What Paul’s letter to Titus reveals about working together in ministry
On the island of Crete, the apostle Paul worked in ministry with a group of people. Let’s call them Paul’s Crete Mission Team. Based on a short account of these people in Titus 3:12–15, this article examines what’s involved in working together for ministry and how we can do it too.
Who was on Paul’s Crete Mission Team?
We don’t get the whole list, just some names of the people Paul worked with:
Titus. Paul’s faithful delegate, sent to Crete and Dalmatia (modern Albania). He was a Gentile, a solid, faithful man of God.
Artemas. This is the only biblical reference to this man, but Paul thought him a worthy replacement for Titus so he must have been a faithful, mature man of God, willing to serve.
Tychicus. He travelled with Paul at the end of Paul’s third missionary journey. Later, he was with Paul in Rome during the apostle’s imprisonment. He carried Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians; we have those letters because of him! He was willing to suffer and travel for Christ.
Zenas. He may have been a Gentile lawyer or a Jewish expert in the Mosaic Law. But this clever man sacrificed his work to go on a mission trip to Crete. Clearly, money and fame were not his aims in life.
Apollos. A great public speaker who came to Ephesus. There, some of Paul’s other co-workers, Priscilla and Aquila, took him aside and taught him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26). The fact that he listened shows he had a humble, teachable heart.
Other Christians. In Titus 3:14, Paul refers to the Christians in Crete as “our people” (NIV). Paul’s view is that he is working together with all the believers on Crete. That’s a bigger view than most of us have. We don’t know where Paul was when he wrote this letter; he may have been in Macedonia or Achaia. But we know that he was not alone, as he writes, “all with me” (v. 15). Paul was staying at a church, and they were working with him too.
What a diverse, talented, godly, and widely-spread group of people! We can imagine they might have had differences of opinion. They had different skills, backgrounds, and experiences. Besides this, they were all still tainted by sin. This description does not seem too different to the people we work with, does it? Perhaps they were really learning to “say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions” and were living “self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (Titus 2:12).
What did Paul’s Crete Mission Team do?
All the individuals named in this passage were travelling for the gospel: Paul and Titus to Nicopolis; Artemas or Tychicus to Crete; Zenas and Apollos came from Paul and were going somewhere else. The gospel message has movement in it. Christ himself travelled from heaven’s glory to earth’s sin. As we carry the gospel, let’s not be surprised if we, too, have to travel.
They stayed in one place.
Others stayed in one place. Some believers Paul worked with put down roots in a community and began to see that community changed by God’s power. The gospel message also has a rootedness about it. Jesus comes to dwell with us. As The Message puts it: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14). As we work with people in Japan, we too may become deeply rooted in a Japanese neighbourhood.
They supported one another and the ministry.
This seems to be the main reason for all the travelling. If we put the pieces together, we get a picture like this: one of Paul’s co-workers travelled to do ministry; that ministry was an encouragement and a support to the local church; that church then supported Paul’s team member, sending them on “with everything they need” (Titus 3:13). And it may well be that the pattern was repeated. This is not surprising—perhaps they saw themselves as members of the body of Christ, not separate members (1 Cor 12:12ff).
Do we support other people’s ministries this way? How can we support one another across the JEMA community, for instance? Do I ensure that the people I work with have everything they need for their next stage of ministry?
They learned to do what was good.
Paul said, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14). And Titus was to set the example.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer called doing good “the ministry of helpfulness”. He said, “This means, initially, the simple assistance in trifling, external matters.” And that “Only where hands are not too good for deeds of love and mercy in everyday helpfulness can the mouth joyfully and convincingly proclaim the message of God’s love and mercy.”1 How can we be helpful to those we work with? It is important if we are to work together well.
They greeted, loved, and prayed for each other.
I can imagine Paul, as he is writing this letter, being interrupted by people he is with. They knock on his door and say things like, “Send my greeting to Titus, will you?” or “Sorry Paul, but I just want you to tell Titus that I remember a talk he gave. It really helped me understand Jesus.” Then another and another, until Paul can’t fit in all the details but can only say at the end of this letter, “Everyone with me sends you greetings.”
Paul also sends greetings to the people with Titus on Crete. He describes them with an intimate phrase, “those that love us in the faith” (v. 15). This greeting is not formal; it is for family. He emphasized the unique bond between Christians, the joint faith in Christ that produces this love. Finally, Paul ends with a short greeting which is also a prayer: “Grace be with you all.”
Do you sense the affection, the concern, the fellowship among those who work with Paul? It is wonderful. Do I have such affection and concern for those I work with? The honest answer is often no. I see them as co-workers when I should see them as close and dear family. What about you?
What does working together in ministry mean?
These few verses in Titus give a glimpse of what the Bible means by working together in ministry. It is deeply challenging to our self-centred hearts. It means being part of a widely spread and diverse group. It means some travelling and some staying. It means being a real support and serving each other in practical ways. It means having deep affection, praying for Christ’s grace for each other, and being family.
Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Japan Harvest magazine under the title “Paul’s team on Crete: Working together in ministry”.
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer & Samuel Wells, Life Together (SCM Press, 2015), 76–77.
Peter Dallman, with his wife Janet, has served in Japan with OMF International since 1998. He has worked in church planting and welcoming new missionaries, and is now involved in training missionaries.