Violin John? Violin Amy? (No Religious Titles)
In this company right now, in our community, in our family, there are no positions, no titles. We used to be that way before—all were equal brothers and sisters in families. But, as of this moment, we are still wearing some titles.
We should talk about that for a couple of minutes. This may be a U-turn thing.
I used to have a title too. Twenty years ago I said, “No more. The Bible says, ‘No titles.’ Okay. I’m a follower of Jesus, so no titles.” Out of his own mouth Jesus said to the apostles, “I want no titles” (Matt. 23:8-10). That’s okay with me, because I want Jesus more than I want a title.
There are NO TITLES in the New Testament. Read Romans 16. Where are all of the titles?! Read Colossians 4. Where are all of the titles?! Are you better than them or more important? No. :) No titles in Philippians, or Ephesians, or Acts, or 1Peter. None. There are some “descriptions” of relationships, such as “I was a father to you”—but that is not a title, ever, in the New Testament. Even the phrase “Brother Fred” is a title forbidden by Jesus. It is nowhere in the Bible, except in one event out of 65 years of the New Testament, from Ananias referenced in Acts 22—to a JEW, named Saul. No Christian is ever referred to by a title preceding his name in the 65 years of the New Testament. Are you better than John or Peter or Jesus or Paul? Of course not. Jesus forbid titles, as we've seen in Matthew. And, why would a mere human WANT a title? There are no godly reasons. Only fleshly ones, or lack of knowledge of the Scriptures.
Yes. No position, no title, no name.
Now here’s the part you need to understand about no titles and no positions. No one in twenty years in Indianapolis has ever called me “Pastor Mike” or any title at all. I refuse it, and they know they shouldn’t do it because Jesus said not to. But here is the thing you have to understand in that. There is such a thing as gift. And the difference between gift and title is very great.
Let’s say I play the violin beautifully. I don’t actually play the violin at all. But let’s say I play it beautifully, and everywhere I went people said to me, “Oh, Violin Mike! Good to see you, Violin Mike.”
I’d have to say, “No, no, no!”
But if they said, “Would you play your violin? My friend, my brother, would you play your violin for us?” I can do that. I can offer my gift. I should use my gift, shouldn’t I? I don’t want to bury my talent and be called a wicked and slothful servant. But don’t ever call me “Violin Mike.”
A gift of shepherd is in the Bible. We call that “pastor.” We shouldn’t call it pastor though because that word is a very terrible translation. The word is shepherd. It’s shepherd and that’s all. Do not call it “pastor” because that’s a religious word that King James made up. It’s not really in the Bible. You can read the word “pastor” in the English Bible, but in the Greek, there is no such word. The word is shepherd. When you understand that, it’s easy to see how some could have a gift of shepherd.
What does a shepherd do? He makes sure the sheep have food. He makes sure the wolves are kept away. A shepherd cares about the sheep of God. In his heart, he wakes up at night at the slightest sound thinking, “Is that a wolf?” He cares and like David he takes the sheep out of the lion’s mouth. He grabs the lamb out of the bear’s mouth. He risked his life for a little sheep. He didn’t have to do that, but he did. That’s the thing that we do. In the middle of the night when nobody else is watching, we’re caring. Now that’s the gift of shepherd.
There is a gift of teaching, and in Romans 12 there is a gift of leadership. That’s not necessarily the gift of shepherd. That could be very different. The Greek word means “sternsmanship.” It has to do with the rudder on a boat. It is like helping to make sure the boat is going in the right direction. For example, somebody had to make sure that these tables were all here and weren’t all so scattered that we had to yell across the room. So they pushed the tables a little closer. That’s the gift of leadership to make sure, behind the scenes, that everything works out okay and makes sense. You see to it that the little details are being cared for, like making sure enough chairs are in the room for all the people. That’s not the gift of shepherd.
Now you could have a shepherd gift and a leadership gift. You might have a shepherd gift, a leadership gift, and a teaching gift. Or you might have a teaching gift, where you are very able to clearly talk about the Word of God, but you’re not necessarily a very good shepherd because you just don’t see certain things very well. You’re not careful enough about the wolves. You’re not careful enough about other things, but you’re very good at explaining the Word of God.
There’s also a gift of encouragement. Perhaps you would rarely speak publicly like this, but as soon as everybody leaves the room, you’re the one who noticed someone who was discouraged. You’re the one who puts your arm around them and says, “Let’s talk a little bit. What’s on your mind? What are you thinking about?” And you help them like Barnabas, the son of encouragement. Maybe you’d speak publicly at times, or maybe you wouldn’t. It doesn’t really matter. Your gift is that you notice things that need to be encouraged. You can’t help but see it. You walk through the room and you see someone who needs to be encouraged. Maybe nobody else sees that but you. So use the Jesus inside of you to do that. Does that mean that from now on we’re going to call you, “Encourager Paul”? “Encourager Jake”? No! It’s not a title or a position. That’s just your gift.
There is no “Violin Mike” or “Violin Amy.” There are people who play the violin and who love their brothers and sisters and encourage them with the violin. We use our gifts to encourage people. But does that make anyone in charge of everybody? Am I the boss of everyone because I have a violin and I’m “Violin Mike”? Does that make me the boss? “I’m in charge. I play the violin.” No, I just offer the gift of violin when I can and when it makes sense. Every time I walk in a room, I don’t walk in playing the violin because the gift comes forward only when it’s needed. It comes forward only when it’s needed.