Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reverend: False Elevation or Grammatical Error?

My father and I often have Biblical discussions that I enjoy very much. We discuss Baptist doctrine, issues regarding deacons, Old Testament versus New Testament, and many other things. Our discussions are basically something new in our relationship….it certainly isn’t something we did when I was a young girl. He was too busy being a daddy, and I was too busy being a daughter. Therefore, it’s nice to have a discussion with him that isn’t parent-child based…..it’s nice to converse every now and then as Christian believers. I think it’s important to have fellow believers you can conversate with….someone who you can confront and they can confront you ….someone who prompts you to actually put into words what it is you think and believe.

There are many memories I have of spending time with my dad growing up…..handing him tools as he worked on something in the back yard, running to catch up with him as he hurried to another project of some sort, the feel of accomplishment as I finally caught up with him and grabbed his large hand with my own small one, and the feeling of exhilaration as he lifted me into his lap, so I could ride with hin on one of the many tractors he had in his collection.

So many great memories!

I have a feeling, however, the cache of memories I will carry on with me into my twilight years…the ones that I will hold the closest to my heart...will be our heartfelt and sometimes intense discussions regarding Scriptural issues.

Duing one of my last visits he told me a story his Bible Study teacher had related in class one Sunday. Seems that one of the teacher’s neighbors ran into the teacher’s car, and while that wasn’t a neighborly action, the neighbor did come to the teacher and gave him his business card. Throughout the tale the Bible Study teacher kept referring to his neighbor as a minister.

Seeing an opportunity to open up a scholarly discussion my dad questioned his teacher by asking, “Well, how did you know from looking at the neighbor’s business card that he was a minister?” This, of course, caused the remainder of the class to laugh because…..well, isn’t it obvious? Silly, silly Daddy!

The Bible Study teacher knew instantly his neighbor was a minister just by looking at his business card because…….because printed on the card in front of the man’s name was the title Reverend.

That is how many of our Christian ministers are identified, aren’t they?

The members of Dad’s class were none too happy when Daddy challenged the use of the title. It wouldn’t be the first time my father has attempted to challenge what we often perceive as proper Christian actions yet…..when closely examined the action might not be Biblically based or might totally go against Scripture all together. I’m sure some of the folks were thinking, “Durn, here he goes again!”

Of course when you bring up any objection to using the title reverend folks instantly produce a myriad of excuses…..”We’ve always called our ministers Reverend,

We need to show the proper respect due a man of God,

Times are different today and the Bible doesn’t really mean what you think it does,

We need to set our ministers apart,

They deserve a special title”……The list goes on and on.

So, what does Scripture say?

Psalm 111: 9-10 states, He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever. What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has! Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. The Hebrew word that was used here in this verse and that was translated later to the Greek was the word “yare” meaning fear, reverence, ultimate awe. With this mind Psalm 111:9-10 is telling us that no other name is holy and reverend….only the name of God.

Think about some of the most tireless workers for the Kingdom of God portrayed in the Bible----Peter, Paul, John---did they carry the titles Reverend?

One source that my father shared with me states, Everything we do must be authorized by the word of God (1 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11) and thus in keeping with the apostolic traditions revealed in God’s word (1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:17) in the Bible there is neither a command nor was it an apostolic tradition to use religious titles. Therefore, we cannot use religious titles today.

Only God is worthy to receive glory and honor (Revelation 4:11; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 24-25) People who take God’s glory upon themselves will be punished (Acts 12: 22-23)..

If you still aren’t satisfied perhaps the words of Jesus can clear things up. In his warning to religious leaders (Matthew 23: 5-12) he states, Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear extra long tassels on their robes. And how they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the most prominent seats in the synagogue! They enjoy the attention they get on the streets, and they enjoy being called ‘Rabbi’. Don’t ever let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are on the same level as brothers and sisters.And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Master,’ for there is only one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 go even further to state that people who do not humble themselves will not be saved.

Since religious titles are not authorized by God this would mean a church employing religious titles is not God’s church but a man-made church vainly worshipping God according to the commandments and traditions of men (Colossians 2: 22-23; Matthew 15: 8-9). Members of man-made churches have no hope of being saved (2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10; Hebrews 5:9; 1 Peter 4: 17-18) since they disobey the gospel of Christ.

