Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pastor Matt, not Doctor Mitchell

A month ago, during a conversation about my doctoral project, a friend asked me what I was going to do with my title.

I didn't understand the question at first, thinking he was talking about my book.

I said, "It's called Resisting Gossip, but it's possible that a publisher will want to change the title."

He said, "No, I mean, 'Doctor.' Are you going to going to start referring to yourself as Doctor Matt? I think you've earned it."

I had never thought of it that way.

My wife says that she is going to call me, "Doctor Fathead" just to make sure that I don't get one. My friends have joked around with me, calling me the Reverend Doctor Matthew Mitchell and asking if they will have to genuflect in my presence.  I've got great friends that keep me humble!

But I had never seriously thought about going by the new moniker.

I don't think I will.

For one, I don't want to get my identity from my degree.  [Read this great article on "credential envy" among evangelicals by Owen Strachan.]  I get my identity from being a child of God.

Secondly, I don't want to separate myself, at all, from my flock. The name "Pastor" can be a term of respect for the pastoral office and also a term of endearment at the same time.  Even the kids at church can call me "Pastor Matt" and use a term of respect and a term of familiarity (my first name!) at the same time. Switching to "Doctor Mitchell" would set all of that back.

Thirdly, nothing has changed. I'm still Pastor Matt even though I now have a doctorate. I'm not going anywhere. I've not changed who I am. I'm going to continue my ministry in the same vein (hopefully with more wisdom now). So, a change in nomenclature would signal that something fundamentally has changed when it definitely hasn't.

So, you're welcome to joke with me about Doctor Fathead or the Reverend Doctor Mitchell, but if you want to know what to call me around church--it's still Pastor Matt.