THE USE OF RELIGIOUS TITLES



A careful scanning of the Church Directory, in the Claiborne progress reveals that the use of religious titles is rampant in our area. Many of the denominations use these titles with no thought of their origins, implications, or authority for such use. In last Wednesday's edition of the Claiborne Progress, a letter I had written in response to a poem about the title "Reverend," was printed in its entirety.

Some of the religious titles we see published in the church directory of the paper are: Reverend, Pastor, Father, and Minister.

Before looking at the specific titles being used by the preachers of these various denominations, a good question to ask would be, why is a title necessary?

The obvious answer is to make a distinction between those who preach or teach, and the rest of the church. In most cases, the preachers, or others in authority over a congregation or a group of congregations are described as "clergy." We do not find any mention of this special class of Christians in the New Testament. This is obviously a result of protestant churches coming out of Catholicism. Of course, the Catholic church's priesthood is based on the priesthood of the Old Testament. Their hierarchy is based on the organization of the Roman Empire.

The title then is used to distinguish this special class of Christians, "the clergy" from regular Christians, "the laity." In the light of New Testament scriptures, this distinction between classes of Christians is nonexistent. Since there is no such distinction made by the word of God, this distinction is the doctrine or teaching of man. Christ said in 15:9 "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men." The New Testament describes all Christians as saints, priests, citizens of God's kingdom, disciples, children of God. There is no distinction (Galatians 3:26-29).

Titles used: Father - one man at one church in Tazewell uses this title. Answer - Christ said in Matthew 23:9 "Call no man father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Reverend: The majority of denominational preachers use this title. Not all do, even those in the same denominations. The claim is that the title, Reverend, applies to their calling. It is however, in front of their name, thus a title applied to them. Answer - The Psalmist described the Lord's name as "holy" and "reverend" (Psalms 111:9). This is the only place in the Bible the word is used. Why would people take a word describing God's name and attach it to their name?

Pastor - This is a proper name to use when applied to a person holding the proper office. A preacher is not a "pastor." An elder, shepherd, overseer, or bishop, is a pastor. There was never one pastor in a New Testament church. They were always in a plurality (Acts 14:23; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5). A man may be "a pastor," but he could never be "the pastor" if God's word was used as the authority. Since none are given, no titles are needed.

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