Monthly Archives: September 2010

Church Leaders and The Use of Honorific Titles

“But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them” (Jeremiah 45:5)

by Darryl M. Erkel

The Lord Jesus, in His condemnation of the Pharisees recorded in Matthew 23, plainly forbids His followers from either giving or receiving honorific titles. Whereas the religious hypocrites love “respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men Rabbi” (v.7), this is not to be the mark of Christ’s disciples: “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (vv. 8-12).

Jesus is not denying functional differences and roles within the church; nor is He suggesting that it is wrong to term one’s biological parent “father.” Rather, He is prohibiting the use of self-exalting and honorific titles of distinction among those who have chosen to follow Christ. While conferring honorific titles upon prominent religious authorities may be the way of the world, it is not the path that Christ has called us to pursue.

Yet, in spite of the clarity of Jesus’ command, Christians have historically ignored His words. We continue, for example, to address our church shepherds as “Reverend,” “Doctor,” or “Minister” and, unfortunately, far too many of them are glad to receive such flattery and even love to have it so! Commenting on the words of our Lord in Matthew 23, the noted New Testament scholar, R.T. France, has perceptively written:

These verses, while still commenting on the practice of the scribes and Pharisees, are addressed directly to Jesus’ disciples, warning them against adopting this status-seeking attitude. “Rabbi” (v.8) and “Master” (v.10) probably act here as synonyms. They are titles appropriate only to the One Teacher (v.8), the Christ (v.10), in relation to whom all His followers stand on an equal footing as “brothers”… Over against that unique authority His disciples must avoid the use of honorific titles for one another (“Christian rabbinism,” Bonnard)–an exhortation which today’s church could profitably taken more seriously, not only in relation to formal ecclesiastical titles (“Most Rev.”, “my Lord Bishop,” etc.), but more significantly in its excessive deference to academic qualifications or to authoritative status in the churches (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Matthew [Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985] p.325).

Christian magazines are filled with advertisements for books or products recommended by “Doctor” so-and-so; and churches continue to promote their ministries led by “Reverend” so-and-so. The Christian world, it seems, is consumed with exalted and honorific titles for those in positions of leadership or influence. Some pastors, in fact, are rather offended when their congregational members address them by their first name or simply as “brother.” It is thought by many to be disrespectful or unbecoming to address a Christian theologian in any other way than “Doctor” or “Professor.”

But we must ask, are such titles necessary for church leaders? Have evangelicals genuinely honored the words of Christ in Matthew 23:8-12 by prefacing the names of their leaders with such flattering titles as “Reverend” or “Senior Pastor”? Church history, according to J.C. Ryle, has all too clearly demonstrated that we have missed the true meaning of Jesus’ words:

Happy would it have been for the Church of Christ, if this passage had been more deeply pondered, and the spirit of it more implicitly obeyed. The Pharisees are not the only people who have imposed austerities on others, and affected a sanctity of apparel, and loved the praise of man. The annals of church history show that only too many Christians have walked closely in their steps (Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Reprint, 1977] p.299).

Greg Ogden, a writer and church shepherd in Saratoga (CA), states:

I mourn for the church because we seem to display so many of the characteristics that Jesus said, “Not so among you” (Mark 10:43). Shameful arrogance and haughtiness have reached epidemic proportions among church leaders… A direct implication of Jesus’ servant stance was His obliteration of titles… We have refused to take Jesus’ words at face value. Jesus’ obvious intent was to remove any basis for “lording it over” others by dispensing with titles that give people an elevated place in the “pecking order.” We all occupy the same level ground at the foot of the one Teacher, Jesus Christ. We are not “great ones” or “lords”… Finally, do not accept the designation “master” or “leader.” No human can usurp the position of the head of the body, Christ. Our tendency seems always toward idolatry, to make someone larger than life. Never forget: Jesus alone is Lord (The New Reformation: Returning the Ministry to the People of God [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990] p.172,174).

The Son of God “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7), yet His servants seem bent on following an opposite course. Christ bids us to learn of Him who was “meek and lowly” (Matthew 11:29), yet His representatives continue to exalt themselves with self-glorifying titles. But someone may ask, what real harm is there in such titles of prominence? Perhaps the following points will help to explain their danger and assist Christians in avoiding them.

1. The New Testament simply provides no warrant for giving congregational leaders priestly or honorific titles. Thus, any man who seeks or permits such titles to be given to him violates the express commands of Christ (Matthew 23:8-10) as well as apostolic practice. Alexander Strauch, a writer and shepherd in Littleton (CO), has stated:

