Africa’s Flashy Titles

Ministers carrying their Bible in one hand and braggadocio in the other is nothing new. Modern titles of doctor, pastor of pastors, apostle, and prophet are really not modern at all. Jesus described the false teachers of his day as those who “loved…being called rabbi” (Mt. 23:7). If the Pharisees lived in today’s South African church, they would have their faces crested on the bright t-shirts of their congregation. At the least, a portrait of he and his wife on a bumper sticker.

Which leads us to our third question: does “touch not the Lord’s anointed” mean the pastor is above rebuke? Is the PG’s love affair with tawdry titles biblical?

In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul gives nearly 20 descriptions of a gospel minister. Here are a few: servant, last of all, fool, weak, homeless, reviled, persecuted, scum, refuse. If an “apostle” wants all the fanfare that comes with that label, he should begin by attaching these descriptions to himself.

Never in Scripture is the pastor referred to as God’s anointed. While Jesus is called God’s “Anointed” (Acts 4:26) pastors generally have less winsome titles. A common strategy false teachers use to defend themselves from criticism is the OT passage that says “touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (1Chr. 16:22; Ps. 105:15). They interpret “mine anointed” as the pastor and the command as being given to those who point out his poor preaching or white silk suit.

Suppose Bishop Baloyi has a girlfriend on the side or offers empty promises or has rebellious children or loves money. In the Prosperity world, none of this is up for rebuke because First Chronicles is clear.

Scripture says otherwise. St. Paul specifically tells the church to rebuke sinning pastors. In fact, the admonition should be public (1Tm. 5:20). Open censure of unrepentant clergy brings fear to the people.

Moreover, the context of 1 Chron. 16 is a plea for Israel to be encouraged. “Remember the covenant!” Even though you were few and homeless, the LORD placed his protecting hand upon you, not allowing pagan nations to “touch” his “anointed ones” (v. 22). These words actually come from David’s song of thanksgiving. If “touch not mine anointed” means no rebuke for God’s people, we would expect to see this in David’s life. But who received more open criticism based on immoral behavior than David (2Sm. 12)?

In the African church these days, about the lowest title one can take is pastor. It seems everyone is a mufundzisi. James disagrees (Jms. 3:1). If God has called a man to this office, he should be quick to follow Paul’s example of renouncing flashy titles.

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