Though a book is coming out on this soon by many other people, what I have seen lately provoked me to go back to this article and put it online. I thought by so doing a few young ministers may focus on what is important instead of pompous and bogus titles that lead to nowhere.
A few years ago here in Buea, during a call-in program (Showers of Blessing) on Revival Gospel Radio; a servant of God called the radio and introduced himself as Rev/Dr/Bishop… He was someone we were familiar with. At the end of his call, the anchor in this program said “that was Pastor… calling from Bomaka.” This man was so enraged that he called back and corrected the anchor. This is what he said “I did not say Pastor …, I said Rev/Dr/Bishop …” This was a man who did not even have a church, he had something like a prayer cell in town. When he passed on about two years ago, the few people around him had to come and plead with the Gospel Ministers’ Forum in town to help contribute money to give the man the most modest funeral they could afford. He paraded titles but had completely nothing to show for them.
Lately, I was in another meeting and the coordinator introduced a man of God and called him Pastor …, this man did not waste time, he stood up immediately and said “point of correction please, I am not Pastor … I am Rev. …”
TITLES BECOMING MORE IMPORTANT TODAY
Have you taken note that the issue of titles is beginning to take central stage in our gospel arena today?
A few years ago, if you were called Evangelist …, it really made a great show, people respected you so much. Unfortunately, the title seems to have no weight these days. The titles prophet and apostle seem to be dominating now. If you successfully tried two or three words of knowledge that “caught” well, you can change your title to prophet. And I have seen people force God to speak to confirm their newly acquired title of prophet. Even if the person concerned tries to say that what the prophet said is not true for him, the man will say “think again the Lord cannot lie.”
GOING FOR BISHOPRIC
As if that was not enough, there is another title that is beginning to take central stage in our Pentecostal circles today. That title is Bishop.
When I took time to search about this title of Bishop, I found out that a Bishop is simply a synonym of the word Elder. You can effect a search yourself with the use of commentaries from Titus 1:1-7; 1Tim 3:1-7 and other scriptures.
Let us just read one scripture from Titus 1:4-8 KJV “To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
For a bishop must be blameless, [it could equally read ”for an elder must be blameless”] the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate.”
One thing we should also take note is that Bishop is not one of the five-fold ministry gifts. Apostle Paul asked Pastors Timothy and Titus to ordain elders in every town.
If you are vigilant, you would have realized that Apostle Paul asked Pastor Timothy and Pastor Titus to ordain elders used also as Bishops in every city. Paul gave that responsibility to Timothy and Titus, his spiritual sons in the ministry. Today we find pastors, evangelists, prophets and apostles hunting for the title of bishop at all cost. Is this not questionable?
Look at Phil 1:1 “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Jesus Christ which are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”
Paul as an apostle was writing with Timothy to all the saints with the bishops and deacons. Take note of the plural of bishops and deacons. Also take note of the sequence – bishops and deacons.
The word bishops is translated from the GK word episkopos which means a preaching elder.
The Dakes annotated Bible, commenting on 1 Tim 3:17 says bishop means a church officer, commonly called presbyter or bishop
It is obvious that any attempt to make something bigger from that title is Roman Catholicizing of the title.
I once heard of a man of God who was an apostle who was going with his son to an occasion organized by the state, the man of God introduced himself as Apostle … and his son introduced himself as Bishop … the son was ushered in and since this circular man did not know who an apostle is, he refused him entry. After this occasion, this man went and changed office from apostle to Bishop. Interesting isn’t it.
DO TITLES CREATE IMPACT
I also thought of some influential men of God in our continent like Pastor Adeboye, Pastor Kumuyi, Pastor Chris Oyakilome, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo and many others who have no other title but pastor. Some of them even have doctorate degrees but in church, they will rather use pastor. Pastor Kumuyi for instance has a doctorate degree but he will only use it when he is writing on leadership for circular magazines like NewAfrican but in church you will not even know whether he has it.
