Creative Leadership

Yes, Apostles and Prophets Are in the Church Today – but Stop Calling Yourself One

I may lose a few readers here…

I did a social media post last week that said, “If your social media bio or resume describes you as a ‘visionary,’ ‘pioneer’ or ‘catalyst’ then you probably aren’t one. My recommendation? Do the work, make an impression, then leave it to others to describe you that way and it will make a much greater impact.”

I wrote the post out of frustration with so many people today who make extraordinary claims in their biographies and resumes.  And I must admit, my readers agreed with my comment, probably because we see it happening so much these days.

And the fact is, it happens inside the Church as well as outside. It doesn’t take much time to scroll through social media feeds and find plenty of “apostles,” “prophets” “bishops,” and – not to leave the ladies out – “prophetesses.” I’m going to upset some people here, but while yes, those roles are still relevant in the church today and for some are well-deserved, far too many others are making up these titles based on their own authority.

For instance, there have always been bishops overseeing multiple churches and denominational groups. In organizations where that title is used and it’s conferred on you, then by all means run with it. And while not many “official” organizations confer titles like apostle and prophet, if that happens, I’m fine with it.

But if you’re the pastor of a 25-member church in rural Oklahoma, don’t call yourself a bishop.

Here’s the issue:

First, just like the titles of “visionary” or “pioneer” – it’s better to leave it to others to see your results and call you an apostle or prophet. Worry less about the title and more about doing the work required of that role. And if you eventually become honored in that way, then accept the description in a gracious and humble manner.

But don’t call yourself a prophet, apostle, or bishop on your own. Maybe start with pastor or evangelist and work up from there…

And second, these terms aren’t understood by the culture today, and chances are they’ll think you’re crazy and your witness will be damaged. In one large church I confronted the pastor on this issue. The leaders called each other “elder” (as in “Elder Bob” or “Elder Sam”) and I told him that to non-believers or new visitors the church looked like a cult. To my surprise, the pastor immediately agreed, and held a staff meeting to stop it from happening in the future.

Just remember: honor is something you receive, not take. So follow the humble route. Do the actual work and stop promoting your own title. Because as John Maxwell says, if you call yourself a leader but no one’s following you, then you’re not a leader, you’re just out for a walk.

And most important, when other people start honoring you with titles like this, it will have a much greater legitimacy and impact than you making it up.

Photo by Orkun Azap on Unsplash

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4 Comments

  1. My question Phil is why does anyone need a title anyway? Sure the folks here call me Pastor Bill. To them it is a term of respect. I want to tell people “Just call me Bill.” I think some get some arrogance going on and thrive to be titled with something. Just me .02 worth. And please get me started on “apostles” and “prophets,” etc.

    1. Makes sense to me. I was a member of Jack Hayford’s “Church on the Way” most of my adult life, and consider him one of the greatest pastors of my generation. But everyone called him “Jack.” Not even “Pastor Jack” – but just “Jack.” He loved it.

  2. One of the members of the church owns an automotive repair shop. He told me a “Prophet” brought his car in for repair. I asked; How did you know he was a “Prophet”? It said so in gold letters on the front license plate of his car.
    Paul never called himself with the title “Apostle Paul.” He referred to himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle. Paul was “apostled” by the Lord (sent out one Acts 9:15-16 & 13:2-3). It was something he did as a result of his Jesus calling and thus recognized by us today as Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ.
    I had a visitor ask me recently how I’d like to be addressed. I responded that’s up to you. You can call me Mark, Mr Smith, brother, pastor, or Smitty. Just get to know me and the rest will follow.
    We all need to know who Jesus is as our Sovereign, Savior, Lord and Friend. Then, find out who we are in Him and what He did in making us God’s child. When a person knows he is accepted by God & beloved by Him, titles become really insignificant. Our security & identity is in Him, as the beloved of the Lord, not what we do.
    This frees us all just be be a child of God through our faith in Jesus Christ, serving Him in the calling of “Follow Me and I will make you ……….”. The rest will take care of it self.

    1. Love the prophet license plate story! Yeah – that’s a little over the top. Great thoughts, and thanks for sharing Mark!

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