What terms should we use to refer to preachers? The Bible uses many different terms, such as “evangelist,” “teacher,” and “minister” (Acts 21:8; 13:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:2). All these words describe different aspects of the work preachers do. But consider some of the titles people today sometimes use.
Some groups generally address a preacher as “pastor.” But in Ephesians 4:11, preachers or “evangelists” are listed separately from “pastors.” “Pastor” means a shepherd: one who guides or tends a flock. This word is used (in verb form) in 1 Peter 5:1,2, which shows that it is the work of elders to “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight...” So a pastor is not just a preacher, but an elder or an overseer. This work is different from that of preachers, and it requires men to have special qualifications that preachers in general are not required to have – see 1 Timothy 3:1-7. So it really is not Scriptural to call a man a “pastor” simply because he is a preacher.
But again, preachers are often addressed as “Reverend” or “Father.” These titles honor the preacher as being someone who is especially holy. But in Matthew 23:9,10, Jesus commanded: “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.” God and Christ possess deity. They deserve to be exalted by titles such as “Father” and “Master.” But according to verses 8 and 12, all disciples are brothers. We are equals, so we should not allow people to exalt us above other disciples.
No preacher in the Bible was ever honored by titles such as “reverend.” But God’s name is “holy and reverend” – Psalm 111:9. “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord … let no man glory in men” – 1 Corinthians 1:31; 3:21.
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2017
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