In The Crowded House Sheffield, we have been looking at Paul’s letter to Titus and the relevance of Titus to missional church and church planting. This post will look at church planting in a broken world, and Paul’s strategy for how to be in the world, but not of it.
Think about a culture where newspapers can’t be trusted and politicians fiddle expenses. A harsh, selfish, racist culture where there’s a fear of street crime. A culture where people aren’t prepared to work hard, where farm work and building work is done by migrants because local people don’t want those jobs. A culture where obesity is a massive problem (no pun intended).
Of course, I’m talking about first century Crete. Look at Titus 1:12: ‘Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”’ And just in case you think that’s a bit exaggerated, Paul adds: ‘This testimony is true.’ (1:13) The quote is from a Cretan philosopher, Epimenides, who was held in high honour by Cretans. So they can’t deny what’s being said. ‘Evil brutes’ literally means ‘dangerous animals’. Crete was famous for having no dangerous animals, but the saying was that the human inhabitants more than made up for the lack of wild animals!
And yet, of course, this description could just as easily have been a description of 21st century Britain.
The question is, as Christians how do we live in a dishonest, harsh, selfish culture? How can we survive without adopting those attitudes?
Fortunately, Paul has a missionary strategy for this pagan culture. It is to preach the gospel (verses 1-4) and then to organise Christians into local churches with leaders (Titus 1:5-9). And then, as we see in chapter 2, it is to teach ordinary Christians to commend the gospel through their everyday lives. In other words, it’s scattering communities of light across Crete.
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