This past week, on the basis of Paul (and others) introducing himself by his first name (e.g., Colossians 1:1), mentioning his office along the way (apostle), and then closing his letters with his name (e.g., Colossians 4:18), all of that was to say—any adults can call me “Dave” in personal conversation as you so desire. Kids, I suppose you can call me Pastor Huff or Pastor Dave. Funny thing, nobody called me anything for the rest of the day after I said what I said. Ha!
When you lose your name and live by a title alone, you lose a part of your humanity and identity. A pastor is a pastor, but there is more to a pastor than his office. I’m happy for titles as appropriate (signing off on emails, a prayer letter, or when the church gathers for a service), but I don’t live by my title and last name in personal conversation anywhere else. It would be a tragedy if I always felt more comfortable at the gym or with people from my past because they knew and called me by my name. A Christian, pastor or otherwise, should be most at home in his own church among his brothers and sisters in Christ.
Think of it this way. Most of you don’t ask others to use your titles and last names in personal conversation apart from your workplace. Always calling someone “Inventory Specialist McDonald,” “Farmer McNally,” or “Manager Brown” sounds goofy. I realize that “pastor” indicates an appreciation and recognition for the functions of its office (preaching the Word, shepherding the flock, etc.), but I’m happy to be a pastor called Dave. Or, echoing how Paul might say it—I am Dave, a shepherd of Christ at First Baptist Church, by the will of God.
So how can one show appreciation for an office in the church without using someone’s title and last name? 3 John 4 works for me: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” I’m not old enough to be a father to anyone but my own children, but the point is this—if you want to show appreciation to a pastor, simply walk in the truth. Obey the instruction given from the Word, and that, for me, is enough (cf. Hebrews 13:17). Whether my name has a title or not, I simply want to see everyone who hears God’s Word to obey it, preached by me or anyone else.
When I see the authors of Scripture use their first names, noting their office as necessary, I rest my case in the text and not what people might think. If other pastors and their churches prefer something else, we should honor their custom and preference. Correspondence and services are a time for titles, I suppose, but as for me and God’s household in Rockford, when we talk as brothers and sisters in Christ, in the lobby or somewhere else, if you’d like, please just call me Dave.
All quotes ESV. Articles by Pastor Huffstutler are at davidhuffstutler.com.