The modern array of ecclesiastical titles accompanying the names of Christian leaders–reverend, archbishop, cardinal, pope, primate, metropolitan, canon, curate–is completely missing from the New Testament and would have appalled the apostles and early believers. Although both the Greeks and Jews employed a wealth of titles for their political and religious leaders in order to express their power and authority, the early Christians avoided such titles. The early Christians used common and functional terms to describe themselves and their relationships. Some of these terms are “brother,” “beloved,” “fellow-worker,” “laborer,” “slave,” “servant,” “prisoner,” “fellow-soldier,” and “steward.” Of course there were prophets, teachers, apostles, evangelists, leaders, elders, and deacons within the first churches, but these were not used as formal titles for individuals. All Christians are saints, but there was no “Saint John.” All are priests, but there was no “Priest Philip.” Some are elders, but there was no “Elder Paul.” Some are overseers, but there was no “Overseer John.” Some are pastors, but there was not “Pastor James.” Some are deacons, but there was no “Deacon Peter.” Some are apostles, but there was no “Apostle Andrew.” Rather than gaining honor through titles and position, New Testament believers received honor primarily for their service and work (Acts 15:26: Romans 16:1,2,4,12; 1 Corinthians 16:15,16,18; 2 Corinthians 8:18; Philippians 2:29,30; Colossians 1:7; 4:12,13; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:1). The early Christians referred to each other by personal names (Timothy, Paul, Titus), the terms “brother” or “sister,” or by describing an individual’s spiritual character or work: “Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5); “Barnabas, a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24); “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8); “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3); “Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you” (Romans 16:6) (Biblical Eldership [Littleton, CO: Lewis & Roth Publishers/Revised, 1995] pp. 302-303).

Frank A. Viola has, likewise, written:

In keeping with our Lord’s command, biblical elders did not permit themselves to be addressed by honorific titles such as “Pastor Bill,” “Elder Tom,” “Bishop Jake,” or “Reverend Sam” (Matthew 23:7-12). Such titles naturally elevate church leaders to a plane above the other brethren in the assembly. Thus, congregations and clergy alike are responsible for creating the current “Christian guruism” that is rampant in the church today wherein religious leaders are recast into spiritual celebrities and lauded with fan club status. By contrast, New Testament leaders were viewed as ordinary brethren and were just as approachable and accessible to the saints as any other believer in the church. For this reason, 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 exhorts the saints to intimately know their leaders (a near impossible mandate to fulfill in most contemporary churches where the pastor is trained to keep his distance from the people lest he lose his authority). In this regard, the common image of church leaders as “sacred men of the cloth” is utterly foreign to the biblical concept (Rethinking the Wineskin [Brandon, FL: Present Testimony Ministry, 1997] p.63).

2. The apostles of Christ employed lowly and unofficial terms when describing themselves or others. Notice the expressions which Paul, Peter, and John repeatedly chose to use–which tends to argue against any notion of honorific titles:

Acts 15:23, “The apostles and elders, your brothers.”

1 Corinthians 4:1, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”

2 Corinthians 12:11, “I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.”

Ephesians 3:8, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given…”

1 Thessalonians 3:2, “And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the Gospel of Christ…”

1 Timothy 1:15-16, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience…”

1 Peter 5:1, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder…”

2 Peter 3:15, “And regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as our beloved brother Paul…”

Revelation 1:9, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker…”

In light of these clear passages, should we not, then, heed the practice of our Lord’s apostles? “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).

Acts 15:23 (“The apostles and elders, your brothers”) is particularly interesting since, in an official decree that was to be sent to all the churches, the apostles and elders simply referred to themselves as “your brothers.” It contained no honorific titles or hierarchical expressions; only the phrase, “your brothers.” Thus, the apostles and elders are brethren writing to fellow brethren. The Lutheran Bible commentator, R.C.H. Lenski, writes: “‘The apostles and the elders’ write for themselves and for the entire church but as ‘brethren.’ Some texts have ‘and the brethren,’ referring to the congregation, but this reading lacks attestation. The apposition ‘brethren’ is highly significant in this communication. The apostles and the elders of Jerusalem speak to the Gentile Christians only as brethren and not as superiors… Brethren salute brethren. The communication is fraternal and asks to be accepted as such and as such alone” (The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961] p.621).

Another significant passage is 1 Peter 5:1 (“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder”). Here was Peter’s great opportunity to use an exalted title for himself (e.g., “Senior Pastor,” “Chief Elder,” “Bishop of Rome”), but chooses not to. Instead, he simply refers to himself as “your fellow elder.” Such terminology, as Peter H. Davids points out, is “consistent with the tendency among the early leaders to avoid the use of exalted titles such as were used about them in the second century” (The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle of Peter [Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1990] p.176).

It is important to emphasize that such terms as “elder,” “overseer,” and “pastor” are functional terms, and were never intended to serve as formal titles. In other words, the terminology is descriptive of one’s task; they help to picture a church leader’s function or may even denote one’s spiritual maturity as in the term “elder.” Thus, it is just as foolish and unnecessary to speak of “Pastor Bob” as it is to speak of one who possesses the gift or function of hospitality as “Hospitality Harry”; or one who has the gift of mercy as “Mercy Mary”; or one who has the gift of giving as “Giving George.”

3. Honorific titles feed the pride of men. It tends to inflate one’s ego, thus provoking church leaders to think more highly of themselves than they should (Romans 12:3). Let’s face it: we all struggle with sin and pride; but why compound that struggle by exalting oneself with special titles which have no basis in the New Testament? While seeing nothing inherently wrong with titles per se, even Craig L. Blomberg, associate professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, is compelled to recognize its dangers:

But one wonders how often these titles are used without implying unbiblical ideas about a greater worth or value of the individuals to whom they are assigned. One similarly wonders for how long the recipients of such forms of address can resist an unbiblical pride from all the plaudits. It is probably best to abolish most uses of such titles and look for equalizing terms that show that we are all related as family to one Heavenly Father (God) and one teacher (Christ)… In American Christian circles perhaps the best goal is to strive for the intimacy that simply makes addressing one another on a first-name basis natural (The New American Commentary: Matthew, Vol. 22 [Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992] p.343).

