Does the title “pastor” mean I’m power-hungry?

I had a conversation once with a pastor and his wife that I have not seemed to be able to forget.  My husband and I had been visiting that church for a few months and considering the possibility of making it our spiritual home.  It was important to us, though, that the church valued women in leadership to the same extent that it valued men.  So we sat down with the two of them and asked many questions.

And this is what they told us:  They were a couple who did ministry together.  Women served in all ways in the denomination.  Women in the denomination could even serve in a pastoral capacity, but they would not have the title “Pastor”. “And,” said the woman, “I am awfully suspicious of women who are looking for titles anyway.  Any time a woman is trying to get the title, it makes me think she is hungry for power.  I am happy to serve alongside my husband in full capacity without the title.”

At that time, I was silenced by her statement.  I didn’t want to appear to be power-hungry.  I wanted to check myself, “Am I power-hungry, Lord?”  It seemed so much more humble to not seek a title.

However, much reflection brought me to the conclusion that I am not in fact power-hungry any more than any other man who takes on the same title.  Why is a woman declared power-hungry but a man given a complete pass?  I wish I could go back to that conversation and ask her that question.

It has been years since this conversation took place.  Through all the time that has transpired, I’ve grown into a deeper understanding about this title “Pastor”.  I’ve realized that I didn’t start being a pastor when the title was conferred to me by a church or that I will be even more so a pastor when I graduate seminary with my Masters of Divinity.  Whether I am in a church-paid position as a pastor or whether my friends and colleagues call me “Pastor MaryAnn” or not, I am still a pastor.  It is who I am.  And being a pastor is being a shepherd who walks alongside others.  It is not, to me, a position of power but of servanthood.

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15 responses to this post.

  1. “And being a pastor is being a shepherd who walks alongside others. It is not, to me, a position of power but of servanthood.”

    Amen to that! So wanting to be a pastor is NOT a seeking after power but a wish to serve others.

    Reply

  2. This is such I good post. It resonates strongly with me.

    I also feel that I function as a pastor even though at this point in time I am not officially recognized as such.

    Reply

  3. The staggering fact of the conversation is that the pastor’s wife seemed comfortable with accepting the disparity between she and her husband.

    This sort of double standard happens all the time and most don’t seem to question.

    Reply

  4. There are no titles for a leader in a NT congregation, what there are are ministries of service. For example, it is Paul, an apostle, not the Apostle Paul or John, the elder, not the Elder John. It is true that no women should seek a title, this is because no person should seek a title. It is not an office, it is a ministry of service.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Mabel on January 20, 2012 at 6:37 am

    I would like to ask churches, what do they mean when they confer the title of Pastor on men? Are these men NOT pastors before the title? Or, as it is normally claimed, these men are “ordained” on recognition of their ministry as a pastor. SO, if a woman functions as a shepherd (remember, 100% of children and youth ministers have to minister to the parents also) , she is not to be recognized? AND, if it is OK for a woman not to be recognized, why is it NOT OK for men to skip the title? As for the concept of “servanthood”, when men serve, they are to be given titles to make that “servanthood” official. When women want their “servanthood” to be recognized, they are power hungry. Does not the accusation in itself admits that being ordained is all about power?

    Reply

    • I hear you on these questions. I definitely don’t think being ordained is all about power. It’s supposed to indicate affirmation of one’s gift and calling and one’s role as a shepherd to a certain body. While having the “title” may not necessarily be biblical, having the role is (referring back to Don Johnson’s comment). In churches where men have the role and title for this affirmation, women should too. It’s ridiculous that women should be deemed “power hungry” when men are not deemed so in the same vein.

      Reply

  6. Posted by Ann Bayliss on January 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Responding to the next person who says such a thing (and they will) we should all politely say, “I am not a Pastor, Silly. I am a Priest and a royal one too. Pastor is what I do, not who I am.”

