Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                             June 30, 2008
No One Graduates
My Reflections
Missional Church [Michael Frost]
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When I was in high school I learned the fine art of people watching. At almost every opportunity my friend, Ed, and I would perch atop a ramp in the quad area giving us a birds eye view of all the goings ons. Something akin to wannabe Ryan Seacrests, we'd give commentary to all that was happening, suggesting why so-and-so walked a particular way and how such-and-such made it to a particular place on the social ladder.
Little did I know at the time that there were words for such activity. As budding anthropologists we were often engaged in making heads and tails of social construction.
Have you ever asked yourself why we use titles such as "Pastor" in the "church quad"? Equally curious are the titles we don't generally use: Prophet Bill, Apostle Tom, Evangelist Joe, Teacher Jim. Let's take a birds eye view.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: Should we call Christian leaders "Pastor"?
No One Graduates 
Excerpt from Ring Around the Rabbi by Lee Gugliotto
Disc_Sqr[In Bible times...] A man became a rabbi by studying the Torah as a disciple of a master of the Torah; observing and imitating a sage - a master - turned ordinary learning into a holy ritual, with the power to transform disciples into duplicates of the master they study.

When a disciple demonstrated the same mastery of the Torah as his sage, replication was complete - the disciple became a duplicate of his master, having reached the Jewish ideal embodied in him.

Upon graduation, the new rabbi earned more honor for himself than the scroll of the Torah deserved, because he was Torah - not just because he lived by it, but because he radiated as much heavenly light as the words of the Torah scroll!

In addition to his improved status, position, and prestige, the graduate also became a master in his own right - authorized to gather, lead, mold, and shape his own disciples.

No such future awaited Jesus' disciples; Jesus never graduated anyone from His school; and He told His disciples, "You are not to be called 'Rabbi', for you have only one Master and you are all brothers" (Matthew 23:8) - to nix any misguided ideas they may have had about advancing beyond His class.

Jesus' disciples can never rise to the rank of Rabbi: unlike other rabbis, Jesus - never has, does not, and never will - prepare His disciples to lead, mold, and shape their own followers! Rather than graduating from the school of Christ, we are one huge discipleship class of brothers - children of the same Father - who share the same equal standing under Jesus - our one and only Master and Teacher! (2003:21)
My Reflections
Social constructivism is a "sociological and psychological theory of knowledge that considers how social phenomena develop in particular social contexts" (Wikipedia). For example, in high school Ed and I noticed that the titles "Mr." and "Mrs." had a certain hierarchical effect. To be sure, most of the effects were altogether good; the titles seemed to afford a certain positional respect. I (Traver) am the student and you (Mr. Jones) are the teacher. The system, no doubt, created a very clear and helpful dichotomy.
A good question, then, is should it be this way in the church? After all, in most cases, the title "Pastor" is generally understood as an endearing term and, as such, benign: or is it? No doubt understanding the implications of social constructivism, did Jesus instruct his followers to "not call anyone on earth 'father'" [Mt 23:9] because he knew that so-called benign words almost always end up shaping us more than we could ever imagine?
Christian leaders should be careful. Over time, words shape people. And although nobody in my particular community of faith refers to me as Pastor Traver, I must also be cognizant of the non-verbals. For example, my community often gathers at my house and there's a particular chair that, when a person sits in it, seems to draw the most attention. Strangely, it's as if the "Pastor" should be sitting in that chair; indeed, it's cause for caution.
Although I'm well aware there are varying views on this topic, I suggest forgoing the use of church-related titles; your fellow disciples know who you are well enough by your fruit.
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table