Ordination and the Congregation

Ordination Charge to the Church


Pastoral ministry is replete with many delights. One that I immensely enjoy is observing a young man enter Christian ministry and realizing that my journey with him began in the hospital room at his birth. So I am privileged to play a small part in this special day.

I have been tasked to deliver a brief charge to the congregation in conjunction with the ordination of xxx. The emphasis is on “brief”! I am keenly aware that, in 20 minutes, I can’t say everything that could or should be said. So I have decided to focus on just one thing. First I need to set the stage.

Is xxx a different man post-ordination than he was pre-ordination? Well, yes. Not because ordination is some sort of magic dust that has been sprinkled on him resulting in a new man. Rather he has changed in that he has matured in both life and ministry since he first came to you. Or at least I hope so.

In the same vein, will your post-ordination relationship to xxx be different than your pre-ordination relationship? Well, on one level, not really. You have been expecting him to function in the pastoral role all along.

But on another level, things radically must change. I understand “ordination” to be men (the church) recognizing the prior appointment by God (NAU Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood). Today you are formally doing this.

Before this formal recognition of the prior ordination of God your relationship could have been described as observing his doctrine, life, and ministry in order to ascertain whether he meets the qualifications for an elder outlined in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1. You have concluded that he is qualified (biblical standards) and that you desire that he continues to serve with you (practical compatibility). Now, after this formal recognition, your relationship can be described as following rather than evaluating (NAU 1 Thessalonians 5:12 … those who… have charge over you in the Lord…) albeit yet with an eye on him in the event he stumbles (NAU 1 Timothy 5:20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all.)

If the congregation really believes that he is an elder, then it will gladly embrace and practice the numerous explicit and implicit NT statements that specifically prescribe its relationship to divinely appointed elders among them. This includes everything from praying for him to paying him well; from encouraging him to exhorting him; from ministering with him to ministering to him; from complying with his advice to copying his life; from following his instruction to fact-checking him; and et al. 

However, there is another thing that stands above all else. I believe this is the single greatest thing you can do to encourage your elder. In fact, this thing has far reaching ramifications for him. And it is something every single one of you can do! It lurks under the surface of NAU Hebrews 13: 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Let’s look a little closer.

Among other things, an elder functions as a soul watcher

Soul watching is exhaustive work. The term “watch” (ἀγρυπνέω) means alertness. More specifically it means sleeplessness. It was applied to a shepherd who loses sleep in carrying out his responsibilities to the sheep. In the night they remain alert for dangers (the wolf) and take action as needed. Compare Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, Therefore, “eyes wide open.”

Soul watching is protective work. “Over” (upper + gen) is the preposition that means “on behalf of.” The elder works hard for you! Indeed, he may thrive on hard work; but at the end of the day it is for your benefit and for God’s glory.

Soul watching is spiritual work. The elder focuses on the soul, which is the immaterial part of men. This isn’t quite as straightforward as examining the foot. It requires prayer, and probing, and warning, and knowing the Scripture, and humility.

Soul watching is inspected work. Of course this is true of any work worth doing. But the vividness of this picture is stunning. It is the elder who has an obligation laid upon him to give back something to his superior. And that superior is none other than the Sovereign God himself. Has the sovereign God invested in his servant and now he is looking for a return?

Now here is where it gets tricky. The picture is a future event (future tense “will give back”) The elder stands before God and gives an oral report. The term is the well-known (logoj).”word’. The elder must answer to God - “what of my sheep?” So, friends, forgive me if my advice is not always what you want to hear! I must answer to God.


Soul watching produces joy when genuine godliness is the response of those watched

This is borne out by the last phrase “Let them (the elders) do this with joy and not with grief…”. How can they perform their task with joy? The answer is undoubtedly by your obedience.

Here is what I think is lurking under the surface. The immediate tie-back is to the obedience of the first part of the verse – “…obey your leaders and submit to them.”

However, both experience and Scripture informs us that obedience in itself can be fool’s gold. One can be persuaded to take action (“obey” and “submit” 17a) but such can be mere behaviorism. What really counts is the heart. Make no mistake, it is better to obey than not. So, the one thing that most pleases the elder is that those under his care make glorifying God their chief goal and act on it. Most everything else takes care of itself. You see, at the end of the day, the wise elder is most pleased when God is most pleased. He is most pleased when those under his care obey God not him; the issue of their agreement with him or obeying him is easily a second tier priority!

 So how can you best encourage your newly minted elder? Live for the glory of God. In the doing you will, perhaps unintentionally, help him sleep like a baby! My prayer for this church is that it be populated by those who please God for His glory in every facet of life whether inside or outside the church.

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.