Apostolic Prophetess First Lady.
Have you ever seen a title like that? There are church leaders that just seem to have a string of random, fancy, holy-sounding words preceding their name. To some, it incites a sense of reverence. Others cringe at the mouthful being recited before them. You might wonder how one becomes an apostolic prophetess first lady - perhaps by being the overseer's wife? Or is there some school you had to attend and classes to complete to acquire the name? Maybe a travelling preacher gave her the title during a revival meeting.
Most people have encountered a title-happy church. Every leader has a name or two in front of their own, and it seems that the higher in authority, the longer or more "spiritual" the name gets. If you were to forget one part of the title, it could be highly offensive for all involved. It is suggested that the bigger the title, the more honor given the person, no matter what that title actually means.
Other churches work very hard to avoid titles at all. "Pastor" is as far as any might go, and that may seem too prideful. This trend thrives in places where jeans and t-shirts are considered holier than "Sunday best" because dressing up could make you seem as though you think you're better than others. Everyone's on a first-name basis with the overseer, his wife, and every other leader. It feels like everyone's just your plain, casual friend and a lot of people feel more at ease this way.
What if I told you that titles aren't a bad thing? What if I also told you that titles like the one mentioned in the opening of this article can be?
Why is Apostolic Prophetess First Lady a problem but Apostle Scott is not? You may suspect hypocrisy here, but give me a moment to explain.
Would calling your mother "mom" be vain titling? What about calling your college teacher "professor," your basketball team's leader "coach," or your primary care physician with the appropriate degree "doctor"? Of course not! Your mom gave birth to you, took care of you, and raised you - she does the work of a mother. Your doctor earned the right to be called a doctor by getting a doctorate degree in their field and he treats people everyday.
It is not wrong to give honor to the work that people do through a title. If they have the authority and experience the title holds and it is the work that you see them doing, then the title is not false, but instead an accurate portrayal of the person. This is where understanding what things mean (especially Biblically and in church government) becomes very, very important.
Let's look at the first example. "Apostolic Prophetess First Lady" has a partial reference to the Bible: "apostle" and "prophet." "First Lady" is an adaptation of the United State's President's wife's title. If this person isn't actually the First Lady, she should just drop this part altogether. She didn't earn that as a title. What about "apostolic?" Now you need to know what an apostle does. Does she understand the other five-fold gifts? Does she work to raise up other ministers and help them found churches? If the answer is no, then she is not an apostle. How about "prophetess"? (There is no gender in the spirit, so we can remove the "ess." Well-meaning individuals often add this to try to adhere to the standards in English to signify that the person is female.) Does she give the church direction based off of what the Holy Spirit has said; does she prophesy? Asking these kinds of questions will help you understand if a title is justified or if it is simply an attempt to seem important.
"Apostle Scott" comes not from a place of pride, but has been earned through having an understanding of the other five-fold gifts, raising up other ministers, and planting churches. This is what the apostles did in the New Testament!
So what's wrong with just losing the titles completely? While a true man or woman of God won't be offended if you call them by their given name, it shows that you understand and respect the call and authority in their life if you call them by their appropriate title. It can be hard to respect "Joe" when you see him on the same level as you, even though you have not spent countless hours counseling and praying for nearly every member in the congregation, led and instructed a group of leaders (who also have their own issues), maintained a building for everyone to have church in, and sacrificed many, many hours with family for the sake of God's will and His people. It wouldn't kill you to have a little respect for Pastor Joseph as he expends himself for you, the sheep, and for God's purpose. In fact, it can be very dangerous for you to treat Pastor Joseph as just "Ole Joe." The young boys who made fun of Elisha because they did not know his authority were eaten by bears as a result of their disrespect.
Before you go labeling a church as "title-happy"or give great respect to some "holy one," take a careful look at what their title is, what authority they have, and what it is they actually do and have accomplished.
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