4. Honorific titles, contrary to what many ecclesiastical authorities would assert, are a form of self-promotion. In fact, some men employ the title “Doctor” for the express purpose of making their opinions or books carry greater authority than they actually do. We tend to assume that the man with an earned doctorate is an “expert,” whose words are beyond question. But no man’s opinions should be accepted merely because he has a Th.D. or Ph.D. behind his name. Every doctrine or human opinion is to be tested by the rule of Scripture (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Revelation 2:2), not one’s educational achievements.

If we were to look at degrees only, we might also conclude that the apostles of our Lord were not particularly trustworthy, since none of them (except Paul) had any recognizable formal training: “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Moreover, “teachers amongst the Lord’s people do not need titles granted by men as a sign of theological authority to teach; authority and ability to teach in spiritual things come from the Lord through the Holy Spirit, and not through the schools of men. Such titles, both then and now, distract from the preeminence of Christ over all those who are brethren in the family of God… We are all brethren and we are all servants (diakonos); this excludes self-exaltation. God reverses what man would esteem” (J. Heading, Ritchie New Testament Commentaries: Matthew [Scotland: John Ritchie, LTD., 1984] pp. 307-308).

Perhaps one reason why some pastors feel compelled to preface their names with a degree or honorific title, is because they have an inferiority complex or are ineffective in gaining respect in ways that are more servant-oriented. It’s also important to note that many clergymen have pursued a career in pastoral ministry for reasons less than the glory of God. Far too many are seeking the honor and recognition of men, rather than the honor of Christ (John 5:44; Galatians 1:10). The use of self-glorifying titles only helps to attract such kind.

One common argument used to support honorific titles is that the man who has earned a doctorate in theology worked hard for it and, thus, is entitled to display his accomplishments. But so has the man who has earned a Master of Divinity degree or even a Bachelor of Arts! Should we, then, continually refer to such persons as “Master of Divinity Dave” or “Bachelor of Arts Bill”? If not, why should we continue to employ the title “Doctor” before one’s name?

We remind the reader as well that Jesus clearly forbid such titles of distinction among His followers in Matthew 23:8-12. Any person, therefore, who seeks to justify the use of honorific titles must ultimately answer to Jesus Himself. It might also be interesting to note that “Rabbi,” as used during the time of Jesus, was employed “much as ‘Doctor’ is today. In fact, the Latin equivalent of rabbi comes from docere, which means to teach and is the term from which the English word doctor is derived” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23 [Chicago: Moody Press, 1988] p.366).

Another argument used to justify honorific titles is that they are a means of expressing respect to church leaders. The early Christians, however, were still able to express their esteem toward each other without having to resort to special titles (Philippians 2:25-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17).

5. Honorific titles draw unnecessary attention to oneself. The man who uses them is subtly telling others that he is someone important and worthy of their respect. Although he may never admit to it, the great day of judgment promises to disclose his true motivation and inner-secrets (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5).

6. Honorific titles detract from the glory that rightfully belongs to Christ alone. Such titles of distinction as “Reverend” (meaning, “he who is to be revered”) not only esteem persons higher than is humanly permissible, but it intrudes in a realm that is not rightfully theirs. We would be wise to listen to the counsel of J.C. Ryle:

But still we must be very careful that we do not insensibly give to ministers a place and an honor which do not belong to them. We must never allow them to come between ourselves and Christ. The very best are not infallible. They are not priests who can atone for us. They are not mediators who can undertake to manage our soul’s affairs with God. They are men of like passions with ourselves, needing the same cleansing blood, and the same renewing Spirit, set apart to a high and holy calling, but still after all only men. Let us never forget these things. Such cautions are always useful. Human nature would always rather lean on a visible minister, than an invisible Christ (Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol. 1, pp. 299-300).

Many churches in our day refer to their most gifted or experienced leader as “Senior Pastor.” However, the only “Senior Pastor” that the New Testament speaks of is Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:3). He alone is “the great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20; cf. John 10:11,14,16; Ephesians 5:23). Those who serve in a leadership function within the local church are undershepherds. They are called to be humble servants of the sheep (1 Corinthians 3:5; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5), not lords who reign over their fiefdom (1 Peter 5:3). Thus, it is quite arrogant to take on the lofty title of “Senior Pastor” when Scripture reserves this for Christ alone! Even the apostle Peter merely referred to himself as a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1). The Christian apologist, J.P. Moreland, has said it well:

The local church in the New Testament contained a plurality of elders (see Acts 14:23, 20:28; Philippians 1:1; Hebrews 13:17). The New Testament knows nothing about a senior pastor. In my opinion, the emergence of the senior pastor in the local church is one of the factors that has most significantly undermined the development of healthy churches… Given these facts, the senior pastor model actually produces a codependence that often feeds the egos of senior pastors while allowing the parishioners to remain passive. None of this is intentional, but the effects are still real. The senior pastor model tends to create a situation in which we identify the church as “Pastor Smith’s church” and parishioners come to support his ministry. If a visitor asks where the minister is, instead of pointing to the entire congregation (as the New Testament would indicate, since we are all ministers of the New Covenant), we actually point to Pastor Smith… The local church should be led and taught by a plurality of voices called elders, and these voices should be equal… No one person has enough gifts, perspective, and maturity to be given the opportunity disproportionately to shape the personality and texture of a local church. If Christ is actually the head of the church, our church structures ought to reflect that fact, and a group of undershepherds, not a senior pastor, should collectively seek His guidance in leading the congregation (Love Your God With All Your Mind [Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing, 1997] pp. 190-191).

