I once had a pastor who asked people not to refer to him as “Reverend.” When asked to explain this request he stated it was because “God is to be revered, not people.” I’d never thought of “Reverend” as anything more than a title like “Doctor” or “Mister” but when I thought about the term, I began to understand why my pastor rejected it.
According to dictionary.com to revere someone is “to regard with respect tinged with awe; venerate.” Synonyms for “revere” include “worship” and “deify.” Reading the definition and synonyms for the title made me stop and think whether it’s really appropriate.
I mean no disrespect to clergy who use the title and know many who are truly servant leaders, but considering how respect for clergy is on a steady downward trend – a December 2013 Gallup poll reported that less than half of Americans polled considered clergy to be honest and ethical – it might be time for a little humble pie.
How about sticking with the term “pastor” which is derived from the word “shepherd”? The lay folks might be more willing to see their spiritual leader defined as someone who is there to tend, feed, guard, and protect as opposed to someone who is there to be revered.