Thursday, November 09, 2006

Titles for Leaders

My devotions today bothered me. I am reading the works of Ignatius of Antioch, bishop around 69AD. His words as he is being transported across Turkey to a martyr's death in Rome just nailed me.
"For the work we have to do is no affair of persuasive speaking; Christianity lies in achieving greatness in the face of a world's hatred."
"He who died for us is all I seek; He who rose again for us is my whole desire."
"Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart."
Wow! He really meant those things and died those things. That level of faith I find compelling and humbling.
Then I opened a bulletin sent to me by a friend. What bothered me in the bulleting was the splashy display and repetition of titles, honorary titles of "Dr._______" and "Dr. ________" It almost looked like a competition of who had the best title among the gathered clergy. All sorts of "Doctors" but no PhD's. The problem for me is that in the congregations I have served (Lafayette, IN, Muskegon, MI and New Brighton, MN) we had large numbers of professors, physicians, dentists, and psychologists. None of whom insisted on being titled at church. You could not find a title in the directories. They wanted to be known by their names, not their degrees or positions. So what's with us pastors?
I bless my brothers and sisters who do advanced degree work with DMin and PhD degrees and those who are honored with honorary Doctors of Letters for careers or leadership. But I'm not sure it helps the cause as much as letters like Ignatius.


At 9:11 PM , Anonymous Gary Means said...

I am glad that there are men like you in the pastorate.

25 years ago when I first came to the Evangelical Covenant Church, it was to Interbay Covenant. Carl Taylor was the senior pastor there. I had only been a Christian for a few years, but I had never heard a pastor who made it clear in his messages that this was all very real, very personal, for him too. Even though he's serving in a different part of the country now, I still have tremendous respect for Pastor Taylor. He remains a family friend.

Pastor Taylor was vulnerable, but discreet. There was no question that what he preached came out of his journey, not just out of some book.

I have heard a PhD preach many times. To my ear, it always sounds dry, theoretical, and disapassionate. I am certain that what he says is scripturallys sound and that he even believes all of the concepts he presents. But it is also obvious that both his theology and his world are very, very orderly. The idea of messy spirituality might strike him as an interesting concept, but it would just be something he could preach on, another gimmick. *sigh*

I do not hear that in your sermons nor read it in your posts. There is a humility, or at least an honesty, borne of an authentic, ongoing vital journey with the God who created and sustains the universe.

At 9:18 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Gary; you give me too much credit. The truth be told, I'm pretty abrasive and not much of a loyal team player. There are some wonderful. godly and great preaching PhD's I know well. I was just put off by the preceived need I saw in that bulletin to flaunt titles in almost a competitve way.

At 8:30 AM , Anonymous Gary Means said...

I agree that there are some godly men with titles. I just haven't met any yet.

As for giving you too much credit, well that's essentially what Carl Taylor said when I commented on his admirable traits. I rechecked my last paragraph to make sure it was accurate. Yep. It still fits my perspective, but I only know you online. Perhaps in real life you:

- eat toast while drinking directly out of the milk carton

- draw derisive pictures of people in your congregation while preparing your sermons

- eat lunch at Hooters every Thursday

- drive 59 MPH in the left lane on the freeway. (is that even possible there?)

- stop at every museum and read every roadside marker when on vacation

- secretly wear a Star Trek uniform whenever possible

- do mean things to goldfish

- leave the seat up

- mutter outloud to yourself while reading

- like to watch Barbara Streisand movies

- eat paste

- are writing a devotional based on the the fifth chapter of every book of the Bible, based on a dream with five white horses who could speak koine Greek.

- will tell anyone who will listen about the fascinating hobby of collecting cold-war-era postage stamps

- iron your socks

- would come to the church office everyday during a three-month Sabbatical, "just to check your e-mail." (I've seen that happen.)

- tell the voices to be quiet so you can better concentrate on figuring out how the Queen of England and the Pope control the international drug cartels

- not only think that brussel sprouts are edible, but you like them

- etc., etc., etc.

At 12:00 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Great list Gary! Makes me wonder?!?!


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