Putting the Church in Order: Why I Left You In Crete a. Left to work. During Paul’s journeys preaching and planting churches, he sailed to the island of Crete. The phrase “I left you,” implies that Titus was with Paul when he went to Crete. This was Paul modus operandi. This is how he worked. He didn’t do it alone. He was not a lone wolf out there all on his own. Even in prison, he had people that would minister to his needs. That’s how the church has worked from the beginning. Jesus didn’t call one apostle, he called 12. Jesus didn’t send his disciples out on their own but in pairs. The work of the church is not a solo activity. It is done in community, together. For whatever reason, Paul did not stay until the work of establishing the churches in Crete was done but left Titus to complete the work. Paul had confidence enough in Titus to leave him, which says volumes about Titus. Yet, he needed this letter of command and encouragement to finish the job. Sometimes we need that as Christians. We might say, “yeah I can do this”, but then when you meet the challenges and criticism and attacks, our zeal is stifled and we need help. This is why Paul is writing to encourage Titus. Notice too, that Paul left Titus. This was deliberate and strategic. Paul started the work by preaching the Gospel and now Titus was to complete the task of establishing the churches on the island. Gospel ministry is not something in which we fly by the seat of our pants. It should be deliberate, reasoned, and biblically justified. We work not just for today or tomorrow but 5 years, 10 years, 100 years down the road. We are trying to lay foundations that are based on Scripture. These foundations then should stand the test of time. b. Set things in order. This is exactly what Paul instructs Titus to do. He to take those infants in the faith and instruct them in the order of the church. Yes, there is an order within the church. There is a proper way to act. There are specific roles that people are to fulfill. There are qualifications that must be met. There is a standard of doctrine that must be adhered to. There is a way Christians are to act and treat one another. As Paul told the Corinthians “all things should be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Paul’s letters are full of this type of order, order of doctrine, and order of practice. We will see this as we progress through the book. c. Appoint elders in every town. This first point of order that Paul reminds Titus is that there are to be elders appointed over the churches in every town. Though Crete is less than around 50 by 270 miles, at that time it had over a hundred cities. Now, can we assume that every city had Christians? Maybe not, but all those that had a Christian presence Titus needed to appoint elders for those churches. Every local church within the cities was to have elders installed to lead, instruct, and protect the Christians. These men were chosen from among those that lived in that city and were given the office of elder. It is safe to say that Titus did not just randomly choose someone. He had the list of qualifications from Paul, which we will look at later. The people of the city had to have known the men and would vouch for them. The job that Titus was given would be hard and time-consuming but needed to be done if the church was going to survive and thrive on the island. d. Do as directed. That leaves us with the last phrase that Paul said in verse 5, “as I directed you.” Before Paul left Crete he gave Titus a to-do list, which could have been oral instructions, but now Titus has a written copy of the commands. This would show that Paul’s apostolic stamp of approval was upon Titus and his work. This is important because in Titus 2:15 Paul tells Titus, “Let no one disregard you.” Titus was on a mission from God by way of Paul. For someone to disregard Titus in his work in Crete would be equal to denying God. Titus would encounter those that would question his authority to do the work he was doing. He was directed to do the work by Paul. If he were to be a Christian in good standing then he had no choice but to follow through on his task. Did Titus complete his mission? From Scripture, we are not told, but we find in church history that elders from Crete attended important synods or meetings of the clergy, from the early church and on. So if it wasn’t Titus then someone appointed elders and the ordering of the church was completed.