When I talk to journalists, I regularly need to ask them not to refer to me as “Pastor Tony Jones,” or “Tony Jones is a Christian pastor…” That’s because I am not, currently, a pastor. Call me a “minister” or a “clergyperson” or a “theologian-in-residence,” but not a pastor.
“Pastor” is a role, not a title. Even better than a noun, it’s a verb, and if one is “to pastor,” then one needs a congregation to pastor. Deriving from the word for shepherd, a pastor needs sheep.
But, as you might guess, I’d rather do away with titles in church life altogether. I am firmly against hierarchies — bishops, synods, general assemblies, district superintendents, etc. — because they are bad for the gospel. They may be good for organizational proliferation, but the gospel has absolutely no interest in organizational proliferation.
Last weekend, the New York Times reported on Liquidnet, a brokerage firm that has recently done away with all titles. Seth Merrin founded Liquidnet, and the interview with him is fascinating — and should be studied by pastors, church council members, and denominational employees. Here are some money quotes: