A pastor was beginning a new initiative in a church. The church was to be split up into geographic regions and the associate ministers were to be the “spiritual leader” of each of these regions. The lay people were to go to the senior pastor only after having counseled with the regional associate. The program was created to attempt to aid the senior pastor in addressing the counseling needs of the congregation.

At any rate, the senior pastor called forward the proposed regional associates. He then called an elderly retired minister to give a charge to the associates as well as encourage the congregation to make use of the associates.

After a few minutes of charge to the regional associates, the retired minister turned to the congregation and said, “Even though today they ain’t nothing but associates, who knows, one day they may get a church of their own. So treat them with respect!”

Certainly the retired pastor didn’t mean any harm. He was attempting to get the people to treat these associates respectfully. But, the terminology he used demonstrated the spiritual caste system that we have set up in the church. We should treat them with respect because one day they may be senior pastors? What?!

You know what I am talking about. You know the mindset. The Bishop is spiritually higher than the Pastor. The Senior Pastor is higher than the Elder (In those churches that where an elder is an ordained minister) who is higher than the Paid Associate. And the Paid Associate is higher than the unpaid associate (who is simply a reverend). And The unpaid associate is higher than the minister (who is training to be ordained). And the “Minister” is higher than the lay people.

And we don’t even have to get into ranking pastors based on church size or number of outside speaking engagements. Etc…

You may use slightly different terminology in your church, but I would bet you have these things set up as well. This caste system means that those higher than you have a closer walk with God. They know the Bible better than you. If they tell you something that is obviously incorrect, you are to go along with it because they are higher up the ladder than you are. You don’t correct someone higher than you, only their peers can do that.

The higher up the ladder the better they are treated. The better cars. The less access. The more money. Instead of the priesthood of all believers with some having the spiritual charge of church leadership. We have just a few priests. We turn church into simply viewing the “ministry” of a few spiritual superstars. Evangelism becomes viewing superstar “bishops” while those lower on the wrung cannot compete.

We have got to get past this elitism and “I am better than you” mindset. Ministry is about service not about status. When it becomes about status..then we lose something and we hurt our people and ourselves…

I do recognize that there is a time and place for all titles. I also recognize that titles in and of themselves are not wrong. I try to use the generic title “pastor” with all of the preachers unless you correct me. I don’t mean to offend you. On my end, you have called me Reverend Cox, Elder Cox, Pastor Cox, Bishop Cox, Preacher Cox. I even had someone call me Father (I am not a priest), lol. But some of you have even called me Brother Cox, I not only don’t take offense to that title, I love it! In the words of the song, “I’m so glad to be a part of the Family of God.”

24 thoughts on “I Am Brother Cox – Status Worship In The Church

  1. Clyde Puranda says:

    The only title I wnat to be recognised as is a servant of God. If I can live my life as such and when I preach my passion for service is seen then I am satsfied. It is God that is to be glorified and not us. We must exalt Him and Him alone.

    Your brother in Christ

    Clyde Puranda

  2. Bishop Shaun A. Stokes says:

    The concepts of worldliness have crept into the church wherein we grovel for position instead of longing for God’s presence. We become like the disciples as they quarreled among themselves over, “Who is the greatest?” In actuality, we are all called to be ministers (diakanos) “servants.” So, it matters not to me the title, for the power is in the towel of servitude.

  3. Bro Cox!
    I am in total agreement with you….some people get so stuck on titles and how they are address. Yes, I do believe that in official documentation pastor (and such) should be recognized according to proper protocol…

    I just want to be know as a child of God, and when I open up my mouth to speak the holy spirit and God’s anointing is seen through me. When the day comes for us to account for the things we have done, titles will mean absolutely nothing!

    Excellent post!

    Bro Saunders
    -Columbia, MD

  4. Franklin W. Curry says:

    Many times I am with people who really don’t know what to call me. I am not heavy on titles but enjoy respect and those around me realizing that knowing who God is makes the differences. When He calls let me hear His voice.

    Franklin W. Curry
    Richmond, Va

  5. Pastor F. L. Patterson says:

    Titles don’t always have to do with one being more or better than another. Titles often are about level of responsibility and accountability to God, which is servitude. Whether a minister or not, all in the body of Christ are to respected as brothers and sisters in Christ. Even though I serve as the pastor of a church I must first be counted as a brother in Christ.

  6. Wow…the same thing happens with music and musical artists in church.Thanks so much for bringing this to light. I’ve been wanting to talk to others about this because I’ve been feeling this way for a long time. God is no respecter of persons. Why should we be?

