ca. Gospel Guardian, May 5, 1949
(Gospel Guardian Editor's note: Bonds Stocks, preacher for the Central Church of Christ in Jackson, Mississippi, has created no little stir in that section by his plain spoken preaching over a Jackson radio station. Refusing to accept the usual denominational designations for a preacher, he was called upon to offer an explanation. Here is a digest of the answer he gave over the radio.)
I am a preacher, a minister of Christ, and an evangelist; but I am not a pastor; I am not a clergyman; I am not a "Father"; and I am not a "Reverend."
I am a gospel preacher in exactly the same sense that Paul was; I preach the same gospel he preached; I preach no other. Paul declared that he had been appointed a "preacher" of the gospel of Christ (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). I am a minister of Christ in the same sense that Timothy was a minister of Christ (1 Timothy 4:6). The word "minister" literally means "servant". Every one who serves Christ is actually his "minister." It is a mistake to think of the gospel preacher as the only minister of Christ in any given church; all true servants are his ministers. I am an evangelist in the same sense that Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8). An evangelist is a herald or a proclaimer of good tidings. When I preach the gospel of Christ, I am an evangelist--a proclaimer of good tidings. It matters not whether I preach it from a thousand pulpits or preach it a thousand times from one pulpit; so long as I preach the good news of Christ I am an "evangelist".
I am not a "pastor". The word "pastor" is very commonly applied to preachers because the denominational world has erroneously conceived the idea that the preacher is "in charge" of the church. The word "pastor" as used in the New Testament is applied only to those who meet certain qualifications and are appointed to certain duties in the church [Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Timothy 3:1-7, sfd]. Any careful student of the Book will recognize that each New Testament congregation, when fully organized, had a plurality of pastors [Philippians 1:1; Acts 14:23, sfd]. The word "pastor" means shepherd or feeder. The pastors were the shepherds of the flock, the rulers of the church, those who had the oversight of the spiritual welfare of the members of the flock.
The post of service designated by the term "pastor" is also referred to by the terms "bishop," "overseer," 'shepherd," "elder," and "presbyter" [Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Peter 5:1, 2, sfd]. A preacher is not a pastor by virtue of his being a preacher; he serves under the direction and oversight of the "pastors," "elders," "bishops," etc. While it is true that a preacher may be a pastor or elder, (Peter was) he is such not because of his being a preacher but because of meeting certain definite qualifications, and by appointment to the office.
Although I am a preacher, I am not a clergyman. It was the professional "clergy" whom Christ condemned when he said, "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 me, Rabbi" (Matthew 23:5-7). The distinction between the so-called clergy and laity is clearly condemned in the New Testament. All Christians are priests before God (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:5, 6); and no single Christian has any preference or special privilege in God's sight over any other Christian. The gospel [preacher] is simply a brother among equals; he is not in any sense a superior over inferiors.
I am a gospel preacher; but I do not wear the religious title of "Father." To address any man on earth with a religious title of "Father" is to violate a plain and positive command of God's Son, "But be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man Father upon earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ" (Matthew 23:8-10). Catholicism with all her emphasis on rank and order and submission to authority, has applied the term "Father" to her priests. She has been followed in this by the Episcopal church. But the words of Christ are clear. There can be no mistaking of what he meant any more than there can be a mistaking of what he said.
I am a preacher of the gospel of Christ, and I do not wear the title "Reverend." In the New Testament we read about preachers and ministers and evangelists; but not once do we read of any title given to any of them. It was "our beloved brother Paul" (2 Peter 3:15) and not "The Reverend Doctor Paulus"; no, not even the simple "Doctor Paul." The desiring of titles is an exhibition of vanity which the humble gospel preacher shuns completely.
The Hebrew word with is translated "reverence" means "to fear, be afraid." And "reverend" is the adjectival form of the word, meaning that the one to whom it is applied is to be feared, reverenced, and held in awesome respect and regard.
The Bible nowhere exalts a preacher to so lofty an eminence, not does it so separate him from other members of the church in any fashion. As a matter of fact the word "reverend" is used but once in all of the sacred writings, and in that instance it is used in reference to God himself: "He sent redemption to his people: he hath commanded his covenant forever: holy and reverend is his name" (Psalms 111:9, KJV). "Reverend," therefore, is a name that belongs to God. No man on this earth, regardless of how good or brilliant he may be, is worthy to wear a name that belongs exclusively to the good and holy God of heaven.
The gospel preacher is a servant of Christ. He is not exalted above his fellows; nor does he desire such exaltation; nor will he accept such "honors" when they denominational world mistakenly tries to force them upon him. He is content to be what Christ called him to be--a faithful humble servant.
There are several interesting things about the foregoing article.
First, the straightforwardness. As the editor of The Gospel Guardian, Yater Tant pointed out Mr. Stocks' directness with the truth had caused a "stir" in his community. Some are offended with such plainness of speech, but the Bible commends it (Acts 4:29; Philippians 1:20). The Lord and His apostles were straightforward with truth and setting matters straight (Matthew 7:6; Philippians 3:2; etc.). We, too, ought to be straightforward with men, as it is a matter of truth versus error, and error condemns.
Second, just as in 1949 men loved special titles, so it is today. Men want a designation that sets them apart from others. They still want to be called "Reverend," thought of as "the Pastor," or considered unique by being designated "Doctor." Yet, the article effectively points out this is all in violation of the New Testament.
Third, we see a distinct appeal to the Scriptures. Time and again the writer cites book, chapter, and verse. This is a command from God. We must have authority for all that we do (Colossians 3:17). Too, as we give an answer for our hope, we must give "proof" for it or it is simply our opinion (1 Peter 3:15; 4:11). And, as we know, one opinion is as good as another, but the Word of God is the truth, the final word in the matter (Proverbs 14:12; John 17:17).
Fourth, the author named names. Many today are adverse to such, but it is needed and demanded by the gospel of Christ. Jesus named groups as He condemned them (Matthew 23:15). John named, not only groups, but also individuals (Revelation 2:14, 15; 3 John 9). Paul plainly revealed individuals, their doctrine, and the consequences (2 Timothy 2:16-18). Yes, to the shock of many, the Bible supports clearly identifying men who practice and promote error (Romans 16:17-18).
Finally, let us use the Bible to designate, describe and determine our dialogue and deeds, whether dealing with preachers, the church, or the world.