I have a few things to say about the article below. I will post them in a day or so..please read it at http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article.cfm?article_id=7790 from The Lutheran’s website directly. Once you have read the article by Dewey Olson, please read my response below.
Titles, Authority and Respect….Really?
By Rob Zahn
Today I received via e-mail the online version of The Lutheran, the e-newsletter. The subject line revealed the lead article as it usually does. That title was: “Do I Really Have To Call You Pastor: Yes, It’s A Matter of Respect”.
Before I go on, let me first say that I am a Gen Xer. I was born smack dab in the middle of the range that most people say the infamous Gen Xers were born. I fit most of the negative stereotypes and hopefully some of the positive ones as well. We were brought up on television (MTV), video games (Atari 2600), and computers (Apple IIe and Commodore 64). For us, the word ‘respect’ carries with it an unimaginable amount of baggage.
On July 6th, 1990, Time Magazine published a story by D.M. Gross and S. Scott called “Proceeding with Caution”. It was the cover story and said the following about Generation X:
“[This] group scornfully rejects the habits and values of the baby boomers, viewing that group as self-centered, fickle and impractical. While the baby boomers had a placid childhood in the 1950s, which helped inspire them to start their revolution, today’s twenty-something generation grew up in a time of drugs, divorce and economic strain. . They feel influenced and changed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, AIDS, fractured families and federal deficits.”
Those of you reading this who do not culturally or demographically fall into the category of Gen Xer may perceive the above description as a pointless, meaningless, rambling of excuses for a given behavior. In fact my point is quite the contrary. Because our world is increasingly made up of people that fall under the cultural experience and general mindset of a Gen Xer and therefore a ‘postmodern’, we as church leaders need to be more and more aware of how that population perceives the world in which they (and we) live. Therefore it is the behavior of the church and its leaders that needs modification.
This is a group of people that increasingly believes in the absence of absolutes. From this perspective, truth itself is relative and therefore all authority is relative to a given truth. To require, let alone demand, a title for the simple and abstract reason of respect does not draw this generation in to the message that we proclaim, rather it pushes them away from it.
The role of ‘pastor’, although in our tradition it is earned through an academic degree and a candidacy process, is ultimately a personal one. It is a calling to shepherd, care for, and lead, the spiritual needs of individuals and groups of individuals that make up congregations. It is not, as in the day of Martin Luther, an office set aside solely for those who are ‘more’ spiritual, ‘more’ academic, ‘more’ Christian than other people.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines ‘respect’ in the following way:
“high or special regard”
Pastors are not higher or more special than anyone else. The only people who should utter the word ‘pastor’ when addressing another individual are those who are addressing their spiritual shepherd, leader, and care-taker. It is not to be spoken simply because it ‘should’ be.
By the way, this ‘spiritual shepherd’ may not even be their congregation’s “pastor”.