2nd Cor 5:17- Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
18 – Now all these things are from God,Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
19 – namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 – We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.
Ephesians 4:11 – And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
12 – for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13 – until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
This morning I want to start with a game. It’s kind of like “Where’s Waldo” but this one is called “Where’s the Minister.”
Here’s how it works. I’m going to show you a series of pictures of people and you try and pick which one is the reverend. One more thing—I made sure all the individuals in these pictures are Christians. Okay—as I show you the pictures make a mental note or get out a pencil and write down the letter corresponding to the person that you think is the right answer. Where is the minister in these pictures? Ready?
[Show slides A, B, C, etc. as I call them out]
Is your answer, A, or is it B, or C, or D, or E, or F, or G, or H—or is your answer A and B but not C, D, E F, G, or H—or is it all of the above?
I think you know where I’m going with this. But in case you don’t—according to the Bible—the right answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE. Believe it or not—all Christians are ministers. If you are a Christian you have been ordained—called—set apart by Almighty God Himself—for full time ministry!
The reason I bring up the subject of ordination is because in recent business meetings several people have had some honest questions about ordination—like, “What does it mean to be ordained?”—“What is the process? How does someone become ordained?” This tells me there is a need here at Redland for a more complete understanding of ordination. Now—I’ve always embraced the principle of hitting two birds with one stone so I thought a good way for me to answer those questions would be to use a sermon—so here goes.
First, let’s define the word. What does the word “ORDAINED” mean? Well, the modern definition of ordination is “the investiture of clergy” or “the act of granting pastoral authority.”
Usually, we think of an ordination SERVICE as a ceremony in which someone is commissioned to a position within the church like a deacon—or a pastor. However, the Biblical definition of this word is a little different. In God’s Word, “ordain” refers to being “set apart for a specific job.” To be ordained means being appointed to a specific task.
- For example, Acts 17:10 says that Joseph was “ordained” — appointed — as a ruler in Egypt.
- In Matthew 24:45, the steward in Jesus’ parable was “ordained” to oversee a household.
- In Acts 6 deacons were “ordained” to serve the Jerusalem church.
- Titus 1:5 tells us that pastors were “ordained” to serve in each city in Crete.
None of these verses talks about a mode of ordination and no ceremony is detailed; the “ordinations” are simply appointments. By the way, Luke 12:46 tells us that the word “ordained” can even be used negatively, as an appointment to punishment. Now—Acts 13:2-4 helps us go a little deeper in our understanding. It says,
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So, after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia”
In this passage, we find some key facts about Biblical ordination.
- First, it is God Himself Who calls or appoints the people to ministry.
- Second, members of the church recognize God’s clear leading and embrace it. They see in the person the maturity and giftedness required for this appointment.
- Third, after a time of prayer and fasting, the church laid hands on these men—Paul and Barnabas—to demonstrate or symbolize their ordination.
- Finally, God worked through the church, as both the church and the Spirit sent them off to their appointed task.
The Bible tells us that Paul regularly ordained—appointed—pastors and elders for the churches he planted—perhaps using this same kind of deal. But there’s more to ordination than that.
You see, as I pointed out in our little game, the Bible teaches that pastors and missionaries aren’t the only Christians who appointed. All Christians are called. All are ordained. I love this quote from Os Guiness’ book, The Call:
“Calling is the truth that God calls [all Christians] to Himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do—and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to His summons and service…In everything we should think, speak, live, and act entirely for Him.”
Okay—in the time I have left I want to dig a little deeper. My goal is—with God’s help—to lay this all out in a way that both informs and inspires. I mean, when this message is done, I want us to all better understand what the Bible teaches about ordination—and I want each of us to be inspired to be more intentional in answering God’s call in our lives—whether we are pastors or parishioners.
(1) Okay—point one. SOME—not all—SOME are called to equip Christians for ministry.
