I preached today.
It was a small little village church; my wife and I accounted for perhaps 20% of the attendance, and their average age was several decades more than my own number of years.
At one point, my wife was asked, “Is your husband a reverend?”
By that, she meant had I been ordained or not. This member of the congregation was already referring to me as a minister, but now she wanted to know if I was, in fact, a reverend.
It’s kind of a funny word.
I won’t bother to look it up; it probably comes from the word “revere”–to honor, esteem someone or something.
But it’s got an “-nd” attached to it. What’s that? Is it some sort of suffix, like “2nd”? Actually, it most pops out to me as the word “end.” Is such a minister the ‘end’ of reverence?
It is the job of any reverend, or minister, or Christian to be a pointer to Jesus Christ, that God might be rightly honored and esteemed–worshiped for who He is.
But I have been in many churches where the reverend (a.k.a. pastor, father, vicar, priest, preacher, even TV evangelist) becomes an end in himself. A cult of personality grows around many such leaders who speak powerfully and display irresistible charisma. The honor and esteem goes to them…and nowhere else.
Perhaps the “-end” should be a reminder to the speaker himself, to jog his awareness of what his purpose truly is, ensuring that the results of his efforts and speaking are that the honor and esteem goes to the right Person.
I’m not an exciting, dynamic, fiery preacher, and so far, I don’t have a personality cult that I’m aware of. I’m also not a reverend. But the challenge is still the same: are my efforts, actions, and words pointing people to God? Or are they an end to themselves, something to fill the time on a Sunday morning?
On the way out, I was asked to come back…next week. Was it because my efforts were proper and effective? Was it because they simply had a need for someone to fill the pulpit slot? Is this the beginning of my own personality cult?
It can be so hard to tell; outwardly, many of our efforts may look the same, though the inward motivations are as different as can be.
I certainly won’t be a reverend by next week. But will I be a worthwhile signpost, directing people to the proper end of their own reverence? Will I ensure that I am always in the “2nd” place, standing myself underneath the authority, lordship, and goodness of God?
Or will I become an end in myself, a sponge for people’s gratitude?
The heart makes all the difference.