I thought of a man of God of distinction Professor Zacharias Tane Fomum, (of blessed memory) although he has the highest academic award on earth, the Doctor of Science, a professor of distinction, in church he was simply called Brother Zachs. And this did not in anyway reduce his impact in the ministry. I thought of Brother Gbile Akanni in Nigeria though he is making world-wide impact, he simply calls himself Brother. The lack of titles has not diminished the impact these people are making in the Body of Christ.
Now I don’t have any problem with the title bishop because it is biblical, my problem is the magnitude to which the issue of Bishop is treated today with the fanfare that goes along with it.
THE REGALIA OF THE BISHOP, WHERE FROM?
I have asked myself this question “why is it that the Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher, the offices given by our Lord Jesus Himself to the church do not wear special robes, huge chains, a small red cap with rings but the Bishop has to carry those things?”
Dear brethren, when I looked deeply into these things I realized that even if our Pentecostal bishops try to defend what they are doing biblically, what they are actually doing is a copy work from the Roman Catholic Church. I stand to be corrected.
I asked one of the Pentecostal Bishops in my country why this fanfare about the title, and he told me that Bishop Benson Idahosa took the title because he realized that the Roman Catholic Bishops who were not anointed like him were having access to places he did not have, so he imitated them to have access. Granted, but the question is, why did he not remove it once he had the access, he started parading it in the Body of Christ which has become a burden to the Body of Christ today. He did not take me to the Bible to support the fanfare and the parade that accompanies our present day bishops.
ANOTHER CASE IN NIGERIA
While I was questioning this issue with the aforementioned Bishop, there was another man of God there who has been going to minister in Nigeria. The man said “I have not seen anything yet.” He told me what prevails in Nigeria. He said in Nigeria, to become a Bishop, you must have five Jeeps, you must have built a house of standard for yourself, you should have a church of at least one thousand people and you should have at least 1 million Naira in the bank. [I don’t know whether this is exactly what is required but that is what this man of God said.] I asked myself, where is the biblical backing there?
When I saw the criteria in Nigeria, I understood why some Nigerians have a speaking fee; some come to Cameroon and use all kinds of ungodly and dubious methods to raise money. This is terrible!
To show that this is a copy work from the Roman Catholic System, our Pentecostal Bishops too are called His Lordship, Bishop…. We know that before Bishop Idahosa died, he promoted himself to Arch Bishop Benson Idahosa. We also have Bishop Duncan Williams who appends his name on his books very carefully as Arch Bishop Duncan Williams. Where is ARCH coming from? Soon, we will have Pentecostal Cardinals and Pentecostal Popes. Once we have taken their course, we are headed towards their destination. Every journey has a destination you know?
TAKING BACK WHAT BELONGS TO US?
Talking with another Pentecostal Bishop in the country, he talked with me with a lot of zest and he told me “we are taking back what rightfully belongs to us.” I asked him about the cap, the huge chain and the rings and he said “Aaron had a special garment…” I asked him “why have we not also looked for some special robes for the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers who are actually occupying an office Jesus gave to the body; we only do it to Bishops? He was a bit tongue-tied.
I asked him, do you know about the criteria to be consecrated a Bishop in Nigeria? He winked a bit and said “that is another level”. I told him, we have just begun. Every tree begins as a seed.
THE FIVE-FOLD, A CATALOG OF NAMES?
The search for titles can be devastating and it breeds pride and arrogance at times. It is also a destroyer of humility. There are some people who treat the five-fold ministry offices as if it is a catalog of names from which they go and look until they find one that seems to fit them more. When you look and you see that the title Apostle will bring you more honour, you take it. If it is prophet, you take that one. There are many young ministers parading the title of Apostle who have not successfully planted even a single church. There are many baby prophets these days who do not even know what is expected of a prophet.
Many of these baby Apostles and Prophets have not learned that you may have some apostolic traits and characteristics or some prophetic deposits or gifts but you mature into an office. But once they see any gift or characteristic resembling an office, they grab the office immediately meanwhile they have not yet been equipped to handle responsibilities attached to the office they are parading.