I’m referring to pastors of various kinds—youth ministers, music ministers, children’s ministers, missionaries, etc. For many this, ministry of equipping others for various types of ministry is their calling—it’s their full-time vocation. It’s how they make their living. For some it’s a half-time thing. In fact, more and more pastors are bi-vocational but their calling is to equip other Christians for THEIR calling.
In our text from Ephesians Paul talks about this. He plainly says, “And He—God—gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers—for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…”
So, some Christians are called by God for the precious privilege of being a pastor of some sort—a shepherd to equip other Christians to fulfill their God-given appointments. Well, how does that happen? I mean, when a person feels called by God to be a pastor—to be one of these “some” that Paul refers to, what happens next? What is the ordination PROCESS?
Well, that depends on who you ask. I mean—in the world, to be legally “ordained” as a “reverent” all you need is a computer with Internet access. With Mr. Google’s help I found a long list of websites offering ordination in under five seconds. The first on the list is from the UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH. This site talks about the rigorous process most churches have when it comes to ordaining a minister. Then it boasts:
“The Universal Life Church provides another way for the average person to learn how to become ordained. This Seattle-based organization has created a way for anyone to become a minister online. The ULC is legally recognized in 48 states. In order to become ordained, applicants must have an individual email account and complete an online form with their legal name and address. After ULC receives an applicant’s information, a confirmation e-mail is sent to their e-mail address and the ordination process is considered complete. The ULC has no official doctrine for its ministers. Our church simply believes its ministers should practice freedom of religion and do only that which is right. Ordained Universal Life Church ministers can legally perform wedding ceremonies, baptisms and other sacred religious rites.”
And several well-known people have taken advantage of the ULC. On their website they list as their officially ordained ministers: Conan Obrien, Stephen Colbert, Paul McCartney, and Lady Gaga. And you can be right up there with these celebs because the ULC’s basic ordination package is only $29.95. They even send you a nifty ordination certificate suitable for framing.
Now—48 states may recognize these certificates—but I don’t think much more of this view of ordination than I do of a doctor who gets his degree in a box of Kracker Jacks! I mean, would you let a surgeon operate on you if all he did was pay $29.95 to get a fancy certificate saying he was “trained” as a surgeon? No—of course not.
Here’s how most authentic Christians practice ordination.
First, an individual states his or her conviction to his or her church family that God has called them to the full-time ministry of equipping other Christians.
I felt this calling when I was in college. To give you a little context of my decision I need to tell you that I entered school with the commitment NOT to be a minister. As a PK I’d seen the stress it caused my dad—I’d known about my family’s financial struggles—and I wanted nothing to do with that. No—I wanted a “normal” job—and I wanted to make a lot of money. So—my first thought was to become a lawyer. When I entered college I started down that educational track. I majored in political science—but did not feel any joy in my studies. As I entered by sophomore year, my next thought was to become an accountant. I took a few courses—I even bought one of the brand-new pocket calculators. It only cost me $89.99 at Sears. But that felt empty to me as well—there was no fulfillment in my calculations—no joy. And I have to say—it is agonizing to be 19 years old—ready and rarin’ to begin life—and have no idea how to proceed.
Well, about that time by BSU leader ask me to go to a small country church in Northern Alabama. He said, they wanted someone to lead their singing one weekend. Churches often called the Baptist Student Union to find help like this so I agreed to go. After that weekend, the pastor called and offered me a permanent job—part time—for a whopping $30 a week. I said “No, thank you.” You see, I was from Delaware—a small state—where all churches were small—and I was tired of that. I liked being in a big Alabama church. I liked being a part of their college ministry. I didn’t want to go to some backwoods tiny church where I would be the only one my age. Well, the moment I hung up from that call it was as if that buzzer on FAMILY FUED that goes off when the family guesses wrong—it was like it was going off in my head.
It sounded like this: [play while showing the X slide] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gtG0oHtBZs
God was saying, “WRONG ANSWER, Mark” And, that’s when I realized I had been running from God’s call. I mean, I knew God was not only calling me to serve in that little church. He was also calling me this appointment—I was being called to equip others. So—I called the pastor back and accepted the job and after talking with my dad—and with some other vocational pastors I respected—and after a lot of prayer—I joined that little church and told them about my newfound discovery of God’s call in my life. They affirmed that—they saw God’s calling and giftedness in my life—and they did took the first step toward my ordination. In Baptist circles it’s the first step all vocational pastors take.
