The Baptist Beacon
WHAT TITLE SHOULD MINISTERS USE?
by Elder H. C. Vanderpool, Th. D.
A few days ago I received a phone call, and a friend of the caller wanted me to send him the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, and when they began to use the title "Reverend" for ministers.
First, the S.B.C. was organized at Augusta, Georgia in 1845. The information on it is found in Twentieth Century Baptists, pp. 308-322. This will also be in Twentieth Century Baptists - Volume Two, which I hope to have written, printed and ready for distribution in the Fall of 1996.
The truth is, Baptists were using the name "Reverend" 150 years and more before the S.B.C. was organized. The convention did not begin that title, but those we call Old Time Baptists (The oldest ones in America) began the use of that title.
The Philadelphia Baptist Association was organized on the 27th day of the 7th month, on the 7th day of the week in the year 1707 (which would be July 17, 1707). All our true Baptists today trace our history back through that Association. The ministers of those days were well educated and most of them were called "Reverend" or "Doctor". Some used "Brother". These titles were used for almost a century, and on their records for 1790, they began to use "Elder" along with the other titles. So, "Reverend" was used over a hundred years back into the Baptists before coming to America; before they used the title "Elder."
In the History of the Philadelphia Association, pp 254-255, "Elder" was used along with "Reverend," "Brother," and "Doctor." All four titles were used on these two pages.
When I began to prepare this material for the Brother who had asked for it, I remembered that Brother F. R. Bingham, pastor of Jordan Baptist Church in Illinois, and Editor of the Baptist Instructor, had written an article on this subject. I found the Article in the Baptist Banner files of July 1968, over 27 years ago. I agree with Pastor Bingham, and wish our people, especially our preacher Brethren would study their Hebrew and Greek and find out the truth before becoming so critical of what actually is the truth in God's Word.
I have never preached out of any Bible except the King James Version. However, the Bible was rewritten and revised 14 times before the King James Version was written in 1611. So, Baptists preached out of other versions over 1600 years before the KJV was written. Now here is the article by Pastor Bingham which I agree with:
SHOULD A PREACHER BE REFERRED TO AS REVEREND?by Pastor F. R. Bingham
The other day I received a communication from a brother who objected strongly to being addressed as "Rev. (so and so). He said, "I am not a reverend." I have heard this objection for all the years of my ministry (35 of them) from various preachers, and almost as if it were sinful and blasphemous for a minister to use this title. The objection is always based on Psalm 111:9, where it said "....Reverend is his name," meaning, of course, the Lord. And this would mean for anyone else to use this name is to appropriate unto himself the name of deity, with the identity of being God.
But just what does Psalm 111:9 mean? Those preachers who object so strongly to using this title to identify a minister invariably say the word reverend occurs only this one time in the Bible. But Young's Concordance shows us that the exact Hebrew word "yare," that is here translated "reverend" is also found in Psalm 89:7 where it is said that He is to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him. The word is also used in Leviticus 19:30 and Leviticus 26:2.
In Psalm 111:9 it certainly does not mean that word "reverend" is a name for God by which He is to be called, or addressed. No one, either in scripture or out, in speaking to God calls Him Reverend. They address Him as God, or Father, or Jesus. He is addressed by the names Lord, Jehovah, and others in the Old Testament. He told Moses that His name was "I Am that I Am." In the New Testament His name is Jesus. But nowhere, absolutely nowhere is it ever said "Thou Shalt call him Reverend" as if that were a name that only Deity should wear.
Psalm 111:9 simply means that His name, whatever it is by which He may be called, is to reverenced, to be respected; it is not to be taken in vain; it is never to be used in any form of disrespect. From Bible teaching that He, and everything pertaining to Him is to be reverenced.
His name is to be reverenced, His Word is to be reverenced; His house is to be reverenced; His day is to be reverenced.
Even the Tithe is to be looked upon with reverence and proper respect for that is also Holy unto the Lord. Anything that is peculiarly holy unto the Lord is to be reverenced as such. It becomes a Reverend person or thing. And, inasmuch as Preachers are also Holy unto the Lord, and are to be respected, or reverenced as belonging to the Lord, they become a reverend person, by virtue of being the Lord's prophet.
The title, "Reverend" as applied to preachers simply means that here is a person who is entirely devoted to the service of the Lord, and as such is entitled to the respect and reverence that should be shown to God's servants.
Among my friends and acquaintances and fellow Christians I prefer to be called "Brother Bingham." Some call me "Pastor," which office I bear at Jordan Baptist Church. Some call me "Preacher," which I am, and I don't mind at all being called preacher if it is not used in a disrespectful manner. None of my close associates, nor acquaintances, among Christians call me "Reverend" except possibly one or two persons. But in dealing with the general public, the unchristian public, who do not know me, and even with some who are acquainted with me, the title "Reverend" instantly lets everyone know that I am a man, who by virtue of being a minister of God's Gospel, is due to be treated with the respect and reverence that God demands for His Name, His Day, His Word, His House, and His Prophets.
It is NOT unscriptural to use the title "Reverend" in applying it to a minister; after all it is only a title, not a name of a person.
Preachers could be called "Elder" but few people in the unchristian world would know what that means. Pastors may be called "Bishop" for such they are, but that could become objectionable in this day. Not every preacher could be called "Pastor" for some are not Pastors, but are evangelists, and would need to be "Evangelist" as some call themselves today. But all called and ordained preachers may easily be identified by this title which sets them forth as a person who is to be reverenced and respected because of his devoted service to God.
I do not argue here that this title must be applied to ministers, and adopted and used. Neither do I plead that all use the title. I only argue that its use is not wrong, not unscriptural, not ungodly. And I simply plead that those who have been so strongly set against its use, based on Psalm 111:9, come to a clear understanding of that verse, and adopt a kinder and more charitable understanding in regard to those who do use the title for official identification.
But there have always been those who strain at gnats and swallow camels; who are pharisaically hyper-critical of others over little things of no real consequence after all; and I suppose there will always be such among us.
I believe that one of the most crying sins of this day, one sin that is doing more to wreck America, and the whole world; tearing up more churches and causing them to die spiritually; the one sin that is basically in back of the growing sin rate, is that people, in general, do not have the Respect and Reverence for God's preachers, for men who preach the Word, and stand for Right and truth, that they ought to have.
God's true preachers have been ridiculed in the movies, in the press, on radio and television, in peoples homes and in the hearts, until their effectiveness has been nullified.
He preaches the truth, and people pay no attention, they just laugh at him. They do not regard him as God's mouthpiece, but look upon him as "just a man, like any other man." not to be respected any more than any other man, if as much.
If the time ever comes when people will once again have proper respect for God's preachers, and will heed them and their message, then there may come about a revival of more living, and spiritual religion.
And preachers, by their life, by their testimony, and every means available must draw unto themselves that respect and reverence so sorely needed. Baptist Banner, July 1968, Elder H. C. Vanderpool, Editor