Some of my Evangelical brothers and sisters feel uncomfortable with calling ordained Ministers of the Gospel, “Reverend.” Many times we fall into the practice of lifting what some would consider to be “professional” boundaries that seem to distance the clergy from the laity. The reasons for replacing a professional relationship for a casual one, are usually in order to emphasize the lordship of Christ and the equal status among believers under the Cross.
Based on misinformation regarding the divinely ordained nature of the Teacher-Disciple relationship, it’s not uncommon for churches to refer to their Pastor by their first name. This way of perceiving the Pastor was “pushed” by the Seminaries across the nation by adopting a “Be Mister Cool-Pastor.” Of course, we thought that if we became “cool,” that the masses of unbelievers would be attracted to the new and improved “seeker-friendly” churches.
Thanks to the “Buddy-Pastor” philosophy, 80% of clergy don’t use distinctive clothing anymore. The consequence for this has been that the clergy shine by their absence on the streets of our cities, where hundreds of people are in need of being illumined by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Before the 12 disciples realized that Jesus was the Christ, he was “just” another itinerant Rabbi-Teacher, with the exception of having an innovative message and some strange methodologies. For instance, he once made mud out of spittle in order to place it on the eyes of a blind man. (John 9:6) At another time he stuck his fingers inside a deaf man while yelling: “Be opened!” (Mark 7:33-34)
Before Peter made the great declaration that Jesus was the Christ (Matt. 16:16), all the disciples worshiped Jesus as “the Son of God.” Its important to note that this wasn’t a declaration of Christ’s divinity, as we would understand it today. For the Jews of that time, a “son of God” was simply a being (or even the nation of Israel) who was sent as a representative of God.
The central point about all this, is that when we study the Gospels, that the disciples treated Jesus with the most utmost reverence and respect. The reason why they did this was not because they thought he was necessarily the Christ, or even the only-begotten Son of God…or even God himself.
The reason why they treated Jesus with such reverence was because in the East, religious Teachers (Rabbis, Gurus, etc.) are venerated because as messengers of God, they carry his illuminating message from to the hearts of men. In other words, the Teacher (Rabbi, Guru) is a personification (to the best of his ability) of the teachings that come out of his mouth. Also, his words have the divine power to open people’s eyes to truths and mysteries that without his guidance, they would otherwise not see.
In the religions of the East, the Guru is venerated and even worshiped in the same manner that the disciples worshiped Jesus before they knew he was God, or even the Christ. In Orthodox Judaism, the Rabbis are revered, protected, and harbored from menial externalities, so that he can delve into his vocation of prayer, study and teaching. In Eastern Christianity, the Priests hands are venerated with a holy kiss every time people take of communion. Orthodox Christians will also bow before their priests and “attach” prayers to the priest, by touching the edge of his garments when passing by in procession.
The Pastor-Teacher of the Bible is an ordained, spiritual Teacher who’s vocation is not primarily to visit the sick, or hand out evangelism tracks on the corner. The Pastor-Teacher’s vocation is primarily a teaching office, through which the disciples of Christ seek to be enlightened by the mysteries of the Gospel.
It is very heart-breaking to see how in the West, most Pastors are everything else in addition to teaching the mysteries of the Gospel. (Romans 16:25-27) We must be careful to remember that Pastors do not usually go to Business School before Seminary. A Pastor’s job is spiritual formation and to train disciples.
And this is why we call Pastors “Reverends.” They carry the message of Christ, and serve on behalf of Christ, with his authority. He’s got the knowledge and the anointing to open eyes with the light of the Gospel, and to lead people towards salvation.
We’re not asking anyone to “worship” any Pastor… What we’re saying is that in the minimum, we should treat our Pastors with love, respect and reverence. That is the least we could do for a front-line soldier of Christ who gives his life daily in order to forge a better place in the name of Jesus.