Paying Attention to Corporate Worship

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

I was introduced to Marva Dawn as an author early on in my post-graduate work. Her book Worship Evangelism resonated as she opened my mind to the power of worship and how singing our faith unites us relationally to the heart and mind of Christ. Her approach is thoughtful, spiritual, and valuable to the church.

In another book, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, Marva proclaims that our churches aren’t bombarded by hostile outsiders, and the source of our struggles is not wrath and hostility, rather, we custodians of the church (pastors, ministry leaders, and congregants) are confronted by apathy, reticence, and intellectual feebleness. Let’s look at these three.

Apathy means a “don’t care” attitude. Practically speaking, when has anyone critically evaluated how we are doing as a worshipping church? Have we asked anyone to evaluate us, or have we gotten into a routine that is acceptable, and in which we’ve grown comfortable? Can we be more worshipful and better at pointing the worshippers to Jesus? What would happen if this was an ongoing conversation happening with worship leaders and team members who are organizing our weekly worship services? What if the pastor involved herself in these conversations as well? If this isn’t happening, the debilitating state of ritual and routine can easily become the norm.

Over the weeks, months and decades we have been “doing church,” have we allowed worship to become repetitive and hollow? Marva expresses that we often make this worse because of our present-day need for efficiency: How do we do what we do faster and effectively so we can get back to the other activities vying for our time and attention? This is one of the reasons we are focusing on the Hope Avenue (venue) this year in Equipper. It is the responsibility/opportunity of the church to make worship meaningful for any and all who step foot into our sanctuaries. It is easy to slip into apathetic tendencies and give the impression that Jesus is not the center of our worship. May the Spirit always stir us out of complacency.

Reticence means a reluctance to speak up. We don’t give constructive criticism; we hold back from getting involved. I have attended a few of our GCI churches where I have been surveyed with a list of questions about my worship experience, or directly asked by one of the pastoral leaders. I love this openness with a willingness to receive feedback and a desire to expand their expressions of worship. Will we become a church that gets past our hesitancy and seeks to make Jesus more fully known in our worship services? May I suggest you invite a friend or coworker to church and ask for an evaluation. Invite your Regional Director to come evaluate the worship service. His schedule may not allow a visit, but he can certainly recommend someone to help.

Intellectual feebleness is not a huge obstacle for GCI folk. Our journey into the depth of “Who God is” has expanded our understanding and awareness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The opportunity for us is to place the emphasis and attention on the Triune God as we come together in corporate worship, and not fall back into making it about us (e.g., “This is my favorite song,” “These are the activities going on in my life,” etc.).

Marva isn’t simply a disrupter to the church for the sake of disruption. Her motivation is to help the church plumb and discover the depths of knowing God in his fullness and for the church to be healthy in our representation of the living Jesus. I recommend her book to our pastors and worship leaders — not merely as an educational exercise, but as an opportunity to be inspired for greater creativity and fresh expressions of worship.

As we have just experienced the grandeur of Advent and Christmas, I challenge you to continue in the seasonal cycle of the calendar and make worship in your congregation more meaningful than ever. Let’s put Christ front and center of all our celebrations.

Making Him Known,
Greg Williams

P.S. As we begin the new year of 2020, it is my privilege to inform you that not only will we focus on the Hope Avenue, but we will also be focusing on our GCI Worship Calendar. Our vision remains Healthy Church, but doesn’t the number of the year 20/20 just scream for clarity of sight? We will methodically dig deeper and wider into the many aspects of the Hope Avenue, and this will crescendo with our Denominational Celebration in July. We are serious about making Jesus the center of the center and fully known in our quest for Healthy Church.


Clearing Up Communication.

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

As President of an international denomination, I am learning more and more how clear communication is both difficult and rare. Some words and phrases can seem so logical and clear to a GCI team in one part of the world, only to find those same words have quite different connotations in another part of the world. Miscommunication happens more often than any of us like, and that is why in a healthy relationship or healthy organization we need to continue to ask clarifying questions, and we need to listen to the input of others. When we agree on language, the words and concepts that matter must be stated and restated.

