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Friday, January 27, 2006

Thoughts on Ordination

Our Minister to Junior High students is being ordained this Sunday. Preparing for this event has caused me to reflect on my own ordination.

When I was Licensed to the Ministry, the church gathered around me and acknowledged the work God was doing in me and through me, giving their public stamp of approval before sending me off to preach and lead and ultimately, to go to Bible College. While in Bible College I got to serve in a couple of area churches in various levels of ministry. The last church I served wanted to extend Ordination in continued recognition of what God was doing.

We later considered a denominational change and possibilities for future ministry, but the denomination we were moving to did not recognize my Licensure nor my Ordination. No problem. I had graduated from one of their schools, so the work was not as rigorous, but I was seeking to be Licensed and Ordained—again. Long story short, I did not follow through on it. I did a good chunk of the work for Licensure, but felt convicted about acquiring for myself above and beyond what God had already given me.

Approaching Exodus 29-31 has been like revisiting Ordination all over again. Here God instructs Moses on the consecration, washing, anointing of the priests. He even gives instructions on how He would like to be recognized in the potluck afterwards—God even gives the menu and how to prepare everything! Other instructions include those pertaining to the altar of incense, atonement money, the bronze laver, the anointing oil and incense. Finally, God tells how to put the whole thing together and discusses the point of the Sabbath being the sign of the covenant.

I’ve been thinking about Ordination. That’s the one word that would summarize Exodus 29-31. The English word literally means, “to set in order.” Definitions include, “to invest officially (as by the laying on of hands) with ministerial or priestly authority” and, “to establish or order by appointment, decree, or law.” I like the literal meaning because it leans heavily on a standard whereas investment (to me) implies acknowledgement.

John Wycliffe (1320?-1384) said this: “In order to the existence of such a ministry in the church, there is requisite an authority received from God, and consequently power and knowledge imparted from God for the exercise of such ministry, and where man possesses these, although the bishop has not laid hands upon him according to his traditions, God has Himself appointed him.”

Text observations:

First, Aaron and Aaron’s sons are the objects of consecration here and God is going to make them holy before the LORD; that is, set them apart from the rest of the people to be closest to Him. Here is a small group of men standing on the same “ground” before the LORD—no one is greater than the other, as every action concerning them is aimed at Aaron and his sons.

Those ordained, appointed by God to stand before Him, are on level ground. We are all equal in God’s eyes as we are all co-workers together with God for the praise of His glory in Christ Jesus. Those ordained have been elevated to the lowest position. Everything the minister says and does is now above him. He is bound to serve the unservable in Christ Jesus (what does God need that we can possibly give?).

“Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor 3:8-9).

This simply means the ordained are called by one LORD to the one office to do the one work, and are accountable for it. There is no competition, no rivalry, but God who calls and God who places and uses as He wills. As co-workers the ministers work with each other, with God. Your concern is not their will but His be done. For this reason, the ordained are judged for effectiveness, not success. There is a great difference. You are responsible to God to serve Him with the gifts you have, not someone else’s’.

Second, what ministers do is up to God. What you do should be what God has told you to do. What other ministers do should be what God has told them to do.

Part of the job of the minister is to deal with the sin of the people. This is seen in the fact that Aaron and his sons were covered with blood. A sacrifice is involved because being a priest to the LORD is bloody work. I question the Sunday School pictures because they are too clean (I know, I know. Rated “R” imagery in the nursery is not preferred). When Aaron and sons got going, they were by no means clean. They were covered with splatters of blood, smelled like smoke and had a fine layer of ash in their beards. Why? Because they were dealing with people.

Can you imagine Aaron coming home with a clean robe and his wife looks at him and says, “slow day?”

Ordained men of God deal with people—their strengths, weaknesses, sins and contributions. It is easy to try to stand above people, looking down your nose and judging them. The truth of the matter is that people are weak, they are not committed, they don’t know what you know; but then again, you probably don’t know what they know and they may have strengths you do not. Only God knows the truth about a person and what He has called them to do. The question is, how are you doing at your hard work? God makes His servants stand. I suggest that if you are not bloody, your not busy.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

Third, and this is implicit in the selection of Aaron and his sons, those ordained are not to be ordained quickly.

Part of my experience is that I think my ordination was rushed. Though I (or others) do not disagree with God’s hand and calling on my life, I believe those who ordained me did it with good intentions but were not ready. Certainly I was younger than now and have learned a great deal since my ordination, but I don’t think those who ordained me were ready. I say this partly because I am convinced they did not full know what to ask of me nor how to ask it. They tried hard to grill me, to assure the decision was right, and they did an adequate job, but I don’t think many knew or understood the implications of some of their questions to me. I think this was part of my decision to seek a second ordination, because the denomination change would involve not simply a rigorous examination (one year under a mentor plus 4 papers and an oral examination for license, and another year of mentorship plus more papers and oral examinations for ordination) but annual review for the rest of my ministry career.

Would you fill this out to be ordained? Some do. This is not a joke. If you don’t believe me, try it and see.

“Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” (1 Tim 5:22)

Hasty ordination is dangerous for you and the candidate. As a minister, you will have the wonderful privilege of being involved in the ordination of others. Guard it and guard yourself.
Ordination is being set aside to serve God in a world that could care less. The job is to preach the gospel, because they don’t want to hear it. The ordained are sheep among wolves. You are somebody’s lunch. But you are also consecrated, having eaten and having fellowship before and with the LORD.

  • The world will hate you because you are not of the world.
  • The world will hate you not because you are identified with His building or His altar, per se, but of His Cross. Everyone has a building. Everyone has an altar.
  • The world hates you because they do not know God. You get to introduce them and the whole affair is inconvenient and messy.
  • The world will hate you because you no longer stand for the status quo, but demand change. This is also called, “conviction of sin.”

    Just wanting to share that . . .

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