Protecting a church from bad leaders

Georgene Rice interviews Ted Bigelow, author of “The Titus Mandate”. He writes about the purpose of church leadership, how it should be structured and how people are sometimes hurt in the process of church life. It could be largely avoided if they followed the teachings in the book of Titus.

Georgene: Most of us believe the church should be the safest place on earth for Christians. They why is it often a place of deep dissatisfaction? Many Christians suffer from difficult church situations and are unsure how to live and worship with such stress let alone grow in the midst of it. In your  book, The Titus Mandate, you say it is the result of poor church leadership and you take us on a treacherous journey with Titus to the island of Crete. We follow his experiences as he went toe to toe with the wolves to carry out God’s mission to rescue Christians and churches from danger.

Your book gives us specific instructions on how to live out God’s principles that make church a secure place and to protect the body of Christ from those who would seek to abuse the authority they exercise over the church. What brought you to this pass?

Ted: As a pastor, over the years I have seen people who have been hurt by the church or bad church leadership. I wanted to put this book out to let them know that God has really good answers for them. To help them understand why things happened as they happened. And to let them know what God has for them, to protect them so they can be a part of a great church from here on out.

Georgene: The title, The Titus Mandate, suggests that the scriptures are very clear on how church leadership should be structured and how members should relate to church leadership in order to avoid the kind of abuse that may have been a part of their church experience.

Ted: In Titus, Paul tells Titus he wants him to go out to fix the churches and says, “as I directed you”. “Directed” is the strongest New Testament word for direction. It is actually the word for “decree”. His directions are absolutely and totally nonnegotiable for each and every church.

Georgene: In the absence of a clear understanding and application of this mandate, what is the likely danger?

Ted: Your going to have leadership that is either going to be not qualified and therefore ineffective. They will either be passive and allow all kinds of sin to go on or will be aggressive and bear down on people in a manner that is likewise sinful. That church will eventually (figuratively) blow up and a lot of people are going to be hurt.

Georgene: How can a church be protected against dangerous leaders and who is ultimately responsible for preventing this from happening?

Ted: I try to bring out in the book that it is everybody’s responsibility and privilege to know what God says in his Word. In this case we are not asking for people to get seminary degrees, but to simply read the book of Titus. People in the church can then, gently and humbly, go to their church leadership with what the book says, and and say “let’s do it this way”. So, as brothers and sisters in Christ we are calling each other to the high standards of the Scriptures. If we will submit ourselves to the book of Titus. If we will do what the believers on the Island of Crete had to do 2,000 years ago, we will have a very safe, holy, healthy, loving, church in areas that confront sin and in areas that comfort the conflicted.

Georgene: Give us an example of a direction that we find in Titus that runs counter to most of our church experience, areas where we tend to fall short.

Ted: Probably the most obvious for those of us who live in the United States is in the matter of church elections. Titus gives about 17 qualifications for church leadership. We require a vote besides meeting the requirements. What that does in practice is replace those qualifications with personal preferences by votes. We vote them into leadership rather than put them into leadership based on their conformity to Scripture. Finding someone who can meet the steep  17 requirements is very precious.

Georgene: You write about churches undermining the “priesthood of the believer”. Explain to us what you mean.

Ted: We understand that every believer has open access to God through Jesus Christ. As a priest of Jesus Christ you can pray directly to God without any human intermediary, you can open up his Word, read it and understand it. It is meant for you. So that means that everything God says in His Word about how He want the church to function and run is for you to believe and take to your church. It is not for the church to tell you that there are passages that don’t apply to them. We want to take the power of the church and return it to the Word of God. The way to do that is to let the Christians know they are the ones who can require the church to obey it.

Georgene: What are some of the qualifications of the shepherds of the church?

Ted: Elders of the church are described as men who are above reproach, have one wife, whose children are believers, not arrogant, quick-tempered, not a drunkard, and not violent.  I could go on. But, if your church does not have that kind of man in leadership, you are in a dangerous church because it is disobeying the very word of God.

Georgene: If we follow the pattern that is outlined in Scripture will we find an end to disagreements within the church?

Ted: It will be the outcome but I can’t guarantee it, because everywhere that I have ever went in the world I have brought a sinner with me. Everywhere churches are, they are filled with sinners. But, following the Scripture will take away 99% of the disunity.

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