The Heart of an Effective Church
Happy Anniversary Faith Bible Church–Titus 3:12-15
When do you see into a person’s heart? Not in a formal setting, but an informal circumstance. Not in a speech, but in casual conversation. Turn to the conclusion of the letter to Titus–chapter 3, verses 12 to 15. As Paul wraps up this letter, what is on his heart is communicated. You get a window into his heart and soul–what Paul really valued.
The conclusions of New Testament letters give us some of the most accurate pictures as to what was really happening in the Early Church, and they give us what should be happening in our lives as we celebrate twenty years. Read aloud with me Paul’s closing words to Titus in chapter 3 verses 12 to 15.
“When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them. 14And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful. 15All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:12 to 15).
In these verses, what we have is the concerns of Paul for the Church, the ministry of the Gospel, and for his fellow missionaries. These words are the pouring out of the heart of an effective Christian and Church. As Paul concludes, his priorities, passions and personal concerns come right to the surface–his heart is exposed. The Bible tells how important the heart is.
In Joel 2:12 to 13 God says, “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning; 13And rend your heart and not your garments.” God says, don’t show me an external display of repentance–tear your internal heart before Me. First Samuel 16:7 reminds us, “For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
God is looking at your hearts right now. You may talk spiritual and act righteous, but if your mind is wandering–if you’re not dealing with sin, if you’re indifferent or distracted at heart, God knows exactly where you’re at. He wants you to stop looking good on the outside, but maintain a genuine heart that’s compliant to Him internally. Your heart is who you really are, where you desire, deliberate and decide. It is the place of your spiritual life–where God meets you and you fellowship with Him.
Is your heart healthy today, genuine, intimate with your Lord–or distant? Because, like the Marines are looking for a few good men, God is looking for a few good hearts. Second Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” The Lord is not looking at your credentials—your degree, your car, your clothes your business card, or name brands. But He is looking at your heart.
And what you see at the end of many New Testament letters is what God is looking for. Paul shows us His heart in the conclusion to Titus. As Paul wraps up his letter to Titus, he talks heart–a heart for God, for God’s purposes, a heart for the Church and God’s people. And as he does, he describes the heart of an effective Church and Christian.
The good news today is, if you are struggling with your heart yet a true Christian, then the Holy Spirit can restore the heart of the truly repentant. But you must submit. Pursue God’s will by submitting to His Word and living dependently obedient. What will that look like? God gives us seven qualities in four verses as Paul wraps up the letter, turning the focus away from false teachers to his friends and fellow servants. What is the right kind of heart to be effective for Christ?
#1 A Heart of COOPERATION
A true heart for God knows you can’t be effective for God merely on your own–we all need each other in the body of Christ, so Paul closes with verse 12, “When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you.” Here Paul gives us his future plans for Titus. After the basic work of evangelism on the Island of Crete, Paul left Titus to finish establishing the church, which meant chapter 1, he’d appoint qualified elders who could teach without compromise and confront error.
Then chapter 2, he’d mentor believers how to live godly in order to be chapter 3, a powerful witness to the lost society, by initiating sacrificial good deeds. This letter was sent to Titus to give him the apostolic authority to do the work and to remind the Cretans what God desires of every Christian. But we learn in verse 12 that Titus was left temporarily on Crete, since Paul is sending a replacement. Titus had not finished the work–every group of Christians on Crete did not have its team of elders, so Paul will send Artemas or Tychicus to finish the job.
Now we don’t know anything about Artemas, except what we can learn from this verse. He must have been a very mature Christian, if he was one who could replace Titus. Plus he must have been a proven church planter and apostolic representative, since he was considered along with Tychicus. Tychicus was one of Paul’s key players on his missionary team. He understood church planting and on several occasions he traveled to churches for the express purpose of communicating to them how Paul was doing personally and to report on the latest missionary activities.
In Ephesians 6:21 to 22, “That you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.” Either one of these men will replace Titus and continue organizing, appointing, confronting error and teaching on Crete until the churches are ready to stand on their own—each with their own leadership team.
We don’t know what Paul had in mind for Titus, but we do know at this time Paul was an older man–his time was short and he wanted to pass on his ministry to his most qualified men, like Timothy and Titus. Second Timothy 2:2, “Entrust to faithful men.” Both Titus and Timothy show us God’s leadership strategy. While Paul was carrying out the great commission by planting churches over the New Testament world, he was also building into the lives of men, two in particular.
Just like Jesus, who built into twelve men to carry on His work after He was physically gone, Paul not only had a preaching ministry, but also an in-depth training discipleship ministry with men, particularly with Tim and Titus. Paul knew the future of the Church depended upon investing the Word and his life into key men. Not only does our investing include our children, but all of us are called by God to personally invest His Word into the lives of others. Plus, as a church family, we are to encourage, support and pray for the men in our midst who are preparing to continue the work of eldership and pastoring here and in other locations, because an effective heart cooperates with God’s plan to pass on the faith.