In GCI we are striving to communicate the vision of “Healthy Church.” We have done this through a variety of platforms, including the monthly Equipper publication for pastors and ministry leaders. Another such platform is the GCI website, which offers support articles, video segments and podcasts on ministry practices that support the cause. On top of the media offerings, the denomination holds annual conferences, and our Regional Directors facilitate cohort groups of pastors who are making progress toward the vision of Healthy Church. We have been educating, training, consulting and coaching in the long journey toward Healthy Church. It is a good journey, and you have my word that we will stay on this path.

One important piece of “Healthy Church” is our style of church governance that we call Team-Based Pastor-Led, and the accompanying ministry priorities that are described as the Love, Faith and Hope venues. A recent meeting with the international supervisors showed me the need to adapt the term venues to “avenues.” Venues has a different, and sometimes negative, connotation in some international areas. What may work in one area of the world, simply does not in another. As a result, we need to be able to adapt. While the word “venue” seems to work in the US and some other areas, the word “avenue” gives a clearer picture in other parts of the world. Either works for me and we will include both as we move forward.

This is just part of our forward movement, a movement I see as the ongoing renewal of our fellowship. It is vital that we not only grasp the concepts but learn how to apply these concepts in how we live and operate as the church. After all, the ministry outlined in the three avenues of faith, hope and love is the ongoing ministry of Jesus, and they serve as markers showing us where to join in.

I think we are making good progress overall and this letter is an opportunity for me to restate the foundational purposes for the church.

Vision: Healthy Church

Mission: Living and Sharing the Gospel

We seek to make Christ known, to help non-believers become believers and be given opportunity to participate in the life of the church.

Love Venue (Avenue): We seek to make authentic relationships where the love and truth of Jesus is shared. This is practiced in neighborhood engagement as we serve and relate to our neighbors by the power of Christ’s love through us.

Hope Venue (Avenue): We seek to make worship meaningful and transformative for persons in our present culture, as we gather as a church, especially in our weekly worship services.

Faith Venue (Avenue): We seek to create environments and events that foster genuine Christian community, promoting relational growth with Jesus and one another. This often occurs in small group settings and other relational events where people gather to strengthen their walk with Jesus and fellow believers.

In my earlier years as an athletic coach, I discovered that success for the players and teams happened when we stuck to the fundamentals. If it was basketball, then dribbling, passing, and shooting had to be developed through much repetition and long practice sessions. Christian ministry has similar qualities in that we must first realize the basic skills that need attention, and then put in the days, weeks, months and years of practice that elevate us to the place where we are operating with consistency and quality.

I believe that GCI is in a good place. I believe that 2019 has been a good year of understanding the basics of ministry and many are beginning to practice these afresh. If you have never dribbled a basketball, it takes time to develop the eye-hand coordination to get the feel. First-time dribblers must watch the ball hit the floor and then return to their outstretched hand, and repeat. After enough practice and with muscle memory kicking in, a player can begin dribbling without looking down and can then play with their head up watching the activity around them. All of us are first-time dribblers in some aspect of Christian ministry, and that is okay. Go ahead and dribble with your head down for a while, and I bet when you first look up, you may very well see the face of the one whose ministry it belongs to.

As we collectively move forward toward Healthy Church, let’s not allow miscommunication to be a roadblock. Please access the vast array of ministry tools designed to serve you where you are in the journey and please feel free to access your ministry supervisors as well. It is imperative that we contextualize what it means to be Team-Based and Pastor-Led in our multiple cultures around the world, and in the midst of our cultural nuances that we share the Christ-like principles of understanding, respect, collaboration, and love, which apply in all circumstances.

As 2019 quickly draws to a close, many of you have held strategic planning meetings with your leaders, seeking the Lord’s direction for your congregation, and you have formed annual budgets. As you prepare to launch into 2020, it may be helpful to meet again and evaluate whether your plans and budgets fit into the avenues of Love, Hope and Faith. Let’s not miss what it means to participate with Jesus, the living and active Head of the Church.

