By Any Other Name?

single roseIn a previous post, I mentioned that I would be open to receiving and answering questions from the web ‘community’. The following is a query from my physical and spiritual father:

Is the word ” Reverend”…irreverent? Where did the word come from and why do some use it in churches and some do not…some ministers like it and some don’t? a Pastor recently told me NOT to call him ‘Dominee’ [dutch for Reverend?] because of its implications meaning ‘domineering’ he says.

First, the origin of Reverend is derived from the word Latin reverendus meaning ‘one who is to be respected.’ (source) This meaning certainly accords with the scripture’s command to “obey those who rule over you, and be submissive” (Hebrews 13:17) and “to recognize those who labor among you… and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thessalonians 5:13).

However, all words change over time and certainly the term ‘Reverend’ does not mean exactly the same thing today as it did back in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries from where it originated. In my understanding, today it simply indicates one who holds an official, pastoral position and so it functions more as a indicator of the office and calling in the church than it does of the character of the man. So, for example, I often sign my name to church correspondence as “Rev. Daniel Kok” to communicate the fact that I am writing something or ‘approving’ of something in an official capacity. It is, then, simply a useful designation without being a scripturally sanctioned title.

I rarely if ever use this title, though, to introduce or speak of myself because of the connotations it might carry, such as worthy of being revered (see Acts 10:26 & Revelation 22:9), or possibly, as per the Dutch example you gave, a misunderstanding of how much I like to rule the church with an iron fist!

But, as you noted, many ministers and churches do not use this ‘address.’ Some will cite Matthew 23:8-10 to forbid the use of any and all titles in the church. However, Rabbi, Teacher and Father are, clearly, titles given in place of our one Rabbi & Teacher (Christ) and Father who is God, as opposed to simply designating someone with a particular responsibility. For the context that our Lord is speaking of is that of pride (vs. 5,6&11,12) not nomenclature.

In addition, some Christians eschew formal titles because  they think their use exalts the clergy over the laity and thus undermines the “priesthood of all believers” (see 1 Peter 2:9). Wishing to avoid all divisions amongst believers they will call themselves “brother so and so” or simply have others call them by their first name. Personally I don’t have a problem with this as long as it does not descend into false humility (Colossians 2:18).

Yet scripture does show us positive examples where titles or designations may be used. Peter, for example, calls those appointed to oversee the church “elders” (1 Peter 5:1ff.) and Paul tells Timothy to appoint “elders” in every city. (Titus 1:5). Paul signs his letters as an apostle (2 Corinthians 1:1) and calls for the elders and overseers of the church to hear him (Acts 20:17). When Paul was taken captive said “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people” (Acts 23:5). All of these titles are used to identify those whom, as we noted above, are worthy of honor for their work’s or calling’s sake.

Furthermore the titles of  ‘Pastor’ ‘Elder’ ‘Deacon’ etc. are not made/created by man but given to us by God in His Word. Yes, these words indicate the servant ‘posture’ of these offices, yet at the same time identify those who have been chosen to serve in an official capacity and who, by the Spirit, possess real authority as representatives of Christ (Acts 20:28).


How to Help Your Children Leave the Church

Rev. Wes Bredenhof of the Langley Canadian Reformed Church lets us know what we can do to ensure that the next generation will not worship with us.

1.  Gripe and complain about the church endlessly.  Make sure that your children hear your complaining.  Never, ever say anything positive about the church and certainly never pray for the church and for the pastors, elders, and deacons.

2.  Become a oncer.  Communicate to your children that you don’t need the ministry of the Word and sacraments and they don’t really need it either.  You’ve heard it all before anyway.  Make it clear that God’s call to worship doesn’t apply to your family.

3.  Frequent other (especially non-Reformed) churches.  Tell them that the differences are not all that great and we all basically believe the same things anyway — except these other churches have far more joy.   Also, be sure to get your children involved in the activities of other churches wherever you can.  It will be good for them to broaden their horizons.

4.  Make church attendance optional.  If they don’t feel like going to church, don’t make it sound like going to church is like going to school or to the dentist.  If they don’t want to, you shouldn’t make them.  It has to be a matter of the heart.  Tell them that they have to want to go.

5.  Similarly, make catechism attendance optional.  If they don’t feel like going, certainly don’t make them.  Here too, it has to be from the heart.  Whatever you do, don’t support the efforts of your pastor to catechize your children.  Don’t check to make sure they’re memorizing the catechism, don’t check to see if they’re doing their homework, and don’t bother making sure they’re prepared for class.

6.  Do not sing from the Book of Praise [ed. I would add the ‘Psalter Hymnal’] in your home.  You do not want to communicate to your children that you actually appreciate the Psalms and Hymns of the church.  You do not want them to embrace these songs and actually think that there may be some value to them.

7.  Deliberately move far enough away from the church so that meaningful involvement in the life of the church becomes impossible.  Do not take any opportunity to move closer.

8.  Do not teach your children about the importance of giving your first fruits to the Lord.  Never speak to your children about financial contributions to the church.  Be sure to set them an example by never or rarely giving yourself.  If you do give something, make sure that it’s something from what’s left over and do it grudgingly.  Say things like, “Well, we have a little extra this month, maybe we can give something to the church to get the elders off our back.”

9.  Do not send them to the Christian school the other children from the congregation attend.  Instead, send them to a school where they will learn about the “catholicity” of the faith.  Or, send them to a public school so they can be Davids and Daniels for the Lord.  If you homeschool them, make sure they develop closer bonds with other homeschoolers than with the people in your own church.

