This past Sunday was my ordination. This was a moment in my ministry life that I have been looking forward to for many years. Having served in the ministry in a number of capacities over the last years I always felt it was difficult to be serving in the Gospel ministry when I had never been “set apart” for the Gospel ministry. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand I can do ministry without being ordained, but it always felt funny being a pastor and never being ordained. In fact, during my Q&A when I came to Tunkhannock Baptist Church, some people wondered why I had not been ordained. I remember the words “don’t people usually get sent ordained already?” I sometimes felt like I was missing a crucial component. I always wondered what it would be like as an ordained pastor.
So, once the US government finally approved me to work in the US the church decided I should pursue ordination. So, I planned accordingly. I set a date to hold a council, invited area churches to take part, revised my personal doctrinal statement, invited people key to my life and ministry to come to preach the following Lord’s Day when the church would act on the ordination council recommendation, and planned the days events. One of my professors from seminary flew in from Wisconsin to preach and my father drove from Canada to do the same. It was an exciting time as the council grilled me on both theological and character issues in my life. The council in the end unanimously recommended to the church to ordain me and this past Sunday, the church unanimously agreed to ordain me. I then knelt and had hands laid upon me and was prayed over.
But I had already been serving this church as pastor since last year. What changed here? What was being evaluated that the church hadn’t already done when they hired me? What was the point of this ordaining in the end? Just so I can have a certificate to hang on my wall? Just so I can call myself “reverend?” In Pennsylvania I don’t even need to have that do do weddings! So, what was the point.
As I’ve been thinking about this today, I have come to grasp the wonder of ordination as a wonder of the grace of God. Let me explain…
What I realized, in preparation for the council, the answers I was able to give, the influence of the men who came to preach on the Lord’s Day, the recognition of the council of my calling, and the confirmation of the council on my calling is that it is all by God’s grace. What ordination confirms in my mind, is that none of this that I do as pastor of Tunkhannock Baptist Church is of of me. It is all of Christ. It is through Christ I came to faith, that I was called to the ministry, that I pursued seminary, that I searched out a church to pastor, that the church called me to be their pastor. All these things are of the grace of Christ. From whence I have come, to where I am at, to where I am going, there through it all, is the direct work of Christ in my life. And what the council and the church has done is not recognized me, they have recognized Christ in my life and calling. That is humbling!
My ordination will forever remind me that I have come this far not of my own effort. It wasn’t the hours I spent reading theology, years studying Greek and Hebrew, days preparing sermons, it was all the grace of Christ that has brought me to be a minister of the Gospel. Like Paul I echo 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” I may have worked harder than some, but it was all of Christ.
Over the years ahead that I serve Christ at Tunkhannock Baptist Church, I will remember October 10, 2010 as the date that my local church confirmed the grace of God in my life. Without that grace, I would be dead in my trespasses and sins. With that grace, I am a redeemed servant of Christ and have the privilege of being His undershepherd. My ordination will forever be the public confirmation of God’s grace in my life. I don’t feel like I should be revered, but I revere Christ all the more for the grace of God in my life. Praise God for His grace!
First, let me congratulate you on this occasion. I have followed a path somewhat similar to your own and when I was ordained I was in wonderment at the grace that God had shed upon the life of this miserable sinner. May God bless your ministry and the responsibility that has now been conferred upon you as a man set apart by your congregation through the ordination service.
Thank you! I trust the grace of God, who brought me thus far will keep me going!