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Only One Reverend

People sometimes call me reverend.

I think that’s funny.


Not that I’m laughing at them. People mean well and have been told that’s the polite and appropriate title for a “man of God.” That’s the funny part – that last part – the idea that I’m somehow more a man of God than the next believer, or the bizarre idea that I’m somehow worthy to be revered. It’s a nice thought and a kind expression.


But that’s just funny. While I would like to be holier than thou (actually, I’d settle for just being holier than I), it’s not happening. And, it’s foreign to the way of Jesus. So, where did we get the idea to call preachers “reverend.”


In Jesus’ day, just as in ours, people liked to be revered. They love their titles. Jesus said of religious leaders, “Everything they do is done for men to see . . . they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi’” (Matthew 23:5, 7). It feels good.


But, Jesus told his followers to avoid that. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’” he said. “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ” (23:8-10).


The first followers saw themselves as a body where members have different functions, but equal value. “God has combined the members of the body . . . that its parts should have equal concern for each other,” Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 12:24-25). There was no distinction between “clergy” and “laity.” Those terms were invented later. The first followers practiced the priesthood of all believers.


But, something changed. So much so that Craig Groeschel writes (in Confessions of a Pastor) of his professor who encouraged students to maintain the “pastor’s mystique.” The professor explained, “People think they want their pastors to be normal, everyday people, but they really don’t. They want to see you as superhuman, better than the average person.”


That may be what people want. But it’s fishing in the wrong pond. It’s not what God wants. And it won’t happen. Ministers will not be superhuman! They – we – will be flawed, sinful humans like everybody else and relying on God’s grace to grow and get better. There is but One to be revered. And, I am not He.

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