Thus spake one senior pastor, referring to the ordination process used by his church but more specifically of his examination by an ordination council. Seems the council just assumed he was a good guy and fit for the Christian ministry. Why ask a bunch of questions?
Paul Powell, in “The New Minister’s Manual” wrote,
The purpose of ordination is twofold: First, to signify that the individual has decided to devote his life to the church’s ministry; and second, to indicate that the church is approving and authorizing them to serve the church in ministry. Ordination is a recognition of God’s call and the church’s approval.
It is a surprise to many lay SBCers that ordination is not conveyed by one of the seminaries or other denominational group or in some automatic fashion after completion of a seminary degree. Nope. Ordination is up to the local church and that can sometimes be the problem. If a pastor or church is casual or clueless, or treats the ordination process as trifling or insignificant then the seriousness of church leadership by clergy and of the Christian ministry as a whole loses a lot.
In the case of the “joke” ordination, I believe that the church’s ordination council just assumed that the ordination candidate received what he needed at seminary and didn’t need a lot of questioning. This was a serious mistake, not because the ordinand was deficient in his experience of salvation, call to ministry and ability to defend the Faith but because it conveyed that the matter of a church setting apart someone for ministry, authorizing and approving of them and their beliefs was unimportant.
A few observations on the current state of ordination among Southern Baptists:
Ordination isn’t covered by the Baptist Faith and Message and churches may ordain whom they will for whatever reasons they wish. Not a lot of mystery here. The local church is king and need not listen to anyone on this. Consequently, some have requested ordination for purposes other than reasons given above. Would any of us be shocked to learn that some people in the local church such as custodians or coaches have been ordained in order that they might receive the income tax exclusion provided by the minister’s housing allowance provisions of the tax code, a travesty.
It was always the standard that I have followed that the ultimate evidence of a call to a ministry, and therefore a reason for ordination, was that the individual had been called by a church to be their pastor or other clergy staff. Has this changed? Are churches doing a lot of ordaining for individuals who have never been called to a church position? Do we commonly ordain individuals who aren’t serving not just “the” church, as Powell wrote above, but “a” church?
Are megachurches a magnet for prospective ministers who believe an ordination by a megachurch and megapastor to be beneficial? I have regularly run across fellow clergy who tout their ordination by certain celebrity megachurch pastors. I’d like to say that these have always been superior individuals as a result of their exposure to and connection with the megachurch but the opposite has been the case, anecdotal evidence only.
Our denomination has never been more diverse and although I’ve not seen data on it, I suspect that there are far more individuals who came from and were ordained by non-Baptist traditions among us. Yet, I’ve never heard of anyone being required to undergo a process of being, uh. re-ordained by a Southern Baptist church. Does it matter? Is my wild conjecture on this amiss?
Ministers fail all the time and some individuals should be rejected from future church positions. Why are ordinations very seldom revoked? Is there such a thing as a church saying that they no longer stand by this individual’s ministry? There should be.
Are churches being too casual about ordination? In past years a church would invite other pastors from the association to an ordination council, a healthy way to cooperate in my view. The council should be a big deal to all who attend. The host pastor should see that the process is organized and thorough. If it is casual and meaningless, what does that say about the Christian ministry and those who will be serving God’s churches?
Do our elder-loving Calvinist colleagues have differing views of ordination, the meaning or process of such? I’m not trying to stir things up but am curious to learn if the brethren that go for the multiple elder church leadership model and governance see things differently?
Does this come up in seminary classes? Curious.
My ordination, by the way, was not a joke. The council was formal and thorough and the ordination was a serious event. I’ve always appreciated that.
Have a nice Lord’s Day this Sunday.
LifeWay still sells the old Broadman Minister’s Manual by Franklin Seigler. I think I used to have this but sold it some years ago. I’m curious if my younger colleagues even see a need for a minister’s manual. Or, do you just wing it online in an ad hoc manner?