Some Thoughts on Ordination10
by Ian Kayser
Last month I had the privilege of finishing my ordination trials. This means that next month (November 6) I will be ordained as a pastor in the PCA. I am super excited about this because it is a huge honor for me. Along with that, I am coming to terms with the responsibility. The process took me a little more than a year.
To give you an idea of what ordination in our denomination looks like, this year I wrote a ten page paper on a theological topic, wrote another exegetical paper using Greek or Hebrew, wrote a sermon, preached a sermon and took a written exam. The exam covered these topics: Theology, English Bible, Sacraments, Church History and our Book of Church Order. I took my exam in nine hours. When I was finished with the exam it was 27 pages long in a word document. It would be no understatement to say that this exam was comprehensive and I still wasn’t finished with the process. One month after taking the written exam I took an oral exam with a committee of ruling and teaching elders from our presbytery. They asked many of the questions that were in the written exam and this test took about three and a half hours. These men were friendly and warm and I thank God that I sensed they were cheering for me. But it was not an easy exam! One month after I sat with the committee I was to be examined in three of the topics at our presbytery meeting in Hot Springs, AR. Then I had to wait 4 months to finish the process last month here at Westminster.
This is quite a process and I have to say it was more difficult than I would have imagined. In fact our process for ordination might be among the more intense among evangelicals. I used a study guide written by Brian Chapel and Jim Meek. I woke up early and stayed up late reading, memorizing, praying and struggling through the material. I met weekly with Gene Stansel and he would question me on the things I was learning, he would hold me accountable to make sure progress was being made and I would ask him questions about what I was learning. I really could not have done this without his help. These trials were rightly named!
All of this begs these questions: What is ordination? And why does it need to be like this? To put it simply, “ordination is the commissioning of people called to public ministry for a lifetime of service.”* Ordination does not say that only certain people can do the work of ministry because the scriptures teach what is called the priesthood of all believers. Nor does ordination mean that ordained ministers are “holy men” who are without sin because the scriptures teach that all have sinned. Ordination is an opportunity to recognize the vocational calling and gifts of leaders and to charge them with the responsibility to serve the church. Ordained officers in the Reformed tradition are above all seen as servants of the Word of God. This is the reason that ordination trials in the PCA can be so difficult and why our denomination takes ordination more seriously than others. As servants of the Word of God, our officers have been tested to make sure that our congregations are being fed what is true. We go to great lengths to assure that our pastors “rightly handle the word of truth” and that they meet the requirements for elder that Paul lays out in 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus 1. All of this matters because at the end of the day, our faith grows when God’s Word is preached “rightly”.
So with that said, I want to say that I am glad to be done with the process because it was difficult. I am also extremely thankful that the process was difficult and I think our church should be thankful as well. I want each of you to know that I am thankful for your support this last year as I’ve gone through this process. I’ve served at Westminster for a year now and you have been patient with me and my family as we’ve gotten settled into Greenwood, began serving alongside you, and gone through this ordination process. I want you to know that I don’t think I could have done this without you! I also want to thank Richard and the rest of the Session at Westminster for taking a risk on me. They weren’t naive to the process and they knew much more than I did about how hard this would be. But they called me and Harper to Greenwood anyway. And for that I am grateful beyond measure. This church has shown shown me and my family grace upon grace. You have welcomed us into this congregation for no good reason other than the grace of God. You have shown patience to me as I’ve gone through this process and I am so thankful. I am looking forward to my ordination and installation service on November 6, but more than that, I am looking forward to serving alongside all of you in the years to come
*Kapic, Kelly M.; Vander Lugt, Wesley (2013-06-02). Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition (The IVP Pocket Reference Series) (p. 82). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.