The Doctor Is Not In: Christian Leaders and Fake Titles

The Doctor Is Not In: Christian Leaders and Fake Titles June 20, 2024

Thousands of years before Jesus Christ was born, there were no “Christian Leaders.” That’s because there was no known Christ on Earth (yet)–only leaders.

Abraham expanded the nations, Noah ushered in a second chance, Moses led the chosen, and David eventually became their king. These were people God chose to lead His people. For some, He changed their name (see Genesis 17:4-6, Genesis 32:22-28, Matthew 16:18-20). For others, He created a destiny (see 1 Samuel 16:7-12, 1 Kings 19:19-21, Acts 9:8-14).

Yet, none of them had an illustrious title. And, surprising for many of today’s leaders in the Church, it didn’t matter. 

You know? The coveted alphabet soup that comes after someone’s name on a business card? Those people changed the world for God. They walked alongside Jesus. These individuals called down fire from heaven and opened the door for the Holy Spirit. And, not one individual we read about in the Bible, or even during the first couple of Spiritual Awakenings, was a “Prophetess,” “Brother Minister,” “Archbishop,” “Disciple,” “Holy Apostle,” or even “Doctor.”

Maybe the zealousness for titles among Christian leadership found its roots in the Bible.

He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens: that he might fill all things. And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Until we all meet into the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ

(Ephesians 4:10-13 Douay-Rheims Bible)

It’s been a thing for decades. God calls a person to their ministry with only a name and a passion for the Lord. Within 12 to 24 months, these called folks want to appear “chosen,” so they flex a shiny title and newfangled clout that seemed to appear as fast as water turned to wine.

Christian Leaders and Much Ado About Nothing

Group of people laying hands on a man who is receiving prayer
Pastor Greg Locke received prayer from Christian leaders. (Image credit: Global Vision Bible Church’s website via Charisma)

Meet Pastor Greg Locke.

He oversees the thriving Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. The church made its mark when Locke split from the vitriolic and deeply orthodox Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement and renamed his congregation to its present name.

Fast forward to summer 2024.

One Sunday, various Christian leaders surround Greg Locke and his wife Taisha on the stage, led by Pastor Malachi O’Brien of The Church at Pleasant Ridge in Harrisonville, Missouri, and via Zoom call, Pastor Mike Signorelli of V1 Church in New York City. And together, following a moving corporate prayer, the two were named “Apostles to the World.” 

Now, just like Romans 1, where Paul says, ‘I am a servant of Christ called to be an apostle,’ I believe now, Greg Locke, a servant of Christ, called to be a global voice of the gospel to all people, called to be one that assigns tasks to others, that activates and imparts and releases the oil of the anointing to subdue and take territories and nations, and places that your feet have not yet traveled physically, but digitally.

Pastor Mike Signorelli, V1 Church in New York City, via video message

And just like that, two people–one pastor and his wife–are called “apostles” in a grandiose fashion. Titles run amuck amid ego regalia–unlike the good ol’ days.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:28, ‘the Lord has appointed to the church, first, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers.’ We are here today, Pastor Greg, Pastor Tai, today also to say, Apostle Greg, and Apostle Tai. To officially recognize what so many have recognized for many years.

Pastor Malachi O’Brien of The Church at Pleasant Ridge of Harrisonville, Missouri

“Apostles to the World.” That must look fine on the letterhead, right? Unfortunately, this is a microcosm of what has been wrong in the Church for many years.

Not Quite What the “Doctor” Ordered

Man sitting alone in an empty church (Black and white photo)
This is the cause or the effect of Christian leaders and their lust for titles. (Image credit: Stefan Kunze via Unsplash)

The time for being finite about Christian leaders with these fabricated and lofty titles must stop. Look at the scripture previously mentioned in the letter to the Ephesians. What are those titles really?

  • Pastor — Someone responsible for the spiritual guidance of a gathering of people or a church
  • Evangelist — In the Christian faith, this is a person who travels to proclaim the truth of Jesus and share the message of salvation
  • Teacher — This is a wise and astute person who instructs others on complex issues related to the Lord
  • Prophet — An “inspired” person who proclaims the future will or works of God
  • Apostle — One of those mentioned above, usually commissioned by a body of believers, tasked with creating new churches and uplifting respective bodies of believers

Other well-known titles for Christian leadership are:

  • Elder — An older person, in age and the Christian faith, honored for their wisdom of Christian truth (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
  • Deacon — Someone designated to serve the physical, emotional, and fiscal needs of the Church and its leaders (Acts 6:1-3)
  • Bishop — Considered a “pastor of pastors,” this “presbyter” is an overseer of several churches connected with a shared vision (Acts 1:20)
  • Rabbi or Priest — See “Pastor” for Judaic and Catholic honorifics, respectively

Yet, most of those titles don’t belong on a business card. You don’t need a title to lead in a church or even to minister in one. If you didn’t go through some registered appointments and complete rigorous curricula, you’re not a [insert title here, including “Doctor”].

Likewise, having a title–or fictitiously adopting one–doesn’t make you a leader. These titles help others to understand an office. Today, these once-earned or bestowed honors are synonymous. Even worse, they’re dropped, and your spiritual is called “Dave” by some dude wearing flip-flops passing a plate for the tithe.

Titles are for governance in the Church, not for ego to have one. They create accountability and responsibility. Today, they’re mainly about “look at me.” Word of note: If you want to be called “Apostle to the World,” join the international mission field and get off stage. Your narcissism is showing.

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About Shawn Paul Wood
Shawn Paul Wood, Th.D., is an award-winning copywriter, contributor, content strategist, and ghostwriter of several faith-based articles, speeches, columns, and books who has worked for some of the most admirable brands in their respective industries for over 20 years. As Founder of Woodworks Communications, with a master’s and doctorate in Theology, he leads teams of content strategists and marketing professionals to expand the brands of corporate leaders, serial entrepreneurs, and respected ministers of the Gospel. Before working with global communications agencies, he was a media relations director and communications executive for noted leaders, such as Abide, D/FW International Airport, UNCF, Mannatech, Christians United for Israel, Avocados from Mexico, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, Darden, and Bishop T.D. Jakes. He aims to help others develop self-discovery through stories and the written word to proclaim the Word to the world. For more information or help telling your story, visit You can read more about the author here.

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