The Mission in Crete – Titus 1:4-5

 

I’d like to talk to you about the Lord’s work in Loveland, Colorado. Almost from the beginning, I have thought of that work as a mission of our church. But it is not something which our church has determined to do; it has just been my perception so far. I think that for clarification purposes, we need to vote authorizing our mission work in Colorado. There are already, in Loveland, some of the common characteristics of any mission work. There is the preaching and teaching of the gospel in meetings open to the public. But just as important, the people are personally sharing Christ with their neighbors and co-workers. They have a sincere desire to have a mission and to see it grow into an independent Baptist church, even if some them eventually move to Post Falls. And the Holy Spirit is blessing with souls saved and the Christians there are growing strong in the Lord. These are things we like to hear in reports from any mission – Romania, Siberia, Brazil – wherever.

But there are things about Loveland which are not typical in modern missions. For example, it didn’t begin the way that most missions are started these days. When it seemed that the former ministry in Loveland was closing down, the Lord declared it to be otherwise. Even though God didn’t send a missionary to Loveland or Fort Collins, the Holy Spirit has established a missionary-type ministry. I don’t think any observant Christian can suggest that God is finished with the front range of Northern Colorado. And yet, many of the people there have been directly voted into our membership here. They are members of Post Falls, like others we have scattered around the Northwest. But some, like Brother Martinson, have no opportunity to fellowship with other believers. The folk in Colorado can, and do, meet together just as often as we do. Even to the extent of meeting an hour later than we do in order to participate through the internet. Unfortunately, they can’t attend here very often, sharing the blessings that come with shaking one another hands, chatting about God’s blessings and praying together with us. Obviously, that is not standard operating procedure when a missionary goes to the Philippines, Ireland or Tasmania. Nine-nine percent of the time, the home church in America never gets to meet the members of their missions in Thailand or India. Most of the time they don’t even know the names of their mission-members overseas. The missionary, under the home church authority, simply baptizes those whom he considers to be true converts, and they are received into the mission. In Colorado, the Lord has been adding to the congregation, telling us all to do what we can to maintain the testimony that has been there in the past.

The people in Loveland tithe, giving directly to this church in Post Falls, sending their checks to our post office box. There are two checks in our offering box at this moment. Again, this is never done on a “real” mission field. Rather, God’s saints in Ireland and the Philippines are encouraged to practice “indigenous missions.” We want the new converts in foreign countries to tithe and sustain the work in their area. Furthermore, we encourage them to support mission work – preferably in their own country. Something else found in Loveland, which is a-typical of common missions, is that they don’t have a resident missionary. Despite having group Bible studies, led by one of the brethren, that is usually followed by observing our church services through a medium-sized television screen mounted on the wall. As good as that might be, it is not the same thing as personal participation with us in our worship.

Other than the modern technology, they are behaving just like missions did in the early years of the United States, with Bible studies and prayer meetings maintained by local unordained Christians. Periodically, they would have visiting missionaries and preachers. But often for weeks they would be pastorless. And yet they were still missions sponsored by established churches.

At this point, we could talk about our other missions – Kennewick, Stillwater, and Nampa. Each of them are different in character and practice, and yet they are missions. In Kennewick, most of the time they watch a DVD with an even different kind of contact with us. Again we try to visit them personally, to encourage and bless, but it is different from Loveland. In Oklahoma and Southern Idaho they have missionaries – one with financial support from other churches and one without. In all those three missions they have their own bank accounts, collect offerings and pay their own bills. They make local decisions often without consulting us – and I have no problem with that. That is because we have authorized them to do so – something which we have not yet done in Colorado.

And this is a part of my considerations tonight – In studying the Word of God, we don’t find the subject of missions painted in black and white. There are things we Baptists normally consider to be standard missionary practice, which are not as standard in the Bible as we believe them to be. For example, do we read that every mission was started by an apostle or missionary? How many times did a group of persecuted saints move from one city to another starting a new church? Did any of the people saved on the Day of Pentecost resolve to go home worshiping Jesus the Christ? Was there always a resident missionary or pastor after Paul and his team moved to a new community? When left alone did the mission cease to be a mission because they had no ordained elder? Did Paul baptize converts in Macedonia, telling them they were becoming members in Syria? Did any of them have a bank account which they used to rent public meeting halls? Did they expect to receive financial support from established churches? Did any of them ever receive support? Did they ask the church in Antioch for permission before they did this or that?

