As one reads various religious publications or watches TV on Sunday morning, he will hear or read many “titles” given to various ones who preach. Some of these individuals seem to put on a title, as you or I would put on a shirt. If a person were to string together every religious title used by the denominational world, he would have to introduce himself as, the “Right Reverend, Reverend, Apostle, Bishop, Cardinal, Elder, Evangelist, Father, Friar, Minister, Missionary, Parson, Pastor, Pope, Preacher, Priest, Dr. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Ph. D.”
As one who preaches the gospel and is paid to do it, I am often asked by those outside of the church what my “title” is, or what they should call me. They usually act kind of confused when I tell them that my “title” is “mister.” After having said this, they still insist on calling me “Reverend” or “Pastor” and if my contact with them is to be brief or momentary, I try not to belabor the point. However, if there is time I simply try to explain to them why I do not and will not accept any “title” other than that of “mister.”
First, let it be known that every member of the family of God, is worthy of only one title and that title is “Christian.” Moreover, since we are of one family, it befits us to refer to one another as “brother” or “sister.” The one who preaches is deserving of no “greater” title than that of “Christian brother,” or simply “mister.” Even though, the “pulpit preacher,” is often the public face of the congregation, he has no greater position than that of any other Christian. His responsibilities are no different from those of any other Christian. He is simply supported by the local congregation, as an expedient, so that he can have the time to prepare and present biblically sound lessons that will edify and teach his fellow Christians. Therefore, I can think of no “better” or “higher” title than to be called after our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Second, we are commanded by Christ to call no man “father” (except our male parent). “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12). We are not to think of men more highly than we should. When the Roman Centurion Cornelius, in Acts chapter ten, met Peter, he bowed down to worship and exalt him, yet Peter would not accept such praise. Peter understood that all are one in Christ Jesus, that he was no better or higher than any other person was. Therefore, he considered himself unworthy of any greater honor or title. Later in that chapter, he would discover that there was also no difference between ethnic Jews and gentiles.
Other so-called titles such as “bishop,” “pastor,” “shepherd,” or “elder” are simply descriptive terms, describing the duties of certain Christian men who meet the qualification listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The preacher may not be one who meets those qualifications, and therefore couldn’t properly be described as a “bishop,” pastor,” “shepherd,” or “elder.” Even so, these are not “titles” by which we ought to call men, but rather ways to describe them. Some other titles given to denominational leaders, such as “pope,” “bishop” and “cardinal,” (as they are used by the Catholic church) refer to positions that are not even biblical. These titles are part of a sectarian hierarchy that is found nowhere in scripture.
The titles, “apostle” or “prophet” are scriptural titles, by which men have been rightly called, but are no longer in use today. The sign and miracles that God worked through the prophets and the apostles were necessary to establish that they spoke with His authority and that their words were from Him. Now that their words have been authenticated as inspired, and they are now available in written form, the need for such signs and wonders has dissipated.
Finally titles such as “reverend,” “right reverend,” “your holiness,” etc., are terms that should properly be reserved for only God Himself! Nowhere in scripture do we find authority for calling anyone other than God by these kinds of titles. In the King James Version of the Bible the word “reverend” is found only one time, in Psalm 111:9, “He sent redemption unto His people: He hath commanded His covenant for ever: Holy and Reverend is His name.” For me or any other man to assume such a title for himself is little short of blasphemy!