My prayers are with you for this upcoming New Year and I am poised alongside you to receive the gifts that the Father may have in store for us. And there is none greater than “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Could the Father’s love be more clearly communicated?

Clearly, it is about Jesus!

Greg Williams

GCI Worship Calendar

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear Church,

By now you have likely viewed my video update inviting you to come together in the keeping of the annual cycle of worship that we call “GCI Worship Calendar.” Our denominational calendar is designed to guide and direct our worship out of the seasonal flow of celebrating the life and salvific work of Jesus. We are not simply borrowing or importing another calendar. We are endeavoring to design a calendar that our church family around the world can embrace.

The initial diagram of the annual calendar that we sent out rightly displays Jesus in the center. I especially like the outer ring that shows the progression of our Lord’s coming, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and the continual building of his church. Is there anything greater, that we can rally around and make the focus of our praise and worship? A Christ-centered church is “Healthy Church.”

I just completed an outstanding week of meeting and planning with the GCI Superintendents. They are all enthusiastic and supportive of having a GCI Worship Calendar. However, through their wisdom and experience, they have convinced me that some of the wording of our initial design deserves reconsideration. So, we will take the necessary time to provide a revision that will allow us to move forward together.

Keep in mind, the calendar is a framework that guides us through the seasons of the life and work of Jesus. Living out of this calendar and ordering our worship must be done nation by nation, and literally congregation by congregation. There is more education to come and much more practice as we seek to make Jesus the center of our center. This is a long journey in the right direction, and I solicit your prayers as we attempt to craft a calendar that rightly represents who we are.

Please know that our desire for a GCI Worship Calendar is not a step into legalism or ancient rituals of the historical church. Pure and simple, this is a step toward Jesus, the true object of our worship. I am convicted that our GCI Worship Calendar can be unifying and life-giving to our global church, and I especially believe it will be a blessing to our children and grandchildren.

To the Glory of Jesus,
Greg Williams

Worship Calendar Explained

GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on Grace Communion International. He shares the importance of a worship calendar to help churches keep Jesus at the center of our church services and rhythms.

Small Church Is Okay with Jesus

Greg and Susan Williams

A recent Christianity Today article stated that “Sixty percent of Protestant churches in America average less than 100 people in weekly worship.” And the abundance of small churches is growing. I found encouragement in this that we are not alone in this trend, and I believe we should take heart that this similar pattern in GCI is commonplace among the body of Christ.

Small is not automatically indicative of bad or unhealthy. Yet when a church is small, it is easy to become fixated on growth strategies. How do we get new people through the door? How will we fill the seats? Will there be people to contribute to the offering basket? The downside of this thinking is that we start thinking about people as projects, and not as beloved children of God who are made in his image.

Because Jesus Christ is the center of our theological understanding, we understand that all humans are under his spilled blood. And because atonement has been made for all people, we cannot look at anybody outside of that atoning blood. This core understanding not only prevents us from devaluing people, but it also prevents us from approaching evangelism as a growth strategy.

In GCI, evangelism is relational and invitational. Relational evangelism teaches us that people matter, that building chemistry, and trust is hugely important, and that as believers we are to be prepared to give an answer of our hope when the conversations turn toward God. That’s when invitational comes to play. Once a relationship is built, then we invite them to join us in worship. Regardless of their initial response, we continue the relationship.

At a recent US Regional Celebration, I watched how the Spirit guided the speakers as each of them made presentations about how they are connecting with the neighbors around their church buildings. One presenter discerned that the word engage was better than outreach. Outreach sounds as if we are extending ourselves to help others who are somehow less than us, and it can subliminally make us treat them as a project rather than as a person created in God’s image. Another presenter said, “We want to be in face-to-face relationships with our neighbors.” I liked the movement toward deeper, personal connections.

