Should We Be Leary of People Who Name Them Selves Prophets, Apostles and Pastors? How Important Are Our Titles?

I recently saw a post on Google plus that raised this question: When men and women take it upon their selves to title their selves as apostle, prophet, prophetess or pastor are we supposed to watch them from afar with reservation? I believe that was how he worded the question. It was an interesting discussion, to say the least. One individual left the following comment:

“I think people make too big deal with titles, I am this or that. When we should be who God made us to be and what he had asked us to do, just do it !!! Right?”

What’s with our obsessions with titles?

To that, I say, “Amen!” What’s the deal with our obsession with titles anyways? Why do we insist on being called apostle or prophet or pastor or reverend or whatever? It’s really irrelevant. Just be who God called you to be and do what God called you to do. Take me for example.

I am a “pastor” but I am not a pastor “officially” because I’ve not been ordained. I helped to plant the church where I serve, work with the youth there, teach leadership and theology classes and travel to preach for friends who are pastors pretty regularly. I don’t like introducing myself as a pastor since I haven’t been ordained.

But I live my life like one because God has given me a heart to shepherd people. And everywhere I go other pastors introduce me as “pastor, reverend, minister” or something of the sort. I honestly do not care for the titles and it made me a little uncomfortable at first when they would introduce me with some title since I’m not actually ordained and they know I’m not.

We are who we are with or without titles

But then I realized other people call me pastor not because I’ve been dubbed with this title by some official organization. But because the fruit of my life shows the fruit of a pastor. But I did not, and do not, strive for a title. And I don’t care if people call me pastor or not. My focus was and is on being who God made me to be and doing what God has asked me to do.

We should be leary of those who make it a point to name their selves this or that. Especially those who take it upon their selves to name their selves prophets or apostles.

What does the Bible say?

Room here does not permit a full discussion of the Scriptures which cover the subject. But Acts 1:21-22 is a perfect example. When looking for a person to fulfill Judas’ apostolic office Peter list two qualifications which quickly rule out A LOT of possibilities:

  1. It had to be a man.\
  2. They had to have been with them from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to the end. From the Baptism of John to the resurrection. Meaning someone who had personally witnessed Jesus’ baptism, resurrection, and earthly ministry.

I don’t know of any man that has lived that long, from the time of Christ until today, who can say they personally witnessed Jesus’ baptism, resurrection and earthly ministry.

Ephesians 2:20 says that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” So those who claim to be apostles and prophets are in effect saying, “I’ve got something to add to the foundation of the church.” This is a pretty bold statement. Furthermore, it cannot be true that any man would have something to add to the foundation of the church. The grammar of Ephesians 2:20 refers to a completed and fulfilled event. English translations render it “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” “Having been built” means it’s a done deal. The foundation is laid and there is nothing to add to it.

Do you really want to be a prophet?

Also, it is a pretty bold statement to claim to be a prophet because a prophet speaks, “Thus saith the Lord.” Meaning, everything that follows the thus saith the Lord part proceeds directly from the mouth of God. If it proceeds directly from the mouth of God then it should carry with it the same weight of Scripture which also proceeds directly from the mouth of God. If it carries with it the same weight of Scripture then it honestly should be added into the Bible somewhere because if it’s a “thus saith the Lord” then it’s just as important as what God has already said in the Bible.

In other words, every man or woman who claims to be a prophet and speak thus saith the Lord in effect claims that they have some very important things to say which need to be added into the Bible and held with the same authority as anything all the other prophets and apostles spoke in the Bible.

This is a pretty hefty claim and should be taken seriously. What we should ask ourselves about those who call themselves prophets and apostles is: Are we willing to take their “thus saith the Lord” and add it into the Bible with all the other “thus saith the Lord” statements made by the apostles and prophets in the Bible? Are we willing to hold what they say with the same weight of authority that the Scriptures carry?

Have you taken a title upon yourself?

Maybe someone reading this has taken the title of apostle or prophet. I know that processing the thoughts I just shared on theses select Scriptures can be a challenge. Please know that I personally do not judge you or look down on you for choosing to carry such titles. Others have judged me for allowing people to call me pastor when I am not ordained.

I remember one time when my pastor had a friend who was not a member of our church serving in an advisory position on our leadership team. At the time I was serving as a youth leader. I had proposed to have a separate youth service for the youth during the adult service on Sundays so we could more actively engage the youth. My pastor liked the idea. Our youth were coming to youth night on Fridays but not church on Sundays because they saw it as an adult thing irrelevant to their teenage lives.

His friend did not like the idea. Why? Because I was not their pastor and they needed to be in church with their parents to hear their pastor’s voice. Not in a separate room to hear mine. Never mind that they weren’t coming to church on Sundays anyway. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “You are not these people’s pastor.” And he repeated himself over and over again.

It hurt. It offended me. And it angered me. I wanted to rip his tongue out of his mouth. Just keeping it real. Not because I cared about a title. But because I had labored hard and poured my heart out to help my pastor shepherd that church and those youth. They got more from me then my own family did. And I loved them like a shepherd loves his sheep. And now this man, who barely knew me and how I labored for these people, wanted to stand there and tell me I wasn’t a shepherd to them. It hurt.

Let your fruit speak for itself

So I know what it feels like to have somebody who barely knows you try to tell you that you are something you’re not when you’ve given your life to be that and have the fruit to show for it. Who you are and what you call yourself is between you and God. It’s honestly none of my business. But it is serious business to be considered a prophet or apostle.

As your brother in Christ, I would ask you to consider a few things. Have you taken the time to honestly think about the great weight of importance you’ve put on yourself through the title of apostle or prophet? Are you willing to elevate your words to the same level of authority as those of the apostles and prophets in the Bible? Is it necessary that you be called apostle or prophet? Would you be content with simply being a shepherd tending after the care of his sheep?

At the heart of it all, we must not identify ourselves by our titles. There’s a part of me that enjoys not being ordained. I’ve seen how men change after their ordination. Not all men but I’ve seen it enough. Something happens. Their ego gets inflated. All of a sudden they’re somebody because they’ve been given an official title. This just shows they never knew who they were before. They were just playing the role. It’s heartbreaking.

We should be identified by our fruit. Are you a pastor? Then shepherd God’s people. Do you claim to be a prophet? Then speak God’s word. Do you claim to be an apostle? Then preach the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection which you witnessed, plant churches, and disciple young men to become pastors. Let your fruit speak for itself.

As for people who take it upon their selves to name their selves this or that – identify them too by their fruit, not their titles. It’s so easy to get ordained and get official titles today and convince others we’re apostles, prophets or pastors when we have no fruit to prove it. If I wanted to I could be ordained before I even finished writing this article. I could slap any title on myself I wanted to and blast it all over this blog, put it on some business cards, fridge magnets and letterheads. That don’t make me whatever it is I may claim to be.

The fruit is what’s important.

Copyright © Lawrence Joseph Sterling 2017. All rights reserved.