Should Pastors, Preachers Or Priests Be Called Reverend?

Should Pastors, Preachers Or Priests Be Called Reverend? September 24, 2018

Is it appropriate or biblical to call someone reverend?

Titles and Pride

It’s very easy to get caught up in titles. We can be dad, mom, brother, sister, husband, wife, employer, supervisor, CEO, Dr., Mr., and so on, but Jesus was not impressed by religious titles. He wanted His followers to resist any marks of distinction among people. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the scribes, saying that they “do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long,” (Matt 23:4), and worst of all, “they preach, but do not practice” (Matt 23:3b) what they preach. The Lord specifically said, “you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ” (Matt 23:8-10). The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were filled with pride and desired to be set apart from all others, but Jesus said, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:11-12). I’m not saying that someone who wants to be called reverend is exalting themselves, but titles tend to do that. Jesus said to “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts” (Mark 12:38-39). God resists the proud but gives His grace to the humble (James 4:6), so we can either humble ourselves before Him today, or someday, He will do it for us, and we don’t have to guess which one of these is more painful.

Church Leaders

The Apostle Paul told Timothy that “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Tim 5:17), but that doesn’t mean they should demand it. A godly man who exemplifies 1 Timothy 3:1-13 is worthy of respect, but as a person, can he say he is “reverend?” Someone who sets a godly example in word and deed is worthy of being respected, no matter what job or position they hold. Any honest work is honorable work. I worked as a janitor for 7 years working my way through college, and there is no shame in doing a good job, no matter what you do for a living, so whether or not the title of “reverend” should be used is a matter of personal conviction and preference, however it should be noted that reverend is not actually a title but an attribute of God and it’s used as an adjective, but it’s descriptive of God, not man. It’s how we are to regard God and His holy name. The King James Version uses the word “reverend” in Psalm 111:9, but the NIV, NAS, NKJV, and ESV all render the Hebrew word as “awesome” (Psalm 111:9).

Holy and Revered

The psalmist wrote, “He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name” (Psalm 111:9), so the word “reverend” is found in only a few translations today because it’s actually the word “awesome,” but even here, God alone is awesome, and He alone is holy and to be revered. The word “awesome” comes from the Hebrew word “yare’” which means “to fear, be afraid, to stand in awe of, be awed to fear,” or “to be dreadful,” so who wants that for a title? If you read all of Psalm 111, you’ll find that the subject matter is all about God and His power, His holiness, and His awesomeness. Notice the Apostle Paul’s instructions for church leadership in Acts 20:28. He says church leaders are to, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood,” so rather than having concern for titles or positions of authority, the goal of the church elder or pastor is to live a holy life and exhort the church to do the same, while also caring for and feeding the flock under his care, but this means he is also a servant. And, he is only an under-shepherd to the Good Shepherd, for these are not His sheep, but the Shepherds!

Attributes of God

Whether or not the title of “reverend” should be used is a matter of personal conviction and preference. There is no biblical precedent of using reverend or awesome in the New Testament church. The church leader is not called to focus on his title anyway, but rather to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2-3). Would we want to take an attribute of God and claim it for ourselves? Of course not, so why use an adjective for God as a title for man? Besides, reverend is not a really used as a title in the Bible but as an adjective, which is descriptive of God and God alone. The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee put it well when he said that reverend means “to incite terror” (in the Hebrew) or “terrible” and Dr. McGee said he wasn’t terrible enough to be considered reverend. When men take to themselves religious titles and special clothing, Jesus was always saying, “Beware” of them” (Matt 16:6)! Speaking for myself, if you are a Christian, why not call me brother…or just Jack?

Conclusion

To be called pastor is not the same as being called reverend. I go by Jack or Pastor Jack, or “Hey you,” but never do I introduce myself as “Pastor Jack,” or “Reverend” in print or by word. It’s simply, “Jack.” I’m good with that. I am not good with being called reverend, for none but God is to be revered and He alone is awesome. If others insist on having that title, it’s their choice. It’s not mine to judge, but speaking for myself, I am not reverend in the way the Bible uses the word reverend. The only righteousness I have is imputed on my behalf because of Christ (2 Cor 5:21), but that doesn’t make me awesome or reverend. The cross levels the ground for us all. Of course, you see that word used in the obituaries and in funeral programs next to the pastor’s name, but much of that is human tradition. One thing about traditions worry me…they have a human source, and Jesus warned us about human traditions more than once (Matt 17:9; Mark 7:7).

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • tovlogos

    Amen as usual, Jack — I have carried this reality in my heart for years. I have actually said the same thing to an Anglican minister recently…
    I prefer, Mark. I tend to think of ‘minister’ in verb form rather than noun…notwithstanding, it is the Spirit who is accomplishing the work.

    The truth is the 400 year period after Malachi — the Silent Period — when the Holy Spirit was ostensibly on hiatus.
    Pharisaism had reached its height and this is the atmosphere with which the Son of God collided. I’m not uncomfortable with
    my fallen condition because I am comfortable with my assurance in Him, especially seeing the devastation of the Lord’s collision…
    effectively discerning the extent of the curse — I can never feel too much concerning myself.

    Obviously we all know that academics can be a great blessing if it enhances godliness; yet there is also a paradox when we receive
    too many accolades, and the heart doesn’t align with humility. Similarly, Jesus cautioned us about having too much wealth
    (Matthew 19:24) Do people have the presence of mind to have great faith when there is no food available? Of course, being extremely
    wealthy will not automatically send one to hell; but in view of our corrupt nature, deceptive heart — Jeremiah 17:9 — it is not possible
    to stand above the demands of the flesh quite the way Jesus did, though if we follow HIm all things are possible. But as we stumble
    all the way to the kingdom (Luke 17:1) we can never in and of ourselves follow God through Jesus as purely and consistently as He did.

