For a few moments, erase from your mind the past 1,975 years of church history. Go back to the first century. Rome ruled the world. If you were to ask for a list of the prominent religions of the world, Christianity would be missing. Perhaps it would be listed as a minor offshoot of Judaism. Its followers claimed that some obscure Galilean Jew who had been crucified was the promised Jewish Messiah and that he had been raised from the dead. But the average man on the street had not heard the good news of Christianity. The world was essentially pagan.
Into that scene, project an obscure little Jewish man named Paul, who hailed from the southern coast of what we call Turkey. He had met the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who had commissioned him to take the gospel to the Gentile world. It was an enormous task! How should he go about doing it?
Remember, he had no mass media. He couldn’t broadcast the message by radio or TV or tapes or CD’s. He didn’t have the printing press, much less the internet. He didn’t even have a post office to send out bulk mailings. Furthermore, there was no rapid transportation system. He couldn’t drive on modern highways or take a train or jet from city to city. He had to walk or take a boat. He couldn’t pick up the phone, push a few buttons, and talk with his key workers. He communicated with them by hand-carried letters that took weeks or sometimes months to deliver.
Yet, in spite of these limitations, Paul pulled it off. He launched the Christian message to the Gentiles and permanently changed the history of the world. How did he do it?
Let’s personalize it: How can we get the message to Flagstaff and beyond? The same way that Paul did it, of course! Titus 3:12-15 provides a window through which we can get a glimpse of how Paul reached the world for Christ. It is not a complete picture, of course, but it is a valuable one. These verses show that…
Paul reached the world through a team of believers committed to ministry.
Paul was not a one-man-show. He always worked with and through a team of people who were committed to ministry. These verses show Paul’s team—not the entire team—but a few significant members of the team. I’m going to go down the roster and introduce you to the team members. Then I will show you a number of principles for team ministry to which these members were committed and which made this team a winner.
We have already met Titus, of course. He was Paul’s faithful delegate, sent to Crete to work with a difficult group of people. He was a Gentile, probably in his late thirties. He passes off the pages of Scripture (2 Tim. 4:10) being sent to Dalmatia, modern Albania and the Balkan states. He was a solid, faithful man of God.
This is the only reference to this man. From his name we can guess that he was a Gentile. From the fact that Paul considered him a worthy replacement for Titus, we can surmise that he was a competent, knowledgeable, faithful, mature man of God. If Paul ended up sending Tychicus to Ephesus and Titus met Paul in Nicopolis and then headed north to Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10, 12), then Artemas probably replaced him in Crete. It is significant that Paul had such a relatively unknown, yet qualified man at his disposal. How many other such men he had we do not know.
He was another faithful Gentile believer, a native of Asia (western Turkey). He had traveled with Paul, along with some other men, at the close of Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 20:4). Later, he was with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. Paul sent the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians with Tychicus, who told those churches about Paul’s circumstances (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-9). Later Paul sent him to Ephesus to relieve Timothy, so that perhaps Timothy could join Paul in Rome before his execution (2 Tim. 4:12). Paul calls Tychicus “our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord” (Col. 4:7). He was a valuable team member!
This is the only reference to Zenas in the Bible. His Greek name may mean that he was a Gentile lawyer, but the fact that he was poor enough for Paul to ask Titus to help supply his needs may mean that he was a Jewish expert in the Mosaic law. In any case, he had set aside his career long enough to accompany Apollos on this trip. The two men probably carried the epistle of Titus to Crete.
He was a Jew from Alexandria in northern Egypt, an eloquent orator, mighty in the Scriptures, and fervent in spirit (Acts 18:24, 25). He came to Ephesus where Paul’s teammates, Priscilla and Aquila, took him aside and taught him the way of God more accurately. The fact that he listened shows that he had a humble, teachable heart. Later, he had a powerful ministry in Corinth.
This refers to the Christians in Crete. All believers, even those who go unnamed, even those from obscure villages in Crete, were a part of the team. They were to learn to take the lead in good deeds (the same Greek phrase as in 3:8).
We don’t know where Paul was; he may have been in Macedonia or Achaia. But we know that he was not alone. Besides Zenas and Apollos, there was a church where Paul was staying and he fellowshipped with these saints. He did not hole up by himself.
These were Paul’s friends and fellow saints in Crete. There may be a subtle allusion to those who did not love Paul in the faith, the false teachers who needed to be silenced. The reason we love one another is because we share a common faith in the Lord Jesus.
Thus you can see that Paul didn’t labor alone. He had a team of believers committed to ministry, who labored with him in the cause of Christ. He viewed every Christian as a gifted member of the team, with a vital role to fulfill. None were benchwarmers. That is true here—if you know Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit has given you a gift to use in ministry for Him. You need to see yourself as a vital team member, committed to ministry.
