Pastors: Get All the Education You Can, Then Never Mention It Again!

But since there’s nothing in Scripture forbidding it, is it all right if I arrange for people to call me Doctor? Professor? Senior Pastor? Or how about Prophet, Apostle or His Eminence?

The carnal mind—what Scripture calls “the old man”—sure does love its titles, doesn’t it?

Confession: When my son set up our website which contains my email account, he arranged it so that my messages come from “Dr. Joe McKeever.” Now, I never see mail that comes from me and so it rarely crosses my mind. But it might cross yours if you get something from here. You might conclude I’m being inconsistent. Which I suppose I am.

I confess to being all over the place in this piece. Sorry about that. I usually try to be a little more organized and clear.

A few observations about preachers calling themselves “Doctor”—

One. Pastors were called Doctor before physicians were, so it’s not exactly usurping the title. The word means a Teacher, and is related to Doctrine.

Two. However, the word has varying connotations in various cultures. In Germany, for instance, the wife of a doctor is called Frau Doctor Whatever. That’s carrying it a little far, we think, but each culture has its own thoughts on the matter.

Three. One calling himself by that title and insisting that others do is completely foreign to the humility and Christlikeness expected of a man of God.

Four. My observation is that the cheaper the degree, the more prominently the possessor of it wears it.

Five. How much more impressive it is when we discover later that someone we have come to know and love has an earned doctoral degree. The fact that he did not wear it prominently and has never called attention to it is delightful.

Six. Churches would do well to leave off the degrees of their ministers. Let people find out accidentally that their ministers are sufficiently educated.

Seven. The pastor search committee that insists that the candidate they present to the church possess a doctoral degree is setting themselves up for all the trouble they’re apt to get.

Get all the education you can, pastor. Take Greek and Hebrew. Study systematic theology and take intensives on Isaiah, Deuteronomy and Paul’s epistles. Write your dissertation and defend it before the committee of highly educated professors. But then, never mention it again.

I suspect if this were the rule—that you could no longer call attention to the degree—half the people enrolled in doctoral programs would drop out this week.

Lord, help your church please.

This article originally appeared here.

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Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.