I want to start a new series on the Role of The Pastor. More than likely this will not be a weekly series but a series nonetheless. I have been thinking a great deal on what it means to be a pastor. I have read dozens of books on pastoring, and all pretty much say the same thing, that pastors should be leaders, and they take the current management as a role model of what a pastor should be. I have been serving as an Associate Pastor now for 4 years, and although I see it as an honor to serve in this capacity, I also observe many things that appear to take away from what a pastor should be doing. I must confess up front that I had bought into much of what these books were propagating prior to actually becoming a pastor. But now that I have been functioning as one for some time I seem to have a different opinion, and some frustrations as well.
I was following a Tweet from some young men from the denomination that I am a part of. The tweets were on being disrespectful for not referring to a certain person as Pastor. The individual charged quotes Matthew 23:8-12
Matthew 23:8-12 (New International Version, ©2010)
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
The argument was that we should not use any titles because Matthew 23:8-12 says so. But does it? Is that what is being argued here? If that is the case then we would never call our dads “fathers”, or those that instruct us as “teachers”. I think it is addressing the matter of ones heart and outlook of oneself and not making an absolute command here. For in verse 12 he refers to being humble and prior to that are the warnings of hypocrisy all dealing with how we perceive ourselves. So what is Jesus stating with these remarks?
I don’t think that these verses are against titles per se for we see it in other places in the New Testament where people are called “teachers” such as in Acts 13:1, 1 Tim 2:7 (Paul refers to himself as “faithful teacher”) and Heb 5:12. But what is about titles that Jesus is warning against? I think it is the sense of pride that the individual might get by the title that has been bestowed upon him or her. I also think that the other danger with titles is having a sense of greater worth in the body of Christ. As R.T. France states “His criticism focuses, however, not on the role they purport to fulfill but on the way they fulfill it” NICNT, The Gospel of Matthew, Kindle L15093
I never make anyone call me pastor, as a matter of fact I prefer they not call me that. But I always leave it up to the individual and their comfort level with it. At times I feel that it would be best to get rid of the titles and just refer to them by their first name. I think that it is fine with referring to such a person as being the pastor of the church, but I don’t see the point or at least the insistence on being called “Pastor such and such”.
I think that the family paradigm appears to be the best for describing who we are in the body of Christ. It seems that is what Jesus is alluding to this in vs. 8 “…you are all brothers (and sisters)” as some sort of equality among ourselves. I would rather be called “brother Robert” than “pastor Robert” if an individual insisted on a prefix to my name, although I don’t like that either. It conjures up images of me with a long white beard, and a white robe and staff, maybe they should just call me “Gandalf the White” 😉
Finally I like what R.T. France says in his commentary on Matthew
“The first will be last, and the last first” (19:30; 20:16), these sayings encapsulate Jesus’ repeated assault on pomp and self-importance, and reinforce the portrait of Jesus’ disciples as a community of “little ones” which is important to Matthew. – NICNT, The Gospel of Matthew, Kindle L15185