Are you on a "first-name basis" with your ministers? Read here of my own experience on a "first-name basis."
I WAS rather astonished to learn, just today, that in many of our churches the members are on a "first-name basis" with their local pastors. Let me tell you my own experience in that regard. Years ago in the parent church in Eugene, Ore., I encouraged the brethren to call me by my first name. Why? Because I felt, wrongly, that if they called me Mr. Armstrong, I would appear to be exalted and not humble. My intentions were good, but not the method. Years later a woman who had been a close chum of my elder daughter in those early days at Eugene came to visit Beverly in the Pasadena area. She had long since left the Church. Back in 1934 and following years, there had been about eight or 10 young people of around 16 to 18 years of age. I had organized a sort of young people's group of them and held special and separate Bible studies with them.
Familiarity breeds contempt
"Mr. Armstrong," she said at my daughter's home. "I don't mean to criticize you, but I think you might like to know why several of us who were in the teenage group in Eugene are no longer in the Church. This is not the only reason, of course, but it did contribute to it. Do you remember how you encouraged all in the Church in those days to call you by your first name? You were then a full generation older than we teenagers. "Experience has now shown some of us that the saying 'familiarity breeds contempt' is really true. We were on such a familiar first-name basis with you, that it brought you in our eyes down to our own level. I notice that since you came to Pasadena, the brethren are not on a first-name basis with you. I hope you never change that." Yes, familiarity does often breed contempt. Your minister should be, spiritually and in biblical knowledge and understanding, senior to those of you — even who may be twice his age. I remember, at a Feast of Tabernacles in the days when our one and only Feast site was Big Sandy, Tex., how I found it necessary to admonish the brethren that, even though many of them were in physical years much older than some of our young ministers, yet these young ministers had had special concentrated biblical teaching at Ambassador College, and SPIRITUALLY speaking, these young ministers were older than the brethren.
Senior in understanding
I do not want, most certainly, for our ministers to feel superior, vain or "lifted up in vanity," but the very fact that they have been ordained to Christ's ministry should mean that they are SENIOR to their congregations in biblical knowledge and understanding. And, as I believe the personal illustration I gave above of my own experience, it is you BRETHREN who may be harmed if you feel familiar enough with your minister to be on a first-name basis with him. God's Word teaches us to hold the ministers who are over us in high regard. "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" (I Thessalonians 5:12-13). Again. "Let the elders that rule well be accounted worthy of double honour [remuneration — Moffatt translation], especially they who labour in the word and doctrine" (I Timothy 5:17). On the other hand. I do not mean that we should go to the opposite extreme and call ministers by high titles, such as Dr., etc. During the recent ministerial conference Mr. Roderick Meredith asked me if I would stop calling him "Dr. Meredith," and I agreed that this could sound like flattery.