Editor’s note: Bonds Stocks, preacher for the Central Church of Christ in Jackson, Mississippi, has created no little stir in that section by his plain spoken preaching over a Jackson radio station. Refusing to accept the usual denominational designations for a preacher, he was called upon to offer an explanation. Here is a digest of the answer he gave over the radio.
“I am a preacher, a minister of Christ, and an evangelist; but I am not a pastor; I am not a clergyman; I am not a Father; and I am not a Reverend.”
I am a Gospel preacher in exactly the same sense that Paul was; I preach the same Gospel he preached; I preach no other. Paul declared that he had been appointed a “preacher” of the Gospel of Christ (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). I am a minister of Christ in the same sense that Timothy was a minister of Christ (1 Tim. 4:6). The word minister literally means “servant.” Every one who serves Christ is actually His “minister.” It is a mistake to think of the Gospel preacher as the only minister of Christ in any given church; all true servants are His ministers. I am an evangelist in the same sense that Philip was an evangelist. (Acts 21:8) An evangelist is a herald or a proclaimer of good tidings. When I preach the Gospel of Christ, I am an evangelist—a proclaimer of good tidings. It matters not whether I preach it from a thousand pulpits or preach it a thousand times from one pulpit; so long as I preach the good news of Christ I am an “evangelist.”
Not a Pastor
I am not a “pastor.” The word pastor is very commonly misapplied to preachers because the denominational world has erroneously conceived the idea that the preacher is “in charge” of the church. The word pastor as used in the New Testament is applied only to men who meet certain qualifications and are appointed to certain duties in the church. Any careful student of the Book will recognize that each New Testament congregation, when fully organized, had a plurality of pastors. The word pastor means a shepherd or feeder. The pastors were the shepherds of the flock, the rulers of the church, those who had the oversight of the spiritual welfare of the members of the flock.
The post of service designated by the term pastor is also referred to by the terms bishop, overseer, shepherd, elder, and presbyter A preacher is not a pastor by virtue of his being a preacher; he serves under the direction and oversight of the pastors, elders, bishops, etc. While it is true that a preacher may be a pastor or elder, (Peter was) he is such not because of his being a preacher but because of meeting certain definite qualifications, and by appointment to the office.
Not A Clergyman
Although I am a preacher, I am not a clergyman. It was the professional clergy whom Christ condemned when He said,
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi (Matt. 23:5-7).
The distinction between the so-called clergy and laity is clearly condemned in the New Testament. All Christians are priests before God, (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5-6) and no single Christian has any preference or special privilege in God’s sight over any other Christian. The Christian is simply a brother among equals; he is not in any sense a superior over inferiors.
Not a “Father”
I am a Gospel preacher; but I do not wear the religious title of Father. To address any man on earth with a religious title of Father is to violate a plain and positive command of God’s Son, “But be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man Father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ” (Matt. 23:8-10). Catholicism with all her emphasis on rank and order and submission to authority, has applied the term Father to her priests. She has been followed in this by the Episcopal church. But the words of Christ are clear. There can be no mistaking of what he means, any more than there can be a mistaking of what he said.
Not a “Reverend”
I am a preacher of the Gospel of Christ, and I do not wear the title Reverend. In the New Testament we read about preachers and ministers and evangelists; but not once do we read of any title given to any of them It was “our beloved brother Paul” (2 Pet. 3:15) and not “The Reverend Doctor Paulus”—not even the simple “Doctor Paul.” The desiring of titles is an exhibition of vanity which the humble gospel preacher shuns completely.
The Hebrew word which is translated reverence means “to fear, be afraid.” And reverend is the adjectival form of the word, meaning that the one whom it is applied is to be feared, revered, and held in awesome respect and regard.
The Bible nowhere exalts a preacher to so lofty an eminence, nor does it so separate him from other members of the church in any such fashion. As a matter of fact the word reverend is used but once in all of the sacred writings, and in that instance it is used in reference to God himself: “He sent redemption to his people; he hath commanded his covenant forever: holy and reverend is his name.” (Psa. 111:9). Reverend, therefore, is a name that belongs to God. No man on this earth, regardless of how good or brilliant he may be is worthy to wear a name that belongs exclusively the good and Holy God of heaven.
The Gospel preacher is a servant of Christ. He is not exalted above his fellows; nor does he desire such exaltation; nor will he accept such “honors” when the denominational world mistakenly tries to force they upon him. He is content to be what Christ called him to be—a faithful and humble servant.