Servanthood: Our Christian Calling

We love titles, even in Christian circles. Whether it is Pastor, President, Professor, or Pope, titles are common currency in the church’s vocabulary. Inherent within some of those titles is the concept of hierarchy, authority, control, and very often, privilege. The obvious, or unseen, but well-known underbelly of titles is often church politics.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Worldly ways have weaseled themselves into our church in one way or another. Titles by their use assume superiority and there are many who succumb to ‘this method of seeking significance. We do not read that Jesus ever said, “Apostle Peter. I say unto you…”

Feelings of inferiority and lack of self esteem often drive many to use their titles in church bulletins. I know a pastor with a PhD who insists on having the title added to the church bulletin directory. Letters sent from his office ensure that the title is there. In my opinion titles are necessary when taking part in professional conferences but really have no place in the priesthood if all believers.


Thanks Claude,

Your article is very encouraging and very correct! Yes, servanthood and humility are indeed prime Christian virtues. And the clinging to titles, no matter how holy and ecclesiastical, amounts to a resiling from these virtues and a slipping down a slippery slope.

Any policy designed to maintain or build a religious hierarchy however incipient may truly be labeled “clericalism.” The process by which this status is assumed and within which a widening gap is created between pastoral leaders and the led may be described as “clericalisation.”

The NT illustrates the fact that pastoral leadership is not incompatible with an underlying equality of status, there being no change in a person’s ontological character produced through the rite of ordination.

It occurs to me that within the global Adventist circle there are three groups that find it most difficult to grasp the truth of the above.
a. People from very traditional Roman Catholic cultures.
b. People from very traditional tribal cultures.
c. People from very specialized and professionalized cultures that are apt to create hierarchies and a meritocracy with associated titles.

For all of this I believe that the current push in some circles for gender equality among Adventists is truly hollow if we do not at the same time acknowledge that all believers are called to be servants. There is a difference in function between leaders and led, but no difference in status between leaders and led.

It was a joy to be back in Binfield in June 2015! I took the time to meet Jan Barna on that occasion.
I think you would very much appreciate two books by Major Harold Hill, a retired NZ Salvation Army Officer. The first, Leadership in the Salvation Army: A Case Study in Clericalisation. The second, Saved to Save and Saved to Serve: Perspectives on Salvation Army History. This second volume has three chapters on the Ecclesiology of the Salvation Army and in a sense summarises much of what he has written in the first book.
My email addtess is petersomerset at gmail dot com

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Peter, we are on the same page, PTL! Thanks for your affirmation and further support of the main thesis.

Claude, beautifully written message for our time! I hope to see you at the Newbold Reunion next August. My email is

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Thanks, Barry! Yes, God willing we shall meet again at good old Newbold August 2018 :-)!