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Should I call you "Reverend"?

"Should I call you 'Reverend'?" someone asked me recently. I paused for a moment, thinking a million thoughts at once. I'm not much of a fan of the "reverend" title, in part because of its problematic grammar but mostly because I don't want to be revered.

"Reverend" isn't actually a title at all; it's what's called a style. It's similar to calling a judge "the Honorable John Doe," and some grammarians get their stoles in a twist if "reverend" occurs without the officially correct "the" before it.

More importantly, "reverend" isn't a noun synonymous with "pastor"; it's an adjective that means "deserving reverence." When someone calls me "Rev. Adam," the absent definite article bothers me a lot less than the fact that I'm being called "revered" just because I happen to be ordained. I'd rather earn respect than be given it by default.

Maybe I wimped out, but I went ahead and told the person who asked that I'm happy just being called "Adam," but if she's more comfortable with "Reverend," that's fine too. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet--or as sour.

Do you call your pastor "Reverend"? Why or why not? And pastors, what do you prefer to be called?

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One answer does fit all. The Scriptures provide not one example of church leaders under the New Covenant using a title before their name.

There is no New Testament authority for the use of such terminology as "Reverend". This truth will carry no weight with those who are unconcerned with operating within the bounds of the Lord’s authority; yet, teaching is clear that one must not venture into the domain of presumptuous religious activity (1 Cor. 4:6; Col. 3:17; 2 Jn.1:9). Christians are warned against religious conduct that is grounded in their personal “will” (Col. 2:23).

Second, in principle, the use of “Reverend,” as a religious title, is condemned by the Lord. In a derisive rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus spoke these words: " 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, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your 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. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:5-12)

Clearly the Savior has condemned the use of self-important titles by which Christian men exalt themselves above their brethren.

Any title that is contrary to the equality of brethren in Christ Jesus, even the desire for such a title and honor, is wicked usurpation as far as our Master is concerned. Titles like “Doctor of Divinity” fall into the same category.

New Testament precedent is against the eminent titles that ministers so delight in hearing and seeing. If there was any teacher of the primitive church who might deserve a special designation, should such have been permitted, surely it would have been Paul, whose scholastic achievements cast a shadow on those of his Jewish kinsmen (Gal. 1:14, Phil. 3:4). Yet, when Peter had occasion to refer to his fellow apostle, he did not allude to “Rabbi Saul” or “Doctor Paul,” but simply as — “our beloved brother Paul” (2 Pet. 3:15).

More importantly, "reverend" is not a noun synonymous with "pastor"; it is an adjective that means "deserving reverence." When someone calls me "Rev. Hall," the absent definite article bothers me, but more so the fact that I am being called "revered" just because I happen to be ordained. Respect should be earned, rather than be given by default.

Peter, nor Paul, nor any of the other disciples or apostles (nor even JESUS) used it and I have yet to meet or hear any "greater" or more "inspired" men of GOD than they!!! With all of "degrees" that are conferred upon "clergy", how they tend to "overlook" this point…is beyond my understanding. So as it is commonly said, "Speak" where the Bible speaks, and be "silent" where it is silent..."

Nowhere in the New Testament is anyone called by the title "bishop," "elder" or "pastor." either as Bishop Timothy, or Bishops John. In fact....no minister in the New Testament is called by a title, any title, not even Paul. Paul was called "an" or "a" apostle," but never the "Apostle Paul." No one was called "Pastor" as a title.

While conferring honorific titles upon prominent religious authorities may be the way of the world, it is not the path that Christ has called us to follow.

Yet, in spite of the clarity of Jesus’ command, Christians have historically ignored His words. We continue, for example, to address our church shepherds as "Reverend," "Doctor," "Minister" or “Bishop” and, unfortunately, far too many of them are glad to receive such flattery and even love to have it so!

