By Jeff Mingee
The apostle Paul considered qualified elders as a critical part of a healthy church. So he wrote to young Titus, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). In addition to dealing with detrimental influence of false teachers in Crete, the normal growth and health of this local church body called for qualified, godly and capable elders.
Paul recognized the need for not only elders, but qualified elders. In Titus 1:5-9 Paul offers a list of qualifications required of elders. Lea and Griffith comment,
The qualifications presented require acceptable conditions in three basic areas of the prospective elder’s life, namely, (1) his marriage and family (v. 6), (2) his personality and character traits (vv. 7–8), and (3) his devotion to God’s Word and his commitment to teaching and protecting the true gospel message.
In our digitally connected world elders must also shepherd the flock through their digital engagement. Pastor-elder, have you ever considered your own digital footprint in light of your position as a shepherd in your local church? You don’t get to check out of the office when you log into your social media account. The qualifications apply to your digital life. You must be well thought of by outsiders both in your community and online.
Pastor-elder, consider how Paul’s qualifications for elders may shed light on your digital habits and activities.
If your kids followed your digital example, would you be leading them in paths of righteousness or into the way of ruin?
Marriage and Family
Paul clarifies that elders must be “the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination” (Titus 1:6). That pastor’s family is an important microcosm of his broader ministry. He ought to be satisfied in the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18). He ought not provoke his children to wrath (Ephesians 6:4). His shepherding habits in his family matter to his shepherding habits in the church.
Pastor, how is your marriage? As you scroll through your social media feed beware the digital temptation to pursue the forbidden woman of Proverbs 5. Beware entertaining thoughts that fuel discontentedness with your wife.
Pastor, how are your kids? What does their social media feed reveal about your shepherding influence in their lives? Would you be embarrassed if they saw your search history? If your kids followed your digital example, would you be leading them in paths of righteousness, as our Good Shepherd leads us, or into the way of ruin?
Personality and Character Traits
Paul explains the importance of character, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:7-8). Pastor, your character matters.
Are you above reproach? I’ve been in more than a few ordination counsels in which a member of the counsel will simply read through Paul’s words here and then address the candidate with the pointed question: Does this describe you? Well, pastor, you may have passed that ordination counsel, but you have not moved beyond the need for that pointed question. So, do these words describe you? Do they describe your digital life? Are you above reproach?
Are you arrogant or quick-tempered? There is a particular pull in the digital world to respond with arrogance or quick-temperedness. But stupid tweets ought not produce stupid responses from kind and gentle shepherds.
Paul positively notes that elders must be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8). In a digital world, this means they must love what is good and hate what is evil. They practice self-control in posting, commenting, and engaging. Their digital activity is marked by holiness. They have the discipline necessary to log off or refrain from foolishness—an ability lacking in many users today.
Most corrective conversations will be better suited for personal follow up than public embarrassment.
Devotion to God’s Word
Finally, Paul highlights the requirement of doctrinal faithfulness and the ability to teach in accordance with sound doctrine. Paul writes, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).
As Christians engage in the digital Areopagus of social media they are quickly and constantly confronted with conflicting worldviews. Here the Coexist bumper sticker is on full display. Digital users swim in a current of controversy, philosophies, and teaching that contradicts sound doctrine.
Elder, how will you navigate such tumultuous waters? How will you determine which heresies to address with a posted reply and which to leave for someone else to deal with?
Hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly (Colossians 3:16). Cling to the testimonies of God (Psalm 119:31). Be devoted to the Word.
Yes, you will need to correct, and even rebuke, those who contradict sound doctrine. Beware the danger of becoming the heresy police that responds to every meme with a theological article. Most corrective conversations will be better suited for personal follow up than public embarrassment. You probably don’t need to digitally burn the heretics.
Your Digital Life Matters
Pastor, your digital life matters as you shepherd the flock. It matters for the glory of Christ. How you post will influence how you are heard when you preach. As Paul warned the Philippian believers, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).