Friday, September 28, 2007

Rev., Brother, Deacon, Sister, Pastor, Elder, Dr., Prophet, Preacher, etc.

Melissa brought up this title a few weeks ago. It is a post that is hard to "title."

Should we address each other as brother John and sister Melissa. What about the deacons and pastor. As a pastor I wonder what it would be like to have someone call me Right Reverend Dr. Pastor Preacher _________?

Can these titles become a source of pride? Do we like titles because it makes us feel important or superior to someone else?

What do you think?
What does your church practice?


JSU said...

I'm not particularly fond of titles. Everyone in my church is greeted as Mr., Mrs., or Miss. It could become a source of pride. There are some people that are very firm that they must be addressed as Dr., but I find that arrogant.

When people call me brother, I feel as if they are being insincere.

Anonymous said...

We don't need to use them. It's full of religion and tradition. We are all co-laborers with Christ. There is no hierarchy.

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

Grand, High, Exalted, Mystic, Ruler, Rick.

5 points to identify the reference.

Dead Theologians said...


I think for you it would be



Ed said...

I always err on the side of formality until told otherwise. If Dr. or Mr. or Pastor X say "call me Bob," then I will do as they ask. But I never assume the informal. I am a little uncomfortable using Reverend, but since I refuse to call anyone "Father," I'll settle for Rev.

Jeff said...

As a reminder of what people did in the early days, sometimes, see Acts 9:17. Ananias greeted Saul, that great persecutor of the church, as "brother Saul..." If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

Brent said...

Those are not used as capitalized 'titles' in the Bible, the gifts are gifts. I brought this up to an online capital "P" pastor, and was basically told I was straining at gnats. Many desire to add to their posts or service some extra significance with a title rather than just letting the post or service or preaching speak for itself. If you write or speak against or in opposition to a "Pastor" you are viewed as divisive or questioning their 'position' rather than their teaching. Except of course if it is a "Pastor" they question regularly. Total hypocrisy.

Dead Theologians said...


Thanks for the comment.

I agree with you. Rev. is better than Father anyday of the week.


Dead Theologians said...


Good point. I see a kinship or closeness in calling someone "Brother."


Dead Theologians said...


There is no doubt that our calling is one of honor Hebrews 13 but to demand respect or think that we cannot be rebuked is nuts.


Anonymous said...

Paul introduced himself to the Romans as a "Servant of Christ Jesus."

To the Philippians his introduction reads, "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus."

To Philemon, he was a "Prisoner of Christ Jesus."

James was a "Servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Peter appealed to the elders among the people as a "fellow elder" and introduced himself as "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ."

Jude said he was a "Servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James."

Never should someone call themselves the "Senior Pastor" or refer to their wife as the "First Lady."

Jesus said we are not to be called "Rabbi," and we are never to call anyone "father or teacher." He said , "the greatest among you will be the servant and who ever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Dead Theologians said...


Thanks for the great comment.


dsstanfield said...

At our church, most of the men call my husband by his first name. There is one dear man in particular that calls him "pastor," but it is more of an affectionate term than a title. The small children all call him Pastor J......

Respect is not something you demand, it is something you earn. To insist that someone only refer to you as "Dr. so and so", smacks of narcissism.

Timothy said...

AS the word "Doctor" is is a form of "teacher" and the Bible says to "call no man teacher" (Mat 23:10) then "doctor" should be out.

But, if we take Matthew 23:9-10 in the spirit that Christ intended, we also should not call anyone "pastor" (shepard) because we have but one pastor or shepard in heaven. Quite the conundrum.

Keith said...

In the church I grew up in, the adults were referred to as Brother or Sister [Last Name].

At our current church, the pastors/paid ministers are typically referred to as Brother [First Name]. Our "senior pastor" has the same first name as one of the "associates," so some people refer to the associate as Brother [FIRST Name] and the senior is referred to as Brother [LAST Name] or simply "Pastor." I don't hear any of the women referred to as Sister. Don't ask me why.

I'll answer to most anything...but then, I'm nobody.

Dead Theologians said...


I agree. We, as ministers, are servants with a first and last name. What God has called us to do may be different than most but we are still the same as everyone else.


dsstanfield said...

When my husband was asked to pastor our church, I remember feeling panic stricken. My main concern was that people would expect more from me and my children than they themselves were willing to expect from their own families. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded.

My husband's position may be different, but we are not special, just a family growing in grace, resting in God's promises.

Just to toss this in the ring.... The Bible does teach such a thing as superiors, inferiors and equals. We should not presuppose that we are equal in all areas of life.


Dead Theologians said...


I agree with Deborah that we are all just growing in God's grace and that from the church point of view we do have different roles, hence different levels of authority.

I want to make sure that the pastor/elders/leaders do not feel that they are not accountable to one another. I see too many dictatorships going on today.


Anonymous said...

The pastor that was at my church about 15 years ago INSISTED on being called Dr. so and so. People did NOT like him "lording" that title over them. Needless to say, he didn't last much longer after that.

