The Gravity of Gospel Ministry

Today I had the privilege of attending the ordination council of a close friend. I have been to ordination services before and I have had friends who have been ordained; however, this was completely unique among those experiences. Unlike other ordination services I was deeply impressed as this ordination conveyed the sobriety with which one must approach gospel ministry.

Providence Community Church is committed to preserving the purity of the ministry and as such the interview was profoundly thorough. The elders of Providence Community Church, along with a pastor of another local church and a professor from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, conducted the interview. Recognizing that the local church exists beyond the congregation at Providence they invited these other ordained men, from other likeminded local churches, to take part in the interview to maintain the purity of the body of Christ in Lexington as well. Furthermore, they invited the church to attend as the congregation also needs to recognize and endorse this man’s calling to gospel ministry, which is why I was able to be there.

I cannot overemphasize the thoroughness of the interview process. It was thorough, extremely thorough, to the point that it required nearly five hours to complete. It began as he shared his testimony and calling to gospel ministry from there it proceeded to his doctrinal defense. He was required to type a defense of the church’s doctrinal statement in advance, a rather lengthy defense at that, and submit it to the ordained men who would be conducting the interview. The questions ranged from various worldview and missiological implications to his understanding of the filioque clause and kenosis. I even remembered one point where Augustine was quoted in Latin.

The local church benefits from such attention to detail and thoroughness in maintaining a pure ministry. The church also benefits by networking and expecting accountability from other local likeminded churches. Moreover, the kindhearted and deeply theological nature of this interview was a profound benefit to the church as well; it was as if they were able to attend a weekend seminary course in systematic theology. In contrast to pop Christianity where theology is downplayed, and often outright demised, these events have been a refreshing encouragement, which I hope takes root in other churches as well.


6 thoughts on “The Gravity of Gospel Ministry

  1. Keith,
    Seeing this also points out how utterly pathetic the vetting process in a lot of churches is. Down here in Florida we have a major First Baptist Church (of Ocala) which hosted 1000 in worship each Sunday until recently when most of the assistant pastors decided to turn against the senior pastor of one year who they deemed to be “deceitful” and “manipulative.” Later it turned out that a similar event had occurred at his previous church, wholly unknown to the new congregation. Needless to say, the church fractured during the month long struggle over this, which saw the firing of all but one assistant pastor, a near riot during Sunday service with 300-400 people charging the pulpit, and the senior pastor resigning in disgrace. If churches cared more about bringing in the right guy instead of bringing in the most charismatic, maybe God would be glorified by their churches in a way greater than this type of crap does.

  2. Providence seems kind of cool, up my alley by just looking at the website. Community groups by neighborhood = cool. It seems like the community groups have a lot of individual freedom about what they do curriculum-wise. This is also cool, but strikes me as odd given the 5 hour ordination service and seriousness about doctrine… maybe they don’t yet have that many groups and the elders lead them?

    I would definitely visit that church if I was in Lexington. It’s about time.

  3. Yeah, the community groups are led by the elders, I think two of them have individuals teaching with the elder on a rotation. It is only about 2yrs old so they only have 4 groups right now, I don’t think the one that meets at UK is on the website yet.

    “It’s about time.” I couldn’t agree more. It is definitely a blessing.

  4. Keith, on some levels I think this is great. Congregations should be very careful who they place in leadership positions. All too often folks are considered merely on speaking talent, ability to run a business or mere popularity.

    On the other hand, I find what you have described fundamentally lacking in the New Testament scriptures. Quoting Augustine in Latin? Being able to defend a denomination’s doctrinal statement–why not just defend the Bible? Cross congregational interviews?

    So, I’m teetering on how I feel about this.

  5. The quotation of Augustine in the Latin was a response to a question concerning the Trinity or Christology, I cannot remember at this point. During his explanation he quoted Augustine, not in an appeal to tradition as authoritative, but as an explanation of what he understood the Scriptures to say. While you do not find that in Scripture I would not see anything wrong with quoting an individual whom you understand to accurately explain what Scripture says.

    Again for the doctrinal statement I would understand that particular statement to represent what the text of Scripture says concerning God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Salvation, etcetera only in a more condensed form. We would not have time to discuss every text concerning Christ so we have a doctrinal statement which succinctly summarizes who we as a local congregation understand Christ to be. He then presented the person and work of Christ as understood in Scripture. Various denominations and churches understand this differently and thus it is imperative that we come to the same conclusions so that doctrinal unity can exist. So this was not the defense of mere words of men but of the Bible; this was especially clear as they prolific use of the text of Scripture, both in terms of defense and questions.

    The cross-congregational interview does sound a bit strange, especially coming from individuals who would affirm that the local church is an autonomous entity. There are several things which I think have led them in this direction. First, they would recognize that the local church in Lexington exists in many congregations; basically there are other Christians in Lexington gathering in other congregations. Second, recognizing the universal church as all believers throughout history must lead us to understand our local congregation as a local expression of a bigger unity. Because of these things we spend time every week, particularly during Sunday services, praying, by name, for other likeminded congregations throughout Lexington and the world. We would also recognize that just as there are other biblical churches in Lexington God has likewise called and equipped men to lead these congregations. These godly men whom we respect and recognize as maintain a biblical ministry can play a helpful role in discerning the soundness of this individual’s doctrine. While the church is autonomous we highly value the opinion of these godly men who live above reproach and who hold firmly to faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

    As an example to demonstrate the above I will use the commentators. I would assume that all pastors would use commentaries and theological works of some kind in their study. These works while clearly not Scripture, thus speaking without the authority of Scripture and without the infallibility of Scripture, serve to augment our daily study. Likened to the quotation of Augustine various commentators and theologians provide a helpful check against heresy, as we can see how 2,000 years of church history has understood Scripture, and they may aid in understanding how a particular doctrine/text has been explained in the past. Likened to the use of doctrinal statements we read theologians to understanding of the teaching of Scripture on a particular topic, insomuch as these theologians accurately portray Scripture we agree with them and can find their material of use. The same can be said of a doctrinal statement. Likened to cross-denominational interviews theologians/commentators have no authority in our autonomous local congregation; however, during sermon preparation it is helpful to see how other godly men understand a particular text of Scripture and we may indeed reveal some of their insights to our congregation.

    I hope that helps, I am doing homework for winter classes and my brain feels like scrambled eggs. Let me know if you have other questions.

  6. Keith, the Latin quotation was used to discuss the inheritance of sin. And why would we not look to our church fathers to help us understand the Scripture? I find it interesting that people use phrases like “defend the Bible.” How do we defend the Bible? Do we open up to Genesis 1:1 and begin to explain every verse? We need Systematic Theology or Denominational Doctrinal statements to give us a place to begin. No one would say that this is enough though. It is only a stepping stone that allows us to unfold the great story of redemptive history.

    Edwin, I think you may be confused about the ordination process. The ordination examination is not just a formality, but a way to sit and entertain hours of dialogue over the Scripture. It is a means to not only disciple the candidate, but for the church elders to adequately determine whether this man is ready to be sent out from the church for gospel ministry. We do find discipleship, tutoring, and accountability in the Scripture. What greater picture than Paul and Timothy. We do also find councils meeting to evaluate theology and ministry.

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