On Rabbis, Monsignors & Pastors

Often people address me as Pastor Bob ... it kind of creeps me out ... maybe it is just my refusal to identify with the clerical union. So what’s with calling people by their gift or occupation ... kind of comes across as somewhat Pharisaic to me. Looking at the scriptures (Matt 23:5-12), didn’t Jesus say of the Pharisees:
"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'"
And didn’t he instruct us in that same passage to
"not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 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.”
”The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
We evangelical flavored Christians seem to not understand why the more liturgical traditions address their ministers as “Father” and yet are very comfortable addressing our ministers as Pastor (with a capital ‘P’).

For me the heart of ministry and in particular pastoring is what Jesus says, speaking of Himself, in John 10:
”The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
In an evangelical church world where many are asked to lay down their lives for the dreams and aspirations of the senior pastor ... Jesus’ message challenges me every day to lay my life down for the flock.

As for me ... just call me Bob ... or Kansas Bob :)


  1. Glad to hear I'm not alone in thinking this. It wierds me out to hear some ordinary Joe called, Pastor.

  2. Good thoughts Kansas Bob. Ive always been uncomfortable giving people such titles. It goes against the principle of true servanthood which is where any minister (waiter on tables) get his/her true authority.

  3. Just wanted to say "Hello". I often get agitated when people stop by my blog, but never leave a comment. I got here from BreadCrumbs (Janna's blog). My dad was a minister/pastor. Anyway....HI!

  4. Hey Bob, thanks for the comment you left for me. THis post was interesting, I never really thougth about it before to be honest. I grew up in the Catholic church where we called the priest Father (Last Name). We didn't even use thier first name back then, it was considered disrespectful. It always bugged me.


  5. well, if I were a pastor, I wouldn't be annoyed at people referring to me as Pastor, since, hey, I'd be a pastor.

    It's a sign that your congregation respects you and looks to you for leadership. It's a good thing, since you're the leader. It doesn't mean you can't be a servant too. A good shepherd is one who lays his life down for his flock. But you still have a special role as a leader of the church, and God gave it to you. God calls some people to be teachers, some to be apostles, and he calls some people to very ordinary ways of life. All vocations are holy if they come for God, and we must strive for holiness in whatever way of life God gives us.

    What does it mean to have a title? A title is an external sign that conveys authority. Just because authority + service go hand in hand, doesn't mean that we shouldn't call people what they are. When I call priests "Father," I am implying that I respect their position of authority, I appreciate their service, I recognize that they have 7 years of seminary education under their belt and that they are like a father to me. If I refer to a policeman as "officer" and my professor as "Doctorr" or "Professor," I am not putting their authority over God's. I am just giving them honor when honor is due.

  6. Hey there Confessionator:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree with some of what you write. Regarding titles, I guess I'm just a little less formal than you are. I think that titles such as doctor or judge (i.e. your honor) may be appropriate in the hospital or courtroom but in a friendly discussion among friends it gets pretty weird. Likewise in a church setting it may be appropriate to address a person in a formal way but in a non-professional setting it is a bit weird to me. First names are much warmer and friendlier ... and can be communicated with absolutely no disrespect.


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