Titles, Authority and Respect…REALLY?

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”.




Rob Zahn


January 11th is from Mark 1:4-11.

“John appeared, baptising in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all of the country of Judea and all of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me come He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to bend down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

In those days Jesus came from Nazarethe of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit decsending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

There is a lot here to work with, but it does raise a fun and sometimes controversial question that I would like to pose right here for fun. Here is my question:

Also, if you have any other thoughts on this passage, the concept and/or theology of baptism, or anything else that this passage might bring to mind, please offer it up!!