So…………this little discussion with my father concerning the use of the title Reverend was a bit sobering. I’ve used the title with various pastors. I’ve seen it used in various ways, yet Scripture states it should not be used. I also felt pretty good since the majority of ministers I’ve had personal contact with since I’ve become an adult have all been close friends….they are my contemporaries or "just a bit" younger….therefore, I’ve usually called them by their first name. One pastor who is much younger than myself has made the name calling a joke of sorts between us…..once he discovered my online name he very rarely ever uses my given name, but refers to me as “elementaryhistoryteacher”. I’ve taken to calling him “mryouthministerman”.

I’ve been thinking on this whole Reverend issue for several weeks now trying to grasp my own understanding and position regarding the matter. Then I happened upon something God intended on me discovering. I am working on a very large projecct for our church historical committee and have been digging into our extensive church archives for several weeks. The other day I stopped by the files for a quick moment and decided to grab a folder of documents and pictures....one folder each from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s to work on at home. There are hundreds of files to choose from….I just reached in and grabbed hardly looking at the notations on the outside or the contents.

Later that evening I began to uncover my treasures. Inside the folder for the 1960s I found a publication titled The Maryland Baptist, dated January 18, 1962. On the back cover was an article titled, “What to Call Your Preacher” written by C.R. Dailey, Editor, Western Recorder. I stopped dead cold. Why had this been placed in the folder? There is no mention of our church, and I couldn’t really find any reason for this to be in our church history archives other than it one day would have had huge significance for me……

The article begins….”Call him Brother, call him Pastor, call him Mister, call him most anything else, but don’t call your preacher, Reverend………..To begin with one of the most basic meanings of the word reverend is “to be worthy of worship,” and this can apply only to God and never to man. Those who use the word in reference to their pastors, however, do not use it in this sense, and this is not the main objection to it. Reverend is an adjective and can only properly be used in conjunction with other titles as The Reverend Mister or The Reverend Doctor. These are clumsey, however, and otherwise undesirable.

………What should a Baptist call his pastor? The most acceptable title is Brother. This is in keeping with the Baptist belief in the the universal priesthood of believers and suggests a closeness between the pastor and member without undue familiarity.……How about Doctor as a title? Though proper, this title is subject to misuse and suggests a rank which should not exist. Relatively few Baptist pastors are really Doctors, and it’s very improper as well as embarrassing to doctorate a man who is not a Doctor. The title ought to be left off. The only difference between a preacher who is a doctor and one who is not is three or four years of additional study in an educational institution. Sometimes a doctor knows more than a preacher who is not a doctor, but sometimes he knows less.

So, choose your reason for not using the title Reverend.....either you don't wish to elevate a mere man to God's level, or you simply have a hang-up regarding proper grammatical usage. As for the term Doctor I think anyone who has slogged their way through eight plus years of school should use the title whether they be ministers of the Gospel or mere little old history teachers like me. However, the point I think Mr. Daley was making in his editorial was often a minister is given the title of doctor when they do not hold the proper degree, but doesn't he make a great point about the true knowledge of a Doctor who is also a minister?

The article goes on to make several interesting points….If you would like to read the entire article click on the image at the beginning of this post to see it more clearly.


Jennifer in OR said...

Thank you for this great post! This is included in the Christian Carnival, up later today at Diary of 1.

elementary historyteacher said...

Thanks Jennifer! I'll head over in a bit to enjoy the offerings there and complete a link as well. :)

Jeremy Pierce said...

I actually don't think the title 'reverend' is a problem to use for a man or woman of God, but that's only because Paul does it when he calls men and women of God saints, which means holy ones. Of course it's a problem if you think full-time employees of congregations in preaching and teaching ministry are saints in a way that the rest of us aren't. So the practice of using it just for them is a problem. But it wouldn't be interesting rather than to remove the title to start using it of every believer.

Anonymous said...

Very good article on error...and improper word use. Using improper terms and/or just accepting a word because others always use it is the beginning of departing from truth.
The result of that departure is summed up in 2 Tim 2:26 where it states those departing from truth are taken captive by Satan at his will...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...