Honor from Men
By Gary Amirault
The titles religious men and women have heaped upon themselves are too numerous to mention in this short article. The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church seems to hold the title for most in number and greatest in arrogance. Perhaps the most arrogant of all his titles is the "Vicar of Christ." Vicar, according to Webster's Collegiate Dictionary means "a substitute in office." In this same dictionary under "Vicar of Christ" we read: "The Pope, regarded as head of the Church and representative on earth of Christ."
The Scriptures declare Jesus Christ as Head of His body and there is nothing to indicate that He chose another human being to take His place as head of His body. It seems that Christians are running to this "Vicar," (substitute) head of the body of Christ in droves. Leading Protestants, Pentecostals, and Charismatics are telling the sheep to return to Papa Pope before the end of the millennium for the sake of appearing united to the world. Billy Graham, Charles Colson, Benny Hinn, Paul Crouch, and a host of other very visible non-Catholics are encouraging Christians to cuddle up to surrogate Father, the Papa, the Father of humanity. If you have ears to hear, then do more than listen.
Titles such as "Honorable," Most Honorable," "Reverend," "Most Reverend," "the Very Reverend," "Most Holy," are titles which have not carried over to many of the newer denominations of Christianity. But the root of this infatuation with titles is still with us and in some ways, perhaps still as dangerous.
A few years ago, I attended an independent Charismatic church that felt it needed to be connected with other churches of like mind. They joined a federation of churches headquartered in Indiana which was also connected with a Prophetic ministry in Florida. Not too long after we joined the federation, sermons began to be preached on the subject of respecting the authorities in the church. Along with this teaching came the admonition to call each person in any "five-fold ministry" by the title of that office. To show respect for the office, we now had to call the head of the federation of these churches "apostle." Those who were set into the office of prophet now were to be called by that title. Inside, I felt very uncomfortable about this turn of events. So now we had "Apostle Brown," Prophet Jones," "Evangelist Thomas," "Pastor James," etc. (Names changed.)
Most Christians would probably feel uncomfortable calling someone by the title of "apostle," but have little difficulty calling their pastor by the title "pastor." When studying the Scriptures, we find that the "gifts of men" which some call the "five-fold ministry" (others say four-fold) are not called by these titles. The Bible never says "the Apostle Paul." It says "Paul, an apostle." See Galatians 1:1, Tim. 1:1. Again, we never read of "Apostle Peter," but "Peter, an apostle." See 1Peter 1:1 and 2Peter 1:1. Equally, we find the terms "pastor or shepherd" and "evangelist," but we do not find anyone using these terms as a title attached to their common name.
It would be rather foolish to call members of the body of Christ who are not in leadership positions titles such as "Layperson Jones," or "Sheep Brown." If this sounds foolish, then it should equally be foolish to put titles on these other offices. The world is full of foolishness built upon the foundation of pride. Titles, ribbons, medals, crests, outlandish uniforms and dress are things vain man seeks to fill his desire for glory.
Jesus Christ calls the entire body of Christ to be servants to the world. Why do we not claim the title "Servant?" A pastor is one who should serve spiritual food to his\her congregation. Are there pastors who have taken on the title "Cook" or "Waiter?" No! Why? They are not titles of honor. The title "pastor" carries much weight in many communities. Doors immediately open to people with that title without necessarily having the quality of character which the title points to.
In my daily walk, I wear many hats. I am a husband, father, son, writer, consultant, editor, publisher, researcher, counselor, evangelist, janitor, computer operator, etc. These are things that I do or am on a regular basis. But why should I make any of them a title to my name? If I did, I am sure I would select the title which would give me the most honor. It is all foolishness and vanity.
If anyone has a particular place in the body of Christ, it should be manifested by the gift, office, or anointing which was given by the Holy Spirit, not by a title. We should judge whether a person is a prophet or an apostle by the evidence and confirmation from God, not by the title. It is one thing to go to an institution for a few years and buy a certificate entitling one to put "Pastor" or "Reverend" before their name. It is an entirely different thing to actually do the work of a pastor.
Now I know I have created a tension as a result of writing this article. There are many who receive our publications who call themselves by some of these titles and there are many on our mailing list who call others by these titles. I do not seek to be legalistic about this. Hear my heart. We need to begin to get closer to character, manifesting the reality behind the titles. Then the titles will just fall away and the "respect" will be earned. All of us are beginning to drop a lot of our traditional, cultural baggage. We are growing into something beautiful. We all need to be open to changing. Let us not carry our guilt with us into this new man, but let us not carry our vanity with us either. If you are an evangelist who has enjoyed that title, but is now feeling convicted about the vanity of it all, then drop the title from your "business" card and do the work of an evangelist. After all, it is not churches who should be hiring you for this work, it should be the Holy Spirit Who sends you. If that is the case, then the title is really not necessary. The work of many modern "evangelists" has been to raise money for churches. Their emotional appeal for the poor souls in Russia, Africa, or India has generated billions of dollars, little of which actually goes into delivering the Gospel into the world.
I believe there is a day under the sun in which we will see all things "separated unto YHVH." Zechariah says that in that day, "HOLINESS UNTO YHVH" shall be engraven on the bells of the horses. The pots in YHVH's house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the Lord of Hosts. Everyone who sacrifices shall come and take them and cook in them. In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts."
One of the other prophets says that those who hold high offices in the priesthood will go back to being farmers and ranchers. The point that is being made is that "elite" little groups who have a tendency to "Lord" over God's people will drop their self-importance and return to being a brother or sister instead of someone above the sheep. Even the most commonplace of things and people will be "separated unto YHVH." This is not to bring His Holiness down in the sense of lack of worth, but we ourselves will discover Him in all things and therefore have greater respect and appreciation for things. "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHVH," says Isaiah in chapter 11verse 9. Habakkuk 2:14 confirms it, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of YHVH as the waters cover the sea."
In an environment such as the above, those of us who think we have something over others will appear so foolish that we will drop our silly little religious games and titles. We will share from the right spirit, not one of lifting ourselves up.
In summary, then, if one is ordained by God (not some institution) to be a pastor or whatever, then they should walk out their calling. The calling will bring forth the fruit thereof. We have made it easy for counterfeits to enter into these roles by emphasis on government approved offices with proper licenses and titles and "orthodox" denominational affiliations. It is easy to buy a piece of paper which certifies one a "pastor." Is that what it's all about? I think not. They will know us by our fruit. If the fruit is there, the title is unnecessary, isn't it?