Why I Use The Title Pastor Or Reverend Rather Than My First Name

Post by Pastor Foley–We received a great question earlier this month from a reader who identified himself only as “Tim” (something tells me it’s not our Pastor Tim, but one can never rule out the possibilities). I wanted to highlight his question and my answer here as a way of encouraging you, too, to post your questions or comments in the comment box below in assurance that Pastor Tim and I always read what you write and answer wherever we can.

Q. Why do you wear the title “reverend”? Wouldn’t Matthew 23:9 apply to calling someone “reverend”?     –Tim

A. Hello Tim,

Most people seem to call me Pastor Foley more than Rev. Foley. Others call me Mr. Foley. I avoid calling myself by my first name out of respect for Korean culture, since I am married to a Korean woman and serve in ministry in Korea with a considerable amount of my time. In Korean culture it would be rude and self-aggrandizing to use my first name, calling attention to my individuality and exalting it above my family name and my function in service to God. This is quite a bit different than is the case in the West, so ultimately I have to make a prayerful decision before God and with my accountability partners of what honors God and puts the fewest stumbling blocks in front of people coming to know Christ and reflect him fully.

Myself, I read Jesus’ concern here in Matthew 23:9ff as related to offering and receiving honor which is due only to God. My own experience is that Pastor and Reverend are no longer titles of honor in our culture but rather titles of derision. I cannot recall receiving personal benefit from being called Pastor or Reverend, but I can recall being mocked, being tracked by the government, being denied entry to countries because of it, and being pigeonholed by others (both believers and nonbelievers) before I open my mouth. So if I perceive that someone is calling me Pastor or Reverend to give me honor, I undertake to correct them. But in the corner of the world where I do most of my work, i.e., North Korea, the name Reverend is more likely to get me killed than honored.

Thanks for understanding, and I continue to pray that I have not placed undue stumbling blocks in your path or the paths of others in this attempt to honor Christ and his word.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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One Response to Why I Use The Title Pastor Or Reverend Rather Than My First Name

  1. Jacquelynne Titus says:

    Great reasoning! Woe to him from whom stumbling blocks come. (Romans 14:11-14) God bless Praying for you and Mrs. F, your ministry daily XOXOXO

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