7. Honorific titles tend to attract carnal and power-seeking men to positions of church leadership. As pointed out earlier, if our churches continue to give to their leaders lofty and self-glorifying titles of distinction, we will continue to attract a large percentage of men seeking prestige, recognition, and power. This is not meant to suggest that every church leader who employs an honorific title is necessarily seeking to have his ego stroked or possesses less than genuine motives, but only that far too many fall into this category. Some are simply naive as to the dangers and implications of their lofty titles.

Let’s face it: if you set up a religious clerical system that promotes power, prestige, and self-exaltation (as opposed to the humble servant-model of Jesus presented in Mark 10:35-45 and John 13:3-17), such a system will repeatedly attract men seeking such power and prestige. This is one of the major reasons why our churches have historically had the wrong kind of men in positions of leadership. But, we must ask, what kind of men would be attracted to church leadership if they were told they will be servants, not lords; not titled; probably not salaried (Acts 20:33-35); not the sole preacher/teacher (Acts 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:17); an equipper, not a shining superstar; and only one amongst a plurality of other leaders (Acts 14:23; Hebrews 13:17)? Only the most dedicated, humble, and self-sacrificing would be desirous of such a noble task! And, yet, these are the very kind of men that Christ wants to shepherd His sheep–and who are often most lacking in our churches. Greg Ogden writes:

We get the kind of leaders we deserve. It often seems that the world’s view of greatness is the standard we use when we select our leaders. We have allowed arrogant, unaccountable, and self-professed channels of the Spirit to shoot off like loose cannon. We sometimes have a penchant in the Christian community for holding up the proud and arrogant as our ideal because “they get the job done.” Using the world’s view of power, we want leaders to exercise influence, work their way into positions of power, and throw their weight around. We therefore get what we ourselves honor–Christian leaders who act like potentates rather than self-sacrificing servants of Jesus Christ. Our actions show that we do not believe that real power is expressed through servanthood that leads to a cross. The Church Growth Movement has identified strong pastoral leadership as a key ingredient in the growth of a congregation. I will grant that leaders must lead. But what gets passed off as leadership often has no resemblance to servant leadership as modeled and taught by our Lord… Our natural tendency is to concentrate power at the top, but Jesus modeled and taught a different way of life (The New Reformation, pp. 172-173).

8. Honorific titles tend to promote an elitist attitude and authoritarian forms of church leadership. Even the best of men can find self-glorifying titles intoxicating and begin to form lofty opinions of themselves. Within time, they begin to look upon their congregational members as mere “common folks”; an ignorant mass of “laity” who desperately need their wisdom and insight (John 7:49; 9:34).

Church leaders, however, must never give themselves the airs of stuffy, official, and fussy “ministers” as is common among many claiming to be pastors in our day. Instead, their behavior and attitude should conform to the words of Paul in Romans 12:16, “Do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly” and in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The 19th century Baptist preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, warned his pastoral students of the danger of ministerial pride:

My brethren, be not priests yourselves. It is very possible to give yourselves the airs of hierarchs, even though you are avowedly nothing more than Nonconformist pastors. There is a style of dress–the affectation of it is not praiseworthy. There is a style of language–the imitation of it is not commendable. There is an assumption of superiority, looking down upon the common people as mere laity; this piece of pompousness is ridiculous. Avoid the way of certain clerics who seem intent on making their people feel that a minister is a dignified individual, and that the rest of the members of the church should hardly venture to differ from him. Say what we like about all believers in Christ being a generation of priests, we still find vain fellows among us who would be thought of as possessors of a mystic specialty. Our office, as pastors, deserves to be respected, and will be if properly carried out; but I have observed that some who are very anxious to magnify their office, really try to magnify themselves (An All-Round Ministry [Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960] pp. 371-372).

9. Honorific titles help to perpetuate the “clergy-laity” division. While it is common for people to speak of church leaders as the “clergy” and the rest of God’s people as the “laity,” the New Testament never divides the body of Christ into two classes known as “clergy” and “laity.”

The root meaning of kleros, from which we get our word “clergy,” is “inheritance” or “lot” and refers to the believer’s inheritance in Christ, not to a special class of ministers. The word laos, from which we get our word “laity,” refers to all of a group; in some cases, it specifically denotes the people of God. Thus, all believers in Christ are part of the laos (or “laity”), including pastors! Every believer is a minister and priest before God with authority to do the work of ministry (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6). The New Testament never confines “ministry” to a select few.