Titus had laid the groundwork of appointing qualified elders, but he was not yet done. So Artemas or Tychicus would continue until the Cretan elders could carry on the work themselves. An effective heart cooperates with God’s plan by praying for, discipling, encouraging, fellowshipping with future leaders. Who are those people–anyone with an interest? No.
By listing Artemas and Tychicus, Paul is saying cooperate with someone who 1) is proven–they’ve already produced fruit in people’s lives, 2) is committed to the same mission–to reach the lost and establish churches like these two, and 3) has the same heart for the church community and the Word of God like these two. Our future depends on you having a heart to invest in the next generation.
#2 A Heart of URGENCY
An effective heart knows we can’t be passive when it comes to our impact for Christ. An effective heart is urgent knowing we’ll only have a few years to make an impact for eternity. An effective heart doesn’t allow itself to remain comfortable, convenient or complacent. That is why Paul continues in verse 12 with this phrase, “Make every effort.” The verb “make every effort” literally means to make haste, to give diligence. Paul is saying to Titus to be eager to get going, make every effort to continue on in the work, to be diligent in your efforts.
When you have a true heart of urgency, the older you get, the closer you are to heaven, the hotter your urgency becomes. Like aged Paul, who told Timothy to make haste twice in the last chapter of his final letter, 2 Timothy 4:9, “Make every effort to come to me soon.” And then 2 Timothy 4:21, “Make every effort to come before winter.”
Now in Titus, Paul had not yet determined which of the two men he would send to Crete–but when he did, Titus was to hurry, because there is always more work to do in proclaiming Christ, establishing the Church, teaching and mentoring–but there is always a shortage of time. An effective heart doesn’t wait for opportunities–it initiates building up Christians or sharing Christ with the lost, because a true heart realizes we only have a small slice of time to make our impact for God’s glory, since this life is the only time we have to share Christ.
Never forget, friends–why are you here? Why did the Lord leave you here? To bring God glory. Can we do that better on Earth or in Heaven? How many say Earth? Heaven? We will best glorify God in Heaven since we will bring God glory perfectly for all eternity. Then why has he left us here? To love, to enjoy peace or joy, to know God, to fellowship, to sing praise? No. We will do all of those better in Heaven.
Then why are we left here? To do what we can’t do in Heaven–share Christ. To tell others the Gospel–you can’t do that in Heaven. A true heart for God is passionate to be used of God to make as many people like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible. Make every effort to be urgent about the work of God.
#3 A Heart of WILLINGNESS
An effective church is willing. A tender heart moves from a bunch of talk to actual walk. They stop being restrictive, resistant and rigid to being open, willing and flexible. Paul wraps up verse 12 with this urgent request of Titus to “come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.” There are as many as nine New Testament cities named Nicopolis, so this was probably the most famous one. It means city of victory and was located on the west coast of modern Greece.
It is very likely this was the place and the specific winter Paul was arrested before his final imprisonment and death in Rome. This city is also a key place to reaching the world with the Gospel, so Paul was there possibly trying to get to Spain, but waiting for winter to pass so as not to sail during the shipwreck winter months.
But notice the willing heart here–Titus demonstrates an agreeable heart to go where needed and to do what is most useful for the glory of God, even if it involved further training for him while waiting out the winter with Paul, or going off to begin a new church in another region, or merely delivering a letter to an existing church. There is no need to convince Titus, press him, order him or motivate him–he has a willing heart to serve, to go and to sacrifice. Do you have a willing heart to do whatever the Lord wants, to be involved in any ministry the Lord desires or to go wherever He wills? Can you say like Isaiah in 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Are you willing? So an effective church is cooperative, urgent, willing and has . . .
#4 A Heart of DEDICATION to build the local church
An effective heart for Christ is one dedicated to the work of establishing local churches. The plan of Christ for the last 2000 years is the local church–what is that? A community of Christians under a team of elders, who function according to the Word of God. Any process outside the local church is always second best, since the Church is the only plan established by our Lord Jesus Christ for our time. And Paul understood the way you impact the world for Christ is through the local church–which is why we’re here. And why Paul said in verse 13, “Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them.”
Zenas and Apollos were most likely the ones who delivered the letter to Titus and the Cretans. We don’t know Zenas, except that he is a lawyer, which meant he was an expert in Jewish Law (possibly as an ex-Rabbi or scribe) or he was an expert in Roman law, telling us he was a Christian lawyer–which would make him the only one ever mentioned in the entire New Testament, showing us they were just as rare back then as they are today.