That word, “ministry,” may scare some of you because it has taken on a stained-glass connotation. You may think, “Pastors are in the ministry, but I’m just a layperson.” But that is not a biblical distinction. Ministry means service and every Christian is saved to serve Jesus Christ. Ministry should be the overflow of your walk with Christ. If your cup is full to the brim with Christ, you can’t carry it without slopping over on others. That is ministry. It may take on a structured form, such as teaching Sunday School, playing on a worship team, helping with church socials, leading a discipleship group, or whatever. Or, it may mean inviting new people at church over for a meal and encouraging them in their walk with Christ. But there should be no such thing as a benchwarmer Christian. If you’re saved, you are called to ministry on God’s team.
Although at first glance these verses may seem like irrelevant throwaway verses at the end of this short letter, there are at least ten principles of team ministry embedded here.
I just mentioned this, but note again Paul’s emphasis on good deeds in this short letter. In 1:16, he denounces the false teachers, who were “detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” In 2:7, he exhorts Titus “to be an example of good deeds.” In 2:14, he says that Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” In 3:1, he tells Titus to remind the believers “to be ready for every good deed.” In 3:5, he clarifies that we are not saved on the basis of good deeds, but in 3:8 he again emphasizes that “those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.” The Greek verbs there are literally, “will give thought to take the lead in good deeds.”
Now, again (3:14) he repeats one last time that Christians must learn to take the lead in good deeds. You don’t get the impression that good deeds are an optional extra that you may want to consider in your spare time! If you’re a Christian, you must be zealous for good deeds!
Although Paul was an extremely gifted man, he needed others. It wasn’t just a one-way street, where the Christians needed Paul. Paul needed Titus at his side badly enough that he asked him to leave the work in Crete and spend the winter with him in Nicopolis. You may argue that your brain or your heart are the most important organs in your body, but they cannot function without your nervous system, your blood vessels, and just about every other organ in your body. An untreated cut in your finger can result in the death of your brain and heart! The whole body must function in interdependence. It’s the same in the body of Christ.
If you have worked with people at all, then you know what I know—that it’s often easier to do it yourself, rather than get others involved. D. L. Moody used to joke that the best committee consists of three members where one is sick and the other can’t attend the meeting! But if you are involved in leadership at any level and you don’t get others involved, you are not multiplying your efforts. You will eventually burn out and limit your effectiveness.
Paul had recruited and trained Titus to oversee the work in Crete and now he has two possible candidates to replace him. He trusted these men with this important job. Also, Paul encourages Titus to enlist the churches in Crete to provide financially to help Zenas and Apollos in their travels. Two observations:
*Success is not in proportion to numbers, but rather to faith and obedience. Sometimes we mistakenly think that if we can just get enough volunteers, our efforts will succeed. But Jesus picked the twelve and then the seventy. Paul engaged many in the cause, but he worked through a few good men. John Wesley said, “If I had 300 men who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and were determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified, I would set the world on fire” (cited in Paul Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations [Assurance Publishers], # 7671). Ask God for a few faithful, obedient disciples.
*Don’t be afraid to enlist competent people on your team. Sometimes, a leader who is trying to promote himself more than Christ will make sure not to pick team members who may outshine him. But Paul was comfortable having Apollos on the team, even though he was a more eloquent speaker than Paul was. He trusted Titus, Timothy, Artemas, and Tychicus enough to entrust the oversight of key churches to their care. We have to look for faithful men and women and hand things off, trusting them to do the job well.
Quite often in his letters, Paul promoted the ministries of others. Here he implicitly promotes the ministries of Artemas and Tychicus. He encourages Titus to help Zenas and Apollos. When the church in Corinth formed into factions, with some saying, “I am of Apollos,” Paul didn’t put down Apollos and promote himself. Rather, he pointed out that he and Apollos were both servants of Christ through whom the Corinthians had believed. Paul had planted, Apollos had watered, and God gave the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-6). Paul was willing to put Apollos on the same level as himself and to encourage others to benefit from Apollos’ ministry.
That is an important principle of ministry: promote your teammates and help them to succeed. We all serve the Lord and our aim should not be to promote ourselves, but rather to see the name of Christ exalted.
Of course, the apostle Paul is the supreme example of leadership after Christ Himself. But Paul succeeded as a leader because he raised up other men to lead the churches. On the local church level, leadership should be shared among a plurality of elders, but it is inevitable that on every leadership team, there will be a leader among the leaders. Peter was obviously the leader among the twelve apostles, although they all were leaders. But one of the main jobs of local church leaders is to work at raising up new leaders. The health of local churches is directly proportional to the godliness and competence of the leaders.