Clericalism has done much to harm and weaken the body of Christ. It clearly divides the Christian brotherhood; it hinders the saints from behaving like the ministers they are; it obscures, if not annuls, the essential oneness of the people of God; and it exalts the pride of church leaders by conferring upon them special titles and privileges. Howard Snyder, a prolific author on the subject of church renewal, has stated:

The New Testament simply does not speak of two classes of Christians–“minister” and “laymen”–as we do today. According to the Bible, the people (laos, “laity”) of God comprise all Christians, and all Christians through the exercise of spiritual gifts have some “work of ministry.” So if we wish to be biblical, we will have to say that all Christians are laymen (God’s people) and all are ministers. The clergy-laity dichotomy is unbiblical and therefore invalid. It grew up as an accident of church history and actually marked a drift away from biblical faithfulness. A professional, distinct priesthood did exist in Old Testament days. But in the New Testament this priesthood is replaced by two truths: Jesus Christ is our great high priest, and the Church is a kingdom of priests (Hebrews 4:14; 8:1; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). The New Testament doctrine of ministry rests therefore not on the clergy-laity distinction but on the twin and complementary pillars of the priesthood of all believers and the gifts of the Spirit. Today, four centuries after the Reformation, the full implications of this Protestant affirmation have yet to be worked out. The clergy-laity dichotomy is a direct carry-over from pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism and a throwback to the Old Testament priesthood. It is one of the principle obstacles to the Church effectively being God’s agent of the Kingdom today because it creates the false idea that only “holy men,” namely, ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry. In the New Testament there are functional distinctions between various kinds of ministries but no hierarchical division between clergy and laity (The Community of the King [Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977] pp. 94-95).

What Can Church Leaders Do to Help Correct This Problem?

1. They must humble themselves and begin to view their ministry in terms of servanthood, not lordship (Mark 10:35-45; 1 Peter 5:3).

2. They must remove all clerical titles and gowns (Matthew 23:8-12). The saints must be taught to refer to their leader(s) as “brother” or by one’s first name.

3. They must return ministry to the people of God, seeing them as full partners in the task of building up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:4-14; 14:12,26; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

4. We are in dire need of language reform. The terms that we use for ourselves (“layman”) and those used to describe our leaders (“Reverend,” “Minister”) are very important since, not only do they convey our thinking on such fundamental issues as the nature of the church and how local church leadership should be structured, but the use of unbiblical or improper terms may help to stunt the growth of Christ’s body. As Alexander Strauch has wisely stated:

It is critically important for Christians today to understand that the language we use to describe our church leaders has the power to accurately reflect biblical thinking and practice or, conversely, to lead us far away from the true Church of Jesus Christ and into the false church… In the end, every local church is responsible to teach its people the meaning of the terms it uses to describe its spiritual leaders, whether it be elders, overseers, ministers, preachers, or pastors. Biblically sensitive church leaders will insist that the terminology they use represents, as accurately as possible, the original biblical terms and concepts of a New Testament eldership. False teachers have had their greatest triumphs when they redefine biblical words in a way that is contrary to the original meaning… Much of our church vocabulary is unscriptural and terribly misleading. Words such as clergyman, layman, reverend, minister, priest, bishop, ordained, and ministerial convey ideas contrary to what Jesus Christ and His apostles taught. Such terminology misrepresents the true nature of apostolic Christianity and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to recapture it. As a result, most of our churches are in desperate need of language reform (Biblical Eldership, pp. 32-34).

http://www.batteredsheep.com/honorific_titles.html

Praise Jesus!

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Gift of Tongues (Languages) Vs. Gibberish

I’m often asked about this phenomenon of speaking in tongues. Today’s charismatic church has this movement where they all scream and yell in a language no one understands. Is that what the apostles were doing when people from other nations understood what they were saying? So what did we do? We realized there was an apparent contradiction so we created an answer from our own understanding. Now we teach that there are 2 different types of gifts of tongues. One is called diverse tongues which is speaking other languages as the holy spirit gives us and the other is what we see today. Speaking in a tongue no man knows because of misunderstanding of some scriptures in Corinthians. Well I found a wonderful and biblically correct understanding from a man name Mr. Jim McClarty. Let’s check out Mr. McClarty and what he says about it. Someone asked him the question and that is presented by the “Q-” and then he goes on to answer it where it says “Jim-”

Q – I have a question for you. I have been tempted to visit this fairly large (actually huge) Church of God. I bet there at least 1,000 or 2,000 (if not more) members – which I think is too large, people get lost in the crowd. In any event, my problem with the Church of God is the speaking in tongues thing. What are your thoughts on the subject? I’m sure you must have addressed this at some point. Any guidance or thoughts? I would like to know your perspective on this.

Jim – So, speaking in tongues, eh? I do have an opinion (as you might expect). I’ve been asked about it frequently because there’s plenty of confusion out there. But, there doesn’t need to be. The Greek word that is translated “tongues” is “glossa” – from which we get the English word “glossary.” It should have been translated “language,” but during the days of King James (1611) the word “tongue” was synonymous with “language.” For instance, we still talk about people who speak a “foreign tongue.” And, that’s the way the word is used in the Bible. It means, “spoken language.” Now, the first place where the phenomenon of men speaking in languages they didn’t naturally speak (or know) was on the day of Pentecost, at the inception of the Church. Peter stood up to speak, but his audience was filled with Jews from all over the middle Asia area, who spoke a variety of languages and dialects. “And, they (the apostles) were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:4-6) What should be instantly obvious from that passage was that the apostles spoke actual foreign languages in order that the multitude could all understand. That’s what “tongues” was all about and what the purpose was. Without the methods and means of mass communication that we have available today, every area developed languages and dialects unique to themselves. But, when the time came for the Gospel of Christ to be spread abroad, the message was carried by fishermen, tax collectors, zealots and the like who spoke Greek and some Aramaic. “And they (the men from every nation) were amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappodocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And, they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” (Acts 2:7-12) So, God miraculously caused the Apostles to speak languages that were unknown to them and caused the listeners to hear in their own language. And, the gospel of grace spread. But again, it’s obvious that the “tongues” spoken by the Apostles were known, definable languages, not babble or gibberish.

