As I look back to a time approaching 40 years ago, I still can’t believe that Grace Bible Church of Dallas hired me to be Minister of Music. What were they thinking? I was so young! And it was a sizeable church ministry, while my resume was so tiny.
During my seminary years at Dallas Theological – an awesome experience at the finest religious institution in the world – my actual better exposure to Christian ministry was working for the church and being on an eight-person pastoral staff. The Senior Pastor, Bill Bryan, was THE ultimate pastor, evidenced by the fact that not long after I moved back to the East Coast, he became the Chaplain of Dallas Seminary for many years.
I would have to say that Bill was for me what Paul was for Timothy and Titus, the recipients of these three letters that we are going to study over the next six weeks and 29 total writings. No other person has had as large an impact on my life as did Bill, who by personality, conviction and belief shaped the entire framework that defines the way I have gone after ministry over the successive decades.
We all need a Bill … a Paul … in our lives, to disciple us by example and by instruction. And then, in time, we need to become that for others who follow us on the path of serving in God’s Kingdom.
So who are these guys named Timothy and Titus?
Here is what we know about Timothy, including the greetings in each of these two personal letters from the Apostle Paul …
1 Timothy 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2 To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
And then the second letter begins …
2 Tim. 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
Timothy was from the city of Lystra, the place where Paul was stoned, dragged out of town and presumed dead, only to rise up and go back to town to finish his sermon. Perhaps this made quite an impression on the young Timothy.
Timothy was the spiritual heir of a godly mother and grandmother, proselytes from a Jewish past, though it would appear his father was a Greek who had no devout faith at all. Likely Timothy was converted to Christ from his Jewish background on Paul’s first missionary journey, and he becomes a travelling companion with Paul on the second journey.
Timothy was sent on a number of special assignments by Paul – sent to Thessalonica for a time on the second missionary journey, and likewise to Corinth on the third trip, before joining up with Paul again.
During Paul’s first imprisonment, Timothy was nearby and surely ministered to his needs. All of these exposures to Paul and his varied experiences were a tremendous on-the-job training opportunity for the younger man.
Finally, Timothy was sent to Ephesus where he had a high level of responsibility in that church. We often think of him as a sort of pastor there (which may not be entirely wrong), but it is more appropriate probably that we think of him as an Apostolic representative under the direction of the Apostle Paul – speaking for the older man in guiding this local church during its early stages of ministry.
Ephesus was not a place for the faint-hearted to serve. It was a major city with many secular and Roman influences. It was also the location of the famous temple to Artemis (Diana) – one of the wonders of the ancient world and thus a place of idolatrous worship of the worst sort.
Reading between the lines a bit, it would appear that Timothy had a much more mellow and gentle personality than did his mentor, the Apostle Paul. This may not have always served him well in leadership, and thus Paul goads him at times toward greater boldness and stronger expressions.
And here is what we know about Titus …
Titus 1:4 – To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
Less is known about Titus than is certain about Timothy. Unlike the latter, he was fully a Greek in background, not Jewish. He too is seen on several occasions with the Apostle Paul on his travels, occupying varied positions and responsibilities in the early days and travels of the great missionary.
After Paul’s release from imprisonment, he travelled to the island of Crete, located in the north-central Mediterranean Sea off the southwestern coast of modern Turkey and the southeastern coast of Greece. As Paul travelled on, he left Titus behind to handle leadership responsibilities in the same way as Timothy.
With both Timothy and Titus, the letters are Paul writing instructions to his younger disciples. However, we should understand these letters as more than private correspondence. They were in fact letters for the whole church to see in these locations, and under inspiration for all churches to gain from, down to our time.
One thing we will see is that people are the same from generation to generation. Many of the challenges faced in leading a successful church venture in the first century are the same as we face today. It comes down to humbly leading and humbly following; and that makes sense, as we are the people saved by the one who humbled himself to death on our behalf.