Of course there were prophets, teachers, apostles, evangelists, leaders, elders, bishops and deacons within the first churches, but these were not used as formal titles for individuals. All Christians are saints, but there was no "Saint John." All are priests, but there was no "Priest Philip." Some are elders, but there was no "Elder Paul." Some are overseers, but there was no "Overseer John." Some are pastors, but there was not "Pastor James." Some are deacons, but there was no "Deacon Peter." Some are apostles, but there was no "Apostle Andrew." The early Christians referred to each other by personal names (Timothy, Paul, Titus), the terms "brother" or "sister," or by describing an individual’s spiritual character or work: "Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," (Acts 6:5); "For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith:" (Acts 11:24); "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: " (Romans 16:3).

It is important to emphasize that such terms as "elder," "overseer," and "pastor" are functional terms, and were never intended to serve as formal titles. In other words, the terminology is descriptive of one’s task; they help to picture a church leader’s function or may even denote one’s spiritual maturity as in the term "elder." Thus, it is just as foolish and unnecessary to speak of "Pastor Bob" as it is to speak of one who possesses the gift or function of hospitality as "Hospitality Harry"; or one who has the gift of mercy as "Mercy Mary"; or one who has the gift of giving as "Giving George."

Bottom line: Honorific titles feed the pride of men. Titles inflate one’s ego, thus provoking church leaders to think more highly of themselves than they should (Romans 12:3). We all struggle with sin and pride; but why compound that struggle by exalting oneself with special titles which have no basis in the New Testament?

Honorific titles tend to promote an elitist attitude and authoritarian forms of church leadership. Even the best of men can find self-glorifying titles intoxicating and begin to form lofty opinions of themselves. Within time, they begin to look upon their congregational members as mere "common folks"; an ignorant mass of "laity" who desperately need their wisdom and insight (John 7:49; 9:34). In doing so they are already off the path that Jesus walked.


For almost forty years parishioners have called me Reverend. It never occurred to me to correct them, so I didn't, nor do I see any reason to do so. It's our tradition. Their choice. It serves to remind me that they look to me as a spiritual leader, that the office to which I have been ordained holds great responsibility in the care of souls, and that they can entrust their confidences with me. Does the title make one less approachable? That depends on how one "wears" the title. It can go to your head. Or it can go to your heart. As to grammatical correctness, I'm not a stickler about it in colloquial use. (Grammar? Read any Faulkner lately?)


Greenings in the name of our Lord,

I believe no one is eligible to receive reverence expect the almighty, the Father GOD. According to Psalms 111:9- "  Holy and reverend is his name. " The Father God is the only one who could receive the reverence, not any one. If we could observe the Bible very keenly then we can find one thing that no one, when i say no one, all the apostles, prophets and even Christ never combined with this word. On the entire Bible we could see this word only once and that is in 111:9 which regard to Father God.



The Bible clearly teaches us,

The Bible clearly teaches us, that a minister should not be called Revernd.  We call our pastor simply Bro. He has his doctoral degree, so when introducing him I will do so by this is Dr. Jorhn Doe. Isalm 111:9 and Matthews 23:7-10, will show this.


The title "REVEREND"

Not to "offend" (but to "correct" and "reprove"), but, I believe that anyone who is TRULY familiar with the "Word" should take heed to Psalms 111:9 wherein the term "HOLY and REVEREND", of which the title "REVEREND" is a shortened "traditional" version of (the "full" title being THE HOLY and REVEREND), is only used ONCE in the ENTIRE BIBLE!!! And it is referred to none other that YAWEH(GOD) Himself!!! So, really there is no discussion on the matter as I see it. Peter, Paul, nor any of the other disciples or apostles (nor even JESUS) used it and I've yet to meet or hear any "greater" or more "inspired" men of GOD than they!!! So, as I see it with all of "degrees" that are conferred upon "clergy", how they tend to "overlook" this point, is beyond my understanding. So as it is commonly said in my circles, "Speak" where the Bible speaks, and be "silent" where it is silent..."

Should I be called "Reverend"

One answer does NOT fit all situations. Here are samples of variations:

FORMAL AND PRINTED: There are times when a full title (The Rev, The Very Rev, The Most Rev, The Rev. Dr., or .... should be used.