We’ve also come to learn that beyond our individual efforts, the church must work together corporately through active engagement with the neighborhoods where we meet, and develop an annual rhythm of activities that allow us to invite new people in (see the Equipper articles in April, May and June on the Love Venue).

I hope you have noticed that our GCI leaders around the world are working diligently to help your church be healthy, vibrant, and effective at the size it is right now. Being healthy, vibrant, and effective is what allows us to be the light on the hill that radiates Christ’s love and truth.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15).

It is within our movement toward health, vibrancy, and effectiveness that we glorify our Heavenly Father and more readily represent the light who is Jesus.

The Lord is not surprised by the condition of the church that Christianity Today documents. And Jesus, the Head of the church, continues to work through his church no matter how large or small. It is simply our calling to actively participate with him in the opportunities he provides and allow his light to shine through us, and we trust him to add to the church daily as it pleases him.

May your church shine brightly in your little corner of the world!

Loving our small, but far-reaching denomination,

Greg Williams


Tribute to Eugene Peterson

Greg and Susan Williams

Almost one year ago, on October 22, 2018, the Christian community lost scholar, pastor, and Bible translator, Eugene Peterson. Peterson was a pillar for the Christian community and at age 85 he completed his “long obedience in the same direction.” Christianity Today interviewed eight different leaders to offer their reflections about Eugene. See the comments from Trygve Johnson below.

Pastoral ministry is serious, consequential work.

I first heard the name Eugene Peterson in college. My chaplain, after listening to me wrestle with a sense of calling, squinted like a doctor making a diagnosis, pulled a book from his shelf, and handed me The Contemplative Pastor. “Read this!” he said. I did. In Eugene’s words, I found a vision for pastoral life I had always hoped existed but did not know how to articulate.

Years later Eugene befriended me. He had recently retired to Montana. I was a young aspiring pastor, and he took me on, inviting me into a mentoring relationship through letters, conversations, books, and pilgrimages to Flathead Lake. This invitation changed my life and my ministry.

Eugene gave me a vision and a language for who I could be as a pastor. He restored honor and dignity to the calling of the pastor. Eugene revived a vision of a pastor as someone serious, intelligent, savvy, creative, playful, and prophetic. Eugene encouraged those in ministry to resist the seductive sirens of the pragmatic pastor, in favor of a ministry animated by the patient and cruciform witness of a long obedience in the same direction.

Through this encouragement, Eugene pulled me into a larger world of consequence. His words and vision helped me see and experience the wide-open country of salvation. Here, Eugene invited me to explore the geography of the Trinity, which expanded my imagination and bent my reason back into shape. The use of cliché or paint-by-numbers theology was unworthy of the work. The pastor, Eugene counseled, required a charged imagination, an earthy piety, with a double shot of humor! He showed me that a ministry at play in the expansive fields of the Triune God was a more interesting place to spend the day.

The key to this larger world was the Bible. Eugene showed me how to read with a scriptural imagination. He taught me that the goal of reading Scripture was not to know more, but to become more. His great lesson was that Scripture had everything to do with the neighborhood, because the neighborhood is where Christ shows up.

Maybe Eugene’s greatest legacy on my ministry was that he taught me to love by simply loving me. Eugene gave me time. He always wrote back. He never refused a call. He always welcomed me into his home. Never was I treated as an abstraction or a project to solve. He treated me as a friend. He showed me that healthy ministry requires, even demands, relationships where we can be known and understood.

Receiving the news of Eugene’s death feels like what the Fellowship of the Ring in the Tolkien novel of the same name must have experienced when they lost Gandalf. What do you do when your guide is gone? But Eugene taught us well, for he reminded us to practice resurrection. And so we carry the Message on! — Trygve Johnson, Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope College


What a testimony. Eugene Peterson impacted scores of people with his life-on-life style of mentoring and friendship. He instructed and mentored even more through his prolific writing.

