Please do not call me pastor.

Robert Duvall in The Apostle.jpg

I recently asked a question on Facebook. 

“Do you think it is important to call 5-fold ministers by the grace that is on their lives? Do you think it is not important? Do you think we should stick calling everyone Pastor? Would love your thoughts, thinking about some stuff today.”

The people who responded, responded really well, it seemed it stirred some thinking out there, which is great.

A lot of what was said was about the apparent ‘specialness’ of calling oneself an apostle. Some thought titles are bad, they set others apart and kind of create an elitism. A common theme was that the 5-fold are seen as functions, just like the Romans 12 and 1Cor 12 gifts. Some understandably respond to the abuses and misuses of the title(s). It felt, unsurprisingly, that there was a little judgment of why anyone would ‘need’ to be called by a title, especially other than Pastor. Here is my 2 cents worth.

  • The 5-fold are graces that ‘some’ carry. God’s grace is equal for everyone’s salvation but the grace for the 5-fold is not equally distributed among the body. Not everyone is a 5-fold minister and that’s OK, it’s not communism, it’s the Kingdom.
  • Being an apostle should not be confused with being a leader vis a vis Romans 12. They have authority but are also the least desirable part of the body of Christ and yes, that means they are part of the excretory system.
  • The 5-fold are not simply functions, they are people. Jesus’ gifts are people not abilities. They are the gift to the church.
  • We are not all 5-fold ministers. Did I say that already?

I am not a pastor. Never have been, despite the title I carried for years. I think it is vital that we stop calling people who are not pastors, pastor and here’s why.

Calling me a pastor creates unfair expectations on your part. If you receive me as a pastor, you will have expectations around that, a lot of which revolve around me meeting your needs. Your needs are really important, but the grace I carry probably won’t make if feel like I am meeting them. You will get frustrated, maybe even hurt, and we all know how that ends.

Calling me pastor also creates a tension in me. I feel like I will never measure up to your expectations and when I try to, I compromise on my identity and grace and end up feeling exhausted. And frustrated with myself.

Calling me by the proper grace that is on my life allows you to access that grace and allows that grace to flow freely from me to you and we all end up my more satisfied. I wonder if it is why Paul often started his letters with ‘I Paul, an apostle…’ In doing so, he created the expectation of what grace people were going to receive and removed confusion.

In our discomfort of using the words apostle and prophet we have turned to terms like ‘apostolic’ and ‘fathering’. Here are my problems with that. There is NO apostolic without an apostle, so who is the apostle? Is it the one leader who leads a large network of thousands of churches? We all should be apostolic, carrying the grace of the apostle we follow, and I would suggest it is impossible if there is one guy, yes guy, overseeing thousands of churches. We all should also be fathering/mothering so when Paul says ‘some are apostles’ that means some, not all. Fathering is part of the grace of an apostle and part of the manifestation of following an apostle is we are all apostolic and all fathering/mothering.

Now please don’t go around calling me ‘Apostle Ian’. Don’t call me by the grace on my life and I wont call you by your gift. You will not be known as “Tongues McGinty” if I can help it! If you are ministering in your gift, I will be sure to call people’s attention to the fact that you do minister in that gift and can be trusted with it. 

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