As Paul journeyed through his ministry, he encountered many languages and preached nonetheless. As the Church grew, the gifts of the Spirit spread in order to promote the message of grace. But, some began to abuse the gifts and Paul had to correct them – “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all; yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” (1 Cor.14:19-20) Paul went on to instruct the Corinthian church that tongues were not to be exercised in the church meetings. The gift of tongues was a method for preaching and evangelizing among the lost. But, the church was to gather for the purpose of reading, studying, preaching and exhorting through the Word. “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not; but prophesying [preaching the word] serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” (1 Cor. 14:22-23) So, Paul was quite clear that speaking with tongues – other known, spoken, extant languages of the day – was for a sign to unbelievers and not something to be exhibited in the church. In the church, preaching and teaching are the priority. Now, when most people think of “speaking in tongues” they mean the sort of ecstatic utterances that we see on TBN or in Assembly of God churches. The people who exercise that sort of activity call themselves “Pentecostal” to connect themselves with the gifts that appeared at the first Pentecost. Or, they are known as “Charismatic” from the Greek word for gifts of the Spirit – “charis.” That word is also translated “grace” in many passages. There is no evidence in Scripture that any of the apostles or early church members ever broke into fits of uncontrolled verbiage and noises. When the Spirit spoke through the Apostles, it spoke a language known by the hearers for the purpose of advancing the gospel message.

The primary verse that the proponents of ecstatic utterance use is from 1 Corinthians 13:1. It’s the beginning of Paul’s great treatise on love and charity. From the context it’s clear that Paul is speaking in hyperbole, overstating his case, in order to prove that charitable love is the greatest Christian virtue. It reads – “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And, though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And, though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Cor. 1-3) Obviously, Paul was saying that even if he had every spiritual gift to the maximum but failed in charity, it was all pointless. But, at the top of his list he used the term “the tongues…of angels.” And, that did it. People have grabbed hold of that phrase and claim that their verbal recitations of noises and unknown, unrecognizable words are “the tongues of angels.” But, any honest reader of Paul’s words can see that Paul was not promoting the idea that angelic languages were suddenly available to mankind. He was saying that even if he spoke every language known among men and angels – a clear case of hyperbole – without Christian charity the sounds he made would sound like horns and cymbals. Even at Pentecost, the Apostles were not going through the gyrations and techniques advocated by modern Pentecostals in order to stimulate tongue-talking. In fact, they weren’t expecting it at all. God simply spoke through them by His Spirit and they spoke languages that were unknown to them, but known to their listeners. And, they all glorified God as a result. As far large churches uniting around tongue-talking, it does happen. Nothing unites people faster than a common experience. Like veterans getting together years after a war, they have a lasting bond because of the experience they shared. So, in order to build large congregations, many Pentecostal denominations insist that the only proof of the Spirit being in you – proof positive of your salvation – is that you talk in tongues. To be fair, many of them have backed off that position, seeing that it’s unscriptural, but there is still an undue emphasis on tongues in those churches. There’s more to say, and Paul instructed the Corinthian church about how to keep from letting tongue-talking get out of control in their meetings, but I think this is a fair overview. As for me, I’m just a stickler for the Word and I try to adjust our theology and our worship accordingly. Hope it helps.

Yours for His sake,

Jim McClarty

I would like to add a few more points from 1 Cor 14 that are taken out of context to support this gibberish language. We are actually the ones that make this wonderful Word of God contradict. We are the reason atheist have their fuel. Lets take a look:

1 Cor 14 Those who have the gift of speaking in different languages are not speaking to people; they are speaking to God. No one understands them; they are speaking secret things through the Spirit. So here we have a scripture that they use to support what they are doing. The bible says no one understand them because they are speaking things no one understands. Watch what happens when you read further down. 1 Cor 14 22a So the gift of speaking in different kinds of languages is a sign for those who do not believe, not for those who do believe. So first he says we are to speak secrets that no one understands and then he says its for the unbeliever. So we think this is a contradiction and we tried to answer it with our human wisdom to explain this. We even have an example of this from Acts. (Acts 2 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?) That was the sign for the unbelievers guys. That is how this gift is suppose to work. Paul even made this statement that through everything into perspective: 1 Cor 14 9So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet NONE OF THEM IS WITHOUT MEANING. Then he also says, 18I thank God that I speak in more languages than all of you. 19But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. How often do you hear people say I speak in more tongues than you? You don’t hear that because it doesn’t make sense to us. Think about it, Paul traveled very often… he had to go to towns where he didn’t know the native language. Thats where the holy spirit had to step in and speak to them in their language. See what happened here is, we don’t understand the language that this was written in. Thats the problem we are having.

Mr McClarty has done a wonderful job with his response. That was absolutely biblical. Now we arent going to condemn those who do speak in this false version of tongues today but what I would say to them is to at least follow scripture in how you do it. Today we have the entire gathering screaming and yelling in what they feel is tongues. Scripture gives us understanding of how to use this gift. Never were we told to all do it at once… in fact we were told NOT do that.

