How an ordination council reminded me of a pastor’s purpose
Pastoral ministry is primarily about shepherding and caring for people.
Last week I sat on an ordination council for a worship student who has faithfully served his rural Baptist church in Indiana while attending Southern Seminary. His church is one of many around the seminary that views itself as a “sending” church. They take young greenhorn worship musicians and shape them into more mature spiritual shepherds.
Nothing substitutes for the opportunities students have when they apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-time, real-life church work.
Prior to the interview, the young worship leader submitted written answers to 50 questions ranging from specific theological perspectives to philosophy of ministry and worship service methodology. The following questions were asked during the in-person council:
- Explain justification by faith.
- Explain your view of sanctification. What are the various means God uses to sanctify the believer?
- Can a person have Christ as his Savior without submitting to Him as Lord? Explain.
- What is your position on inerrancy?
- How does the Bible relate the sovereignty of God to salvation?
- What does the Bible teach about the extent of man’s depravity?
- What does Christ’s atonement accomplish?
- What is the proper use of the Old Testament Law?
- Do you believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin? What is the significance of your belief?
- What is your interpretation of the biblical teaching on hell?
- Do you believe that the events described in Genesis 1-11 are factual or symbolic?
- What is the church?
By the end of our meeting the ordination council had covered these questions and more—from congregational worship languages and cultures to dealing with cantankerous church members. I could not have been more proud of our Department of Biblical Worship student who will graduate this week with his M.Div. from Southern Seminary.
I’m recounting my experience on the ordination council because I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness. As I listened to the young worship leader answer the questions with confident humility, evidence of his rigorous study at the seminary in tandem with the shepherding experience he had developed at the church became wonderfully obvious.
The apostle Peter’s charge was beautifully displayed during the council meeting:
“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-9)
I left the rural Indiana church that day encouraged by so many things, but three stand out in my mind:
1. The pastor and the church take ordination very, very seriously.
2. Our student was incredibly well-prepared for the ordination interview. He worked hard during his time in Louisville, both in his studies at school and as a worship leader at the church. He grew theologically, musically, spiritually, and pastorally.
3. The ordination council never lost sight of the vital role of an ordained man: being a pastor/shepherd.
“Go shake hands with the people”
While I was both thrilled and grateful to be a part of a council that explored so many vital areas of ministry, I was also reminded that pastoral ministry is primarily about shepherding and caring for people. In fact, people are the ministry.
One of the pastors looked at my student and said, “I remember watching you work at putting all of your music and gear away at the end of the service the first few weeks of your ministry here. Do you remember what I said to you about three weeks after you started?” “Yes sir,” replied my student, “Quit messing with your gear and go shake hands with the people.”
That’s a good word for all of us.