Since neither the name “Loveland” nor “Colorado” can be found in the Bible, let’s think about “Crete.”

Why Crete? Because there was a work of God in that place; there were missions there – raw, rough missions. And Crete bears some characteristics which parallel liberal, libertarian, weed-loving Colorado. It has a mountain overshadowing it, just as Long’s Peak peeks out over Loveland. It had a hundred cities and communities in a relatively small area. It was filled with sinners. And in time it had groups of Christians who were trying to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Crete is one of the larger islands of the Mediterranean Sea. It marks the southern boundary of the Aegean Sea as it spills into the Mediterranean. Crete is equidistant between Greece, Asia Minor and Africa. It is the most populated Greek island and the fifth most populated of the Mediterranean. It is 165 miles long and 35 miles at its widest point. Picture an area from here to Kennewick filled with men, women and children – idolators and sinners. Its highest point is Mt. Ida at about 8,000 feet – making it about as high over the island as the 14,000 foot peaks of Colorado are over Fort Collins, and Loveland. And as I say, for centuries it has been filled with cities and towns, occupied by eternal souls.

When Paul was being carried to Rome for his trial before Caesar, his ship went from Cnidus in southern Turkey to Salmone off the eastern end of Crete. Please turn to Acts 27:7-14. “And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete (on the southern side), over against Salmone; And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea. Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast (the Atonement) was now already past, Paul admonished them, And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.”

With that wind the ship was driven west onto Melita and Paul was eventually taken to Rome.

I don’t know this to be true, but I can picture Paul, looking at the fair haven of Lasea from the railing of the Alexandrian ship. Or perhaps he was even given liberty to visit the community, meeting some of the Cretians there. You know, he may have met people who heard Peter preach on the great day of Pentecost. They may have miraculously heard the gospel in their own native tongue. There may have been Christians in Crete just waiting for more of the grace of God – and a church. I can imagine Paul’s heart beginning to yearn for the salvation of those people. The island was noted for its wicked population. Paul wrote to Titus: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true.” How, or at what point, did he learn this was true? Amos 9:4 tells us that the Philistines came from Caphtor – another name for the island of Crete. And among all the peoples found in the Bible, the Philistines were about the most wicked and belligerent. Paul was apparently challenged by the Spirit; he yearned to evangelize the Cretians – to establish churches. Just as the Lord is challenging us about Colorado. And upon his release from Rome that is what Paul did – as we learn from his letter to Titus.

Titus is one of the unheralded heros of the New Testament.

We talk much about Timothy but very little about Titus. It is somewhat surprising that Titus is not named in the Book of Acts, and we can only speculate why. But it appears that he was with Paul from as early as Acts 15. When Paul finished his first missionary journey and he had returned to Antioch… (Acts 15:1)“certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.” It appears that one of the “certain other of them” included Titus. Because in Galatians 2:1-2 we read – “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.”

After this there is no reference to Titus for some time. Then he appears once again in II Corinthians, where he is mentioned eight times. Paul thought so highly of this young man, and trusted him to such a degree, that he sent him to deal with the sin problems in that church. When that was successfully concluded, he returned to Paul, causing the missionary great joy. The article in ISBE about Titus concludes by saying, “Titus was one of Paul’s very dear and trusted friends; and the fact that he was chosen by the apostle to act as his delegate… shows that Titus was not merely a good but a most capable man, tactful and resourceful and skillful in the handling of men and of affairs.” In II Corinthians 8:23 Paul wrote – “Whether any inquire about Titus, he is my partner and fellow-worker to you-ward.”

What has this got to do with Loveland?

For that we go back to Paul’s Epistle to Titus. “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness… To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee…” We don’t know anything about Paul’s original ministry in the isle of Crete. We don’t know how long he remained on the 3,200 sq. mile island. Did he visit all of the major cities or just Phenice and a few others? John Gill says there were more than a hundred communities on the island in Paul’s day. And it appears from verse 5 that there were mission points in many places.

Paul cared deeply for his new brothers and sisters in Christ. He wanted to see that they were fed, encouraged and strengthened in the Lord. And like him, WE need to love and care for the well-being of our brethren wherever they are. It should move us to hear of dedicated Christians who don’t have an opportunity to serve the Lord in one of His churches. I know that “love” is a strong, emotional word which has several different layers, meanings and intensities. We should love our fellow believers wherever there are. But as in extended families, there are various degrees and depths of love. Obviously, we have a special relationship with each of our own church missions which doesn’t exist with more established churches. And we have a responsibility to get to know our brethren, loving them more and more. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians “Ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another… but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more.” Paul didn’t want any of those Cretian saints to grow cold; to lose their love for the things of God; to lack anything spiritually. So he told Titus to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city.”

