I was sitting in front of my house on a cool afternoon , breathing in some fresh air when a call came into my phone. I picked it up and heard a male voice on the other end.
“I’m I speaking to Mrs N?”
This sounded strange. People always addressed me on the phone, in the market and even in their dreams as, “Precious”. Who was this person, calling me Mrs N on a cool afternoon? I answered in the affirmative. The mystery caller who failed to introduce himself told me to hold on and in a few seconds, I heard a female voice at the other end.
“Hello Mrs N, this is Pastor Mrs X speaking.”
At this point I must have looked at my phone in disbelief. The voice at the other end of the phone was the voice of a very close friend whom I will call Y here. She addressed herself to me as Pastor Mrs X (not the real initial of her husband’s name.)
The opening line of this call is one of the most anomalous things I have heard in my entire diaper-changing, laundry-ignoring weird life. How can someone who chatted with you, cooked with you, laughed with you and farted with you suddenly call you, addressing herself as a Pastor Mrs? And she couldn’t call me herself. She had to go through a “Personal Assistant”.
What happened to Y?
My memory flashed back to some weeks ago when I had met her pastor husband at a church programme in another town. When I asked him how my friend was faring, he had told me, shoulders-raised, head-high that she was now a “big pastor” and I needed to “pay money to see her.”
I didn’t fully understand the statement until this epic call came in. Let me digress a little: a girl I knew in church as J with whom I did the cooking and farting thing together did a similar thing. She traveled to Nigeria for Bible school and when she came to Cameroon for a visit, she called me, introducing herself as “Evangelist J”. Probably her way of informing me that “levels had changed.” Ohlolila!
Let me go back to my buddy, Y.
Y and I were very close in my undergraduate days. She was more like a sister to me. Upon graduation, I traveled to Nigeria for graduate school while Y stayed in Cameroon and got married. She started helping her husband run a church he had started. I came back to Cameroon after graduate school, got married too but we weren’t as close because we were in different towns. However, as good old friends, we sought ways to reconnect. As fate would have it, we both moved to the same city and were planning to meet again. Then Y called me and addressed herself as Pastor Mrs. And she wasn’t joking.
From the day I heard her say those “Pastor Mrs” words. I the common Christian could not flow with the Pastor’s wife as before. She even modified her Facebook name to include, “Pastor” in it.
A few months later, I visited her and we chatted on the issue with her while sitting in her living room. She told me that after she was ordained pastor in her husband’s church (where her husband is the prophet and chief Bible school teacher), she decided to go by the name Pastor. She said everyone MUST call her “pastor” or “madame.” I asked her if that was what the Bible stipulated. She said the Bible says we should give honour to whom honour is due.
Just to make sure my ears were free of cobwebs, I asked her if I, her friend could call her by her first name. My boo said no I couldn’t and I should call her “madame” if pastor was too much for me. She went on to tell me how a girl who was very fat (I don’t know how her size mattered!) and her senior in secondary school now revered her because of her pastoral position. In fact, she said I needed to see how this lady respected her. Later I would tell Y that respect is earned not demanded. And when somebody begins to demand respect and gets offended if not granted, the person is sick. It is important that people relate with you as a person and not as a position.
As I spoke with my friend, she tried to keep her self-imposed ‘civility’ by constantly referring to me as Mrs N.
Then something happened. Her husband walked into the house. Y burst out,
“The prophet himself! You’re welcome, sah!”
The prophet himself was just smiling and absorbing the accolades wifey poured on him.
I have seen so many things in my Christian journey and this imposition of titles is one of the most unchristian things I ever experienced.
The greatest man that lived in the world was called Jesus. He is the master of the universe, the most celebrated celebrity. I mean the man was strolling and five thousand men were following Him! He is the greatest teacher, King of all kings, the miracle worker, yet he was called Jesus. Simple.
Calling Him Jesus didn’t challenge His authority.
He didn’t need to insist on being called, “Master Prophetic Jesus” to validate who he was. Yet He was all that and more.
He didn’t alienate Himself from people because they failed to recognise and appreciate His kingship. He was humble until the point of death.
He didn’t say, “Look here, I am God and you better address me as such!” Yet He is God, the way the truth and the life.
Subsequently, Y couldn’t keep up with the constant “Mrs” and had to break out into “Pre!” when our conversation got more interesting.
This same Y told me she had alienated herself from her friends and acquaintances because they didn’t want to respect her. I was one of the few people around her and I only went close to her because she was experiencing a dark moment at the time and I wanted to be there for her.
When we spoke, I could sense that she was missing true friendship and connection and this was because of the huge barrier she had put in front of her. The line of, “I am a pastor. You better respect me!” She had even told her family members to stop calling her the pet name they had called her since she was young.
Y’s husband referred to himself as a prophet and you had to call him prophet.
This trend of so called pastors, prophets and men of God (actually gods of men) who insist on people calling them by specific titles is far too common nowadays. Apart from Y and her husband, I have seen this over and over again. These are men and women who are driven by selfish motives. Scripture says, by their fruits you shall know them (Matthew 7:16). Hanging on to a title as though your life depends on it is no good fruit, if you ask me.
In 2016, “pastor” is even a far less important title. The gods of men are subscribing to more high-sounding appellations like, Apostle, Bishop and Prophet. A young boy rents a hall, buys microphones and speakers then borrows one of these titles for themselves. Let me tell you for free that some of these names change while they grow in madnesstry (madness ministry – I made that up).
For instance, someone may start out by calling himself, “Apostle”. After a while, he feels Apostle is not doing it for him so he picks “Prophet”. Then later, he thinks Evangelist is much more charismatic so he chooses it. That’s how he ends up creating and APE out of himself.
Some even take serious offence when you do not address them by their title. It is interesting to see that Jesus clearly addressed this issue in Matthew 23: 8-12
Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must also be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. NLT
Brethren, these words are so profound. It is sad to see that a lot of Christians in leadership positions have skipped this part of the Bible. They long to be called, “Father”, which is colloquially “Papa”. Yet, they criticise Catholics for having a Pope. Papa, what is the difference between you and the Pope?
Some Christian leaders today are conceited just like the pharisees and scribes Jesus described in the above passage. They long for fame and power. It has become so common that it is beginning to look normal. But the Bible says narrow is the way that leads to life and broad is the way of destruction (Matthew 7: 13).
Pastor, if your name is Ezekiel and I call you, “Ezekiel”, what is the crime in it? Your focus should be on doing what God called you to do and not on what people call you. There is no part of scripture that forbids people from calling you the name given to you at birth.
Why would people who claim to follow Jesus be kin on specific designations. Which one is more important? The title or the work? If you are a pastor and you are called, “Reuben”, does it in any way strip you of your pastoral responsibilities?
This craze of pastors who want to be called specific titles dilutes the essence of Christianity. Things like this shouldn’t be even mentioned in Christianity. If people want to call a pastor, “pastor” because they revere him, they should. But a pastor trying to shove down this title into the throats of homo sapiens is psychotic.
My name is Precious. If I have a PhD tomorrow, I would still be Precious. If I am a great speaker or an author, I would still be Precious. My friends will always be my friends. When we meet, we will talk, laugh together and give each other high-fives. Other Christians will always be my brothers and sisters. If I begin to place my self above them, I will be manifesting the opposite of being Christ-like.
We Christians are the light of the world. Let’s focus on taking the gospel to the world in all humility as Jesus did. The message we spread more is the message people read from our lives. Let us not push them away by some irrelevant obsession with titles because it is the work that truly matters. No matter who we are or what we do, we are all one in Christ.
“For you are all one in Christ.” Galatians 3:28b