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Ordained to Lead and to Serve

Carl Ruby

The word ordain is a Bible word usually translated as appoint. When I dug into the meaning behind this word in ancient Greek, I learned that it literally means to elect someone by stretching out one’s hand to cast a vote. Over time the word has come to have a more specific meaning, to vote someone into a position of ministry. Next Sunday (February 12), Central will be voting on the ordination of Elana Elmore, our current Worship Leader. Here are her responses to several questions about her walk with Christ, her sense of calling, her understanding of the gospel, and her vision for ministry at Central.

As this process unfolds, it has caused me to reflect upon what it means to be ordained to the position of Pastor. The word pastor evokes two vocational images in the New Testament. The first is the vocation of being a shepherd. The second depicts someone who is waiting on tables.

One thing that strikes me is that both of these are humble professions, jobs that come with lots of hard work and little status. They involve protecting others, leading them to safe places, and serving them. These very meanings of the word pastor highlight the importance of humility.  They are reminders of Christ’s observation that those who want to be leaders must humble themselves and serve others. Prideful pastors do great harm to their own congregations and to the reputation of the profession.

There are two things necessary for any ordination. A person who desires to be a pastor and a group of people who vote to say that the person to be ordained is qualified.  Paul observed that it is a good or noble thing to wish to be a pastor. His choice of words was important. He reinforced the dignity of occupational ministry but stopped short of saying that the calling to be a pastor is better or more noble than callings to other occupations.

For those voting on a person’s ordination, I think it is critical that they vote, not based on the person’s educational background or upon how well they are liked, but rather on the criteria spelled out in scripture (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). 

It’s noteworthy that of the nearly twenty criteria, only two have to do with skills, the ability to teach, and the ability to manage one’s family. Everything else has to do with what I would call character qualities.

About a third of the criteria are about things that should disqualify a person from ordination. Churches shouldn’t ordain recent converts or quick-tempered and argumentative people. Along this vein, there is a particularly strong emphasis on not allowing people who are drawn to what I will call bad doctrine and hobby-horse conspiracy theories (also called godless chatter, irreverent babble and contradictions, old wives tales, silly myths, and foolish controversies). Ordaining a person who is headstrong and self-willed is prohibited, along with hot-tempered people or those addicted to money or wine.

On a more positive note, churches should only ordain people with the following character qualities:

  • Those possessing a good reputation (especially with people outside the church)
  • Who are devout
  • Who are temperate and prudent
  • Who are hospitable
  • Who loves what is good and beautiful
  • Who are gentle 
  • Who are hospitable
  • Who are just
  • Who are balanced and respectable
  • Who are doctrinally sound

We are at an important moment in the life of our church. Appointing a person to the position of Pastor deserves careful consideration. Based on the qualifications noted above, our Ordination Team and our Board of Elders have unanimously recommended Elana for ordination as a Pastor here at Central. In addition to having the qualities outlined in scripture, we believe that having a female pastor who is a person of color is important to the mission of our church. It is a statement to all who attend Central that we value our female leadership and that we desire a more multicultural congregation that looks more like the City of Springfield. So if you are a member here at Central, make sure to be here on Sunday to cast your vote. If you are not a member but are interested in attending a church that has these values, we would love to welcome you as our guest.

Pastor Carl

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