How to Deal with Difficult People - Titus 3:1-11

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Introduction: Three examples over three different years:
An older man in the congregation takes me outside after about 6 months of ministry and tells me that he is praying for me to die, because the reputation of the church would be ruined if they fired another pastor.
At the end of a worship service, one of my deacons didn’t like a decision I made, and really didn’t like it when I asked him to do something for me in light of that decision, so he yelled and cussed me out in front of the church, right after service, then yelled and stomped all the way out of the church.
Another man in the church went through the community trying to find older members in the church to get me fired. The reason? I wasn’t preaching from the King James Version of the Bible.
In 10 years at Slater Baptist, I’ve been called a coward, a chicken, a church killer and an effeminite man. I’ave had people make up false charges against me to try to get me arrested. I’ve watched people dislike my vision for the church and then very intentionally work against it. I’ve had folks meet me right after a service just to let me know how their favorite preacher would have handled that text.
Why do I tell you this? Because this IS revitalization. This is what you are signing on for, more often than not, and the way that your spirit responds to these issues can completely define your ministry and set the future trajectory of your whole church.
Fortunately, the Bible has much to say about dealing with difficult people. My favorite of these places, however, Is Titus 3.
Background for Titus
God’s gospel is for difficult people. How does Titus 3 instruct us in how to deal with difficult people?

The Goal: Titus 3:1-2

What is the goal in dealing with difficult people? Simply, I think we read of this in Titus 3:1-2
Titus 3:1–2 ESV
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
how beautiful would a church like this be? The good news, is that one day we WILL be a church like this! In the meantime, our hope as we shepherd others is that we move incrementally towards reflecting this beauty here on earth!
The only way to do this is to deal with sin. How?

Step 1 - Deal with the most difficult person first.

So here is what you have to do - you have to come out of the box always attacking the most difficult person first. If you go after that person first, everyone else will seem light in comparison!
Now, how do we identify the most difficult person? Well, that part is easy.
First, take a deep breath.
Second, look in a mirror.
The bottom line: YOU are always the most difficult person you will ever have to deal with. Look at what Paul reminds Titus of in Titus 3:3
Titus 3:3 ESV
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
We must remember who we were:
Led Astray
Slaves to Various passions and pleausre
Passing our days in malice and envy
Hated by others and hating one another.
I wonder if any, or maybe even all, of these descriptions matches a description of a person you find difficult? Hear the Gospel: you WERE THIS TOO!
In fact, from time to time, you still ARE this! But the Gospel has set us free!
And so we remember what changed. you didn’t just wake up one day and get smart:
Titus 3:4 ESV
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
The goodness of Christ appeared
Titus 3:5 ESV
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
He saved us!
Not because of our own works. We weren’t loved because we were particularly lovable.
Because of mercy, which means we can show mercy.
Blessed are the merciful.
Titus 3:6 ESV
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
this was poured out richly. Why? I needed it richly.
Titus 3:7 ESV
so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
And so I am now declared righteous! I have been made an heir!
The Gospel is the story of a God who loves, calls, and saves the unlovely.
1 Timothy 1:15 ESV
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Do you truly believe this?
So, Step 1 - deal with the most difficult person you will ever know: you! All those stories I shared with you have paled in comparison to what I have learned about how difficult I can be!

Step 2 - Consistently apply the Gospel

as pastors, we must always start with dealing with our own sin, but we must also live in obedience to God’s Word, which means shepherding well and helping others as they deal with their own sin! This must start by being sure that every member of the church knows the whole story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is much harder to deal with sin in a church setting where people have never heard that they are sinners in need of grace!
Titus 3:8 ESV
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
Insist on these things: consistently remind people of the good news of the Gospel!
You should hear the story of salvation for every member of your church, but especially of your most difficult members, if for no other reason than to be reminded that we are all of one household. Plus, the work may be evangelism, not discipleship!
The fruit of the Gospel: those who have believed will be careful to devote themselves to good works.
The Gospel changes things because the Gospel changes people. We must liberally apply the Gospel in our ministry.

Step 3 - Refuse to wrestle with a pig

sometimes, we can get wrapped up in an issue that is not good stewardship of our time.
Often, difficult people are most difficult about issues that matter the least.
Titus 3:9 ESV
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
look at the list (do a brief word study on each); 95 percent of our difficulties are in this category:
foolish controversy
quarrels about the law
What do we do? “Avoid.” In other words, you don’t mud wrestle a pig.
You don’t have to participate in every argument you are invited to.
Discernment is the ability to know when to speak and when to let it go.
Look up Kirby Smart on leadership.
These things are unprofitable and worthless.

Step 4 - use biblical means to accomplish biblical ends.

Titus 3:10–11 ESV
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
warn him:
of what the Gospel says has happened, and what you don’t see.
of the end of such behavior and of the damage he is causing himself.
of the high value of Christ’s church and how zealous He is for it.
of the great risk he is placing himself in.
Then, warn him again.
Then, apply Matt 18.
Then, call a spade a spade.
Such a person, who would not heed such warnings, can only be described as
and we are to treat them as such.
BUT, look at the process that gets us here:
Deal with your own heart first
Proclaim the Gospel to everyone as much as you can.
Discern how big the issue really is.
Reconcile those three stories.
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