Caveat lector: “If’n ya’awnt to” is prefatory Southernese for “if you want to.” In this brief series, I’m giving neo-Protestant attention to several erroneous assumptions common to thinking and practice in Christendom. All of this is predicated on the ideas that humans may choose courses of action, and that some choices make more sense — biblical, or common, or both — than others.
C. Religious titles
1. If’n ya’awnt to, you can believe that “reverend” equals “designated, sanctioned minister,” but that doesn’t make it so, and it’s irreverent—quite literally—to God, Who is the only One referred to as reverend in scripture. Properly used, and primarily, the word “reverend” is adjectival, not titular
2. If’n ya’awnt to, you can ignore Jesus on the matter of whether to call a mere man “Father” or “teacher” (Matthew 23), but I don’t know why you would want to ignore Him.
Aside: Long ago, I resolved never to call a man “Father” or “Reverend”—no matter if it were a Roman priest on the softball field or a guest speaker in a public venue. I have wavered because of a situation or two, but I have not fallen. God helping me, I will continue in this resolve, and will hope to be instructive, not offensive, in this course of action.
3. Further, if’n ya’awnt to, you can call your full-time minister “pastor,” but the pastoral role, as sporadically depicted in New Covenant documents, is a fur piece from the pastor’s role in any church I’ve known of in my lifetime. If’n ya’awnt to, you can belong to the massive hunk of Christian flesh that misuses the term “pastor” to mean “head preacher guy” or “leader in charge of everything.” But the use of the term doesn’t make the man a pastor-in-fact, and you may be an accomplice to the biblically criminal perpetuation (or, to un-mix a metaphor, you may be a cell in the festering, cancerous wart on the Body of Christ) of the hierarchical scenario that is all too common in churches. This is not just about terminology. It is about the functioning of the Body. It is, after all, a Body, not a business . . . and the Christ is the Head.
4. And again, if’n ya’awnt to, you can set up a minister/preacher/pastor as the “head” man, designating him “senior pastor,” but such titles and designated hierarchies are unknown in the pages of the New Covenant writings. Corollary: If’n ya’awnt to, you can call your 28-year-old preaching person who has recently graduated with honors from seminary “Senior Pastor,” but that’s probably more appropriate if your whole church is under the age of 20.
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Part 3 will continue in challenging both word uses and their accompanying, erroneous actions. If’n ya’awnt to, you can think it’s merely an attitude problem that causes one to spend time on such challenges … or you can a) realize and b) act on the truth you find contained in these words, “searching the scriptures to see if these things are so” (Acts 17:11) regardless of whatever biases and attitudes are, or are not, found in the writer.