It’s early on a Sunday morning, 15 minutes before 7 a.m., to be exact. I’m sitting here at the dining room table with my Bible and my laptop (graciously provided to me by our church), contemplating the Scripture I am going to be sharing a few hours from now.
What I am about to say is not for everyone, for not everyone has been given the responsibility to lead. Nevertheless, though not all of us will have the opportunity and calling to shepherd a congregation of believers, each and every one of us will at some point be responsible for communicating truth to those for whom we are one day going to give an account.
The verse from this morning’s text that has captured my attention is Titus 2:15.
“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
That was the King James Version rendering. Now, let’s read the text as translated in another version.
You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say.Titus 2:15 NLT
What I think we as pastors need to remember is that what we have to say needs to be taken seriously. If, however, we stand before our flocks as shepherds with no staff, not only are we “despised,” but so is the Word we are called to teach.
Those who know me the best know that I am a nice guy. Seriously, I hate confrontation so much that I will go to great lengths to avoid it. I want to be liked, even to a fault.
But when it comes to preaching and pastoring, we must take very seriously Paul’s admonition to Titus. As Paul left Titus in Crete to “set in order the things that are wanting,” so has God ordained us to set and keep things in order(1:5), speak those things which become sound doctrine (2:1), and remind believers of their obligations and responsibilities as representatives of God’s grace (3:1).
The problem we in leadership face is how to demand attention, to “let no one despise” us, without coming across as authoritarians or tyrants. Is a pastor to be a bully in the pulpit? Is he supposed to lord his authority over the sheep and force them to lie down in green pasture? Some think so.
However, it is Jesus who exemplified for us the model of servant leadership which draws attention. It is this same kind of example the apostles left us when we read of their boldness after Pentecost.
Our authority comes from the Word of God. Our boldness comes from the Holy Spirit. We are equally accountable as both heralds and subjects.
If we find ourselves timid, skiddish, reluctant, or intimidated behind the pulpit, we must ask ourselves some very point-blank questions. Who are we trying to please, God or man? Why are we called to be heralds? Just to be heard, or to proclaim the Message of the King?
Should we actually “speak the things that become sound doctrine,” then we are accountable to God for what we say, for we are to speak what He is saying. If we are tasked with heralding the Word, then God will hold us accountable for getting the message out to those who need to hear.
If we cower or hesitate in our duty, then we either doubt the authority of the Word, or we proclaim it in the power of our own strength. There is no excuse for the pastor, the shepherd, the man of God to stand behind the pulpit or on the neon-lit stage and waste time offering suggestions and scratching itching ears when we are plainly told, “These things speak…”
“Let no man despise thee” tells us there is a responsibility incumbent upon the preacher.
Therefore, unless you are going to mount the pulpit this morning with authority as one tasked with an urgent message from the King of the universe. . . unless you are going to “be strong in the Lord, and the power of His might” (Ephesian 6:10). . .