The person we now know as St Paul, writer of about a third of the New Testament, was once Saul, a Jew who was intent on wiping out Christianity. He was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus and became a Christian, a wonderful worker for God. Two of the great harvest of believers Paul reaped were Timothy and Titus who went on to be church leaders in their own right. There are things we can learn as individuals and as a ministry from what Paul did to develop these two leaders.
The readings at the Tuesday service were Psalm 100, 2 Timothy 2:1-8, Luke 10:1-9. The reflection from the service follows:
Yesterday the Church remembered the conversion of St Paul, that amazing encounter with Christ that turned a dedicated persecutor of Christians into a Christian himself, willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Gospel. Our priest made an interesting observation about Saul last night: Saul was convinced he was right until he knew he was wrong. He discovered that Christ’s agenda was not his and he had the courage to go with the new agenda. Instead of wiping out the Church, Paul was instrumental in making it grow and continue right down to the present day when it has 2 billion members worldwide.
The Church grows one member at a time of course, and two of those members are remembered today: Timothy and Titus, companions of St Paul, part of the harvest that he as a worker brought into God’s barn. These two men were both probably converted as a result of Paul’s ministry and went on to be like sons to him in the faith, and fellow workers. We have two letters to Timothy and one to Titus preserved for us in the New Testament, which give us some idea of Paul’s relationship with these two men.
Timothy was of mixed race, with a Jewish mother and a Greek father. He had been taught the Jewish scriptures by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. It’s probable that Timothy became a Christian as a result of Paul’s visit to Lystra when he and Barnabas were stoned on Paul’s first missionary journey. Paul returned to Lystra on his second journey accompanied by Silas. By that time Timothy had grown as a Christian and it seems that his mother had also become a Christian. Timothy was invited to accompany Paul and Silas on the rest of their journey as they revisited churches founded earlier. Paul seems certain that Timothy should be involved in this work due to words of prophecy about it. The elders and Paul lay hands on Timothy to commission him for the work that the Spirit had given to him. In order to prevent problems with the Jewish converts, Paul insisted that Timothy be circumcised before they left. The fact that Timothy was prepared to undergo this shows his commitment to the Gospel.
Timothy had a timid nature and seemed to be aware of his youth but Paul trusted him with special work nevertheless. He was sent at first to Thessalonica in order to encourage the Christians there who were suffering persecution. Having accompanied Paul to Corinth he went with Erastus to Macedonia and then was to head back to Corinth. It seems that he was not very successful in Corinth but he still accompanied Paul on another visit there later. He also went to Jerusalem to take the collection to the Christians there. Despite his problems in Corinth, Paul entrusted Timothy with dealing with false teaching and establishing church leaders in Ephesus. Nothing is known about the later part of Timothy’s life.
Titus was a Greek. He was probably converted by Paul and is first heard of when he went to meet the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. He was an example of how God was reaching the Gentiles with the same Good News as had been brought to the Jews. Unlike Timothy, it seems he was not required to be circumcised. Titus worked in Corinth collecting money for poor Christians elsewhere. He seems to have had abilities as an ambassador and was sent with a strongly worded letter from Paul to the Corinthians in an attempt to sort out some difficulties between them. He returned to Paul with good news about how the letter had been received and later went back with another letter for the Corinthians. Later Paul and Titus went to Crete and Timothy then stayed there to help the church become better established. He may later have completed other missions for Paul but tradition suggests he stayed in Crete as its bishop.
Paul’s letter to Timothy was written from prison when he knew his time on earth was limited. He had spent time journeying with Timothy to many places, letting him learn from watching and listening and trying things himself. This letter is a final chance to pass on wisdom which can no longer be done in person. Paul knew that shortly after the writing of it he would no longer be in a position to give advice. Interestingly, today I received John Stott’s final book, called the Radical Disciple. Like Paul, he is taking his last chance to write what he has learnt in order to equip the next generation to serve God and spread the Good News.
We can learn from Paul’s advice just how important it is to pass on the truths which have been passed on to us. As the Gospel tells us, the harvest is plentiful and workers are needed, but it’s not easy to go and be a worker for God without knowing the Good News to pass on to those who need it. Paul taught Timothy and Titus, and he told Timothy to teach others in his turn. This has gone on down the generations until it has reached us. Here at the Cathedral we have a responsibility to become well enough versed in the scriptures to be able to teach others. It is a lifetime’s work to keep learning and applying what the Bible tells us. Although some people might make theology their main area of study, none of us is able to walk away from our responsibility to learn more, however young or timid we may be. As a ministry, Anglicans of Second Life has the responsibility also to give opportunities for learning to those who come to us. We have our Bible Study and sermons but there is so much more we can and must do to equip our members.
Something else we particularly see in the relationship between Paul and Timothy and Titus is just how important it is to have others around to encourage you. It didn’t all work one way. Paul may have been the teacher and mentor of Timothy and Titus but they were eventually fellow workers of Paul’s and a source of comfort in Paul’s times of trial. It can be so easy to put leaders on a pedestal and somehow think that they don’t have the same needs as other people. Leaders get tired and discouraged and hurt sometimes by things that happen and they need others to be there for them. They need to be prayed for, to have a chance to voice some of their concerns and to hear some positive words.
I have found the people of this community to be incredibly encouraging towards me and towards others who minister here. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for that very important ministry of encouragement which you exercise. It makes a wonderful difference. Please don’t stop!
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor