Culture At Large

What's the path to ministry in your church?

Andy Rau

What does it take to stand behind the pulpit at your church?

I'm wondering about the process of ordination at your church, or in your denomination. Are would-be ministers required to go through years of training and bureaucracy? Do they just have to sign a statement of faith and are then good to go? Whatever your church's method (and it almost certainly falls somewhere between those extremes), is it fair, reasonable, and beneficial to the body of Christ?

I ask these questions after reading about Tony Jones' call to a friend to abandon a ministry ordination process that seemed unfair. The charge is that the ordination process was being used to impede his friend's journey into ministry rather than empower a qualified Christian to go out and minister. Much discussion has taken place at Jones' blog and elsewhere about the specifics of this particular case, but it has gotten me thinking more generally about how my church does, or should, cultivate people who feel a call to ministry.

My own denomination requires would-be ministers to go through a fairly structured and lengthy vetting process (much theological training and testing, high expectations for discipleship and evangelism skills, etc.) before they're ordained for ministry. I have a friend who recently completed this process without hitting any roadblocks; he's now doing great ministry work at a local church. But another friend of mine, also ordained as a pastor, felt pressured to tiptoe cautiously around certain issues and personalities to avoid sabotaging his journey toward the pastorate; he's an excellent pastor who loves the church, but for him the ordination process was a frustrating hurdle to get past.

What does this process look like in your church? Pastors, did your path to ordination encourage you and prepare you well for ministry? If you're not a pastor, can you see the fruits—or scars—of the ordination process in your pastor's life and work? Does an official ordination process even make sense today, or is it a relic of the past that ought to be jettisoned?

And looking at the leadership standards set for Christians in the Bible... what should the path to ministry look like?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, The Church, News & Politics, Education