What ordination means

Posted on May 27, 2015 by John A. Lillie.

Countryside is preparing to examine two men to determine their preparation and calling to the ministry. The Church has come to call this process ordination. The term itself is not one you will find in the New Testament, but rather simply labels a process that is described in the early church.

It would seem the initial belief of the church was that the Lord’s return would be in their lifetime. The Apostle Paul in his earliest epistles expresses this. In his letter to the church at Thessalonica he writes, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1Thessolonians 4:16-17) He said “we who are alive.” His understanding that he would not be one of those who are alive, who are left, is not expressed until his last letter to Timothy.

At what point this truth became revealed to the apostle I do not know, but what I see is a growing urgency in his actions and letters to train up the next generation of leaders who will definitely be needed if the Lord’s return is further away than first thought. The Lord has yet to return and none know that day or hour He will come, so the work of identifying, equipping and consecrating (Old Testament word that is similar to ordaining) these leaders for the ministry of the Gospel remains an imperative.

A New Testament directive for this process can be found in 2 Timothy 2:2: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”. It is illustrated by Timothy’s experience in 2 Timothy 1:6: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”. The criteria for this selection and ordaining process is found in I Timothy 3:1-7. It is this process that the apostle Paul warns Timothy to be cautious and prayerful about when he says in I Timothy 5:22: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands…”.

Ordination is the completion of this process. The first part is identifying: Looking within the body of believers for those men who demonstrate a pastor’s heart, a desire to minister to others, a hunger for the Scriptures, a commitment to pursuing God. You will find them seeking God wherever He may be found: at prayer break- fasts, on T4g trips, mission trips, reading books, serving…serving…serving.

Once identified, we must then equip them for the work of the ministry. That is to provide the tools and experience that will enable them to shepherd the flock of God well. Once identified and equipped, we then evaluate. We gather together as a body of believers, often inviting other pastors to participate, and we examine this man - his theology, his philosophy of ministry, his calling and vision for ministry and if his family is in order and supportive of this task. If through this examination the man is found to be ready, we then recommend to the church that they ordain this person to the ministry of the Gospel. If the church accepts the recommendation, then the man is set apart for the work of the Gospel…he is ordained through the laying on of hands.