It has recently come to my attention that many Christian leaders and pastors really don’t like the terminology “Reverend” anymore.
Apparently many young leaders, especially from Gen. X and the Millennial generations, see the formal Rev. title as being irrelevant in our society and unhelpful in ministering to their community and culture. If you called them Rev. in public, they would cringe and be thoroughly embarrassed. The title makes them feel out-dated, uncultured, and unable to relate to the normal person living down the street. Besides no one wants to invite a Reverend to a party. It’s like inviting the police.
The title that is preferred and desireable is Dr. It does not matter what the Dr. stands for: Ph.D, Ed.D, D.Min., M.D., D.O., or D.M.D. Anything but Rev. To these young leaders, Dr. is more professional, more proper and respected within the community. Dr. gives you credibility and a reason to be heard by a culture that despises religion, faith and moral absolutes. Dr. sets you apart academically and professionally, but it does not change who you can hang out with or what social circles you are included in.
While this shift makes perfect sense to me, it also makes me sad. When I was ordained to the Gospel ministry and became a Rev., I felt so honored and humbled by the calling God had placed on my life. It was a significant spiritual milestone for me. When I became a Dr., I felt the same honor and humility. It was definitely the completion of a significant academic milestone, but it lacked the same spiritual flavor. I could have gone through the entire Dr. experience and never said one word about my faith, my devotion to Christ, or my calling to ministry.
I understand and know intuitively that our culture is moving further and further away from anything based in church life or earlier experiences of Christianity. Ordination is frowned upon by many young leaders. Being called Brother So-In-So or the Right Reverend Jimmy Bob is not happening any more. I know many of my students will never go through ordination because to them it means they are loosing their street credibility and selling out to denominational structures and 20th century rules. But in losing these vestiges of days gone by, we also lose a large part of our heritage of as evangelical Christians.
I’m happy to be both. Rev. first. Dr. second.