A Tale of Two Ordinations

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Dean Taylor's picture

Even having the ordination council meet on Friday or Saturday (as is traditional in some settings) with the service already planned for Sunday puts pressure on the council to rubber stamp the candidate. Having been through numerous situations like that, when I became a lead pastor I instituted a process in which the candidate would meet multiple times with me and with the other pastors of the church to prepare for ordination. This included working with him on developing a solid doctrinal statement. About a month before the planned ordination date, we held a pre-ordination questioning in which we asked him virtually every question he would get from the actual council. That way we could either advise him to study more or postpone the ordination if necessary. This took place before the ordination service was announced to the church. 

Once I was asked to serve in another church in what turned out to be a disastrous ordination questioning. I couldn’t recommend with good conscience the individual for ordination. I voiced my opinion and the others agreed. Council, candidate, and his family partook of the not-so-celebratory lunch together. The following Sunday the pastor had to announce that there would be no ordination that day as planned. It was sad and very awkward. Years later I met the individual that we did not ordain. He thanked me! He realized through that event that he was not meant for vocational ministry. 

“Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands . . . ” (1 Timothy 5:22)



Robert Byers's picture

It may have just been a Southern thing, but almost every ordination council in my experience included some version of the question: If we don't ordain you, what are you going to do?  The "right" or at least expected answer, "I'm going to preach anyway."  This was taken as evidence of a call that was so strong it could not be ignored.  But I remember my father saying, "If a council of godly men seriously examine you and decide that you shouldn't be ordained, maybe you should listen."

Jonathan Charles's picture

A pastor friend of mine was asked at his ordination to make a life-long promise to the pastors on the council to remain KJVO.  He said "yes."  A few years later, he regretted it, wanting to use the ESV.  My advice was: switch, that the council had no business asking for such a commitment.   

Bert Perry's picture

Notice that example #1 is congregational church government with the pastor and deacons doing the organization, and example #2 is either a multiple elder  church or presbyterian church government with a board of elders reviewing the ordination.  I'm not saying we need to do the full John Knox and cross the River Clyde and all, but I do dare say that smaller churches might do well to not only plan adequate time for approval of ordination as the article notes, but also ought to partner with the pastors of churches of like precious faith in ordination councils.  

Regarding Jonathan's story, the one thing I would say to the person who needs to break a commitment made at ordination (as did no less than Wesley) is to go ahead, but make sure that you know what you're doing and that it doesn't reflect a past or present deficiency in one's qualifications.  

In the case of a repentant KJVO (other translations are corrupted) pastor, I would dare say at least an apology to the congregation would be in order, especially if KJVO materials were brought into sermons.  If the person was preaching Hyles or Ruckman style KJVO, I would further state that the person ought to take some time off for repentance and retraining, since so much of that movement hangs on personal attacks and the like--that position reflects not only the "ability to teach", but also the character of the person. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

#1 In spite  of submitting a 37 page doctrinal statement, my ordination council consisted of 6 hours of questioning>There were the usual questions plus a few "doozies": Multiple elders? The council turned into Pharisees vs. Saducees Can you pray to the Holy Spirit? "Your answer makes sense but I don't like it." Free Will? I quoted the Westminster Catechism answer which was challenged loudly by a proud Calvinist. And finally, Will you keep this church in the GARBC? My answer prevented the expected unanimous vote. BTW, I was asked the "What if we don't ordain you?" question and cheeky answer (supported by my one deacon) was, "You aren't ordaining me! This local church!"

#2 The pastor's hand picked successor says that he agrees with the BJU Creed, which was also the church's doctrinal statement, and was handed his ordination certificate by the pastor.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Richard Brunt's picture

I personally like the way Dean does ordination.  That being said, I have seen some ordination councils that were examples of how not to do them.  I think of one in which the council was made of young men who had been ordained within the last two years.  They did everything to make it difficult for the guy, even bragging about how hard they were going to make it.  In the end they did ordained him.  I’ve seen others that the average Sunday school teacher could pass. I know of one guy who was ordained as a missionary and a year later while on the mission field he became a Jehovah Witness minister.   I think they should have asked him a few more questions.  Looking back, my own ordination should have been more difficult although I doubt I felt that way at the time.      