1 Cor 14 6 So, brothers and sisters, what should you do? When you meet together, one person has a song, and another has a teaching. Another has a new truth from God. Another speaks in a different language,and another person interprets that language. The purpose of all these things should be to help the church grow strong. 27 When you meet together, if anyone speaks in a different language, it should be only two, or not more than three, who speak. They should speak one after the other, and someone should interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, then those who speak in a different language should be quiet in the church meeting. They should speak only to themselves and to God.

I hope you have learned something and that you will grab hold to the understanding about this gift. Don’t feel bad if you realize you never had this gift as I have and many have… but understand that God has given you other gifts that you can utilize and win souls to Christ or help the body.

Praise Jesus!

Hyperbole is a figure of speech which is an exaggeration. Persons often use expressions such as “I nearly died laughing,” “I was hopping mad,” and “I tried a thousand times.” Such statements are not literally true, but people make them to sound impressive or to emphasize something, such as a feeling, effort, or reaction.

Good Comedy video


A Pastor’s Authority

This is a good one… Learned a lot … ENJOY!!!

A Pastor’s Authority

by Ray C. Stedman

“Those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them [Jesus said to his disciples]. But it shall not be so among you!” (Mark 10:42b-43a RSV)

Rather than being lords, he went on to say, disciples are to be servants of one another and the greatest is the one who is servant of all.

By these words Jesus indicates that an entirely different system of government than that employed by the world should prevail among Christians. Authority among Christians is not derived from the same source as worldly authority, nor is it to be exercised in the same manner. The world’s view of authority places men over one another, as in a military command structure, a business executive hierarchy, or a governmental system. This is as it should be. Urged by the competitiveness created by the Fall, and faced with the rebelliousness and ruthlessness of sinful human nature, the world could not function without the use of command structures and executive decision.

But as Jesus carefully stated, “…it shall not be so among you.” Disciples are always in a different relationship to one another than worldlings are. Christians are brothers and sisters, children of one Father, and members one of another. Jesus put it clearly in Matthew 23:8 (RSV): “One is your Master, and all you are brethren.”

Throughout twenty centuries the church has virtually ignored these words. Probably with the best of intentions, it has nevertheless repeatedly borrowed into the authority structures of the world, changed the names of executives from kings, generals, captains, presidents, governors, secretaries, heads, and chiefs to popes, patriarchs, bishops, stewards, deacons, pastors, and elders, and gone merrily on its way, lording it over the brethren and thus destroying the model of servant hood which our Lord intended. Christians have so totally forgotten Jesus’ words that they frequently have set up the world’s pattern of government without bothering to change the names, and have operated churches, mission organizations, youth organizations, schools, colleges, and seminaries, all in the name of Jesus Christ, but with presidents, directors, managers, heads and chiefs in no way different from corresponding secular structures.

It is probably too late to do much about altering the many structures that are commonly called “para-church” or “quasi church” organizations, but certainly Jesus’ words must not be ignored in the worship and training functions of the church itself. Somewhere, surely, the words of Jesus, “…it shall not be so among you,” must find some effect. Yet in most churches today an unthinking acceptance has been given to the idea that the pastor is the final voice of authority in both doctrine and practice, and that he is the executive officer of the church with respect to administration. But surely, if a pope over the whole church is bad, a pope in every church is no better!

It is clear from the Scriptures that the apostles were concerned about the danger of developing ecclesiastical bosses. In Second Corinthians 1:24a (RSV), Paul reminds the Corinthians concerning his own apostolic authority: “Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy, …” In the same letter he describes, with apparent disapproval, how the Corinthians reacted to certain leaders among themselves: “For you bear it if a man makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face,” (2 Cor 11:20 RSV). Peter, too, is careful to warn the elders (and he includes himself among them) not to govern by being “domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock,” (1 Pet 5:3 RSV). And John speaks strongly against Diotrephes “who likes to put himself first, and takes it on himself to put some out of the church,” (cf, 3 Jn 1:9-10). These first-century examples of church bosses indicate how easily churches then, as in the 20th century, ignored the words of Jesus, “it shall not be so among you.”

But if the church is not to imitate the world in this matter, what is it to do? Leadership must certainly be exercised within the church, and there must be some form of authority. What is it to be? The question is answered in Jesus’ words: “One is your Master,” (Matt 23:8b KJV). All too long churches have behaved as if Jesus were far away in heaven, and he has left it up to church leaders to make their own decisions, and run their own affairs. But Jesus himself had assured them in giving the Great Commission, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age,” (cf, Matt 28:20b). And in Matthew 18:20 (RSV) he reiterated, “… where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Clearly this indicates that he is present not only in the church as a whole but in every local church as well. It is Jesus himself, therefore, who is the ultimate authority within every body of Christians, and he is quite prepared to exercise his authority through the instrument he himself has ordained — the elder hood.

The task of the elders is not to run the church themselves, but to determine how the Lord in their midst wishes to run his church. Much of this he has already made known through the Scriptures, which describe the impartation and exercise of spiritual gifts, the availability of resurrection power, and the responsibility of believers to bear one another’s burdens, confess sins to one another, teach, admonish, and reprove one another, and witness to and serve the needs of a hurting world.

