Thursday, December 1, 2011

The reputation of a minister

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8

These were Paul's words directly to Titus. They are instructive on the kind of character and commitments that anyone serving in ministry should endeavor to emulate. This is the reputation I should seek as I serve Christ and His church. It is worth picking these commands apart to analyze their application.

The very first verb is one of demonstration: "show yourself..." This is a command to be visibly reputable. It means that any minister should have an open life... one that can be known. Any servant of Christ is ready to be analyzed for the character of the Lord. And Paul makes that openness and observability a command to Titus. Live so people will see in all respects that you are Christ's slave. They are going to watch you and scrutinize you anyway... let them be impressed with Jesus!

The emphasis on observability goes on to point out the durability of good works. A servant of Jesus is someone whose good life is a model for others to follow. This creates a platform for discipleship. The minister of Christ is a model of good works. The church cannot go wrong if they do the things that he is doing. That is the command given to Titus. Be an example that the church can follow and thus follow Christ. Don't just be an open book... be a really worthy, really good read!

But example must include sound teaching. And Paul makes it clear that the hard work of gospel ministry includes good teaching, not just good works. The two go hand-in-hand. There are three elements that mark good teaching. The first is integrity. It is an integrity in both personal character (think of the money-hungry, greedy modern televangelist as the antithesis of this) and in faithfulness to the truth of scripture. Along with integrity comes dignity. Teaching is respectful, because dealing with God is not a flippant occupation. Any minister of the gospel carries a stronger responsibility and is a bigger representative than any international ambassador ever could be. We are not nightclub entertainers and late show comedians. The final phrase to describe teaching is "sound speech", which is defined as that which "cannot be condemned"". Our very teaching must be of the finest reputation, even with the world.

The result of exemplary living and sound teaching is that the reputation of the church in the world is stellar. We are a shining light, a city on a hill, and the salt of the earth. And when we balance these, the world should not be able to say anything evil against us.

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