Certain lines stuck out in Johnson’s tribute. “Ministry at play in the expansive fields of the Triune God” is such a brilliant way of characterizing the context of pastoral ministry. It is finding the rhythm and dance steps that allow us to commune with Father, Son, and Spirit, while experiencing the peace, purpose and passion that flows from the divine relationship. It is joining in with what God is doing within our sphere of life and entering this divine participation that penetrates the human realm.

“Reading the Bible with a Scriptural imagination” is another choice line. As pastors and ministry leaders we don’t approach the scriptures with a clinical mindset attempting to exegete properly with the sole purpose of constructing a sermon. The Bible is God’s inspired word to us and ultimately points us to an engagement with the Living Word – Jesus. The words of the Bible should wash over us afresh each time we read the ancient words, and our imaginations should be re-ignited.

The final line that I want to highlight is “Scripture has everything to do with the neighborhood.” Pastoral ministry must navigate out from the private study, out from the sanctuary, and into the streets of the neighborhood. The Bible clearly communicates human nature and all its pitfalls; it communicates a broken world in need of deliverance, and ultimately it communicates about the Savior who is uniquely drawing all humanity unto himself and is in the process of redeeming all that is broken. This is the story that rings true for all peoples, in all places, at all times, and it needs to be proclaimed in all neighborhoods.

Thank you, Eugene Peterson, for a life well-lived, with long obedience in the same direction. And thank you GCI pastors for your long obedience in the direction toward Jesus and his eternal kingdom.

Greg Williams

P.S. In addition to The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson has contributed an entire series of books that help to guide and influence pastors in a true course. Here are a few titles of his books that are “must-reads” for any pastor who takes his/her calling seriously.

The Contemplative Pastor
Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work
Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity
The Unnecessary Pastor
The Pastor: A Memoir


Featured image credit: Eugene Peterson lecture at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington, sponsored by the Seattle Pacific University Image Journal, by Clappstar via Wikimedia Commons.

Pastor Appreciation

GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on Grace Communion International.
He highlights October being Pastor Appreciation month and how appreciative we are for our pastors in GCI.
We say THANK YOU for your service and sacrifice!

The Posture of Grace

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

What does it mean to “think theologically” about current issues like politics, social justice, and worldviews? It begins with key questions: Who is the God revealed in Jesus? What is God’s nature? And what is God up to? These fundamental questions help us to think theologically and help form a foundation for informed conversations concerning societal issues.

Leaving God out of our thinking (or adding him when it suits our purposes), is the core issue facing a large part of our world (especially the English-speaking countries). Also problematic is an overarching under-developed view of God. Is it simple, perhaps naïve, for a Christian to believe that Jesus is the answer, no matter the complexity of the issue? When we plumb the depths of who Jesus is, then we know he is the answer; he is the deep, profound answer to complicated human issues. This doesn’t give Christians permission to stay uninformed about the world in which we live—rather, it challenges us to be aware of the times in which we live, while simultaneously being aware of the Lord’s presence.

What I often see in the news—especially among passionate Millennials—is that many conversations dealing with societal issues begin with the problem (be it abuse, injustice, or anything that “needs to be fixed”). The passion builds around the wrongness of the offense and is followed by a demand for action to fix the perceived problem. If God enters the conversation at all, the question is often: “How can a loving God allow such evil?” So where and how do we as believers enter the conversation and initiate a relationship?

You may recall the apostle Paul’s charge for the church to follow him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). The posture Paul took with the church at Corinth is applicable to the question “How do we gracefully and truthfully represent Jesus in the emotive polarized world of today?”

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand—just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you (2 Corinthians 1:12-14 ESV).

Paul met questions and contentious issues head-on. He spoke confidently about his approach—the moral sensibilities of his conscience (a Spirit-guided sense of right and wrong), enhanced by his knowledge of God’s Word, and understanding the mind of Christ. It was from this platform that he shaped his conduct and communication in his relations with the Corinthians.

There are three important things to note about Paul’s conduct.

