Good Works By Example

The Way Paul Ends His Letter to Titus

Paul ends his letter to Titus by restating the theme of good works, which he repeatedly emphasizes throughout. The blunt reality of church ministry is that Christian disciples do not automatically volunteer themselves to help when ministry needs arise. So how does a pastor overcome this challenge? He teaches by example. Here’s what I mean.

The blunt reality of church ministry is that Christian disciples do not automatically volunteer themselves to help when ministry needs arise.

You’ll notice that in Titus 3:13, Paul gives Titus some instructions. He tells him to provide assistance for two men, Zenas and Apollos. Who are these men? The New Testament only mentions Zenas here, and Paul calls him a lawyer, which likely means he was either an expert in either Jewish law or Roman civil law. We know more about Apollos, since he is also mentioned in Acts 18:24 and 1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:5 and 16:12. He was a converted Alexandrian Jew, knowledgeable in Old Testament Scripture, with eloquent speaking abilities. Paul had sent this pair of men to Crete for an unknown reason, and he told Titus to meet their needs so completely that they would “lack nothing.”

Moving from Singular to Plural

There is a small detail here that I want you to notice. The Greek verb for “send” is given in the second person singular form. This means that Paul was giving these instructions to Titus. He expected Titus to take personal responsibility for meeting the daily needs of these men so that their ministry would be a success. Why do I point this out? Because the next thing Paul says is “let our people also learn.” In these instructions, he uses a plural pronoun, our. And he uses the word also. So he expected all the believers in the churches of Crete to learn how to do what he told Titus to do also.

He expected Titus to take personal responsibility for meeting the daily needs of these men.

A pastor must provide an example of doing good works to the church that he shepherds. A sermon alone will not do. It must be followed by an example. If a pastor exhorts a church to do good works, he must show them what that looks like by the way that he does them himself. What do these good works look like? The summary that Paul gives is simple: step forward to meet pressing needs that present themselves in the church.

Two Possible Errors Pastors Make

Pastors may easily err one way or another at this. While some may unwittingly step forward to meet every pressing need that comes along, others may willfully refuse to meet any pressing needs at all. The first error will produce pastoral burnout. And it will also steal precious ministry opportunities away from church members who are gifted to meet them more effectively. The second error will rob members of an example, since they will be unable to see in action what they are being urged to do.

What Kind of Pastor or Member Are You?

What urgent needs are presenting themselves in your church? Are the people of the church devoting themselves to meeting those needs? (That’s what “maintain good works” means.) If not, pause to evaluate whether you are showing them how. Consider whether you are being an example of meeting urgent needs yourself. Sometimes your actions are your greatest sermon.

Ask yourself the question, “Do I faithfully volunteer myself to meet the urgent needs within the church?”

In the end, a church characterized by a growing number of members who voluntarily step forward to meet pressing needs leads to a church that contributes to increased, mutual fruitfulness shared by all. Not every church lacking in voluntary service is the result of a pastor who fails to be an example. But every pastor should consider the possibility nonetheless. And every church member should ask himself or herself the question, “Do I faithfully volunteer myself to meet the urgent needs within the church?”

A church moves forward in spiritual fruitfulness when a growing number of members step forward to meet urgent needs, following the example of a servant-minded pastor who encourages them to get involved. Are you this kind of pastor? Or, are you this kind of church member?

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