The name is James, Saint James

When I speak to brothers and sisters in Christ I always hope to have conversations that edify and encourage one another. This is a primary motivating factor for me, and it is something I enjoy doing very much. In some of these conversations I’m positive that there are things I say that disturb, concern, or sometimes even offend (albeit unintentionally), and likewise in return. One of the things that I’ve alarmingly noticed more than before is the usage of titles when describing other believers, referencing them and their works, or when addressing them.

For instance, the term “Pastor” used in the manner that indicates position or stature. Most the occurrences that have caused concern is when I hear it used by people as if it were a proper name. “Pastor says that he’s going to have a sloppy joe and then hit the sack”, or “Pastor is excited about his new set of commentaries”, and “Hey, Pastor! How are you?” For the sake of argument, and the contrary belief that I abhor authority or leadership, I have nothing against someone discharging the duties of the gifting they have received from our Lord, or better yet, put that gifting to use in the gathering of the Saints through servitude and humility. It is a great honor and a high calling to be placed into a position that will call for greater accountability before the Lord and a gift that should not be taken lightly.

However, the centrality of the pastoral position in the modern service has skewed our perceptions of the gifting and the tenants of it’s application in the gathering of the Saints. A report of the social tendencies and common behaviors of mankind to elevate others to positions of celebrity or authoritative status could easily indicate (historically, statistically, and definitively) that it is not uncommon for leaders to rise to a status of high importance amongst their respective groups. So is it easier to be led by men and therefore preferable, or is it better to be led by Christ and follow His commands?

The argument can, and probably will be made that following after a pastor is obeying the commands of Christ because the scripture states that we should submit to our elders (1 Peter 5:5). Or, is this a bad example of what elders are, what their functions are, and the roles of the rest of the members in the body? I think something could be said for the importance of knowing these things, and most importantly re-assessing the role of clergy and laity while comparing it to the priesthood of all believers,

The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ annulled the Aaronic priesthood, as we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There is no need to continue offering up literal expiatory sacrifices. As the perfect Son of God and High Priest, Jesus established a new covenant (Heb. 9:15-22) with better promises (Heb. 8:6) when he offered himself (Heb. 7:27) as the perfect victim once for all (Heb. 7:27) as our substitute (Heb. 7:27) and ransom (Heb. 9:15). By his death he took away our sins (Heb. 9:28), made us perfect (Heb. 10:14), obtained for us eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12), opened a new and living way in and through him to God’s throne of grace, and sat down at the right hand of God (Heb. 10:12). He now invites every believer with a clean conscience (Heb. 9:14) to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19) to offer continually spiritual sacrifices (Heb. 13:15-16) as priests in Christ. (See Reference)

But yet, why do we see the pastor revered as if he were the sole mediator or more important than ourselves or others, and why do we replace their names with “Pastor” proper as if he is no longer a man or brother, servant, saint, co-laborer?

I suppose today, I’ll just be Saint James. Matter of fact, from here on out, I wish to be known as Saint. If for some odd reason this post infers that I have an aversion to authority or calling folks pastor, you’re dead-on to the latter, but maybe in need of further inquiry on the former.

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I love writing about books, theology, and the Kingdom of God. I also enjoy viewing my vocation through a biblical lens. It is here at Seeking A Kingdom that I aim to hash out my thoughts on all these things.

6 thoughts on “The name is James, Saint James”

  1. Saint James,

    I love this post.

    Based on the fact that we are all “saints” you have a better case for being called “saint” than pastors have for being called “pastor.”

    When I was a pastor, I insisted on just being called “Jeremy” but people kept calling me pastor. After a year or two, I found that a few of the elders were going around telling people that out of respect, they should call me “pastor.” Ha! It is difficult to introduce change in the church.

    1. I think the whole third person pronoun usage of the term is the most frustrating aspect of this issue for me. But at the same time, our culture has conditioned people to esteem men/women with titles as more important that others by recognizing them as such. I think the best way for us to try and remedy this dilemma is to admonish and encourage each other to remember the equality in Christ that we all gain when we receive him as Lord and Savior.

  2. Totally agree. Sort of.

    So, what do you do when you have friends who are “”””Pastors””””” don’t yet understand this?

    On one hand, you could say that by not referring to them as they expect, you are helping them, and that all sorts of good things might ensue. And, you wouldn’t have to bristle and cringe inside when you said “Pastor D….”

    Unless they encourage me more than once to call them, “James” (for example), I call them, “Pastor James” in any public setting (including one woman Pastor). Privately, I may or may not, depending on the moment, the discussion, etc. I just see it as the way I can be most respectful of any brother or sister who is convinced of a certain understanding that I don’t share. I can defer and honor them as they expect and as those around them expect.

    In groups where they call each other, “brother” or “friend,” I do the same. In groups where women where head coverings, my wife where’s a head covering. Of course, we think all of these things are silly, but those we love think they are important, so we honor them.

    It’s just another way of dealing with this terrible church-wide error on a personal level.

    1. Great question Art. I find myself torn, ethically, in similar situations. It is especially difficult when you notice that the “Pastor” finds you are being disrespectful toward him by calling by his name and not “pastor.”

      This is an issue of obedience to what Christ instructed us. Compromising obedience for the sake of one’s conscience is always an issue we are to be circumspect. Although, for the sake of a weaker brother’s conscience, instruction and admonishment from the Word should be our sole purpose. In other words, we must be purposeful in our relationships with those individuals. It is our duty to do so.

    2. “I call them, “Pastor James” in any public setting”

      If I meet someone who uses the first name Pastor, I just call them brother. If they have a problem with it, it is a sign of the pride and I will take the opportunity to exhort them. They are the ones in error by disobeying Jesus (Matt 23), we can be kind to them but should not bow to the whims of their carnal traditions.

      In Christ -jim

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