What I do by trade, is pastor a church. Let me be clear, it makes sense when someone says, “This is Grant, he is the Lead Pastor at Life Bridge.” That’s what I do. However, the small problem I have is when people say, “This is Pastor Grant.” The difference may seem small, but it has deep ramifications. The reason I ask people to call me by my name is both symbolic and very Biblical.
Once Jesus taught about the danger of the corrupt Pharisees (the religious leaders at the time):
They love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Mathew 23:7-12
Jesus spells this out pretty plainly. He doesn’t want people to get confused. They aren’t following teachers. They aren’t disciples of men. They are disciples of Jesus. Despite this, people have always liked the idea that the “pastor” or “reverend” or “father” is a holy man that is closer to God than they are. People often feel uncomfortable calling me by my name. They think my position should be honored by a title. However, the problem is people often give pastors more honor than they should, that he or she, in some way, has a more direct line to God. Why is this appealing? Perhaps because it puts God at a safe distance for people? Maybe because understanding God is easier if the preacher is the voice of God? I am not quite certain, but I know it’s not healthy.
What’s more unhealthy is leaders that feel they need the title. A pastor can quickly become obsessed with having “spiritual authority.” They love the respect given to them through this title. This is the key flaw Jesus is pointing out about the Pharisees. They are in it for the wrong reasons.
What “Pastor Grant” Symbolizes
Another reason I ask people to call me Grant is because it is symbolic of our leadership structure. Many other church leadership models look like this:
The Pastor is at the top and ultimately has the final say in everything. All other leaders, whatever their title, simply exist in support of the Pastor. I understand the appeal. You can get a lot done if you are the sole decision maker. However, as a church leader, there are a couple reasons I don’t like this.
1. It puts too much responsibility on one man. If the church is doing poorly, who bears the entire weight of that burden? More than one Pastor has stepped out of ministry because they were not part of a team that shared the responsibility of a stalled-out or declining church. What happens if the church is doing great? The big man on top grows arrogant. There is no sin quite as ugly or irreparable as a pastor who has forgotten how to be humble.
2. Everyone needs to be accountable. Pastors function much like leaders of other organizations. CEOs and Superintendents have to make critical decisions that shape the future of the their organizations. However, pastors are unique because they don’t usually have a board that holds them accountable. If they do, the leaders on the board are so afraid of causing “division” by going against the “pastor,” they usually keep silent or become “yes men.”
This is not a healthy solution. More often than not it sets up both the church and the pastor for failure. It assumes the pastor is immune to poor decision making, moral failure or just being ineffective. In other words, it is assumed that the pastor is more godly than other Christians. Everyone else in the church can struggle or have seasons of doubt, but not the Pastor. Pastors need to be a part of a leadership team of equals. Our leadership model looks like this.
We currently have five elders. Every elder meets the qualifications specified in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. No elder is more important than another. No elder has more authority than the other. Everyone is accountable. Therefore, nobody gets a special title. There is only one difference between myself and the other elders: I am able to do it full time.
In 1 Timothy 5:17-18 we get a glimpse of church governance in the early church:
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
There were a group of elders that lead the church. Some elders were so diligent in leading and teaching that the church began to compensate them financially. That’s all a pastor is. He is one of many leaders, who is able to be devoted more fully to the church because his is compensated financially.
Every Christian is a Pastor
When people replace my name with Pastor it changes the dynamic. The last thing I would ever want is for Christians to think their life, gifts and talents can’t be used because they aren’t a Pastor. Everyone who is a follower of Christ needs to deeply understand that they are…. well….followers of Christ. Each believer is literally lead, taught and discipled by Jesus. They don’t need a go between or an earthly leader. Each of us bears the burden equally of sharing the incredible message of God’s grace.
So please, don’t call me pastor.