We all know Apollos–he was a Jew and a native of Alexandria. That’s where the famous library and university founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC were. Apollos was a gifted speaker and mighty in the Scriptures. Remember, he was the one who came to Ephesus and boldly taught in the synagogue, but he only knew the baptism of John and not the Gospel of grace through Christ. So Priscilla and Aquilla taught him the way of God more accurately. Once he responded to the good news, he immediately became an apostolic representative of Paul, traveling to various areas, proclaiming the Gospel and establishing churches.
And even though the Corinthians had divided up in their loyalty over Apollos or Paul, there was no jealousy in the heart of Paul toward this popular and gifted speaker and no conflict in the content of his teaching. So now as he closes his letter, Paul tells Titus in verse 14 to help Zenas and Apollos by making sure that all their needs are met in a special way–how? “Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them.”
How is Titus to meet their needs? Eagerly–verse 13, the word “diligent” means eager to proclaim Christ and help churches. Physically—verse 13, the phrase “nothing is lacking” refers to financial and physical needs. Sacrificially—verse 13, the word “help” points to sacrificial cost, no matter what. Relationally—verse 13, the phrase “on their way” is more than a church sending a check once a month to a missionary far away. It is personally going with them as far as you can, it is bearing their load, helping them pack, enjoying their company for as long as you can while you are expressing your love. That is the heart of an effective church–eager, physical, sacrificial and relational help.
Why would Titus and the Cretan Christians do this? To help proclaim the Gospel and build up churches. These men were passing through Crete on their missionary tour and Paul was concerned their financial and physical needs would be met in an eager, sacrificial and personal way. The effective heart is one that is committed to the work of establishing churches by encouraging, supporting, loving and sacrificing for those who do the work. What else makes an effective heart?
#5 A Heart of SACRIFICE to give to your own local church
Just like our Lord, an effective Church and Christian initiates sacrificial actions. They give, serve and initiate good deeds to meet spiritual needs when they arise. They desire to be fruitful in ministry, and earn eternal reward. That is why Paul says in verse 14, “And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful. Can you remember when someone helped you by meeting a pressing need?
Maybe it was your husband who took you out to dinner . . . or a friend who brought over a meal, or provided a ride . . . or someone who secretly gave you some cash . . . or someone who provided a cabin to escape to. These kinds of sacrifices are not only a refreshment from the Lord, but also bring joy and reward to the giver.
Paul says to Titus, don’t fail to encourage our folks on Crete to cooperate wholeheartedly in generous giving. They should literally, verse 14, keep on learning how to give sacrificially and become experienced in well doing. This kind of giving can only be learned by doing, so Paul says, don’t hesitate to motivate them to give so they can learn about the rewards of sacrifice.
Paul was very concerned that the new believers on Crete have the opportunity to express their gratitude to God for their own salvation, by helping the missionaries proclaim the Gospel to others and start churches for others. In 1:11, we’re told some of the Cretan Christians had already been led astray by financially supporting false teachers, so Paul is now alerting them to the great opportunity they have to minister to two men who were God’s true servants and worthy of their financial support.
Now in verse14, Paul is not talking about the regular sacrificial giving of the church body like he does in 1 Corinthians 16:1 and 2, “Now concerning the collection for the saints… 2On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.” Verse 1 teaches us about regular giving in the Church. But here in Titus 3:14, Paul is not referring to the regular, faithful, cheerful and sacrificial giving of Christians to their local church every week. No, Paul is talking about special giving to imperative needs that come up in the church or for the church.
In verse 14, by using the phrase “learn to engage”, God is literally calling us to lead the way in giving to needs. God wants the Cretans not only to give regularly and to meet all the needs of Apollos and Zenas, but also to learn to give to needs that come up all around them–to give to the real needs of the saints in their own body. And verse 14 says the purpose of this giving is for Christians to be fruitful. Fruit is any action or attitude of Jesus Christ through you by the power of the Holy Spirit.
You can tell a real Christian from a phony by their fruits. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20, “You will know them by their fruits.” Some will produce more fruit than others, but all true Christians will produce fruit. Matthew 13:8, “Some seed fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” And it is fruit that brings great glory to God. John 15:8, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” Are you a fruit producer? Do you have a heart of sacrifice?
#6 A Heart of personal FELLOWSHIP
A fruitful heart is one that has intimate relationship with others in Christ. A solid church member is not isolated or independent from other Christians. A genuine believer has a desire to maintain loving fellowship with and loyalty to others who have the same heart, as Paul says in verse 15, “All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith.” This kind of love can only be shared by those in Christ, because it is God’s love through us, to each other.