Even though the apostle Paul was an important man with an extensive ministry, he always showed practical concern for the needs of others. Here, he is concerned that the churches in Crete help Zenas and Apollos on their way, so that nothing is lacking for them. He also emphasizes the need for the churches to engage in good deeds and meet the needs of others. Paul set that example, working at his trade and paying the expenses of the men with him, so as not to be a burden to anyone (Acts 20:34; 1 Cor. 9:3-18). He was always demonstrating by his own example what it means to serve others.
When my daughter, Joy, was in Bolivia a few years ago, she was bothered because the pastor acted like he was above the others. During meals, he was served first. He didn’t treat those who served the food as if they were on his level. He wouldn’t have thought of helping them in any way. That’s not right! Church leaders need to model humble service to others.
Paul had some of the team members with him as he wrote to Titus. Probably, he and Titus would not be the only ones spending the winter in Nicopolis. Perhaps they spent that winter talking about biblical issues and about ministry, preaching to the church there, praying and talking about Dalmatia (to the north), where Titus would go. I’ve often been envious of living in Paul’s time, before there were telephones and cars and computers. If someone wanted to talk to Paul, he had to walk to visit him. I’m sure that they had time pressures of a different sort, but life then was a little more conducive to spending time together.
With such a simple thing as exchanging greetings between those who were with Paul and those in Crete (3:15), Paul was letting the believers in Crete know, “You’re not alone! There are other Christians out here!” Paul wrote to the Romans that he wanted to visit them, but then he wanted to go on to Spain (Rom. 15:23-24). He always had his sights on those who had not yet heard and he imparted his vision for the world to others. Christ came to seek and to save the lost. We are not being Christlike if we isolate ourselves from the world. We must always keep our vision on the Great Commission and those who have yet to hear about Christ.
God works through our faith. There is no area that requires more faith than that of financial support. While Paul was very open about mentioning the financial needs of others, such as Zenas and Apollos or the needy saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8 & 9), you never once find him mentioning his own needs for support, except after the needs have been met (Phil. 4:10-20). He could have written to Titus, “Before you come, I must tell you that if the saints in Crete do not give generously to my needs, we will have to curtail the ministry and thousands of people will not hear the gospel.” He could have bracketed it with a colored pen and offered his latest book in exchange for their contributions. But he never did that.
Paul learned to trust God and be content when his funds were low. When he had plenty, he told his supporters that he had an abundance! He was more concerned about the fruit that was accruing to their account than he was about their gifts (Phil. 4:17). It was in the context of trusting God for support that he wrote, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
Paul closed all of his letters with some mention of God’s grace, but it wasn’t just a polite formality. Here, the Greek text literally reads, “The grace be with you all.” “The grace” is the amazing, abundant, sustaining, all-sufficient grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was His grace that reached down to that angry persecutor of the church on the Damascus Road and changed his heart. It was completely undeserved. Paul deserved God’s judgment, but he received mercy.
God’s grace motivated Paul to suffer hardship and persecution for the gospel. It motivated him to serve Christ with unstoppable zeal (1 Cor. 15:10). God’s grace as shown at the cross was Paul’s only message. If anyone perverted the grace of God, Paul called down anathemas on him (Gal. 1:6-9). If any church turned from God’s grace to a system of works, Paul rebuked it in the strongest of words (Gal. 5:4). God’s grace was sufficient to sustain Paul in trials and keep him from exalting himself on account of the vision of heaven that he had experienced (2 Cor. 12:1-10). Paul’s entire theology and his gospel may be summed up by that one word, grace.
There are so many Christians who may, at best, dabble at serving the Lord in their spare time, if it doesn’t inconvenience them too much. But, how many can honestly say, “I’m a zealot for serving the Lord”? If you are not zealous for good works, it’s because you have lost sight of the right motivation. That motivation is the kindness of God our Savior and His love for us as sinners that appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. He broke into our lives and saved us, not on the basis of deeds that we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy. By His power, He regenerated us from spiritual death to eternal life. He renewed us by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. The result is that being justified by His grace, we now are heirs according to the hope of eternal life (paraphrase, 3:4-7). That’s why we should be zealous in serving Jesus Christ!
That’s how Paul reached his world for Christ—through a team of believers committed to ministry, who operated on these principles of ministry. Let me bring this home by asking two questions: First, are you on the team? By that I mean, have you experienced the kindness, love, mercy, and grace of God at the cross? Have you been justified by His grace so that now you are an heir of eternal life? If not, do not make the mistake of thinking that you can do any good works that will get you into heaven. First, you must come to Christ as a helplessly lost sinner and receive by faith His free gift of eternal life.
If you have done that, the second question is: Are you a benchwarmer or are you committed to ministry? Are you using whatever gifts God has entrusted to you so that one day you will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Master”? God wants to reach Flagstaff through a team of believers committed to ministry because they have tasted His abundant grace.
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2007, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation