Earning my DMin (Doctor of Ministry) has caused me once again to bump up against interesting perceptions. I have long had a personal policy of using only the titles concerning myself which are appropriate in a given situation. How is that for a convoluted blog post introduction? :)
Let me illustrate what I mean this way. At the church campus, when I am working with kids and their parents, I typically go by Pastor Glen. It is a role in which I function in that context. However, I am not bothered if people simply call me Glen. In fact, I prefer it in the case of adults. I am not Dr. Woods, Reverend Woods, or any other monikers which build walls between me and others. Besides, if I called myself Dr. Woods at church, the children would think I am a medical doctor, and the parents would think I am unapproachable. Why bother to raise unnecessary concerns?
When I am in the community doing church-sponsored outreach, such as gathering children to go to the church campus for mid-week Kids JAM, I go by either Glen, or if they prefer, Pastor Glen. I am not Reverend, Doctor, or the more maligned term (in the eyes of unchurched folks and many churched folks too, at least in my city) evangelist Glen. I am just Glen. I do the work of the evangelist, but I do not use the title to refer to myself. Indeed, I could argue that I am more evangelist or missionary than I am pastor in terms of how I function practically, taking into account the whole of my life, and not just what I do on the church campus.
At work or when I am running errands around town, I am simply Glen. Not Dr. Woods. Not Pastor Glen, and so on.
My point is this. Do we use titles which bridge new relational connections, or do we rely on irrelevant titles which build walls in our specific contexts? My most effective missional titles in my city are warehouseman, forklift driver and truck driver. People can relate to those. They typically build bridges, rather than create misunderstandings. With kids, I often refer to self-describing terms to which they can relate, such as football player or basketball player (back in the day, that is!), or perhaps keyboard player, “Captain Shoelace, Defender of the Untied Shoes,” or funny story teller. You get the idea.
How might this apply to your life? I am not suggesting that we downplay any accomplishments or display false humility. I really am honored to have the privilege of enjoying the opportunities which have come my way, and I don’t discount the hard work I had to do in the process. Yet, I also have enough self-confidence that I do not need to be constantly reminded of those things through the unnecessary use of honorifics. Make sense? Off you go. Be who God has made you to be in your community. The substance of your character will speak for itself. And the lost will ask of the hope which is in you because of your actions and attitudes, rather than a mere title to which they have difficulty relating.