What’s In a Name – or Title?

3d4b8ea666b3c0dfe8cf0329f4459882Titles.  I typically do not care for them, but it has become an issue as to how I should address myself in ministry work.  I have seen many in church leadership become so obsessed with titles that they add four or five before their names:  “Apostle-Bishop-Doctor-Prophetess-Pastor So-And-So”.  Jesus Himself addressed the “title” issue:

But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.  Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.   (Matthew 23:8-10)

When I became an ordained minister, I grappled with what to call myself, if anything.  Leaning on the above scripture, I simply went by “Sister Robin”, which quickly became “Sista-Robin”.  But that sounded vaguely like a Catholic Nun, which I am not, and it caused a bit of confusion.  So what do we call the lady minister?

It seems proper etiquette to address those who hold certain church offices as such, deserving of the respect each commands (Pastor, Evangelist, etc.)  I believe titles should be used as more of a job description or calling, rather than accumulating them to boost one’s ego or clout.  I have no problem addressing church pastors as “Pastor So-and-So”, as that is the office they hold.  Likewise, true evangelists should be addressed as such.  And generically the term “Reverend” is used for any ordained minister, whether they are currently pastoring a church or not.  My grandfather, a pastor and church-planter, formally went by “Reverend Thomas Flynn” but was more affectionately known as “Preacher Tommy” or “Brother Flynn”.  A bit formal, “Reverend Robin” IS kind of catchy, while “Rocking Reverend Robin”, invoking the old song from the 70’s, is a bit too much.  LOL

I have never been very “formal” and have never fit the mold, nor will I.  Although a free-spirit, I AM a former pastor, Sunday School teacher, radio preacher, and evangelist. I have worn many hats in my 20 years of ministry.  But I cringed when recently referred to as “Pastor” – I feared it was inappropriate as I currently do not pastor a particular church body.  If anything, I should never wish to be disrespectful of the office or title.  I questioned my own pastor at the time about this, and he responded:

“Pastor is not relevant to church, it is for a group of people.  I think if you lead people and they follow you, it is absolutely appropriate to wear the title.”

The Lord also reminded me that church is not necessarily a building or meeting place, but rather the world-wide body of Christ.  The born-again believers are the church, wherever they find themselves on Sunday morning or Wednesday night.  I do have an on-line following and I still practice what is considered “pastoral counseling”.  My former congregation and others still reach out to me and I pray for them daily.  I suppose that still counts as “Pastor”.  The bible says that the “gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”  (Romans 11:29)

So, you may call me Pastor; or Reverend; or Preacha – or simply call me by my name.  I am just a Jesus-loving, hippie-gypsy free spirit called to preach the Gospel of Christ, and set the captives free.

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