I Dislike “Pastor Matt”

When I entered full-time ministry, a lady in the Church asked, “What should we call you.” I responded, “My parents call me Matthew, my friends call me Matt, and my enemies have some ugly names I can’t repeat in Church. You can choose any one of those?”

She persisted in her pursuit of a fitting name. Finally, one day she came out of her Sunday school class holding a book called “An Encyclopedia of Religion.” She told me her ladies’ class had been looking into it, and she thought I should be called “Reverend Harris.” 

I told her, “Please don’t.” I explained to her that Jesus criticized the Pharisees in Matthew 23 for wanting to be called “Rabbi” to show them honor and respect. Jesus said that was hypocrisy because God is our teacher and father. He taught that there is no separation between clergy and laity. The Church is one group of people equal before God, and we each fill our role based on our giftedness. I was called to speak, which puts me in the front, but I am not to be revered; I am still just Matt.

Frustrated, she kept searching and one day told me that the nearby Churches called their preacher a Pastor. And for the first time in my life, someone addressed me as “Pastor Matt.” 

It felt incredibly uncomfortable then. The word pastor means shepherd. I have always viewed my role as an evangelist and not a shepherd. It is synonymous with elder. That word refers to an older leader of God’s people. At 22 years old, I was not an elder, so pastor did not seem like a title that fit me. Yet, somehow the name stuck. 

Today, people who do not know me outside the Church will call me Pastor Matt or Pastor Harris. While I understand why they do it, can I tell you a little secret? I dislike it. I am no better than any other person in the Church, and Jesus says that no one should be begging for our honor and respect; it should all go to God. 

When I talk to other preachers, I know I am in the minority. Most of them like people to know what they do and treat them as a leader. It has just never fit me. My name is Matt or Matthew if you like me. If not, there is a long list of names that people use, and they might be the most accurate.    

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