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By what title do you address your pastor? June 25, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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In Christendom today it is quite customary for church ministers, pastors and certain elders to append titles to their names to perhaps signify rank and authority. For example, today we have pastor with titles such as, Senior Pastor, General Overseer, Apostle, Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal, Rt Reverend, Patriarch, Metropolitan, Father, Abbot, Dr, etc. All of these different titles enable a system of hierarchy within the church and enables individuals to be exalted and venerated above their congregations as if they are somehow different or superior. The question I would like to ask though is whether any of this is biblical? Why have we become so besotted with lofty titles in the church? Does the Gospel support this milieu?

In attempting to answer the aforementioned questions we may note what Jesus said:

 8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:8-12)

From verse 1 of the passage we note that Jesus was speaking to both the multitude gathered before Him and His disciples when He uttered these words. Jesus has made it plain here that we should not seek to appropriate titles unto ourselves as Christians but rather that we should see each other as brothers and sisters. Jesus fully well knew of man’s lust of the flesh for power and recognition and this can be seen from His description of the Pharisees and scribes in the previous verses. Are we not therefore disobeying Christ by maintaining this hierarchical system along with its associated titles? Howbeit that man’s heart has become so haughty to the point where he can claim to be a follower of Christ but blatantly ignore His position on this issue? It is interesting to note that even the disciples suffered from this haughtiness when they came to Jesus and asked who is greatest in the Kingdom (Matt 18:1-4)? Jesus’ response however was that unless one humbles himself as a little child he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus made it clear also in Matt 23:11 that the greatest amongst “you” would be “your” servant. It is clear then that this system of hierarchical structures and associated titles are an affront to the Gospel to say the least.

It goes without saying that in our church structures today those that assume lofty positions certainly do not act as servants but are rather treated in a lot of cases as demigods. Instead of them being servants to the church they are instead served by the church in a relationship akin to sovereign and subjects thus creating a system of government with the church. The idea of priest vs laity for example is promulgated throughout the church yet scripture has made it know to us that in Christ we are all priests (1 Peter 2:9). If we also look at the example of the early apostles like Paul, we note that he addressed the Thessalonians for example as brothers as opposed to lauding it over them as General Overseer. This was the example given to him by the Lord Jesus, and this was the example that he followed.

Peter also laid down the standard of how the elders who “pastor” the flock should conduct themselves:

1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:1-5) Emphasis added.

It is clearly laid out here that pastors/elders should not be “lording” it over the flock (God’s heritage) but should instead display a sense of humility in their character. Why then has the modern church become so far removed from these examples? Have we become so wise in our conceit? I pray the church would return to the truth of scriptures concerning this area.

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Comments»

1. glasseyedave - June 28, 2010

They will never give up power, nor will they ever expose their own usurping of the headship of Christ over the church. We have collaborated with this by our silent consent and apathy to the application of scripture in our assemblies. We have gone our own way and forsaken the heart of the true shepherd. But we can not see it.

Who will stand up for the true shepherd and defend the sheep from these shepherds? What sheep would even care? Yet we have the audacity to call us the sheep of His pasture.


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