10.  Say nothing about their friends or about potential marriage partners.  When it comes to friends, encourage them to look for friends to whom they can be a light and a witness — they should have as many unbelievers for friends as possible.  When it comes to marriage partners, tell them, “The only thing that matters is that he/she loves the Lord.”

In short, do everything you can to communicate that the church is merely a human organization or a club where you can come and go as you please.  Make it clear that the church is not your spiritual mother (Gal. 4:26), not the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), not the bride for which Christ died and which he loves (Eph. 5:25), and definitely not the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).

See the whole post here (the link has now expired but you can read Rev. Bredenhof’s blog at

More Calvin

I am beginning to think that I should just quote John Calvin every time I post.

As I was preparing for my Christmas Day sermon I came across these words from Calvin’s Harmony of the Gospels, Volume I. (commenting on Matthew 2:13):

We are here taught, that God has more than one way of preserving his own people. Sometimes he makes astonishing displays of his power; while at other times he employs dark coverings or shadows, from which feeble rays of it escape. This wonderful method of preserving the Son of God under the cross teaches us, that they act improperly who prescribe to God a fixed plan of action. Let us permit him to advance our salvation by a diversity of methods; and let us not refuse to be humbled, that he may more abundantly display his glory. Above all, let us never avoid the cross, by which the Son of God himself was trained from his earliest infancy. This flight is a part of the foolishness of the cross, but it surpasses all the wisdom of the world. That he may appear at his own time as the Savior of Judea, he is compelled to flee from it, and is nourished by Egypt, from which nothing but what was destructive to the Church of God had ever proceeded. Who would not have regarded with amazement such an unexpected work of God?

Especially note the italicized portion I have underlined. What a wonderful statement concerning the abiding message of Christ’s church! Enough said.

You Can’t Have One without the Other

Let me share with you a helpful reminder for ministers in their gospel preaching (taken from Calvin’s Harmony of the Gospels, Volume II -commenting on Luke 9:22):

as there is nothing to be seen in the cross but the weakness of the flesh, till we come to his resurrection, in which the power of the Spirit shines brightly, our faith will find no encouragement or support. In like manner, all ministers of the Word, who desire that their preaching may be profitable, ought to be exceedingly careful that the glory of his resurrection should be always exhibited by them in connection with the ignominy of his death.

With the arrival of a ‘health and wealth gospel’ as well as all manner of worldly success and gain being trumpeted in the name of Christ, the godly pastor might overreact by emphasizing the suffering and death of Jesus to the virtual exclusion of the real victory we have in Christ.

But if we do not preach the resurrection of Christ, all His suffering is in vain (let alone our own – see Philippians 1:29). In fact if we neglect it we have given the false preachers an ‘in’ to our congregants for faith longs to hear of the victory we have in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). If they don’t hear it from us will they not listen to someone else?

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. But now Christ is risen from the dead. ‘Death is swallowed up in victory'”. (1 Corinthians 15:14,20,54)

In Memoriam: Rev. C. Eric Fennema

As was announced last Sunday morning, Rev. C. Eric Fennema, pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Lethbridge (URC) passed away suddenly on Saturday, September 6. We mourn the loss of a brother in Christ, fellow pastor and mentor.

The following is an obituary that has been passed around URC circles. I thought I would post it here in memory of God’s faithfulness to His people and how He uses the labours of His servants to glorify Himself.

Rev. C. Eric Fennema, beloved husband, father, grandfather, minister of the Gospel, and friend went home to the Lord on Saturday, September 6, 2008 at the age of 58.

Eric was born in Roseland, Illinois on November 8, 1949, son of the late Clarence and Cecile Fennema.

Eric’s desire for ministry began early in life. God confirmed the call and he was ordained into the ministry on January 14, 1975.

The Lord lead Eric to many congregations during his 34 years of ministry. These congregations include: Beacon Light CRC, Gary, Indiana; Sibley CRC, Sibley, Iowa; Napa Valley CRC, Napa, California; First CRC, Rock Valley, Iowa; Trinity URC, Lethbridge, Alberta. Eric’s passion was for the Lord. He preached the Word of the Lord with conviction according to His almighty purposes. Eric urgently prayed for his family and others that they be right with the Lord; to have their faith in the Lord.

Eric was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Nancy.

Eric is survived by Helen, his loving wife of 37 years; five children: Anne (Scott) Hendrikse, Joel Fennema, Jonathan Fennema, Sarah (Jason) Van Voorst, and Caryn (Micah) Schouten; six grandchildren: Hannah, Mary and Jacob Hendrikse; Mackinzie and Faith Van Voorst; and Alexa Schouten; two brothers: Roger (Carol) and Alan (Darlene); two sisters: Virginia Eizenga and Marcia (John) Hohm; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.

“I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Ps. 116: 13-15

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38-39

In lieu of flowers, in memory of Eric, donations may be made to Christian Credit Union, for the purposes of Christian Education, 1619 Mayor Magrath Drive South, Lethbridge, AB T1K 2R4.

Relatives and friends are invited to meet with the family at TRINITY UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1100 – 40 Avenue North, Lethbridge, Alberta on Wednesday, September 10, 2008 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

A Funeral Service will be held at TRINITY UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 10:00 a.m. with Reverend Chris Gordon officiating.

Interment will take place at Valley View Cemetery, Rock Valley, Iowa.

Honoured to serve the family, CORNERSTONE FUNERAL HOME AND CREMATORIUM, 2800 Mayor Magrath Drive South, Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 7B1. Telephone (403) 381-7777.

-Originally posted in the Sheboygan Press, September 9, 2008