PASTORAL MINISTRY EVENTS: Hospital visits, etc., probably would suggest Pastor Jane or Father John.

STARBUCKS AND GOLF COURSES: These are occasions for first name only: Jane or John.

There are also other variables.

Whatever works

I think it matters most what people need to call you for the sake of their own connection to you. I have folks who call me by my first name, folks who stick Reverend in front of that, and at least one member who calls me Rev., which I actually like. My younger son once called me Mama Rev in front of his friends, and so the kids now call me that, which I really like.

I used to be an editor before I was a minister, so I know what's grammatically correct. But I think I care more about the fact that they call me anything at all, honor me by including me in their lives and value my counsel.

And I will answer to Pastor, too.....


I too do not insist that my parishioners call me anything other than my first name.
I do greatly appreciate the idea behind a title such as Reverend, because it makes the point that I have been called not just to a profession but a lifestyle. I also find as a woman in ministry that sometimes titles such as this combat the tendency for people outside of my Presbyterian tradition to assume that I am a non-ordained "minister."
Mostly though my appreciation for the title Reverend came once my brother was ordained as a Theravada Buddhist monk who is addressed as Bhante which translates as Venerable. While I call him by his given name in private, when we are in public I address him as Bhante (as does his 6 year old nephew) as a sign and modeling of deep respect for him and the life that he has chosen. It helps me to remember that my tradition also considers me venerable and compells me to live a life worthy of that description.


It seems a bit ironic that when filling out the address form for this magazine, I was given the following choices:

"Dr, Dr & Mrs, Dr. & Mr, Mrs, Mr., Mr. & Mrs., Mrs., Ms., No Title, or Reverend:"

Does this mean that the editors of Christian Century have too high regard for their magazine that "Dr." is listed first and too little for the explicit title for ordained, "Reverend" which is listed last? What about those who hold a doctorate and their spouse also holds a doctorate and they want to share a magazine subscription? Isn't it interesting that there is not an optional title for the ordained or religious? Why not, "Pastor", "Father", "Sister" or etc.?

For me, I do not want to lift up my education, so no title related to it will do. I do not want to set myself apart too much, so I do not want the "reverend" title because it just doesn't seem fitting for me. I value a relational connection with the congregations I serve, so I prefer folks (and youth) to simply use my first name. If the person prefers a title, I suggest "mister". If that doesn't work for them, I suggest "pastor". I try to be consistant with this idea of not being too set apart by rarely using a clergy robe in the worship service too.

Occam's Razor

They are ordered alphabetically in this list.

"just because I happen to be ordained"

The body of believers who said AMEN at your ordination want very much to believe they did in fact ordain someone whose life can be revered. Sometimes being an inspirational leader means playing to the expectation.

Fake it till you make it.

"Fake it until you make it?"

"Fake it until you make it?" That sounds an aweful lot like being duplicitous to me. And, as one who has seen about 10 pastors (who I have either been friends or acquaintances with) fall to sexual sin, 2 commit suicide and one become addicted to perscription drugs, I think authenticity is called for in the pastorate. In fact, I think pastors should follow the examples of the apostles and demonstrate what true authenticity looks like (eg: Paul in Romans 7).

In Matthew 23, Jesus instructs the disciples not to be called by the honorific titles: teacher, father, or leader, because they only have one "teacher, father, leader". Instead they are to be called "brothers". Furthermore, you see no evidence of the disciples using honorific titles with each other. You see them at times using their credetials to clarify their credibility (eg: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ" or "Paul, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ"). But not honorific titles. Paul who was called "Brother Saul" by Ananias when he was restored his sight (Acts 9:17). This was shortly before his official ministry in the synagogues began. I don't remember seeing him being refered to by this title again. But it seems, based on the context, that it was a term of endearment that all Christians gave to one another. I have an African American friend who refers to everyone in her church as "sister __" or "brother __". I think this is sweet and is more in compliance with the Biblical mandate in Matthew 23 and that set by the apostles. Charles Spugeon calls honorific titles "popery". Here is a link to his sermon on the subject.: http://eldership.org/resources/spurgeon_ordination.html



"Father" works better.