Have you ever thought of the fact that even this title of Reverend that is found in almost every circle which many people carry has to be questioned? Where is it coming from? It is not an office given by Christ to the church. In some circles people will do anything, write any request so that they can to be moved from Pastor to Reverend Pastor. And once the title shifts and you dare call him pastor, you are about to receive a severe rebuke. I want to believe that even this title too surely has it source from the Roman Catholic Church as well.
Lately, I read a compliment in a book that was written by His Holiness … I was so shocked that I asked the author “You allow a person to write a compliment in your book with the title His Holiness …?” We are on a journey headed to somewhere unpleasant. If we don’t retreat, we may be surprised at our destination. I pray that everybody reading this should make an effort to read THE FINAL QUEST and THE CALL by Rick Joyner. It may help us to see our present actions in the light of eternity.
Dear brothers and sisters, I have been mourning over this issue. I have felt pain when I see questionable practices invading the Body of Christ. The Bible says we know in part and we prophesy in part. Maybe someone has a better insight from scriptures that can calm my doubts, I will really welcome them. I don’t have any problem with any individual anywhere; I have a problem with practices that have question marks.
Have you heard new titles in Pentecostal circles today like: Archbishop, his lordship, his grace, his holiness, his eminence, apostle, arch apostle, prophet-bishop, senior apostle, senior prophet, arch deacon, arch elder, papa, mama, arch doctor, arch professor, arch pope, the right reverend, the very reverend, Rev. arch bishop, professor… some look like jokes but it will interest you to find them.
TITLE SICKNESS CAN BREAK FELLOWSHIP
In 2008 when the Full Gospel Mission conference IMPACT was going on in Douala, I met a friend whom I have not seen for a long time. With all the excitement, I went to him with a broad smile, full of happiness for seeing my brother after a very long while. As I stepped up to him with my hand stretched, I greeted him “Hi Brother…” The reaction was humiliating. He did not even as much as shake my hand. He retorted angrily “I am Pastor…, I am not brother…, I am doing this to help you, you have to know how to show respect to your pastors.”
This happened in a crowd and if I say I did not feel humiliated that I would not be sincere to myself.
I later thought, it might have been good to have asked him “When you were going to the Bible school, did you inform me?” Fellowship with my brother was broken because of a newly acquired title. At times it is like you ask some of these title-sick people “Why don’t you carry a badge all the time with the inscription “PASTOR” or whatever title it is you want so that no one would make the grievous mistake of calling you Brother instead of Pastor?”
I was pleasantly surprised when Rev. Hal Rahman came to Buea. One of his spiritual sons, young enough to be his biological son came up to him and called him Reverend. He said “Call me Brother Hal. When you call me Brother Hal, it is more intimate than when you call me Rev. Hal.”
This is a man who has impacted hundreds of thousands in Cameroon, he deserves any title there is but he tells his people “call me Brother Hal.”
It appears as if the higher people go in their relationship with God, the more inconsequential some of these trivial issues like titles mean to them. While our impactful elders are letting go of bogus titles and settling down with humility and meekness to the title of brother, many of our modern day young ministers today are doing everything to get the latest biggest title they can afford.
These elderly ministers have come to understand that titles mean very little without the life. It is the impact you have on people that really matters, not the title.
No doubt Dr. Mensa Otabil says Mediocrity clings unto titles.
You see all the kinds of regalia now that has been copied from the Roman Catholic system coming back to the Pentecostal circles with full force. They even seem to be telling the Roman Catholic Church that they had something good but did not know how to use it.
Why did you leave in the first place as a protestant? If that is the best thing to do, why not go back there and fit into the system? Why criticize a people for things they are doing, you leave and pick up everything you criticized before?
There is something seriously wrong with this new phenomenon in the Body of Christ.
COULD THE JESUITS HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE?
Having had a good grasp of the functioning of Jesuits in our society, how they can get into a system and transform it to look like the Roman Catholic Church, I am afraid that they have found their way in the Pentecostal circles and are already having their way.
