There are a number of things that I strongly dislike;
- Beans, All kinds. The consistency is disgusting. Also, they are so small that they hide in your food and then you accidentally bite into one. It’s awful
- People who don’t follow basic traffic laws. I think I could easily have a diagnosable road rage disorder.
- Hot cars. Actually, all stuffy environments.
- Churches who glorify the pastor. This might be related to hating stuffy environments.
It was sometime in April of 2017 that I started a bivocational call as a full time System Engineer working for a small company in Akron as well as filling in as an Interim Pastor for a local Covenant church that was going through a difficult phase. The first time I preached there I introduced myself as Jon because well that’s my name. I didn’t think much of it until after the service when two women came up to me and started emphasizing the word “Pastor” before my name.
Normally I don’t care what people call me as long as they don’t call me late for dinner.
I told the two women that they didn’t need to call me “Pastor Jon” and they could just call me Jon. There are a few moments in my life that if I could time travel I would go back and change. This is one of those moments. After receiving a lecture about how I was “afraid” to live into my calling, these two women went around to the whole congregation and complained about me inviting them to simply call me by my name. Eventually this spiraled out of control and during a council meeting we had to discuss in detail the reason why calling someone “Pastor ____” can create problems.
The reason why I don’t like to be called Pastor Jon is because it starts all conversations off with a divide. I am starting the conversation off as showing you my position and authority. It reminds me of people who introduce themselves with their Job titles to let you know they are important.
“Hi, I am Joe Redman Chief Accountant.”
I never know what I am supposed to respond with. Like do I affirm how important they are to their company or do I simply try to introduce myself similarly? I think for most people we recognize that we are not defined by a title or job but rather by what we do.
In the movie Batman Begins, Batman has a scene in which he lets his secret identity slip a little bit to his love interest and childhood friend, Rachel Dawes. After saving her life as Batman she tells him that he could die, and no one knows who he is. He responds by repeating a quote she uttered to him earlier in the movie.
“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” – Batman
I know I could have credited that quote to the actor or even Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, but how many times in your life can you credit a quote to Batman? Take the opportunities that present themselves to you!
Anyway, the point here is that Batman recognizes in this movie that wearing a costume, having cool gadgets or simply calling himself batman doesn’t make him a superhero but rather his actions define him as such.
This is equally true for Pastors. We are not defined by the fact that we went to Seminary or that we have the title Pastor. In fact, both of those things can be hindrances because what does define us is our ability to show the Love of God with all we meet. The title can create a boundary that doesn’t need to be there.
In all reality the title is just a microcosm of the larger issue. Somehow the Church started seeing their pastors as more than just women and men who feel a call to lead a church and instead started treating them like prophets and seers. People think we have some kind of a magical connection to God that they don’t know about or couldn’t tap into. They think we don’t struggle with doubt or temptation. All of this is far from true. We are nothing more than beggars showing other beggars where we stumbled upon food. *Spoiler Alert* Seminary graduation doesn’t come with a cell phone number for God.
The glorification of the pastor creates a mentality of pastoral infallibility that leads to greater divides between those in the Church and those out of the church. It promotes a Church that is only as strong as the pastor’s weakest quality. If you pastor sucks at promoting diversity, then because you pastor is some kind of prophet your congregation will end up sucking at promoting diversity. The majesty of the Gospel is so much greater than any one woman or man.
As I reread this post I recognize that it can be taken a little harsh. I am not advocating that you can’t call you pastor by the title pastor. If you feel comfortable with it than keep doing it! I am advocating more for the mentality of recognizing pastors as people and not prophets. I am advocating for a presentation of the Gospel narrative that is more appealing to those outside the church.
Never forget friends that we are Servants of Christ. We are not the heroes of the narrative we are fellow Servants desperately indebted to Christ. Our goal is to go out and share the Good News with everyone we meet.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” _ Philippians 2:3