    Reply

  7. Posted by rejoyce on February 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    “And,” said the woman, “I am awfully suspicious of women who are looking for titles anyway. Any time a woman is trying to get the title, it makes me think she is hungry for power. I am happy to serve alongside my husband in full capacity without the title.”

    To me, it’s sad that she equated power as something we want. When all we should want is God to say to us (male or female servants) on that day, “Good and faithful servant, come in.” Our world cares about letters behind names and titles in front of names but we serve a God who loves us for who we are, He knows our name, and doesn’t love those without letters behind or titles in front of their names any less than those who have both. Hallelujah!

    I agree with the previous poster who said that pastoring is what some men and women called to do (to some extent), to shepherd, it’s not a title, I guess that pastor’s wife you encountered had it all mixed up. ;o)

    Reply

  8. Posted by Natasha on October 11, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Thank-you for this blog post. I am currently the Director of Children’s Ministries at my church in which my husband has been the pastor for 6 years. I have only been on staff for 1 year. I am currently in discussion with our board about changing my “title” to Pastor of Children and Family Ministries. I too was wondering if my desire to be called pastor was a power issue. But I agree 100% with you that it is “who I am”. I have been serving and ministring to children, youth and families since I was 13. With my church I do not feel it is a female / male issue but more of a power thing. That there is some sort of “power” behind the word pastor and that having a husband and wife both as pastors that we would somehow have “power” over the church. One interesting (and funny) comment was said by someone on the board that I should not be called “pastor” because I am not ordained. My husband however cleared things up by saying that he also has never been ordained. 🙂 Anyways, I am now off to write a letter explaining my desire to be called “Pastor”.

    Reply

    • Thanks for writing, Natasha. Blessings to you as you pastor your sheep. Please drop me a line later to let me know how it goes. I’ll keep you in prayer.

      Reply

    • Hi Natasha! Sorry for the late response! I wanted to see how things turned out for you.

      Something I would add to my post from earlier is that even if we are pastors by identity and gifting and don’t need a title to be who we are, I believe it is still important. If a man is being acknowledged with the title pastor (and the ‘authority’ that goes with it), then a woman with similar roles, gifts and responsibilities should also have that title.

      I’m really curious how it turned out for you!

      Reply

  9. Again, late response, but I recently had a discussion with someone about this, specifically related to being commissioned as NavRep. You see, there are NavReps, that are men and single women. And then there are NavRep wives. And when the time came for us to be commissioned just in October, I cringed on the inside, just waiting for RJ and I to be commissioned “together,” AKA, he would be commissioned as the “real NavRep” and I would be commissioned as the “NavRep wife.” Eff that. As I struggled, I wrestled a lot with, “Does it matter? Does the title really matter, because I’ll be doing the same thing? Am I being prideful in wanting a title?”

    And what it came down to was, would a man EVER even have to wrestle with this question? Would he EVER have to even wonder whether his training and ministry contribution for the allotted period of time would end up with the proper title in the first place? And so why would it be so “power-hungry” of me to want my DOUBLE training (I did my time in training twice marrying a younger man!) to end up with a title of NavRep and not just NavRep wife?

    I’m thankful that RJ strongly advocated for me and stated plainly that he would like my training and development to be recognized and for me to be commissioned separately from him, which they respected (and even went back to “back-commission” a couple of other NavReps who were NavRep wives for the past 5+ years!). But I imagine that if I had spoken up for myself, it would be met with questions of, “Why is it so important to you?” and “Isn’t just serving God enough?” when those would never be questions posed to men.

    Reply

    • Wow! Thanks for sharing this, Alice! I’m so glad to hear that you and RJ refused to let it slide. I’m glad that RJ spoke up for you, and that, ultimately, it started a new wave of commissioning and acknowledging other women and their giftedness. I hope that will continue. Way to go!! I am excited to keep hearing about this revolution you are starting within the Navigators and support you wholeheartedly!! (also, just wanted to affirm that you are not power hungry!). 🙂

      Reply

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