Titles at The Throne of God
“When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says; I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths and it will no longer be food for them.”
--Ezekiel 34: 2b-10.
Some time ago, a denominational pastor and I were talking and he told me something about his mentor who pastored a good-sized church at the time. The mentoring pastor is long gone from there now but I remembered him as a man who loved to build big churches wherever he went, and often did, but he had the pastoral skills of a turnip and his people had the spiritual depth of a gaggle of geese. I know you probably think I’m being critical, but consider that this man never made pastoral calls, even avoided going to jail and to the hospital when one of his members, even an elder or a deacon, was confined there. Like him, his people had the pasted-on grins with fake, smiling eyes that never focused on much of anything, much less on you. If you went to that church, it might look like a crowd scene from Gandhi in the foyer on any given Sunday were it not for the fashion show it had become, but unless you were connected to any people there, you, the visitor, were basically invisible.
I can name people that went there for a year and were never greeted once except for the official greeter who stood at a strategic location inside the door, shook your hand as you entered, but also pulled you in and by him, his lips moving with some unintelligible words, while he reached out his hand for the next one. It was a staged welcoming and that was probably the last hand you’d shake. I had heard about it, I went there (more than once), I saw it and the religious performance that followed called “a worship service.” It was not worship either, but don’t get me going on that. Suffice it to say, it was a show where people got their goose bumps for the week, but would be talking worldly talk and business deals on the way out the door, even while people might tarry at the altar for ministry or prayer. There was little waiting on God except among the remnant, the good leaven, that God still had in that assembly. There were genuinely spiritual people there, but they kept attending because there was nowhere else they knew to go, or God hadn’t released them from there to go elsewhere, or they were in a rut, though they did love God.
Never once did I ever hear that mentoring pastor ever speak about God outside of those performances. Nor did the two fellows I knew whom he trained in that way, both of whom are pastoring churches today, but have unfortunately the same legacy of distancing themselves from the people through being inaccessible, chilly and rarely making eye contact. For these two protégés of a mentor long gone, you leave messages with their secretaries for a call back you’ll never receive. Their behavior is like that of their mentor which proves that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.
What is so unusual about this in my thinking is that they all insist on being called “Pastor” before their first names. Their mentor had actually trained them that if folks didn’t address you as “Pastor Chuck” or “Pastor Fred,” you didn’t even acknowledge that you were being addressed. It reminded me of when I was in basic training in the U.S. Air Force. We had to preface and end every sentence with “Sir,” or you were not acknowledged.
It still amazes me that these guys could build any church larger than a rabbit hutch, but all three of them did, although I noticed that a lot of their people were transplants from other churches rather than new converts to the Faith. Perhaps the reason they had any followers at all was because people, by and large, wanted to be as impersonal as their leaders and relegate their Christian experience to service attendance, as though they had done their duty for the week and could now get on with their lives relatively guilt-free. Besides, many of them I knew, including the three pastors I’ve mentioned, had SERIOUS heart issues and attitudes that had never been addressed and it reflected in some questionable behavior and language in their dealings with the secular world.
A walk through the advertising pages of Charisma Magazine isn’t much different. Charisma, to their credit, has had some excellent articles for the past couple of years which, if followed, would give a believer at any level some maturity and wisdom as well as pragmatic common sense in Christian conduct and living. But their ads are from somewhere else (and I don’t think it’s Heaven).
If you have access to a copy of Charisma, take a quick perusal of the ads and what you notice is that, first of all, just about everyone in every ad for the end-all, conference-of-the-century, has a title. Maybe some of the titles of “Pastor,” “Psalmist,” or even “Evangelist” in Charisma are deserved, but they really have gotten presumptuous with some of the ones I’ve seen in the past year like “Apostle,” “Prophet,” “Archbishop” or “Healer.”
For example, like the above-mentioned ‘pastors’ who are clearly church-builders but not pastors in a New Testament sense, they have a gift of some kind of evangelism, even if it is more proselytizing from within the Body of Christ (a.k.a. “sheep stealing”). Folks will say, “Pastor Greg has a real gift at building churches.” What they mean is that Pastor Greg gives the kind of performance that makes you feel good, but may not be touching the true spiritual need in your innermost being. Why? Because I’m yet to hear any of those pastors ever call anyone to true repentance of the real stuff they’re made of.
One indicator is that few of the people in their churches have ever been water baptized, which is one of the essentials of the Christian Faith and something that can cause your death in certain hostile nations. Here it is taken for granted and treated as an option, but in the Middle East, it may be OK to believe in Jesus, but once you are baptized, you have set yourself against the world system and its sundry religions to have obeyed God’s commandment in that way. It means you no longer look to Caesar as god which was the primary beef (not to be confused with “prime beef”) the Roman emperors had with the early Christians. Baptism was a sign of allegiance Elsewhere.
Another indictor is the unwillingness of the pastor to confront blatant sin in the congregation. If he did, he’d lose people and that is his source of income. Interestingly, many of the people who never get confronted are the ones who contribute the most. Basically, they’re buying their membership in that assembly, if not a position in the church’s leadership. What pastor in his right mind would bite the hand that feeds him? And don’t think many pastors aren’t reminded of that in church business meetings or one-on-ones with the wealthy. What kind of pastor? No pastor at all. A true pastor will not be bought or intimidated. If he can be, he’s not a pastor, he’s a hireling, hired by those who control through their purchased and purchasing power in a local church.
