Ordination

Sunday I had the privilege of participating in worship leadership at the ordination service of two fine young church leaders, one of whom was one of our outstanding young worship pastors in Tennessee Baptist life.  The service was the Sunday morning worship service for the church in which these men serve.  This church has a special place in my heart as I was honored to have served as an interim worship pastor among them on two occasions.  That special relationship seems to develop with me among those people God provides opportunity for me to serve.  My relationship with the church coupled with the high regard I hold for their Senior Pastor, and the wonderful bond that has grown with their young worship pastor and his young bride, all served to make this a very special day for me as well as a rich spiritual reminder of our calling to serve with full devotion and full commitment of life.  I was impressed that the church dedicated their Sunday morning worship service to this ordination.  It was certainly fitting and meaningful to do so.  There was a full house for worship as many guests were added to the church family for this special event.  As would be expected, family of the men being ordained were present as well as members from churches the men had served previously. I felt that was an especially healthy expression of Kingdom perspective and a reflection of the effect the young men’s service has already had on the lives of those they have served.

 In reflecting on the experiences of Sunday’s worship in this ordination service I would like to reflect openly on three things: 1) ordination as an act of worship, 2) the pastor’s sermon and focus of last Sunday’s ordination service  3) the practice of ordination in Baptist churches.  I have placed these three reflections in this order purposefully as I would invite you to reflect in the same order.

#1  In some faith traditions “ritual” is not a bad word.  To the contrary, it, along with its root word, “rite,” is understood as a holy moment when something of spiritual nature is occurring.  In the best case, these moments give worshipers pause to remember that God is truly present among His people, expressing Himself through His Word, through the Spirit’s work in His believers, the church, and in the praises of His people calling attention to His story and their complete dependency upon Him.  In fact, weekly worship should include holy moments regularly as opportunity for all of these dynamics are present when we gather to engage with God on His terms made possible through His provision in Jesus Christ.  Ritual only becomes boring if worshipers are bored, which is likely indicator that there are spiritual issues clouding their grasp of the Spirit’s presence and the profound truth of the Gospel.  Too often we as leaders have ceased to trust the power of the Gospel and have tried to become evangelistic by imitating those who we deem effective by their technique.  Worship pastors have too frequently trusted the musical hook (usually very cliché) instead of faithing the transformational power of the Gospel sung and said to bring change in lives of worshipers by engaging them with the author of the story itself.  This does not mean we do not apply creativity or art.  To the contrary, we bring our best and communicate in our context, but always holding high a reflection of the character nature of the God we profess.  Setting aside, ordaining, those individuals we believe and affirm that God has called to serve in specific ways as pastors, elders, or deacons is surely a spiritual act of worship whereby the church participates in affirmation and commission to, in a sense, confer rites on these individuals we say we will follow, recognizing God’s call upon their lives.

#2  The senior pastor preached a message Sunday that I wish every church and every church leader would hear.  It was a simple clear exposition of one of the most powerful passages in scripture, John 17, which is Jesus prayer for His disciples.  Jesus states that His prayer is not only for those disciples of immediate presence in the moment, but that it included those who were to come, which means it continues right down to those of us who call Jesus our Lord.  David effectively affirmed the two young pastor/leaders with whom he has already been serving for months.  His affirmations reflected his appreciation for their gifts that complimented one another’s as well as his own, more indication of the Lord’s calling and work among His people.  He challenged the church to follow these God-called men and further admonished them to continue to act always out of a desire to glorify God, to lift up Christ, and to love His people.  The message displayed this preaching pastor’s spirit of confident humility.  His attitude conveyed the heart of this sermon that drew attention to the oneness of the Father and the son, a oneness that he preached was to be reflected in the church, the body of Christ.  Powerful Gospel truth!  Through the words of his sermon and the actions of his service to these young ministry partners and their families, including his help in serving lunch to them at a noon gathering that followed the service, his clear message continued through his example as servant-leader.  Powerful Gospel truth!  We desparately need more pastors of this stripe!  May his tribe increase.

 #3  While the Reformation stripped away some of the special treatment afforded clergy, especially in Roman Catholic practice, it left churches with the challenge to base ordination, where practiced, on firm biblical understanding.  That challenge remains to this day, perhaps especially for we Baptists who claim to be “people of the book.”  The word, “ordination,” does not appear in scripture, and there are plenty of Baptists who actually believe it to be an extra-biblical practice.  While Baptists share a rich tradition of practicing ordination for positions of recognized leadership (especially pastors and deacons), we also claim a basic tenant to be the priesthood of all believers.  One of Baptists’ most famous preachers of all time, Charles Haddon Spurgeon refused ordination, due to the sacramental understanding that was common among Englanders in his day.  At the same time, there are recognized advantages of the practice in our Baptist culture where congregational polity is the common practice, and the practicality of leadership authority is expressed.  If kept in proper perspective, such as the outstanding manner reflected in the message mentioned in #2 above, and practiced in a service of worship where desire to glorify, serve, and please God is so obviously foremost, such as mentioned in #1 above, I believe the practice of ordination in Baptist life will be long lived and very helpful to maintain needed order in our congregations.

It is a rich gift of life in the Kingdom to know brothers and sisters in Christ and to practice love as known to the family of God.  It is a high honor to be asked to participate in worship where a gathering of believers affirms the Lord’s calling on lives to lead and commits their followship for the glory of God.  The preparation of life through dedication and education that these men professed elicits confidence in their sincerity and integrity needed for the calling to which they have been set aside.  It was wonderful to join in the laying on of hands, not to pass on a false sense of successive “right,” but rather to engage with God as I believe He acted in a moment of “rite” to affirm in these young hearts that their calling is from Him, for Him, and to the benefit of His church.  May it be a spiritual landmark for them as they live out their calling (Eph 4:1)

Seeking to serve,

Paul

Explore posts in the same categories: Leading Worship, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

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