call no one pastor

They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. [Matthew 23:7-8 NLT]

Liturgical church traditions often address their ministers as “Father”.
Evangelical churches address their ministers as Pastor (with a capital ‘P’).
I have often said that the Evangelical translation of Pope is "Senior Pastor".

When I worked on the pastoral staff of a church people sometimes called me Pastor Bob.
When folks did that it kind of creeped me out and made me wonder why they did it.
Yet, sadly, I did get a bit of a religious buzz (another word for pride?) when they did it.

I guess the religious buzz is a part of the problem.
The focus on titles, be they religious or secular, is a bit of a dark flavor of pride.
Years ago a person disagreed with me on this and said that titles are simply a sign of respect.

Here is how I responded to her comment:
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.
For me the issue gets to the heart of what Jesus is teaching in the above passage.
It goes back to motives - both in those who have titles and those who talk to them.
We are all equal as brothers and sisters. So just call me Brother Bob.

Lord help us to know how to be respectful and not feed the pride in others.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.


  1. I've found it helpful to use the title when referring to a member of the clergy in conversation with another. I.e. "Pastor Bob said..."

    I've always treated the clergy like anybody else, though I'm more prone to bring up theological and philosophical questions around them.

  2. I can understand that Mike. I wonder though.. if both parties know who "Pastor Bob" is then maybe using "Bob" or "Bob Smith" would be sufficient? If the other party doesn't know "Pastor Bob" then I doubt that invoking his name will be helpful. Just a thought.

  3. Food for thought as you so often do!!!

    Hopefully I'll be reading my favorite blogs again.

  4. I think it's a habit for most people. At my last church I always referred to the pastor by his first or his first and last names.


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