I am sorry, if someone gets offended but I am convinced that a Jesuit rose to a prominent position in the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon lately. They now celebrate Ash Wednesdays, Good Fridays, and other practices that were foreign in that church some ten years ago. I wonder whether the members have even asked themselves the question why the sudden change. It did not just happen, someone worked day and night to let it happen.
WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF THE TITLE REVEREND?
In my view, there is actually no problem with the title of reverend. The problem is the source. I am persuaded that the name Reverend was derived from the Roman Catholic system. Since they have the Rev/Father, we thought that when we work hard for a while, a Reverend too should follow. Where is its biblical source? I am afraid that we find ourselves taking titles that are reserved for God alone.
In the Redeemed Christian church, Deeper Life and many other churches, they have limited themselves to the offices in the scriptures, especially that of pastor.
When I talked about this title issue on the radio, one Brother from an evangelical church told me that some pastors there do their best to get this title because when a church invites them and they have the title Rev. it means when they are talking in terms of their salary, the title will influence the amount that it finally decided. So it is at times backed by search for money and glory. (worth noting is that that church do not transfer their pastors, their churches are autonomous, thus the various congregations decide to invite their pastor)
SEEKING FOR AN HONORARY DOCTORATE?
Another cankerworm to titles lately has been the hunt for honorary doctorates. You find a minister who does not even have the Ordinary or Advanced level certificate doing all, ready to pay money to receive the title of Doctor. When they finally receive it, their English is still at the same level, you see someone introduced as a Rev/Dr. but the English he speaks makes the world to despise the church as if we don’t know what we are doing.
One minister of God took an article from one of my newspapers, after preaching it in a wedding in Nigeria, the people told him that they will give him an honorary doctorate degree for that message. Can you see what I am telling you?
Today, in some churches or ministries, you must call the visionary Papa or Mama or Daddy or Mummy. I am not one bit against respecting our men of God but in some of these settings if you don’t call it that way you are in trouble.
I remember once I was told of a young minister in town who has taken the title bishop all by himself. One of his members called him Pastor and he shouted and humiliated the young man there for calling him Pastor instead of Bishop. That is the extent to which the love of titles is taking us. Instead of seeking for content, people are seeking for titles.
THE MIMICRY OF TITLE HUNTERS
I once read of a preacher who was title-sick. He decided to display his titles on a chain he was wearing on his neck. The titles were the first three offices in the five-fold. The initials were big and bold and placed vertically like this:
From a distance, when someone saw his chain, guess what, he read? bold letters read vertically as APE. The hunt for titles seem to make its hunters at times to look like apes mimicking or acting a drama. Lately, a firend saw a title somewhere and said he must share it with me. This is the title this individual was carrying – HIS EMINENCE, THE MOST REVEREND W… KING. ARCH-BISHOP OF ZION.(All these titles for one man to go to where with them?) The question is – what are we looking for and where are we going with all these bogus titles.
As far as this bishop business is concerned one of our elders said he saw in a book were a Pentecostal bishop was greeting the pope with his long cap. The people took a good photo of him and the caption they wrote under was “rebellious sons coming back home.” When we are carrying all these caps, huge chains up and down, we actually make the Roman Catholics to rejoice. We give them an opportunity to mock us. “You left as a protestant but you are gradually coming back home.” Why are we called protestants when we are doing all what we were protesting against?
FROM PROTESTANTISM TO CATHOLICISM
Do you realize that we are gradually bringing back what the Roman Catholics are doing with different names? From Holy Water, today we have Anointed Water, we have Anointing oils, mantles and many other practices that are even overtaking the people we protested against.
If you see the way many people use Anointed water and anointing oil nowadays, you would not argue with me that is has become a veritable idol to deal with.
Special Note: I want to suggest to all those reading this article not to react with their emotions. They should allow reason to prevail. I will welcome any feedback. Don’t get angry! Anger stops you from rational thinking. Be rational and you will see the concern I have and why I wrote this article.