Developing leaders: a perspective from Timothy and Titus

When Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, he showed concern about transitioning to new leadership. He demonstrated a commitment to developing the leadership capacities of Timothy and Titus, his delegates to churches he planted. He is quite concerned about leadership development in the churches. While these letters are not leadership development manuals, there is much we can learn from them. I find five leadership essentials in the letters to Timothy and Titus that should guide leadership development.

CHARACTER MATTERS

Character matters a great deal to Paul. The qualifications for church leaders in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 are mostly behavioral characteristics. As many commentators have pointed out, most of these qualities are expected of believers in general in the New Testament. Church leaders ought to be models of mature Christian character. Christian leadership qualifications encompass the totality of the person, not just skill in ministry tasks.

Church leaders need to have a good reputation with those inside and outside the church. This is displayed in marriage and family life. I am not going to comment on each of the qualities in these lists; that would make the post too long. There are negative traits such as being arrogant, quick-tempered, quarrelsome, greedy that are not to be tolerated in church leaders. These are the traits of the false teachers. Church leaders are to be sober-minded, self-controlled, gentle, upright, holy, disciplined. Christian character takes time to develop so Paul excludes new converts.

Paul emphasizes character over ministry skill and gifting because skill and gifting will be undermined in the absence of godly character. Cultivating mature Christian character is an essential component of leadership development in the church.

DOCTRINE MATTERS

Paul writes to Titus:

He [an elder] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9 ESV)

Christian leaders need to be taught the word before they can teach others sound doctrine. They need to be acquainted with Scripture because Scripture makes us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). There are controversies and speculations that are just not worth pursuing (1 Timothy 1:4; 6:3-5, 20; 2 Timothy 2:14, 16; Titus 3:9-11). Yet Christian leaders need to be equipped to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Quarreling about words “does no good” (2 Timothy 3:14) but knowing Scripture is “profitable” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Paul calls the gospel doctrine the “deposit” that Timothy is to guard (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14). He is to entrust this deposit to faithful men who will teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2). Interestingly, Paul is confident that God himself will guard this deposit (2 Timothy 1:12). While Timothy and other Christian leaders are charged with guarding sound doctrine, they do so with the confidence that God is guarding it with and through them. Teaching sound doctrine and rightly handling Scripture is a key component of Christian leadership development.

FAITHFULNESS MATTERS

Faithfulness is the quality that Paul requires in the men that Timothy is to entrust with Paul’s teaching (2 Timothy 2:2). It is displayed in being true to the sound doctrine received from Paul. As we saw in an earlier post, sound doctrine is accompanied by a godly lifestyle. Faithfulness includes a commitment to sound doctrine and behavior reflecting Christian character. Christian leadership development needs to cultivate faithfulness.

GRACE MATTERS:

Grace is foundational for Christian leadership. In describing his calling, Paul writes, “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:14). Paul tells Timothy to “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). God’s grace in Christ Jesus produces the character, doctrine, and faithfulness of Christian leaders. Paul writes to Titus:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14 ESV)

This grace training is crucial for leadership development to strengthen character, doctrine, and faithfulness.

MODELING MATTERS

Paul does not just tell Timothy and Titus that character, doctrine, faithfulness, and grace matter. He models it! Paul encourages Timothy to “follow the pattern of sound words” that he had heard from him (2 Timothy 1:13). Paul provided Timothy a living example of Christian leadership:

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings … But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it. (2 Timothy 3:10, 11, 14 ESV)

Both Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12) and Titus (Titus 2:7) are to set an example for believers. Christian leadership involves both “talk” and “walk”. As we develop Christian leaders we must model consistency in our talk and walk regarding character, doctrine, faithfulness, and grace.

There is probably more about leadership development that can be unpacked from the letters to Timothy and Titus. Character, doctrine, faithfulness, grace, and modeling are key essentials of leadership that stood out and challenged me.

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