    Now I say that as long as a church wishes to do exegetically according to God’s will — so be it — but to make the point, it is much easier
    to submit to a water ritual in the name of baptism than to submit one’s heart to God through Jesus, completely in the Spirit.

    • HpO

      Correction: “‘minister’ [is both] in verb form [and a] noun”.

      • tovlogos

        Of course — I didn’t say otherwise…Thanks.

    • Jack Wellman

      Well stated my friend.

      • pud

        No it isn’t..it’s garbage, nonsense, infantile and demonstrably delusional.

    • pud

      What absolute gibberish.

    • Glory

      Good post. Yes, wealth is deceptive and can keep our hearts prone to sin.

      Because as Jesus said people have the evil eye and there must be a heart and eye connection.

      Carnally we see things and start to covet them which awakens unholy desires in us.

      So we must guard our hearts from unruly and unholy desires being planted in us as we have to guard against roots of bitterness being implanted.

      Trying to guard our own hearts makes it highly beneficial to stick more closely to people trying to live godly lives.

      Because evil is communicable. Just stop and imagine the number of evil things we are introduced to by others without our consent. TV for one. It is loaded with immoral and violent images. Deadening our consciences against sin.

      • tovlogos

        Amen Glory — Yes, evil is communicable in “this atmosphere” which the devil rules, democratically, by proxy…until his time is up,
        Of course, that will not be the case in the new world.

        Blessings to you as well.

        • Glory

          Thanks. I started to realize how communicable sin is especially after realizing the Bible compares it to leprosy. In the case of leprosy people were outcast to avoid the disease.

          I don’t really know why in this day and age that we understand disease contagion much better that we don’t know to recognize sin/evil is communicable but many don’t even though the psychiatric community recognizes that the abused become the abusers and isn’t that just the transference of the sin nature curse?

          Isn’t that why Jesus said to take every thought captive? If we do that we have a chance of increasing our mental and emotional purity.

          People don’t seem to get that though. It takes a lot of biblical meditation to perceive it. Most people are just trapped in their circumstances.

          This is one reason that I fuss on this blog. I really no longer tolerate people communicating evil in this world. I never did but I perceive it faster than ever now.

          Essentially choosing for or against Jesus is a choice for good or evil. No wonder the evil people want to rage and debate against believers. They just want to delude themselves into thinking their compromise with evil is ok. But it isn’t. There are many evil examples that prove this throughout history.

          We humans may SEEM to be getting smarter as seen by our circumstances but are our ethics getting better?

          I agree I am waiting and watching for Jesus’ return to set up His Kingdom and I think it is getting close.

          • pud

            Why didn’t “jesus” cure leprosy instead of a couple of lepers?

          • pud

            LOOK BUSY!!! HERE COMES JESUS!! LOL…wow dude…you are off the reservation loony

          • “Sin” is a made up religious concept by the ancient and barbaric savages that wrote the bible. You cant “catch” sin like you can catch the flu. Don’t try biblical meditation, just breathe in and out slowly and let the breath guide you. You should become an atheist and find peace.

      • Why don’t you just breathe?

    • Glory

      I am glad you are showing your support for Pastor Wellman. He deserves it.

      Have a blessed day!

  • Guestie

    I like it when clergy go by Most Reverend or Very Reverend.

  • Bezukhov

    Just don’t call them late for dinner.

  • pud

    No, you should be called cult leaders and liars to children. You should be called frauds and charlatans for promoting as true things you cannot possibly know. You should be called con men for perpetuating a falsehood. You should be called psychological terrorists for your made up hellfire lies especially to children. You should be indoctrinators. You should be called delusional, insane, dysfunctional for crafting a world view around a Bronze Age book written by other ignorant religious know nothings. You should be under medical care, on meds, in rehab. You should be called pathological, disturbed and perhaps psychotic. jack.

  • Glory

    This is a more important subject than people realize, Jack.

    A lot of people seem to have trouble distinguishing between men and God in their thinking and truly God as powerful is the only one worthy of being described as reverend.

    Be sure to find my comment about blog posting rules, Jack. It would be nice if order instead of chaos ruled in God’s blog house.

    People can come post here but they need to show manners or learn them if they haven’t any.

    God doesn’t tolerate evil. So why should we? Sometimes you have to put your foot down.

    • pud

      You have trouble separating fact from fiction, truth from delusion. superstition from reality.

  • Esther Derisme

    No, according to Ephesian 4:11, which explain the five gifts of ministries. The references of the word “Reverend” is God. Please read the word of God with a spiritual mind and wisdom that comes from Him in order not to confuse yourself. The references for Reverend, Psalm 111:9 and Matthew 23:8. Stop calling the men and women of G-d Reverend, only G-d is Reverend!.

    • Jack Wellman

      Amen. Well said my friend. I agree that none should be called Reverend but God.

  • Some of these so-called reverends are paedophiles.

  • kyuss

    but Jesus was not impressed by religious titles…

    so why does jeebus have a never ending list of religious titles?

    • Jack Wellman

      Because He is God and we are not.

      • kyuss

        That doesn’t make any sense – which is par for the course when it comes to your writing, isn’t it, Jack!