The second reason why we need to hear the message of Titus is because we as evangelical Christians desperately need to close the credibility gap.
I trust everyone is aware of the fact that evangelicals have what one might call a ‘public relations’ problem, a problem with our image, with how we’re perceived. The recent study by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons entitled, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity, has underscored this point sufficiently enough. As you are doubtless aware, the word on the street is that evangelicals are hypocrites. And, of course, in some cases, as I think we would all agree, the charge of hypocrisy is entirely (albeit regrettably) justified.
However, let me say plainly that I don’t believe our chief problem is hypocrisy. Rather, it’s credibility. At least my experience has been that for the vast majority of us evangelicals, our problem isn’t that we say one thing and then knowingly do another (i.e., hypocrisy). Instead, it’s that we say one thing and then unwittingly fail to let that shape the rest of our life; thus, we create a credibility gap between our professed convictions and our actual practice.
To use a metaphor: we don’t have a heart problem, but a circulation problem. It’s not that our heart isn’t pumping blood as it ought; it’s just that the blood doesn’t seem consistently to reach the extremities of our daily lives. Hence, our credibility problem. For we leave outsiders who observe our lives with that niggling question in their mind: “Do they really believe what they’re preaching, since it doesn’t really seem to penetrate the practicalities of their daily life? It’s as if they’re peddling a soda they themselves don’t really enjoy drinking?”
Despite the air of cynicism toward religion that pervades our culture, people are nevertheless surprisingly willing to give credit to a person who actually lives by his or her convictions, almost regardless of what those convictions are! In this day and age of virtual-this and virtual-that, where everything is accessible, but nothing is real, we’re increasingly hungry for just that: something real, something authentic, something credible, something – indeed, someone – believable, someone who actually practices his or her own convictions.
Here’s where the book of Titus comes in. For it is written to help the believers on the island of Crete, and the church of Jesus Christ ever after, to address this issue of credibility in the eyes of outsiders. For the burden of the argument of the book is that we are to devote ourselves to good works for the sake of outsiders, in order to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (2:10) and thus commend the gospel in and through a life of holiness and godliness and gospel-centered consistency.