Richard E Brunt

Ron Bean's picture

It's my recollection that in most churches it is the local church that ordains after being advised by an ordination council that the church has called to examine the candidate. At my ordination, my deacon confronted the council with the fact that they weren't the ones who were ordaining but were there at the request of the local church to act in an advisory capacity. He ruffled a few peacock feathers and the moderator and I enjoyed watching the scene.


"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

T Howard's picture

I was recently ordained. The ordination council was in June. The ordination service wasn't until August.

Before the council met, I spent time with our senior pastor, and I submitted a 44-page doctrinal statement that covered my positions on the 10 areas of systematic theology plus my conversion, assurance, baptism, and call. During the council, I answered a few theological questions that sought to clarify certain points of my theology (e.g. cessationism, inerrancy), I answered a couple of biblical timeline questions (dates of Abraham, the exodus, Davidic rule, exile, etc.), but most of the questions I received dealt with pastoral and practical theology. One question they asked in particular was if I ever morally fell, would I immediately leave the ministry and return my ordination credentials. There weren't any "gotcha" questions, although I was prepared for them. The council lasted about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

I left the room after the questioning while the men discussed my answers, and when I returned they provided several helpful points of feedback.

Most of the men on the council were the elders of my church and had known me for 4 years while I served as a pastoral intern as part of my M.Div. requirements and then as a fellow elder. I knew they loved me and would be honest with their feedback. I asked them not to ordain me if they had any serious concerns about my character, family, gifting, or ability to go into pastoral ministry. I told them I would honor their decision, regardless of the outcome. I do believe the church must confirm a man's call to ministry.

Dean Taylor's picture

I've been working on a concept related to what I do here at FBBC. It's called Pathway to Pastoral Ministry. The purpose is to clarify the college's role in preparing men for pastoral ministry. The church has primary responsibility, but can partner with the college in the process. I hope to use this to encourage pastors and churches to proactively engage with men who are good candidates for pastoral ministry.

Ordination is a major milestone of the church recognizing that the man is equipped, mature, qualified, and ready to enter vocational ministry. It should be a culmination of the church's involvement through the whole process.

Here is a very simple outline on which I am building this concept. Input welcome. 



- Thought in your mind

- Someone talks to you about it

- Opportunities to be involved in ministry work

- You have a growing desire


- Is there a call?

- Elements of the call to ministry  (Here's a helpful article by our seminary dean.)

- What to do if you think you are called

- What to do if you aren’t sure if you are called

- What to do if you are not called

DEVELOP CHARACTER (this and the next three categories happen concurrently)

- Qualities in 1 Timothy 3

- Qualities in 1 & 2 Timothy

- Personal growth and discipleship

- Discipleship principles for pastoral ministry (This is a discipleship program for our pastoral students we are developing and implementing this  year.)

- Mature intellectually, emotionally, socially


Bible Knowledge

- Personal Bible reading and study

- Bible and Theology classes

- Bible-related reading

General Knowledge

- Broad reading

- General Education classes - English, Math, Science, History, Literature, Communication

Vocational Knowledge

- Pastoral classes - Pastoral Theology, Church Administration, Homiletics, Discipleship and Counseling

- Topical seminars - E.g. Bible study software, organizational leadership, church legal issues


- Pastoral classes - Church Administration, Homiletics, Discipleship and Counseling

- Greek, Counseling, other classes


- Local church involvement

- Summer ministry

- Pulpit supply

- Internship (after junior year)


SERVE AN APPRENTICESHIP (Can be done concurrently with seminary)





TylerR's picture


I like this approach. I particularly think it would be helpful in an online/virtual context, so a man's home church can play this role for the candidate. Otherwise, you'll have a handful of churches near a Bible College that benefit from all these eager young faces. Meanwhile, hundreds of churches across the country basically ship their people away and hope for the best. I am very, very excited about the possibilities online/virtual education has to bring the church back to its rightful role as the primary mover in the preparation for pastoral ministry.

On a side note, I am very glad to hear about FBBC's enrollment jump. Your new President must be doing a good job!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture


Several years ago, I watched a lecture Trueman gave, entitled "Why is Good Preaching So Rare?" He basically says that the local church isn't doing it's job to train, prepare and weed out men who can't teach. He faults the "seminary industrial complex" (my term, not Trueman's) for assuming a man is competent to preach if he has an MDiv. I've long thought this is the best analysis of the issue I've heard anywhere. Hopefully some of ya'll will find it edifying.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?