In verse 15 Paul says, “Everybody says hi and say hi to everyone.” All the fellow workers who are with Paul send greetings to Titus and Titus is asked to give the greetings of Paul and his companions to some on Crete. The phrase, “Greet those who love us in the faith,” is not saying, “say hi to those who love us as Christians,” (since there is no article “the” before faith). Paul is actually saying, “Say hi to those faithful ones who love us.”
Give a special greeting to those who stood faithful, to those who labored with us on Crete, to those who stood against the false teachers. Say hi to those special lay ministers because of the special common bond all co-laborers in ministry share together. Those moving in the same direction as Paul loved him, but those false teachers did not. An effective heart is in community with other Christians–it’s losing independence and enjoying mutual dependence. It’s losing privatization and gaining participation. It’s losing isolation and growing in intimacy– joining a group, ministering together, becoming a member. That is an effective heart–linked to other Christians by Christ. Finally, a true heart is cooperative, urgent, willing, dedicated, sacrificial and intimate—and it’s . . .
#7 A heart of GRACE
A genuine reborn heart is one that’s driven–not by success, or achievement, or fame, or wealth. But a reborn heart is driven to live under, focus on, revel in, be reminded by, and thankful for God’s grace. Paul concludes his letter to Titus in verse 15 with, “Grace be with you all.” Now understand, this cannot be a mere goodbye expression, because the entire letter focused on grace and the Gospel rests on grace. It is grace that sets Christianity apart from every other faith. Every religion in the world is trying to earn its way to Heaven, but grace says God reaches out to us.
Paul wants Titus and the Cretans to experience grace when hearing this letter. He wants them to remember God’s favor in Christ for those who don’t deserve it. Paul wants grace to exist in their midst, filling their hearts with peace, love and joy. When someone owes you something, there can be no real peace between you. But when you owe a debt you can’t pay and someone pays it for you because ne loves you, there is great joy and true peace. This is what God’s grace did for you.
“Grace be with you all” is more than social protocol. Grace is a constant reminder of our position in Christ and that all who are under grace (born again) are brothers and sisters in the family of God. It’s grace that gives us our position with God and with each other. And with “grace be with you all”, the “you” is plural–it includes all the Cretan Christians, not just the fellow laborers from the last verse. So Paul says, may our experience of free unmerited favor with God in Christ move us to live lives which reveal His grace to others.
What must we learn from this good-bye conclusion?
1 For the Church—Train
The leadership and all of you together must build into the lives of the next generation lay leaders, elders and missionaries, who will continue the work of the Church beyond us. How do we train them? The same way Jesus and Paul did. You train them by putting them in the work of ministry, so they have to live by faith and depend upon God. The only kind of discipleship found in the Bible is the kind where Christians participate in evangelism and edification.
Today, there are many who think that observing, listening and plugging your umbilical cord into one person once-a-week is true discipleship. It is not. New Testament discipleship is learning by doing. It is coaching a Christian while he or she is in the game. It is working with someone while they serve. It is not meeting with someone at Denny’s once a week to talk through a book or what’s happening. If they aren’t willing to produce fruit, if they aren’t willing to serve with you or give sacrificially, then they are not ready for discipleship–period. Jesus didn’t say, “Come and meet with me once a week.” He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
2 For the saint in the church–give faithfully
God teaches each of us to give regularly to our local church, and on occasion, to give sacrificially to those who will start churches by proclaiming the Gospel. Otherwise, we’ll be unfruitful–and unfruitful is only used in the New Testament for those who are not Christians. Like Paul says to the Philippians in 4:16 and 17, “For even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs 17Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.”
The Philippians were not only investing into Paul, a man they loved, but also into the lives of many who would come to know Christ through his ministry. This is the fruit that will be credited to their account in the eternal bank of Heaven. For every saint in the Church, learn to give sacrificially, serve selflessly and joyfully in the church, knowing your reward in Heaven is great.
3 For every Christian–seek to have God’s heart
Do you want the heart of Christ? A heart that wants to cooperate with what God is doing, is urgent in proclaiming the Gospel, is willing to serve and sacrifice anywhere, is dedicated to build the local church, will sacrifice to meet needs in your own church through giving and service, is intimate with other Christians in the work, is motivated by God’s super abundant grace?
If you do want that kind of impactful, fruitful heart–make the choice today. Ask the Lord to change your heart to want what He wants.
4 For the unbeliever–turn to Christ
You can have a new heart today, if you turn from your way to God’s way, your words to God’s Word, your terms to God’s terms–which is to rely upon Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins forever. And now to follow a risen Savior as your Master and King for all eternity.
Only God can save you, so turn to Him alone. Only Jesus can forgive your sin, and if you want Him to forgive all your sin, past present and future, then cry out to Him right now to give you a new heart. Let’s pray.