(Below is an article I wrote to the people of Grace Community Church regarding my ordination service)
On March 23rd, we will be having a Sunday evening service (5 pm) for my ordination here at Grace. I hope you come, so that we can be mutually encouraged in our faith.
This service, though, has led to a couple logical questions: “You weren’t ordained before this? Haven’t you been a pastor here for the past 8 years?”
To answer those questions, it helps to understand what we mean by “ordained” here at Grace, because it is different from other denominations.
I became licensed as a minister in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (of which Grace Seal Beach is a part) during my first year here. This process involved two written exams, two oral exams (one with area pastors, another with our local elder board), and a ceremony of licensure in the Sunday morning worship services. In that service, Pastor Don explained licensure this way: “It’s like a driver’s permit. It’s temporary, but let’s you get out on the road and drive.”
Some denominations require completing ordination before one becomes a pastor. Our fellowship does it a little differently, believing that the best way for both the pastor and the congregation to learn whether someone should be ordained is to have them engage in real life ministry. So, once one is licensed, he has at least a three-year trial process before being eligible for ordination. After that waiting period, he can take two more written exams, two more oral exams, and have a Sunday evening service with carrot cake (okay, I may have added the carrot cake part).
What’s the difference between the two? Licensure is temporary, the tests are easier (though not easy), it is for the purpose of discernment, and is therefore best done under supervision of an ordained minister. Ordination is the final step of the process, and therefore requires a higher level of theological precision in the exams, more self-awareness of strengths, gifts, and calling, and is fitting for those in senior/supervisory leadership roles.
While I could have remained licensed indefinitely, I made the choice to be ordained as a way to express my commitment to serving Jesus in the pastoral ministry for as long as He will have me to do so. The testing period affirmed my commitment to Him, and to serving His church.
Let me end with this: Being licensed here at Grace has provided me a terrific experience of “testing out” pastoral ministry. You have let me figure out who I am and what pastoral ministry is during these first eight years of my time in Seal Beach. I know I have stuck my foot in my mouth plenty of times during these past eight years. Thank you for your patience; it has been a means of God’s grace in my life.
I am especially grateful to Pastor Steve and Pastor Don for their direction, encouragement, trust in me, and prayer. I hope I can encourage others in ministry the way you have encouraged me.