Many times people who are new to our church call me “Pastor Mark” or “Pastor” when they address me. I understand – they’re just trying to be respectful and show honor to me.
Once a sweet elderly lady at the local hospital asked what I did and when I told her she began calling me “Reverend.” Reverend Mark. I like that. And Monsignor Mark isn’t bad either. I like the alliteration. Most Majestic Monsignor Mark is even better.
Anyway, I usually tell people, “If you feel comfortable, you can just call me Mark.” Sometimes they’ll reply “But we’re supposed to honor and respect our elders,” to which I might reply, “Thanks! I know I’m an old guy. And I know you want to honor me, but “Pastor” is just my job description. I tell people if you want to call me “Pastor Mark” I’ll call you “Carpenter Bob” or “Secret Service Agent Sally.” Now don’t go blasting me with comments about my rudeness. I try to do all this in a very light hearted way. Hey you know me – Mr. Sensitive.
But I tell people this because although I have a different function or role in the church than most, I’m a member too. I’m on the same level as everyone else. I’m not on a different tier above everyone else. I’m a disciple of Jesus just like they are. I’m a fellow sojourner, still in process, who has plenty of foibles and weaknesses. Still putting sin to death. Still learning about all Jesus has done and is doing for me. I’m not THE MAN OF GOD, up there on the mountain where no common sheep can go.
I’m a shepherd, but I’m still a sheep as well, part of Jesus’ flock. I’m a preacher, but I still need preaching. I may dispense the word but I need to take it in myself. I would presume that my family doctor takes medicine himself when he needs it.
When people say, “Mark, when you were preaching this morning, I felt like you were preaching to me,” I often reply, “Thanks, that’s amazing how the Lord does that. Because I was first and foremost preaching to myself.”
I am called to lead the church, especially through preaching and teaching. But I’m leading as a member. A fellow brick in the building. I’m subject to the Word I preach. Whatever I tell others to do I should be doing. If I tell them to first look for the log in their eye when they confront someone on sin, I need to check for redwoods in my eye.
If someone confesses sin to me, I must be gentle and merciful, knowing I am capable of anything anyone shares with me.
To me, for someone to call me “Pastor Mark” creates an artificial separation or an artificial class system in the church. There’s the flock down here and the pastors up there. I don’t believe Jesus wants that division. He said to call no man “Father” or “Teacher.” The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were shocked that Jesus would eat with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus didn’t look for honor, but washed his disciples’ feet.
I’m not saying it’s a sin to call someone “Pastor” or that if you go by some title you’re a pharisee. If I come to your church and you prefer me to call you “Pastor Joe” or “Reverend Rick” I’d be happy to. When in Rome…you know. It’s really not that big a deal to me. But when you come to my church, you can feel free to call me Mark. Unless you’re more comfortable with Most Majestic Monsignor Mark.