How are we to distinguish authentic Christian leadership from those who are trend seekers? How are we to know what’s proper engagement with culture and what is simply emulating culture? How are we to discern these matters as Christians?
There are many people who pretend (or feign) that that they are Christian leaders. Think of the type of people who pretend like they are seeking the betterment of a church while they are really interested in building their own platform. These type of people are sure to be in all the right places at all the right times and are always quick to offer their piece of input or advice. But we all know what many of these people are really about: They are seeking some sense of belonging or power and because they lack maturity, they ultimately cause harm to other people.
This problem isn't new. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he offers some brilliant advice for distinguishing between authentic Christian leaders and trend seekers. He directly connects this advice to how Titus should distinguish people who are ready to be Christian leaders from those who are not (see Titus 1:5–9).
“For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:10–16 NIV).
False leadership (or power seeking) can come in many forms but Paul tells us to be on the lookout for three particular kinds.
Historically, in Titus 1:10–16, Paul first refers to those who want all Christians to act like Jewish people (the circumcision group; see the letter of Galatians for a detailed account of this). In today’s context, we would call these the legalistic people—those who want to distinguish what is Christian and what is not purely on the basis of outward signs or actions. Paul tells Titus to silence this group and substitute in truth.
After discussing legalism in Titus 1:10–16, Paul then looks to those who are lazy, which may include some people in the first group. Here he cites a common proverb of some sort. Paul is not being racist here, but instead is joking in jest. But there is a truth here we need to remember: trend seekers are rarely willing to work hard for the betterment of a community. Be suspicious of people who are quick to take advantage of resources but not so quick to work to grow the church (compare 2 Thessalonians 3:6–10).
Finally, in Titus 1:10–16, Paul looks to Jewish mythology—or perhaps re-references the impositions being imposed upon non-Jewish Christians by Jewish people. He critiques this too. In today's world, we can think of those who become obsessed with a particular worldview or brand of theology to the point that it becomes the only measure for truth in their mind.
In this, Paul shows us how easy it is to be led astray and to misunderstand God and his ways. When this happens, everything in our lives becomes corrupted. Wrong beliefs, then lead to wrong actions. We cannot claim to know God and not live completely what he is calling us to do.
We must define our entire lives around the saving work of the gospel. This is what is good and "pure." We must show other people that we need God and God alone and declare that only he can truly save.
This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."
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