Ephesians 4:11 is the last list in the New Testament of God's ministers written about 61 AD and says, "And he (God) gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
The word "pastor" is the Greek word "poimhn" ( poimen) and means "shepherd." It is used 16 times in the New Testament and translated "shepherd." Only in Ephesians 4:11 is it translated "pastor." Vines defined the word as: "a shepherd, one who tends the herds or flocks' (not merely one who feeds them. It is used metaphorically of Christians pastor." (W.E/ Vines, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr, Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and Testament Words, Thomas Nelson:Nashville, 1985, p462.) Christ is said to be the Great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20) and the Good Shepherd ( John 10:11). Jesus Christ is the Head of the local church as Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:18 state. In 1 Peter 2:25, speaking to the Jews, uses this word "poimen" in reference to Christ stating, "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25) The word "Bishop" means "overseer." Therefore the word "poimen" refers to the man God calls to overseer the local congregation.
A pastor then is the Lord's "under shepherd" the overseer of the Lord's congregation. He is called a "pastor teacher" in Ephesians 4:11 which denotes his twofold ministry. He is to shepherd the Lord's flock and to be a teacher of God's word.
1 Peter 5:2 says "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind." The words "feed the flock" is the Greek word "poimhn" ( poimen) which means "to shepherd" and in the verse says the one who is shepherding the flock of God is to take the oversight. The verse can be literally translated "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."
Further support for the title "pastor" is found in 1 Peter 2:25, said, "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Here Jesus is referred to as the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. Christ is the Pastor....the overseer of the local church is God's pastor... Use of the terms Bishop and Elder denote the position or duties of the pastor.
Nowhere in the New Testament is anyone called by the title "bishop," "elder" or "pastor." either as Bishop Timothy, or Bishop John. In fact....no minister in the New Testament is called by a title, not even Paul. Paul was called "an" or "a" apostle," but never the "Apostle Paul." No one was called "Pastor" as a title. 1 Peter 2:25 states "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25) This refers to Jesus Christ and is capitalized.
I only use the title "pastor" to refer to myself based on Ephesians 4:11. It would be correct to use the title "bishop" or "elder". But it is not biblical for a minister to use the title "Reverend." The word is found only once in all the Bible and is not a reference to a man, but to Almighty God.
"He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name." (Psalms 111:9)
The Hebrew word is "yare' " and means: to fear; morally, to revere; caus. to frighten:--affright, be (make) afraid, dread(-ful), (put in) fear(-ful, -fully, -ing), (be had in) reverence(-end), X see, terrible (act, -ness, thing). (Strong's 3372).
Clearly only God is to be revered and in holding the reverence of God we exercise godly fear, knowing that who He is and of His absolutely power over all things. That is certainly not a attribute of a minister of the Gospel, an under shepherd who pastors a local congregation of believers. We are to respect our pastors who minister unto us, but we do not fear them and stand in awe of their power, as we are to our God and Creator. The reverence this word speaks of is reserved for God alone.
Webster's 1828 Dictionary states the English word definition as:
2. A title of respect given to the clergy or ecclesiastics. We style a clergyman reverend; a bishop is styled right reverend; an archbishop most reverend. The religious in catholic countries, are styled reverend fathers; abbesses, prioresses, &c. reverend mothers. In Scotland, as in the United States, the clergy are individually styled reverend. A synod is styled very reverend, and the general assembly venerable."
Webster's Dictionary shows the use of the title "Reverend" came from the Roman Catholic Church and its unbiblical church polity. In the Roman church it is distinctly used to denote people in religious positions. Note that the title was applied to " reverend fathers; abbesses, prioresses, &c. reverend mothers." Each of these refer to a position in the Roman Church which has no biblical precedent. No man in the Bible is called by the title "reverend" or even so revered. In the true New Testament assembly (ekklesia) as God instituted it there are no "reverend fathers; abbesses, prioresses, &c. reverend mothers." The title today refers to the "pastor teacher" who is the overseer and shepherd of the local congregation.
He is to be respected, yes, and followed as Hebrews 13:17 instructs us. If the pastor is truly called by God, he then is God's man and messenger to the local congregation. (See Rev. 1:20)
To sum it up for me it is a matter of conscience. Some may defend the use of the word "Reverend," saying it is simply a matter of semantics and of no importance. However, I am a Gospel preacher, called by God to pastor a local congregation. My calling is from God to be his messenger and to shepherd His flock. My message is to be strictly God's message and to rigorously follow His word as to the message which I preach and teach and the example I set. I am not at liberty to change or add to God's clear instructions which means to use the term "Reverend" which is a title that man has appropriated. It is not a biblical term used to describe a minister of the Gospel and God's overseer or shepherd of a local congregation. The biblical term is "pastor" and I think it honors the Lord and is an act of obedience to use the term He used. The use of the word "Reverend" has it roots in the unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic Church, which is a herectical church. It is not used in the Bible to refer to God's ministers and is not a proper description of the position. The title "Reverend" seems to denote a touch of pride in one's position and elevates the man. The term "pastor" correctly denotes one who humbly serves and cares for the flock. I think it is clear that to use the term "Reverend" sends the wrong message as to what God's leader in the local church is to be. He is to be the Lord's humble shepherd and servant to the local "ekklesia." So, I do not use the term "Reverend," nor do I use it in addressing ministers. Only God is to be revered.