I have preacher friends who don’t believe in pastoral ordinations as I do – I don’t understand that. On the other hand, I know others who bind ordination with so many ropes and knots that the subject is next to impossible to unravel and carry out. Paul told Titus, as his representative, to set in order and ordain pastor/elders in those Cretian churches. I agree with Gill when he says that “to set in order” means to see to it that they were operating like true churches of Christ. And it was Titus’ responsibility to listen to the churches as they presented men whom they considered worthy of the ministry and then to set them apart for that service in each of those assemblies. It may not be considered “Baptistic,” but here in this context I can’t find ordination councils, church representatives, doctrinal discussions or dissertations, and the laying on of many hands. Paul was more interested in the character of the potential church leadership than he was in their position on wine in the Lord’s supper and head-coverings.

We may not yet be ready to ordain a bishop for God’s work in Loveland. Nevertheless we should be very concerned for the spiritual welfare of our brethren and whether or not they might have more regular, personal preaching in their services. We need to make it a matter of prayer to find men to go and minister face to face with our brethren. I can testify that there was a genuine spiritual thirst there last Sunday which drank up every word I was able to share. They need to be personally fed on a regular basis.

In the mean time, we need to strive to minister more effectively to them despite the distance between us. The current system we use to carry our messages over that thousand miles needs to be improved. Many of you know from personal experience that it has its limitations. We need to spend the money necessary to get really good equipment to livestream our services. Baptists are not normally willing to spend money like that. We need to step out of our financial comfort zone in order to get the job done. Something we need to remember in this particular case, is that most of the money currently in our general fund came originally from those brethren in Loveland. They need it now and could benefit from its use. Another consideration in this regard is that with a better means of broadcasting, we could better serve other distant members and even add to our evangelical outreach. I met with a man Friday with the intention of making the technological improvements necessary.

Paul told Titus “to set in order” those missions scattered across Crete. Each of those communities had different needs, but one which today’s Cretians need is a meeting place. The Colorado brethren have experimented with meeting in homes – both in Loveland and in Fort Collins. For most Christians – those whose focus is on Christ – a meeting place isn’t important – any will do. But for unsaved and unchurched people, a quality, public meeting place can be essential – it can determine whether a visitor attends or not. Lack of a good meeting place makes growth and the invitation of friends difficult. Right now, Loveland meets in an adequate commercial facility. They are not paying any rent which is good for them, but it puts pressure on the owner. And he is actively trying to rent that space for commercial use. And the truth is, our mission could be without a meeting place almost without notice. As it stands, the tithes and offerings of our Colorado people come to Post Falls. They couldn‘t pay rent, even on the space they are now using, if it was demanded of them. And as I say, they could be out on the street relatively quickly. Under those circumstances I believe it becomes our responsibility to pay the rent necessary for them to have an adequate place to meet. Furthermore, the brethren there need to know that their tithes and offerings are available to bless them and their community. They are not just giving toward the prosperity of Calvary Baptist Church in Post Falls. It remains to be seen what a meeting place will cost in the future, but we should expect to help them with $500 or more per month right now.

And we need to pray for God to send Timothys and Tituses to minister to each of our missions. We need to obey the Lord and “pray the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth laborers into His harvest.” And we need to be ready to pay the expenses of men willing to visit those harvest fields – men like Tobias Hart and any others whom we might be able to find. Crete was a needy place, but it was no less needy than Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Washington. We may not be able to do anything about Crete today, but we can and should jump right into the middle of the Lord’s work in Loveland, Colorado.

With these things in mind I would like us to do three things this evening with perhaps more to follow.

I would like our church minutes to show that we are sponsoring a mission in Colorado. It may not be possible for our missionary to be with them on a regular basis, but I want them to know they are a part of our ministry and a part of our hearts. And like any other mission, they should have our authority to carry out the work as your pastor and our missionary see fit. Secondly, I would like us to commit to sending them $500.00 a month towards a meeting place. This might have to be adjusted as circumstances dictate, but they need to be able to see our commitment. And third, they need to know that whatever expenses they might incur in the ministry those expenses will be reimbursed. Over time, there may be other details we will need to address, but here is a place to start.

As Paul said to Titus, there are things we need “to set in order” for the work to progress.