I’m referring to being LICSENCED for full-time ministry.
The church was Greenhill Baptist and they gave me this nifty certificate—suitable for framing. It didn’t cost me $29.95. It was absolutely free. But it was priceless because behind it was a church family—a group of Christians who under the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, affirmed my call. And—that’s what we do here at Redland. When one of our members—like Todd Jones and Pam Burdette—and Kyle Kilgore say they feel called—and when we agree with that—we license them. We would license PEGGY but her home church already did that.
Anyway, think of this first step as sort of a learner’s permit—or as an internship. But, whatever you call it, this license period begins a time to prepare for ordination—a time to learn. For me—it meant finishing college and then going to seminary. That’s the way it is for most. Some skip seminary and just go to a Bible College—but it’s the same deal. Licensing is a time of study and prayer—a time to get ready for ordination.
And this has Biblical precedent. In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul tells us that after his conversion he went away for 3 years before going and introducing himself to Peter. Most scholars see this as preparation time for Paul—a time to study—a time to get ready for God’s call and I would agree. And please understand. preparation for God’s call is important. As Paul advises a young pastor named Timothy, we must, “Study to show ourselves approved a worker not needing to be ashamed who rightly divides the Word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
As most of you know, Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Good-bye, was pastor at Covenant Life for about ten years. That church went through a crisis several years ago when it was revealed that in the late ‘90’s a youth leader had inappropriate sexual contact with several minors. When this happened—the parents of these children came to the leaders of the church and the pastors at the time decided not to call the police but rather to handle it internally.This led to lawsuits—and serious problems in the church. Harris became pastor in 2004 and said two things would have helped. First, it would have helped if the church was a part of a larger denomination—where they could get shared wisdom and insight in how to prevent this kind of thing—and how to deal with it both legally and Biblically.
Second, he said it would have helped him as a very young pastor of a very big church with a very big problem—if he had been trained to be a pastor. You see he had never had any formal schooling. He didn’t even have a college degree. Harris confessed that he felt he was not prepared to pastor and deal with this HUGE issue. So—in 2014 he resigned and went to seminary saying he needed formal education and training and more exposure and connection to other parts of Christianity. In an interview, Harris said the isolation of Covenant Life may have fed the leadership mistakes that led to the suffering these children and their families—and the entire church—endured.
My point is preparation for equipping others for ministry—schooling—is important.
- You can’t feed others until you have fed yourself.
- You can’t make mature decisions until you mature.
- You can’t equip others until you have been equipped.
And seminary—or some formal training–helps with that. You don’t just hand out ordination certificates. But—back to the time-line.
After seminary—after this time of preparation—comes ORDINATION.
I mean, most pastors don’t go through the final part of the ordination process until they graduate. For me, once I graduated from Southern Seminary in Louisville, I asked my home church in Dover to ordain me. I asked them because they knew me best. They’d seen be grow physically and spiritually. My dad was the pastor and he convened an ordination council made up of about 15 ordained ministers—men with experience in equipping Christians for the ministry God calls us all to. I met with this council for about three hours on a Sunday afternoon where they grilled me about my beliefs—my understanding of Scripture—tons of questions—in an attempt to ascertain if I was ready—and then they voted. Thankfully, it was unanimous. The council felt that after seven years of study—and a lot of part-time church experience, I was ready. So—that same night there was a formal ordination service where the people laid hands on me and prayed—and I was officially ordained. I got another certificate suitable for framing. See?
Here at Redland we do it the same basic way. An individual comes forward in a worship service to say he or she feels called to the ministry. The church votes to license them. After a time of preparation—and study—the person asks to be ordained. The church votes to allow the pastor to convene a council. The pastor reports to the church after the council and the church votes to accept their recommendation. Then there’s an ordination service like we did for Todd Jones many years ago—and for Pam Burdette last year.