      1. It was with “simplicity” or the sense of singlemindedness that Paul wrote. He always pointed toward the Triune God, and the grace that flows from Father, Son and Spirit.
      2. His conduct was sincere, honest, and genuine. Being authentic carries a lot of weight.
      3. His motive was not in the vein of worldly wisdom, which is ultimately self-serving. He was instead guided by a love for others and sought what was in their best interests.

Paul’s letters matched his conduct: simple, sincere, and filled with God’s grace (I suspect that you notice in Paul’s tone that he operates out of “High Support”—love for the brothers and sisters and their best interest, and “High Challenge”—not backing down from ungodly behavior and failings within the church). Paul had no hidden meanings or ulterior motives in his correspondence with the Corinthians. With Paul, what you see is what you get, and he was the same way in his letters.

Paul knew that he had been more corrective with the believers in Corinth than with any other church, but he also believed his sincere motives and genuine love would win them over in the end. Compelled by the love of Jesus, Paul was tenacious and unrelenting in pointing them to Jesus. I believe his hope was that they would eventually come to vindicate him and even boast of him in the day of the Lord Jesus.

We can learn a lot from the consistency of Paul’s message, his motives and his conduct. Paul knew how to become all things to all people that he might win some to Jesus. We would do well to follow him as he so closely followed Christ. We would do well to allow the love of Christ to inspire us tenaciously and unrelentingly point others to Jesus. We would do well to be sincere, honest and genuine, and to let Christ’s love be our motivation.

My final thought is this: As followers of Jesus, Christians are uniquely empowered to display patience and tolerance. This is because we are well-founded in our relationship with Jesus and we know the convictions for which we stand. And just like the apostle Paul, our goal is about winning people, not arguments. We, who have been transformed by God’s grace, can operate out of the posture of grace no matter what the social climate brings.

Living in that posture in grace,
Greg Williams

Jesus, Irritated?

Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The writer of Hebrews says, “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than a two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). This verse reminds me to approach the Holy Scriptures with a “yieldedness” to the Spirit and a desire to relate more deeply to the Triune God. When we do this, the stories come alive and penetrate our innermost beings.

In my daily devotion, I am oftentimes surprised by things that never stood out previously. One of the recent surprises was noticing how even Jesus got annoyed and frustrated, especially with faithlessness and perverse thinking. One such example is his reaction after healing a demon-possessed boy.

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” (Luke 9:41)

Throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus was downcast by faithless responses. And it seemed to impact him most when his disciples displayed a lack of belief. This story takes place a day after Jesus, Peter, James, and John had come down from the Mount of Transfiguration. A great crowd met Jesus, and a father in the crowd begged that Jesus heal his son. The father tells Jesus, “I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” A key point to this story is found at the beginning of Luke 9.

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (Luke 9:1-2).

Though these disciples had traveled with Jesus, had seen many miracles, and had been given the power and authority over demons, their lack of faith prevented them from healing the boy. You can understand Jesus’ dismay, which he expressed in his words.

As someone who is challenged on many fronts, I find it encouraging that even though Jesus was 100% God and man, and was filled with grace, truth, and love, he could get a little irritated and disappointed. The expressions of annoyance and frustration are a minor piece of his earthly experience, but these mark the reality of his humanity and it makes him human enough to identify with. He really did take on flesh and blood and he had to wrangle through the daily grind just as we do.

Certainly, crankiness was not the daily demeanor of Jesus. His day-in-day-out earthly ministry shows us that he continued forward no matter the negativity he faced, and his driving purpose was to raise humanity out of the generational cycle of faithlessness. The faithless bystanders—even if they included his disciples—did not deter Jesus from healing the boy and there is nothing that will keep the grace, truth, and love of Jesus from moving through the crowd and reaching us.

Prayer: Jesus, you were both divine and human, and you eternally maintain your connectedness to us humans in your glorified body. We thank you for temporarily setting aside your glory to join us in our mess, fully embracing humanity as one of us, and being the perfect example and perfect sacrifice that saves us. Amen.

So thankful for his humanity,
Greg Williams

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.


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