In the day-to-day decisions which every church faces, elders are to seek and find the mind of the Lord through an uncoerced unanimity, reached after thorough and biblically-related discussion. Thus, ultimate authority, even in practical matters, is vested in the Lord and in no one else. This is what the book of Acts reveals in its description of the initiative actions of the Holy Spirit, who obviously planned and ordered the evangelizing strategy of the early church (Acts 8, 13, etc.). The elders sought the mind of the Spirit, and, when it was made clear to them, they acted with unity of thought and purpose. (“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden …” Acts 15:28a RSV.) The authority, therefore, was not the authority of men, but of God, and it was expressed not through men, acting as individuals, but through the collective, united agreement of men whom the Spirit had led to eldership (see Acts 20:28).

The point is: no one man is the sole expression of the mind of the Spirit: No individual has authority from God to direct the affairs of the church. A plurality of elders is necessary as a safeguard to the all-too-human tendency to play God over other people. Even then, the authority exercised is not one of domination and arbitrary decree over anyone. The ability of a servant to influence anyone else does not lie in ordering someone around, but by obtaining their voluntary consent. This is the nature of all authority among Christians, even that of the Lord himself! He does not force our obedience, but obtains it by love, expressed either in circumstantial discipline or by awakening gratitude through the meeting of our desperate needs.

The true authority of elders and other leaders in the church, then, is that of respect, aroused by their own loving and godly example. This is the force of two verses which are often cited by those who claim a unique authority of pastors over church members. The first is found in First Thessalonians 5:12-13a (RSV), “But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” The key phrase is “and are over you in the Lord.” The Greek word in question is prohistamenous. Though this is translated “over you” in both the Revised Standard and King James versions, the word itself contains no implication of being “over” another. The New English Bible more properly renders it, “… and in the Lord’s fellowship are your leaders and counselors.” The thought in the word is that of “standing before” others, not of “ruling over” them. It is the common word for leadership. Leaders can lead only if they are able to persuade some to follow.

Another verse used to support command authority is Hebrews 13:17a (RSV), which the Revised Standard Version renders, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.” The imperative translated “obey” is from the word peitho, “to persuade.” In the middle voice, used here, Thayer’s lexicon gives its meaning as “to suffer one’s self to be persuaded.” Again there is no thought of a right to command someone against his will, but the clear thrust is that leaders are persuaders whose ability to persuade arises not from a smooth tongue or a dominant personality, but from a personal walk which evokes respect.

At this point many may be tempted to say, “What difference does it make? After all, the pattern of command authority is too widely established to alter now, and, besides, many churches seem to be doing all right as it is; why try to change now?”

In response, consider the following:

The Bible indicates that any deviation from the divine plan inevitably produces weakness, division, strife, increasing fruitlessness, and, ultimately, death. The present low state of many churches is testimony to the effects of ignoring, over a long period of time, God’s way of working.

A command structure of authority in the church deprives the world of any model or demonstration of a different way of life than the one it already lives by. Worldlings see no difference in the church, and can see no reason why they should change and believe.

A command authority inevitably produces resentment, repression, exploitation and, finally, rebellion. It is the law, which Scripture assures us we can never redeem or restore, but which must, by its very nature, condemn and repress.

The desire of the Lord Jesus to show to the world a wholly new form of authority which is consistent with grace, not law, is nullified by a command structure among Christians, and the gospel of dying-to-live is denied even before it is proclaimed. This means that God is robbed of his glory and distorted before the watching world. Nothing could be more serious than this!

Admittedly, a call for a change of this nature is radical, even revolutionary. But since when was the church called to be a conforming society? Is it not high time we took seriously our Lord’s words: “it shall not be so among you”?


The Afters: Light Up the Sky (Review)

The Afters

One of my favorite bands out there would have to be The Afters. I love them because they are down to earth with their type of music. I remember hearing the Myspace song years ago and was surprised to find out it was by Christ Followers. I love artist that can create music that is fun and also songs that are about the relationship with Christ; and these guys definitely pull it off.

Well, I finally got their new album “Light Up the Sky”, and I must say this is a beautiful album. It’s a bit more serious than their prior albums which is not a bad thing. We all enjoyed the fun party songs like Myspace Girl in the past but this album will really make you think about the relationship you have with Christ. It really is a personal album and I respect the band for that. This is the type of album a non-believer could listen to and then possible realize Jesus is Lord from the lyrics.

As of right now my favorite song thus far is “Start Over”. I think I’ve kept this song on repeat in my car for the past few days. I went through the entire album and really enjoyed each track I must say. “Start Over” really hit me hard because it’s about starting over, about knowing that in this walk with Christ you have a chance to get it right again. It’s pretty much the most beautiful story in the world.. the story of forgiveness, the story of belief and hope.

I think listeners will be in for a wonderful treat with this album much like the rest of their music. The Afters just know how to do it and they do it right. Praise Jesus!

Song Title Time Price
listen 1. Light Up The Sky 3:38 $0.99 Buy Track
listen 2. Lift Me Up 3:32 $0.99 Buy Track
listen 3. Start Over 4:02 $0.99 Buy Track
listen 4. Runaway 4:48 $0.99 Buy Track
listen 5. I Am Yours 3:53 $0.99 Buy Track
listen 6. Life Is Sweeter 3:27 $0.99 Buy Track
listen 7. Say It Now 4:14 $0.99 Buy Track
listen 8. We Won’t Give Up 3:07 $0.99 Buy Track
listen 9. Saving Grace 3:38 $0.99 Buy Track
listen 10. For The First Time 5:21 $0.99 Buy Track

Provided by Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Light-Up-Sky-Afters/dp/B003Y01JQW/ref=ntt_mus_ep_dpi_1