As many in the faith mourn the passing of Tim Keller and thank God for his ministry that has touched countless numbers, I am reminded of Paul’s strong encouragement for pastors and church leaders in Titus 2. Tim Keller modeled these things for us.
First, he is to teach what accords with sound doctrine. In short, he teaches the Bible. That is the first and most important responsibility of a minister of the Gospel, and nothing can replace it or cover up for the lack of it.
He is also to be a model of good works. Good leaders should never show off, but good leaders will always show up. And stand out. And that’s because we all need people to follow. Even people to imitate. Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” It was Jeff who inspired me to do triathlons, at least a few, back when I was a younger man in my 50’s. I had heard Jeff talk about triathlons a lot, but then I started training with him, and learning from him, and that changed everything. It was Shawn who inspired me to start memorizing books of the Bible. I had heard Shawn and others talk about memorizing chapters and books in the Bible. But then I heard him recite a couple of chapters of Philippians and, several months later, I followed his example. John Calvin said, “Example draws where precept fails.” Do you get that? We can tell others how they are to live, but how much better to show them.
This is why parents who develop good strong relationships with their children are going to be the most palpable persuaders of sound doctrine that results in godly living in their children’s lives. In a recent survey of 9300 millennials who were raised in church-going homes, the most powerful predictor in children of Christian belief and practice as an adult, of satisfaction in life, of civic and community involvement, and many other positive results, was the presence of a strong relationship with their parents as they grew up. It’s just a fact that children grow up to be like their parents, for good or ill. The pastor’s job, then, is to teach the parents how to be godly role models for their children.
Not only must the pastor be a model for good works, but also he must have integrity, dignity, and sound speech in his teaching and preaching. Integrity means “incorruptness,” and it sits in contrast to the message of those who teach for shameful gain and will say whatever draws a crowd, or sells a book or CD. If integrity is your motive, dignity is your manner. Richard Baxter wrote, “Whatever you do, let the people see that you are in good earnest…you cannot break men’s hearts by jesting with them.” There’s a balance here, I know, but teaching the Word must be serious business. I don’t mean dry and boring, but certainly we must be serious about the Word and how we present it. If our manner suggests that we only want to make people feel comfortable or light-hearted all the time, then we may very well be leading them down a comfortable path to destruction.
Finally, if integrity is your motive and dignity is your manner, then sound speech is your message. This does not refer to diction or enunciation but the validity of the message that we are presenting. Again, we who speak for God before His people must preach the Bible.
Is it enough to just do good works and ignore the Scriptures? No. Neither is it enough to teach the Bible and not live out its truths through good works. The church and the world must see both.