Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't Call Me Reverend

Someone called my house yesterday asking for Reverend Bailey. I will answer to that title, but it usually makes me nauseous. I tried to figure out why I dislike the term so much.

Maybe it’s because of Mack. He was a short, rotund middle-aged man in South Georgia. When I had finished my graduate education, Lisa and I went from Ft. Worth, Texas to Coolidge, Georgia to interview with a small church and meet its members. At this point, I had not been ordained, so I had never been called “Reverend.” But that meant nothing to old Mack. He seemed not to care that I had a name. He was full of fun and jokes; he especially loved preacher jokes. Whenever he addressed me, he would call me “Rev-runt.”

While I liked old Mack, I’ve never much cared for that salutation, even when properly pronounced.

But I think my disdain for the term runs deeper. Why would someone want to be revered above others? It seems like an ego trip. It seems like a way of looking down on others.

Another thing that bothers me is the weakness and ineffectiveness of most churches in our culture. When someone calls me Reverend, I feel like I’m lumped in with chaplains of lukewarm Christian social clubs. I feel all the baggage of the failure of churches to display the kingdom of God.

If God himself is working through churches, then – with a few exceptions – God looks mighty weak. I don’t like being associated with a charity that needs more help than it gives.

I know these are my hang-ups. My perceptions are distorted. God is doing amazing, powerful things through his people around the world. He is redeeming people, communities, and cultures. He is pouring out his resurrection power. It just seems to me that such acts of God don’t cluster around people who enjoy being called Reverend.