Today I am addressing an issue that will be met with cynicism and rejection by many that will read it, because I am going against the grain. I am talking about something that has been set in stone for centuries. However, I must address this subject. My purpose for writing this article is not to encourage anyone to dishonor their spiritual leaders, but rather it is to expose an error that is continually being perpetuated in the church. I have always said and will continue to say that it is time for people to start questioning the status quo. We must begin to question why we do what we do, and not just accept tradition for the sake of accepting it. The time for ignorance is over. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself what is the origin of the title “Reverend”. Do you understand what you are saying when you refer to a man as “Reverend”? I know there are a lot of Pastors that are quite okay with being called “Reverend”, but I’m not. In fact, I am aware of some pastors that will not respond to you if you don’t first address them as Reverend before their name (as though Reverend is on their birth certificate). For a very long time I have had a problem with the “Reverend” title that is attributed to men and women of God. As a Pastor myself, I usually get a lot of mail with the title “Reverend” before my name. Today I received another one of those mails and decided that I’ve had enough and need to let my voice be heard on this matter. I have made up my mind that I will no longer remain silent about issues that I am convinced is contrary to what the word of God teaches. The “Reverend” title is one of the issues that have no biblical basis for its use in the church. Here is yet again another practice in the Church for which we cannot validate through scripture.
You cannot find a single account in the New Testament where Peter, Paul, John, James or any other ministers were ever called “reverend.” In fact, Christ forbids such titles (Matt. 23:9). Yet I cannot understand how is it that men covet these titles. The use of religious titles, such as “Reverend,” “Father,” “Your holiness,” etc., began in the first century within religious circles when a great apostasy set in. It was then that ministers started to set themselves up “in place of Christ.” They took it upon themselves to take titles of divinity. Throughout history men have always sought ways to elevate themselves above other men. God’s true servants today will not use such titles. I would even go as far as to say that the words Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher, Bishop, Deacon, and Elder should not be used as titles. These words speak of the function of individuals in the church and were never meant to be used as titles. However, only because it refers to a person’s role in the church I would say it is only proper for ministers to be called as such.
In addition, in the Bible, the word “reverend” applies to God and God alone. Never does it apply to any man. Psalm 111:9 states, “He [God] sent redemption unto His people: He has commanded His covenant for ever: Holy and ‘Reverend’ is His name” (KJV). First of all, do you realize that the Bible says “Reverend” is in fact God’s name? If ‘Reverend’ is God’s name, why do we ascribe it to men? However, the word is translated as “awesome” in the New King James Version and really means that only the name of the Lord is to Revered in such a manner. Secondly, I did a deeper study on the word “Reverend” and my findings will shock you. The Hebrew word is “yare’ ” and means: to fear; morally, to revere; caus. to frighten:–affright, be (make) afraid, dread (-ful), (put in) fear(-ful, -fully, -ing), (be had in) reverence(-end), X see, terrible (act, -ness, thing). Therefore, every time you address someone as “Reverend”, what you are really saying is that you are terribly afraid of them. Clearly, only God is to be revered, and in holding the reverence of God we exercise godly fear, knowing who He is and of His absolute power over all things. That is certainly not an attribute of a minister of the Gospel, an under shepherd who pastors a local congregation of believers. We are to respect our pastors who minister unto us, but we do not fear them and stand in awe of their power, as we are to our God and Creator. There is a vast difference between reverence and respect and we must make that distinction. The reverence this word speaks of is reserved for God alone and Him alone. Whereas respect is a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
The other problem with the Reverend title is that it creates the idea that a man is exalted higher than God has intended for him to be. Hence we have created a culture of Pastor Worship in the American and Western churches at large. We have taken the Bible’s call to honor those in authority way too far, and is actually worshipping them rather than simply appreciating them for their service in the kingdom. That is exactly the reason why you find churches everywhere whose structure and liturgy is pastor-centered, and not Christ-centered. If you call someone Reverend long enough he’ll begin to behave as though he is something more than he really is. May I suggest to you that we have set up ourselves for failure? Nothing else is more inviting to pride than the Reverend title that is given to Pastors. No wonder why so many pastors walk around like peacocks and as though they are above the crowd. No wonder why so many pastors fall victim to the deadly sin of pride. Let me remind all of us that we are simply ministers of the grace of God. Could it be then, that we are overstepping our boundaries and are taking the adoration and reverence that only God alone deserves.
I am fully aware that some may defend the use of the word “Reverend” saying is simply a matter of semantics of no importance. However, I am a preacher of the gospel, called by God to pastor a local congregation. My calling is from God to be his messenger and to shepherd His flock. My message is to be strictly God’s message and to meticulously follow His word as to the message which I preach and teach and the example I set. I am not at liberty to change or add to God’s clear instructions which means to use the term “Reverend” is a title that man has appropriated. It is not a biblical term used to describe a minister of the Gospel and God’s overseer or shepherd of a local congregation. The biblical term is “pastor” and I think it honors the Lord and is an act of obedience to use the term He used. The use of the word “Reverend” has its roots in the unbiblical practices of the historical Roman Catholic Church. It is not used in the Bible to refer to God’s ministers and is not a proper description of the position. The title “Reverend” to men seems to denote a touch of pride in one’s position and elevates the man. The term “pastor” correctly denotes one who humbly serves and cares for the flock. I think it is clear that to use the term “Reverend” sends the wrong message as to what God’s leader in the local church is to be.
Personally, I do not want to be addressed as Reverend, and neither will I address other men or women as such. Subsequently I urge every Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, or Teacher to reject the title of Reverend or even the shortened version “Rev.” I am totally terrified with even the very thought of taking God’s glory. Aren’t you? Our Elohim has declared to all of us that He is a jealous God and He will not share His glory with anyone, (Isa. 42:8). My advice to any pastor that reads this is to search your heart and earnestly ask yourself if you want to be guilty of taking God’s glory. I hope you answer correctly and make the necessary changes in your congregation for “Reverend” belongs only to the King of Glory.