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Spring Warrior Church of Christ

7432 S. Red Padgett Road

Perry, FL 32348



From my earliest days of preaching the gospel, I’ve met people now and then who insist on
calling me “Reverend” Himmel. That always makes me uncomfortable — no, queasy would be more
accurate — because Jesus tells us not to do that very thing.

My dictionary says “reverend” is an adjective that means “worthy of profound awe and
respect.” Now, there may be some folks who respect me, but I’m quite sure I do not deserve anyone’s
“profound awe.”

Of course, people who call me “Reverend” do it because they think that’s what you’re
supposed to call a preacher. But who decided that? In older translations of the Bible the word
“reverend” appears only once — as a description of God Himself: “Holy and reverend is his name”
(Psalm 111:9). Newer translations render the word “awesome” or “fearful.” Such a majestic
description of the power of God sounds ridiculous when tacked onto the names of men. What else
but human pride could create such a mismatch?

Jesus spoke in strong terms against the kind of attitude that delights in religious titles. He
denounced those who gloried in being called “Rabbi,” “Father,” and “Teacher” (Matthew 23:6-10).
The words themselves were not wrong, but using them as titles of honor most definitely was. (Aren’t
the terms “Doctor” and “Professor” used in a very similar fashion by preachers today?) Jesus pointed
His disciples instead to humility: “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever
exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).

Sometimes, scriptural terms such as “elder,” “bishop,” or “pastor” are abused in the same
way. In the New Testament these words are used to describe the men responsible for leading and
overseeing a local church (see Acts 20:17,28; 1 Peter 5:1-3; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). They are
spiritual job descriptions, not titles of rank.

Even a common Christian term like “brother” becomes a title of sorts if we apply it only to
certain people, such as evangelists or elders. All true Christians are brothers in Christ, servants of
God and of each other (Matthew 23:8 ). Why should I be called “Brother Jeff” and some other
member of God’s family just be called “Tom?”

We are called to follow the Son of God, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did
not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a
bondservant” (Philippians 2:6,7). The wearing of high-sounding religious titles is the very opposite
of that servant spirit that Jesus demonstrated for us.

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