Monday, June 13, 2016

Ordained at baptism

In 1982 a group of pastors and lay leaders met to ask me questions about my beliefs  before making a recommendation that I be ordained to the ministry. The recommendation was made and a couple of weeks later I was ordained by my church and our association.

The truth is that I had been ordained years earlier, but it was an ordination that is not often recognized. We don't usually associate ordination with baptism, but in reality God does ordain us to ministry at our baptism.

One of the tenets of my Baptist tradition is "the priesthood of the believer." We believe that we have all been called to minister and have been given spiritual gifts through which such ministry can occur. However, this is often talked about more than actually done.

Far too many in our churches are willing to sit in their pews every week and evaluate the work of the minister rather than engaging in ministry themselves. The mindset in these churches is to call a seminary trained pastor who will them be responsible for the ministry of the church.

The problem with this mindset is at least two-fold. One, there is far too much ministry that needs to be done for one person to do it. The second, and more serious problem, is that such a mindset is not biblical. The Bible is clear that the work of the pastor is to "equip the saints to do the work of ministry."

Each of us who call ourselves Christians are called to be engaged in ministry. This responsibility cannot be satisfied with us providing financial support for a professional to do that work for us. We are each called to be on the front lines of ministry.

This does not mean that we are all called to preach or lead a church. As mentioned above, we have all been given unique gifts to enable us to minister so our ministries will each take on different characteristics. One may have the gift of teaching while another has the gifts of mercy and healing. Their ministries will look different, but when each are serving in the areas of their giftedness it adds to the overall ministry of the church.

Even when some churches emphasize lay ministry the idea too often is that lay members are to be helpers to the pastor. That thinking is wrong and needs to be turned around. The pastor is to assist the lay persons in the work of their ministries. The role of the pastor is to equip each person in his or her church to perform their ministries in their daily lives.

I am convinced that each believer is Jesus Christ was ordained for ministry at their baptism. The pastor's role is to help each person fulfill their calling as ministers. Until the church recaptures this biblical mindset it will continue to limp along relying on the professionals to do the work each believer has been called to do.

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