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When I was born on Thursday, May 8, 1969, my parents named me George Paul Wood. Ever since, they have called me George. My sister calls me George. My wife calls me George. My extended family calls me George. My friends and colleagues call me George. And that’s the way I like. It is, after all, my name. But sometimes, people at church call me Pastor. Listen, if you’re my friend, please don’t call me Pastor.
There are several reasons why I don’t like to be called Pastor. One, it makes me feel old. Two, it makes me feel like I ought to be wearing a clerical collar and uttering profound mysteries about God. But I hate wearing black, and while I like talking about God, very little that I say about him ever rises to the level of the profound or the mysterious. And three, I don’t call you by your spiritual gift, so why should you call me by mine?
In order to explain that last reason, I need to quote Romans 12.4-8:
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
With these words, Paul lays out a vision of church in which every member makes a valuable contribution to the life of the community. Keep two things in mind: First, each person’s contribution is different. Just as one body has many parts, so one church has many ministers. Some of the ministers have the spiritual gift of pastoring, but others of prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing generously, leading, and showing mercy. Second, each person’s contribution is equally valuable. Pastors may stand in the spotlight on Sundays, but behind the scenes and throughout the week, others are also doing the work of ministry.
And that’s the basic reason I don’t like being called Pastor. The title, which is sincerely intended as a form of respect, ends up privileging one spiritual gift over others, mine over yours. I may be Pastor George, but you’re just as equally Prophet Peter or Serving Steve or Teaching Theresa or Encouraging Eve or Contributing Ken or Merciful Marianne. So if you’re going to give me a title, why can’t I give you one too?
Through Christ, we’re all equal but differently gifted children in God’s family. Brothers and sisters call each other by their first names, the names their Heavenly Father gave them. Mine’s George. What’s yours?