The transition from Bible college or seminary graduate to full-fledged vocational pastor can be daunting, and may even seem just a bit unbiblical at times. I think I’ve learned more about church leadership in the eight months since I graduated than I did the years I was in school obtaining my degree in Christian leadership. While I value the varied styles and structures of churches, it can make finding the right fit a challenge. Different qualifications, desired skill sets, beliefs on everything from baptism to Christian liberty to election. Some churches require a denominational affiliation, others want only candidates with doctorates.
One of the desired qualifications I continue to see in ministry "want ads" a fair amount of the time is ordination.
I’ve known men who have gone through the ordination process at different churches. One church I’m familiar with takes ordination very seriously, spending hours questioning a candidate before presenting him in front of the church to affirm his calling. At another, two pastors prayed over an incoming pastor for a few minutes and proclaimed him ordained. Some churches and denominations require a prospective minister achieve certain educational milestones. Others are more interested in experience or age. Many churches continue to strongly emphasize ordination while many others don't even think about it. The church I currently attend has an ordination process in its bylaws, but has not ordained anyone in years.
Since churches looking for pastoral candidates seem to be all the map when it comes to ordination, does it make sense for aspiring ministers to pursue it? I believe there are at least two brief reasons why ordination can be beneficial to someone who feels called to vocational ministry.
1. Ordination affirms your calling
It is easy for me to tell people that I am called by God to serve him in vocational ministry. I know with 100% certainty that statement is accurate. However, as weeks turn to months in my search, doubt can certainly creep in. A group of elders publicly affirming the call of a man to service through ordination is a buoy that can keep him afloat during his time of waiting.
Whatever the process, the message to the ordinand is the same: “We believe you are called and worthy of your position.” This can be hugely encouraging.
2. Ordination affirms their calling
Not only does ordination affirm the calling to the called, but it also affirms to those considering a candidate to fill a position at their church. Think of it as an easy list of references. “These men believe he is called and worthy of this position.” We see this in Acts when Paul met Timothy. “(Timothy) was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium” (16:2).
Ordination is not for everyone. In fact, there is not much evidence in the Bible for the elaborate ordination procedures practiced by many churches today. Often the ordained (or appointed, called, chosen, etc.) are selected through direction of the Spirit, or directly by Jesus. But ordination is certainly not unbiblical and, in fact, could be an important step in the life of a pastor.