"Father" works better.

don't get caught up in the name

Unless the title is being uttered out of clear disrespect, it really shouldn't matter what people call you. My sense is that religious leaders who obsess about how they're addressed usually need to do some vocational discernment. Being ordained is, by definition, being "set apart," and in an increasinly secular culture, fewer people know the correct terminology for that even though they still are aware of a pastor's/rabbi's/father's "other"ness. Let them call you what they want to call you, as long as the relationship is healthy. Don't set up walls by dwelling on titles, even under the pretense of taking them down by telling them you prefer your first name...because you are "just one of them."


"Father" or "Mother" works nicely in my tradition. Pastor is preferred by many as more informal. To address your ordained minister as "Reverend" seems rather quaint, right up there with referring to theologians as "divines."

Call me pastor if you must, but not Rev.

I wrote a piece for Theolog 2 years ago entitled "I'm not your Reverend," in which I raised similar questions. The word is misused and is really intended to be used as a form of address in the same way Honorable is used for a judge.

I am not a reverend, I'm a pastor or a minister, etc. While I understand why some may choose to embrace it, It's not my thing. So, if you must, call me pastor and if that doesn't work use the Dr. from my PhD, but unless you're addressing an envelope, leave aside the Rev.

Not Rev.

Why is it so easy to say Reverend (that is not written), and can't call a person Apostle, Prophet... that is written
Thanks, Prophetess Angela Hines

Don't get caught up in the name.

Unless it's being uttered as a sign of clear disrespect, the name someone calls you really shouldn't matter. In fact, if someone's that caught up in what they're called, I think he or she might need to do a soul-searching about his/her vocation. Those who are ordained are, by definition, "set apart," and sometimes that's reflected in what words people use to address you. Just let people call you what they need to call you, even if it's grammatically incorrect. If they ask, briefly explain any preference you have...but be careful not to put up walls...even under the pretense of taking them down by telling them just to call you by your first name because "you're just one of them."

No revered women...

I don't call my pastor "Reverend" and nor do I expect to be called "Reverend (insert first or last name)" once I graduate from seminary.

I am very careful, however, to call my female co-workers "Pastor ___" (and not just their first name) in front of parishioners.

I do worry that we are devaluing professions (pastor, judge, doctor) just as women begin entering those fields in large numbers...

Thank you

Thank you for bringing female clergy into this discussion. I actually prefer the title "Reverend" because it's traditionally used in my church for clergy, but as a woman pastor, it is still seems to surprise people to hear it before my name. To set the title aside and just be "Teri" at this point in my ministry, feels like a denial of all that I have done and all that God has done through me to become clergy.


In the Congregational tradition (which has really been subsumed by the common practice of using simply “Reverend”) no one would have been called “Reverend.” The title was (and perhaps still should be?) “The Reverend Mr. xxx” or in today’s world, “The Reverend Ms. xxx.” The thesis behind that usage was no one is reverend or should be considered reverend except God.


I was ordained in 1971 and was called "reverend" with my last name for about twenty-five years. In the mid-nineties, people began calling me "pastor" with my first name. That is now the norm where I live. I have an earned doctorate, so the technical title would be "the Reverend Doctor......" but we live in an informal age.

Should I call you "Reverend" ?

Your answer, call me by (first name) or Reverend, whatever you prefer, is also my answer.
For some reason, I really don't like to be called "Pastor."
It's like a school teacher not liking to be called "teacher."
It's a purely functionary term, and I would never call a retail clerk "clerk" or the garbage man "garbage man."
You are correct that "Reverend" is a written title, as in "The Reverend Name."
But just as a judge is called "your honor," the ordained ministers are now called "reverend."
Why not have people call us that? It reminds us of who we serve, always pointing to the God who made us, redeems us, and sustains us.

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