A good case in point for this is the mentoring pastor I described before. Often, the only time he spent with people was with the most wealthy in his church, generally taking those men out for breakfast every week or two. It was murmured in the congregation that this was “Pastor Tom’s Millionaires’ Club,” because there was little of his attention left to anyone else of less means. But never forget that even the murmurers still used his “pastor” title when they were complaining because they had been programmed to do so. That guy was no pastor! He was a hireling who, at best could perform, entertain, charm and administrate, but no one would have dared to say that to him. Besides, if you tried to and didn’t use the term “pastor,” when you addressed him, he wouldn’t have even turned in your direction because, “surely, you can’t be talking to me!”
No, I saw him as a gifted businessman who knew how to work the wealthy in the Name of God, who, while in town, could build a memorial to himself in the name of a building program, and then move on after a Sunday School wing had been named in his honor.
That is not evangelism. It is not pastoring. That is a sickness born out of insecurity and domination and it has no place in a Body of the Lord’s people! These guys must always have a title, a label, and they must always be the only ones to ascend to the heights (often the church platform -- darn! I dislike those platforms in churches!) where they can be seen. No one else gets to stand there and no one would even think of being on the platform unless they’re invited. And then only for a little while -- to give an announcement, read a prayer or some other thing that is clearly not modeled after Jesus’ example(s) in Scripture. But then, most American christendom represents the New Testament about as much as a Hollywood represents real American life.
Some people ask me what my position is when they meet me. Depending on who asks me, I say I’m either “a pastor,” “a priest” or a “bishop.” I am ordained the first and the third ones and I practice the lifestyle and posture of the second. Some people understand my call and function from God better if I choose one of those terms over the others. Then, when they ask me how they should address me, they seem surprised when I say, “Dave.” “But, you’re a...” and I nod and say, “yep, but I’m just ‘Dave’ in God’s sight and that’s all that matters. My friends call me ‘Dave.’ Do you want to be my friend?” I have found that this has worked far better to win people to Jesus around here than if I insisted on being called a title.
Keep in mind, a lot of native Utahns have been very burned by organized religion, particularly of the local variety and, when they are looking for God elsewhere, they really don’t want to find more religion or religious people. They don’t realize it yet, but they DO want to find real Life, and people of Faith who are genuine because Jesus has become their very Life and Raison d’etre.
Which do you represent to those around you? And you clergy or clergy-wanna-be’s reading this -- which image do you project to the spiritually hungry? If you insist on your title, that may be all God will give you, but you’re not honoring God with that demand.
Do you realize that people who sign themselves as “Reverend,” (“Rev.” for short) are actually displaying a contemporary rudeness and ignorance that would have shocked people a century ago? Right! The term “Reverend” was only applied to you by others -- you didn’t take it onto yourself. It was a title of respect that was given by those who recognized your call from God. For you to refer to yourself that way was considered presumptuous and conceited. I rarely use that term for myself except when it may be for an official document where the state expects it, such as a Utah Marriage License after I’ve performed a wedding. Otherwise, let men honor you, don’t honor yourself and best of all, let God give you your final reward according to those deeds you did or purposed in your heart while you were alive. Laying claim to titles and setting perameters and demands for their use, does not reflect the humility of Jesus and will leave you embarrassed when you finally stand before God.
OK, guys -- you preachers out there! Get the picture:
Imagine when you meet God Face-to-face and He says, “you referred to yourself in your mortal life as ‘evangelist.’ Tell Me about it, because all I see is that you stole people from your brothers’ churches but never evangelized anyone!”
“Or you, yes, you over there with that collar on -- you signed your name ‘Rev.’ everywhere and insisted My people whom I entrusted to your care refer to you as ‘pastor,’ before your name every time. Why did you do that when you had a secret lust for power and control of which I never heard you repent? You weren’t ‘reverent’ toward Me. And you abused the people I entrusted into your care with your demands and dictatorship but never went to the widow -- after she paid you to do her husband’s funeral, no less, nor guide those teens in your church who needed a dad when theirs were too busy making money. You’re no pastor; you never shepherded My sheep or my lambs!”
“Say, is ‘Rev. Billy Bob’ here? Oh, he wants me to think I can’t see him here in this multitude before My Throne, but I see you! C’mon down, yes, here, before My Feet, just like you used to say ‘C’mon down to the altar,’ like some used car salesman in a TV ad, so you could pick and chose which of my female sheep you could hit on during those ‘counseling sessions’ for ‘special needs.’ They didn’t have half the needs before that they did after you were done with them, ‘Rev. Billy Bob!’
“Wait a minute, Billy Bob, you’re standing on the train of that ‘Archbishop’ next to you. He always wanted to be first and preeminent among his people and demanded to be seen in his full regalia, especially with those funny hats that he insisted be embroidered with gold thread. Well, gold is paving material here, but, ‘your grace,’ show Me the precious things you brought here that made it through my fire. What? I can’t hear you! Again? No, say it so everyone, including those California preachers standing in the back can hear you. What? It all burned up on the way here?! But what about all that silver and gold I see you still clutching in your hand? Some of those coins have “concordat from Colombia’ still imprinted on them. Put those coins into the hopper for our streets’ paving material and step over there because I think I’ll meet with you in a little while and it won’t be for a round of Bingo!”
“But you! You there with the internal wounds from those church business meetings -- Mike, isn’t it? No, I know you Mike, I don’t need to be reminded. You were the one who stayed up all night with that family whose baby was sick, even though they didn’t appear to be believers and never did come to your church. They were just your neighbors. You stayed by them, but what you didn’t know is that they were my angels, sent unaware to you by Me. Now, let me wipe away those tears as I promised John the Revelator I would when you got Home here, and give you a new name that I’ve had written down in Glory since before the foundations of your earth.”
It’s going to be quite a scene...!
Just “Dave,” signing off....