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

Paul wrote thirteen (fourteen if Hebrews) epistles in the New Testament and all thirteen began with the same word, what was it?

What does that tell us?

dsstanfield said...

Hey DT,

I agree. There are definitely too many tyrannical dictatorships going on today in the church.

It is evident from the Scriptures that there should be a plurality of leadership, hence more than one elder. Our church has three elders, one teaching elder and two ruling elders, however they are all equal in authority. They make decisions together.

What do you think about churches who are run by a single man i.e. the pastor? They may have other officers, but the pastor really makes all the decisions. Is this biblical? We could take it a step further and ask about churches that are autonomous with no accountability to other churches. How about parachurch organizations, are these biblical?


Melissa said...

Deborah, Can you elaborate on:

"Just to toss this in the ring.... The Bible does teach such a thing as superiors, inferiors and equals. We should not presuppose that we are equal in all areas of life."

With scripture references, please - or an explanation of inferiority, superiority in the Church.


Melissa said...

One of the definitions for "Reverend" is "worthy to be revered; entitled to reverence."

Should not reverence and awe be only for our Lord? I remember someone once saying years ago that the title of "Reverend" should never be used for a man. Isn't this just another way to distinguish between "clergy" and "laity?" From where does this distinction arise? Is it biblical?

dsstanfield said...

Good Morning Melissa,

Sure. God places men and women, boys and girls in different offices. For example, based on the 5th commandment, children are to honor their fathers and mothers (Eph. 6:1, , Col 3:20). Here the parents have a place of superiority to their child. The husband is the head of the wife, here she is in a place of inferiority, albeit not in a negative way (Eph. 5:22, 24, Col. 3:18). We even see evidence of how a slave is to treat his master (Col. 3:22). As citizens, we are to esteem our civil magistrates (2 Sam. 9:6, Eccl. 8:2, I Tim. 2:1,2, I Sam. 26:15, Esth. 6:2). We also are to esteem our ministers "very highly in love for their work's sake" (I Thess. 5:13). The Bible teaches that we are to esteem the elderly, especially if they be found in the way of righteousness (Proverbs 16:31, Lev. 19:32).

Here is another example. My husband is my superior when it comes to his knowledge concerning theological issues and doctrines of the church. However, when it comes to preparing a meal, crocheting a baby blanket, or helping our children learn and practice a Vivaldi Concerto, I am definitely his superior. Does this make sense?


dsstanfield said...

Oops Melissa,

I failed to mention authority in the church. My coffee must not have kicked in yet.

God has ordained a plurality of leadership for His church, which consists of two offices: deacons and elders.

The elders are ordained to exercise spiritual oversight over the congregation of God: Acts 14:23; 11:30; 15:2,6,23; 16:4; 20:17;21:18; I Tim. 3:1-7; 5:17-20; James 5:14; I Pet. 5:1-3; Hebrews 13:17).

We have two types of elders, ruling and teaching. Teaching elders being ones that have been particularly set apart to labor in word and doctrine (I Tim. 5:17). These elders are commonly called "pastors" or "ministers." In addition to performing the same duties as the ruling elders, teaching elders also expound and preach the Word and administer baptism and the Lord's Supper. The distinction is not one of authority but of function.

Deacons are ordained to a position of service (Acts 6:1-6). Their spiritual qualifications are just as high as those of elder (I Tim. 3:8-10). They minister to those in need. They collect the tithes and gifts fo the people and distribute these, among other services to the body.

I have already mentioned that we are to esteem our officers highly (I Thess. 5:13). We are also to "strive together" in their prayers to God for them (Rom. 15:30). We are called to give them their portion of meat in due season," (Luke 12:42). We are to attend diligently upon the ordinances dispensed by them (Heb. 10:25). We are to defend their character and doctrine against unjust reproaches (I Tim. 5:19). We are also to make a competent and comfortable provision for them (Gal. 6:6).

Here comes the authority/ superior status: We are to OBEY them.

Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account."


Melissa said...

Thanks, Deborah.

I am learning this thing about authority. Mainly because I have seen so much abuse of authority that it has come to a point where I am hesitant to trust leaders, until they prove that they are worthy of trust.

I have seen abuse of Hebrews 13:17, where OBEY is meant to obey in all things, not just in things regarding right doctrine. That scripture has been taken out of context in many of the teachings I have heard and in the experiences of a few people that I know. Then, because the people did not accept counsel in those areas, they were looked upon as being rebeliious and treated as such. It was all out of proportion.

Looking at the context of Hebrews 13 and the whole book itself, would you agree that this particular verse is speaking of obedience for the prevention of deception and heresy; to obey the leaders when it comes to their teaching the Word (correctly) and not in other areas: like where to move (or not to move), whom to marry (or not marry - even if they are a Christian proven by words and deeds), or other areas where an individual may make decisions that are not contrary to the Word?