Now—listen—what I’m about to say is VERY important. An ordained pastor is not a “higher-up” kind of thing. Being ordained doesn’t lift you above other Christians. Being a pastor is not like being a president. There are no executive orders in a church. No—being ordained—is becoming a servant. If anything, it puts you below other Christians. Remember—according to the Bible, pastors and teachers and apostles and missionaries are called to equip others for ministry. They are called to serve OTHERS—not the other way around.
So—SOME are called in this way, called to serve and equip other Christians—
(2) …and this is second point is important because as I said ALL Christians are called to full-time ministry.
Look at our text from 2nd Corinthians again. It says, “God…gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.”
In his excellent book, The Call, Os Guiness reminds us that as Christians, Jesus is LORD of ALL which means every Christian is to live every part of life as a response to God’s call. We are all “on duty” furthering the Kingdom of God ALL THE TIME. But this Biblical fact has been distorted down through the years to become a form of dualism that elevates the spiritual at the expense of the secular. Guiness calls this “the Catholic distortion” because it rose in the Catholic era where priests were holy and everyone else was not. One of the earliest examples of this way of thinking came from a guy named Eusibius, bishop of Caesarea. He argued that Jesus gave two ways of life to His church. One is what he called “the perfect life” and the other is what he called “the permitted life.” The perfect life is spiritual—it’s dedicated to contemplation and is reserved for priests, monks, and nuns. The permitted life is secular—it’s dedicated to action and is open to such tasks as soldiering, governing, farming, trading, and raising families.
Eusibius wrote, “Those following the perfect life die to the life of mortal and bear with them nothing earthly but their body and in mind and spirit have passed to Heaven. Those following the permitted life are more human—and have only a secondary grade of piety.”
Now before you look with scorn in the direction of our brothers and sisters down the street at St. Francis, listen to something else Guiness says. He writes, “Protestants—like those at Redland Baptist—cannot afford to be smug for they have succumbed to the Catholic distortion. Ponder, for example, the fallacy of the contemporary Protestant term ‘full-time Christian service’—as if those not working for churches are only part-time in the service of Christ.”
The truth is, all Christians are called to full-time ministry. In fact, you guys are on the front lines of the Kingdom. Not me—I’m back in supply. It’s my job—to prepare you for that calling. I suppose if anyone should wear a collar—it’s you. My primary job is to TRAIN—your primary job is to DO. Or as one punny pastor put it, “I’m PAID to be good. You’re supposed to be good for NOTHING.”
A couple years ago I had to do a wedding in D.C. Now—every state has its own laws when it comes to who can do a wedding—so to make sure I would be legally able to do this DC wedding I contacted the DC government. I assumed that a government as liberal as DC would have no rules about who could unite a man and woman in the bonds of matrimony—but they do. In fact, their marriage requirements are the most strict I’ve ever known. I had to send them a copy of my ordination certificate. I had to fill out a lengthy form where I told about my education. I know this is not surprising when it comes to DC but I ALSO had to pay them $50.00. Only after all that was I approved to do weddings. They even sent me this nifty certificate suitable for framing.
Now—here in Maryland it’s not like that. According to the law—anyone can do a wedding. I mean, in Maryland you can’t tell who’s a pastor. And—whereas on one level that bothers me—on another it’s kind of cool—because—even though the people in Maryland who wrote the law this way didn’t intend this—they have underscored a Biblical truth. All Christians are full-time ministers. I’m not saying anyone should do a wedding—I think that demeans marriage. But I AM saying the Bible teaches all Christians are called—set apart—ordained by God to do His work. When you look at a Christian—even if they aren’t wearing a collar—you are looking at a MINISTER. Turn to your fellow Christians and say, “Howdy REVEREND!”
All kidding aside, as Jesus said, we are not our own. We have been bought with a price. As Christians, we have no rights—only responsibilities given to us by our Lord. So, in the home, in the marketplace, in the schools, in government—everywhere—God needs and calls people LIKE YOU who will share His love and, in so doing, work to change the world.
