide to change, to make this the time in your life when you make a difference? Rearrange your priorities today and reach out to others.

  4. Thanks Greg for mentoring the next generation of Christian leaders in the GCI denomination. Those that are strong in the Grace of God and are fully committed to Trust Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all they need. To be of sound doctrine in the knowledge of Him and to bear witness to Him as they proclaim Him to all the world as its only Hope! Pr 3:5

  5. “Love conquers all” … an expression most of us have heard before. We are becoming, as we mature spiritually, living beacons of God’s love. Reaching out to others is the key to getting God’s love out to them. Love, not expressed, is futile. Whether it be “mentoring”, lending a hand where needed, praying for others and their pain and suffering from bad choices, we, as “called and chosen” Christians, have a job to do both, to share God’s love and walk within His grace. It is all about relationships … starting with God and flowing out to others. The world needs us!

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