Also, since you clarified what you meant by inferior and superior, I understand. Inferior means of poor quality or situated lower down. Superior is higher in quality or higher in rank or station. So I'm not sure that these are words are accurate, as we are all servants beholden to one Master. We are to esteem leaders (regard them with respect, admiration, or value) for their labor in the Word, for their giving of time and knowledge, etc., but we are not to hold them up as being superior.

Thoughts of superiority is the results of these false teachers drawing disciples after themselves (Acts 20:30), being held accountable by no one.

The leaders in the church are for a purpose:

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ" Ephesians 4:11-15

These leaders are to work (as servants) to grow up the body, not to beat them down to stay children who are dependent upon them. This is what I have seen done much too often.

Sorry to get on a bandwagon, but it saddens me to see this happen, and it made me confused. I had to find out whether I was just being rebellious (in agreeing with the actions of those who chose another way - although it was not a way of sin) or if I was understanding correctly.

dsstanfield said...


Yes, positions of authority are abused today by sinful men. However, that doesn't negate authority. I understand where you have been. I have been there too. I think that is why it is so important to consider the leadership (elders) before you join a church. Are they grounded in their faith and able to handle the Word rightly? Are they shepherding the flock? Is their home open to your family and are they accessible? After all, hospitality is one of the requirements of being an officer.

"These leaders are to work (as servants) to grow up the body, not to beat them down to stay children who are dependent upon them. This is what I have seen done much too often."

I totally agree! I would also say that leaders are NEVER to impose their "wills" on the people, only the will of God as is revealed in His Word.

Many churches today are lacking in godly, biblical leadership, therefore the flock is suffering. You have men filling the pulpits who can't even rule their own houses well, and yet they want to tell you how to rule yours. We need to be praying that God will remove all ungodly leadership in churches today, and replace them with men who will faithfully preach the Word and shepherd the flock as prescribed in the Scriptures.

As a side note, what did the Bereans do when Paul and Silas came to them preaching in Berea. They searched the Scripture (the OT) DAILY to see if the things they were told were so. In a sense, we too are to blame for the leadership that we have allowed to "rule" over us. By failing to demand Godly leadership, we have allowed men, who fail to meet the qualifications of Scripture, to rule Christ's Church. I can't help but wonder if this is judgment beginning in the House of the Lord.


Melissa said...

Deborah, I think you are correct in that it is judgement. Just like women taking on male leadership roles...every man is doing what is right in his own eyes" as Judges 17:6 and 21:25 tells us.

You are also correct that we must search the scriptures. This is what I have done and in many cases, what has been done by leadership is contrary to the Word and people have been hurt. It is hard to come to place where the people you thought you could trust turn out to be untrustworthy in many areas. I will be separating from the fellowship I am a part of now, and I pray for God's leading.

I just want to be with believers who are truly servants who follow Christ - without title worship, without posturing, without a desire to build monuments (i.e., large church buildings), and with right doctrine, humilty and true communion among the saints. I don't think it is too much to ask...

dsstanfield said...


I will be praying for you.

"I just want to be with believers who are truly servants who follow Christ - without title worship, without posturing, without a desire to build monuments (i.e., large church buildings), and with right doctrine, humilty and true communion among the saints. I don't think it is too much to ask..."

Indeed it is not, but it is hard to find. Have you considered a small Reformed work?

Melissa said...

Someone suggested a reformed church that is about an hour away. I would only be able to attend there on Sundays, because anything during the week would not be worth going given traffic (it is atrocious here in MD/DC/VA). I have not yet visited, but I want to go. I have asked a couple of friends to go with me, as I may forget some questions to ask or miss something that they may pick up.

I didn't realize until recently that I was lacking in a lot of doctrine. I have been reading and studying more about Reformed teaching and realize that much (if not all) is similar to what I have believed, but never really took the time to solidify.

I am prayerful about it all, and I have been moving very slowly, because I wanted to be sure that separation from this place is what God intends. I don't want take a step without His leading and I know that this is the step to take. I won't be alone completely, as I have a little bible study in my home with a couple other women every week.

I expect that I will have these ladies and online teachings to sustain me until I find that needle in a haystack...if it is to be found where I live.

I thank you for your prayer (I need it!) and for your continued postings.


dsstanfield said...

Hey Melissa,

Driving can be tough (we used to drive over 50 miles to get to a reformed church until our denomination planted one that was local), but for us it worked. We got to worship on the Lord's Day with like-minded brethren. Many opened their homes to us on Sunday afternoons for lunch and fellowship. Sunday was the day we looked forward to all week!

Would you consider moving to Georgia :) ?


Melissa said...

It's funny you would ask that! I have had on my heart a desire to move out of state. I told my daughter about it three weeks ago. I put it on the back-burner, because right now, my mom, my daughter and I live together. I help her out financially and she helps me out, given the house I grew up in is paid off. My dad died a few years ago.

My mom is retiring next year, and her plan is to move to her birthplace in NC by 2009. I am open to doubt about it. We'll see where the Lord takes me!


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