I know most of you know the name Wilberforce. But for the rest of you, he was a member of the British parliament in the 18th century. At one point he thought he was called to become a pastor and he was going to leave parliament. But he went to a pastor named John Newton—the converted slave-trader and author of the hymn, Amazing Grace. Newton prayed and told Wilberforce he was not called to the pastorate—but to the parliament. Wilberforce acknowledged that and followed God’s leading. He spent his life in parliament serving God—and ended the slave trade in the British Empire. His ministry—an amazing one—a truly world-changing one—was not BEHIND the pulpit but in front of it.
Now think of all this for a moment. I mean, how does it change the way you look at your “secular” job—if you think of it as “sacred?” How does what you do 9-5 change if you think of it not as a job—but as a calling? Let me share a few examples of believers who realized their jobs were SACRED—to show you the change it can make.
The first comes from Dallas Theological Seminary professor Howard Hendricks who once told of a time when his flight was delayed. His fellow passengers were getting more and more irritated, and some of them of began to take out their frustrations on the flight attendants. Hendricks noticed how gracious and poised one of the flight attendants was, and when they finally took off and she had a minute, he called her over and commended her. He told her that he wanted to write a letter of commendation to the airline to tell them what a good job she had done. She told him, “I don’t work for the airline; I work for Jesus Christ. And this morning before I left for work, my husband and I prayed that I would be able to serve Christ in my job.” Isn’t that cool? She realized she was CALLED to represent Jesus as a flight attendant! It totally changed how she looked at all those whiny passengers.
This reminds me of a second example. Stuart Briscoe, an author and pastor, once asked a young woman, “What do you do?” She replied, “I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ, very skillfully disguised as a machine operator.”
And here’s my third. It’s my favorite. Emma Daniel Gray died on June 8, 2009, at the age of 95. On the office records, her title reads “charwoman.” A charwoman is basically a house-cleaner. It’s a job most people would NOT think of as a calling. It’s the kind of job you do—to save money to go to school to get a real job. Well, there was a big story about Ms. Gray in the Washington Post when she died. You see, for 24 years she was the charwoman for six different U.S. presidents. Every night she dusted the office of the President of the United States. Whose job was more important—the President who sat behind the desk—or the woman who dusted the desk? Well, the answer to this question depends on your outlook. You see it’s not about the task. It’s about Who you serve as you do it. This is at the core of our work ethic as Christians. When we see our work, whatever it is, as serving the Lord and not men, our work takes on a holy dignity and an eternal significance. When we realize that any work we do, no matter how ordinary or lowly, can be transformed from work to good, then that job is of utmost importance.
What made the story of Emma Gray even more interesting was that she was a devout Christian. She would stand and pray over the president’s chair every time she dusted it. Her dusting cloth in one hand, her other hand on the chair of the president of the United States, she would pray for blessings and wisdom and safety. This is a picture of her shaking hands with Jimmy Carter. Think of the eternal impact Emma had! Think of the vital front lines work she accomplished those 24 years! After she died, her pastor said that Emma “saw life through the eyes of promise.”
Friends, of all the places you’ve got to go and all the jobs you’ve got to do—some of which are nasty—that is how Christians work. That is what makes our jobs different. We work as unto the LORD. We pray for our fellow employees—our neighbors—our friends. We let Christ use our words and our actions. We walk across rooms to tell people about God’s great love. Nothing is more fulfilling that doing a job—whatever it is—from that perspective. Listen, anything short of God’s call is devoid of meaning. But realizing our work is God’s call makes any work a joy. As Calvin Miller says, “The man who is ‘job-centered’ has more anxieties about his work than the man who is ‘God-centered.’” Listen friend—the people who will turn this world upside down aren’t those God calls to serve Him behind pulpits like this one—but rather it is those who serve Him out there in front of pulpits…people who follow God’s call to what we wrongly refer to as “secular” fields because anything God calls His child to do is “SACRED” not secular.
Let us pray.