    I think of Luke 14:8-11 ““When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not [e]take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you [f]proceed to occupy the last place. 10 But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who [g]are at the table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (NASB)

    It’s so easy for us to become haughty. That’s error. Definite error. No matter how well we sing or preach; no matter our perceived success, God has the final say. Man looks at the outward appearance. God looks upon the heart.

  7. Vernetia Miller says:

    I have been observing the title issue in my ministerial context. Interestingly, the person with the highest title esteems it the least: he just wants to be a servant leader; but at times the disrespect of fellow clergy and lay people require a reality check. Though Jesus was a servant they still called him “Rabbi” and “Master.” Having a title should be akin to being skilled in the martial arts: you know your ability and responsibility therefore you refrain from misusing it.

  8. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    You know that is often the case. The ones with little right to using titles sometimes are the ones who make the biggest deal out of the title….

  9. Through the years I’ve watched people in the church who were or are just average people be selected for positions and they end up changing. The same thing with our pastors. I know of some who look at their elders as lower then they are and many times the elders are better speakers and people then they are. I’ve noticed in our black churches that tites and positions really mess us up. We were never really looked at as somebody’s and now, all of a sudden, we are so important. I just want to make it into the kingdom of God and be happy knowing that I’m a child of God.

  10. Rebecca B. Evans says:

    I agree, the most important thing to to serve God by serving his people a title should not matter at all

  11. Rev.Fidelis Adungo says:

    Thank you for this useful information.We must go to the foundation where Jesus is the chief priest and we are just laborers in the vineyard, declaring the word of the Lord.

  12. I believe titles are important but not for boasting but for outlining responsabiity such as bishop as outline in 1 Timothy 3, and not the responsibility to the people but the responsibility to God for his work for his people, God is not a respecter of persons and either are we accept the position the person should be honored by us, the offices are set up by God and must not be taken lightly.
    I believe the most important title given by God is rev. being the head of a household and the resposability is greatest being, husband , friend , corrector, leader in the Sprit, and so on. That said I believe the most honored title is not dr, bishop, captin, king, or the like but rev. being the head of a household (husband, dad, friend, counsel , and so on)
    Let’s not be stuck on titles for boasting self or lowering others in attempt to raise self. God created all men equal and he entitles us to an earn position.
    I heard a quote and don’t know who said it ” God don’t call the qualified but qualifies the called” and I believe through his word, in His Sprit does the title come from and we must be humble about the given title always honering the giver of the title.

  13. Sylvester Warsaw, Jr. says:

    My dear friend, Brother Cox,

    I’m in total agreement with you and am extremely glad God placed this issue on your heart to address. This is a cultural practice that crosses every ethnic group.

    Case and point in most cultures there is a rite of passage where the young man or lady is being mentored for the next level in life for participation in the community. This rite of passage has taken root within the community of faith instead of servanthood.

    The community of faith would be used by God more effectively when we repent and be the priest-hood of believers He has called and ordained us to be. We are one in Christ Jesus therefore no one is more important then the next. It’s not about the title but the servant who humble themself before the Lord for His glory and honor.

    Peace of God,

    Sylvester Warsaw, Jr.

  14. Pastor Stephen Pugh says:

    Beautiful my Brother in Christ. I certainly enjoyed that piece. It is ironic and timely for me for this past Sunday the word the Lord gave came fromJohn 21:15-17dealt with things such as titles and positions in the Church. The Lord wants us to demonstrate our love for him by feeding(helping) his sheep Anybody can hold a title. You can pay someone$ and they will give you a certificate with Doctor, Bishop etc… The subject was “How do we show our love for God?” God wants us to know that true genuine love Expresses itself in some tangible way. God expressed himself to us in the giving of his Son. His Son expressed himself to us in the giving of his life. And as believers God wants us to show our love for him by living the lost,least and Lonely. True genuine love will express itself it cannot be bottled up.

  15. Reuben kalumbwana says:

    Am in agreement with this article and am happy that God has revewd this to you at a time like this, when there’s so much titles in the church of christ, ofcourse titles are not bad because they help us to run the church in an orderly way as we know our God is a God of order, but some how we’ve just gone too far with the issue of titles for the sake of being recognized and showing off.thanks for the insight

  16. I am a pastor from one of the Pacific Islands. Thank you for the insight and direction. This is one of the many wrong interpretations of scripture, hence the affecting the practice. it destroys the people of God and work of God.

    Keep up and I will share to as many as I can, my friends pastors.

    Vinaka Vakalevu

  17. I am not one to get caught up in titles. However, I would like to be treated as a equal. For example, I am an ordained minister. Generally speaking I am called Reverend except in rare times when I am a candidate for a vacant church I may be called pastor. If everybody in the pastor’s study is ordained and is titled reverend I want the same respect

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