We’ve been away the past two weekends; a weekend break in Rutland (delightful countryside) and catching up with brother in law’s family in Bury St Edmunds (charming Suffolk market town that I’d thoroughly recommend). But as a result of being away, I’ve missed the first two sermons in our series in Titus. I love that little letter. And so this week I caught up with our apprentice’s sermon on Titus 2. We listened to it together. I found it much easier than he did, which is good. (There’s something very wrong about enjoying the sound of your own voice). I thought he did a really good job. It was terrifically helpful. I found it hugely stimulating. I’ve spent time since then thinking about what it means for me practically to live in such a way that my lifestyle is consistent with the healthy doctrine of the gospel (2:1). Rather depressingly though, whether I’m an old man or a young man, it appears that self-control or mastering myself, will always be something that I’ll have to keep working on!
One of the things that’s striking in Titus 2 is the picture Paul paints of congregational interdependence. The young men and women need the old men and women and vice versa. Nowhere does Paul say who qualifies as the ‘oldies’ and who qualifies as the ‘youngsters’. Being an oldie is more about functioning as one and taking responsibility for the youngsters than it is about reaching an absolute age of qualification. I guess it depends on what the church family you’re a part of actually looks like. The most ‘ancient’ man in our congregation has only recently become familiar with his fifties. In absolute terms, that’s young. And you only need look at the picture of health and vitality that he represents to recognise this! Discretion prevents me from asking our older women where they land on the age scale. But they’re all younger than that. And so at CCB it’s quite possible to be in our mid-thirties and be an ‘oldie’. I’ve tried to encourage those in that age bracket not to dwell on how that makes them feel. I’ve been there and done that. And I’ve usually ended up in morbid introspection and bitter resentment. It’s the mid-life crisis and it’s not pretty! They should think instead about what that means that they can do. For others (2-10). And in response to the achievement and purpose of our salvation by Christ (11-14). Notably, Paul commands Titus to encourage the older women to train the youngsters (2:4). And that’s a massive issue in our church family. We don’t have a women’s minister at present. The last one was stolen from us by marriage! And even if we did, she simply wouldn’t have the capacity to look after all the women that God has brought us. We need to find a way of multiplying what one women’s minister could do so that we have a stack more of women’s ministers.
When Paul says that the older women need to train the younger women, he doesn’t mean that they need to be able to run seminars or speak at women’s breakfasts. They can if they have the desire, ability and capacity. But more often than not it means befriending the gaggle (if that’s the right descriptive noun) of wonderful young women in their twenties who are looking for a spiritual big sister to mentor them in godliness. At our Autumn Bible School and on one or two occasions thereafter, we’ve been banging on about reading the Bible one to one as an ideal way for us to be involved in personally discipling one another. Re-reading Titus 2 left me feeling vindicated for sounding that note so repeatedly and frequently.
When we think about it, we recognise that we really need others to help us grow in the faith and we really need to help others grow in the faith. That’s true whether we’re men or women. In particular we really need our oldies to disciple our youngsters. But we can’t do that if we don’t know one another. And that’s a bit of an issue for us at the moment at CCB, I suspect. We have two distinct services, which really means that we’re two separate churches that just happen to share some common resources (like staff, elders, musicians, building and so on). But one of the thrilling developments over the past year or so has been the growing number of singles and marrieds who come along to morning church. But we need to keep making every effort to befriend one another. But at least being in the same place at the same time provides us with an opportunity to do that. Maybe then the benefits of being older will bless those at the other end of the age spectrum!