Monday, March 27, 2006

What's Up with Ordination?

This last weekend we had a chance to return "home" to the church where I served for 10 years, the Evangelical Free Church of Laguna Hills. It was the first time we'd been back in over 3 years. The occasion was the Ordination Service for Tim Culling, a guy who worked along side me as the Adult Ministries Intern and then took my place as the Pastor of Adult Ministries. Tim, like myself, is the recipient of God's grace and goodness to find himself in a such a great "incubator" to love, be loved and learn a historical but dying model of ministry.

For us it was a great weekend to see old friends and return to our roots. I sat there with a big smile on my face, in the same old seat next to my friend and mentor, Don Smith. Such a special place. Such a big impact on my life and ministry.

(BTW, I was floored to have multiple folks tell me they regularly read "life together." I've got to keep this thing going!)

Pastor Don knows how to do an Ordination Service. . . . because he believes in the power of the Gospel, because he believes that God calls men to the pastorate, because he believes in pastoral ministry, because he believes in ordination for the man and for the church.

Here's the text of his challenge to Tim Culling. . . .it was good to be reminded of my own calling. . . .

Tim Culling, sometimes affectionately called 2nd Timothy, is being ordained to the ministry as a shepherd of Christ’s church. This is not a call to a profession, but a call to a life of sacrificial service. Today, as in the days of early Christianity, there is an urgent need for pastors with a shepherd’s heart. Therefore, he is laying aside all other pursuits to fulfill this mandate. This is to be his calling, purpose, and passion in life.

We don’t need more humorists, psychologists, political analysts or pragmatists in the pulpit. Instead, Christ is calling men first to Himself and then to the pastorate. We don’t need more slick programs, more religious consumer surveys and self-help gurus. What the church needs is a man of God who has a consuming passion to know Him and seek His glory above his own. What the church needs is a shepherd whose holiness can be explained no other way than as a result of spending a lifetime looking into the face of Christ. What his flock needs to see, hear and feel is a man not caught up in the applause and acceptance of others but a man caught up with the love and majesty of God. The church needs pastors on their knees interceding for their flocks and longing for the souls of the lost. They must know God is committed to deepening their faith before He broadens their ministries. He has called and gifted His shepherds to fulfill all that He ordained for them before the foundation of the world.

Shepherds who have a consuming passion for God’s glory must also have a burning desire to preach the whole counsel of God without compromise in every generation. Before he ascends to the pulpit to preach he must be convinced the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. What the church needs from its shepherds is not more simple formulas and principles for success learned from the works of men but shepherds convinced from the bible that God’s grace is sufficient not only for salvation but for all the pressures that befall them. He must discipline himself to be a lifelong student of the Word, knowing long tedious hours trying…. to discover the mysteries of God for His people. He must fight off the tug of an entertainment-driven culture to tickle their ears. His duty is to help form in the mind of the flock an adequate and appropriate view of God. He should aspire to preach Christ from every book of the Bible in his lifetime. He need not fret trying to discover a clever message but discover the message of the biblical text. He is to trust God to produce in his congregation’s ears Gods’ chosen purposes for them-irrespective of whether the results are visible or not. Nothing is to be more relevant and transforming than a message about which he can confidently say, “Thus saith the Lord.”

A shepherd of God’s flock must not only have both a consuming desire for God’s glory and a burning desire to preach the gospel, he must also nurture a compassionate heart for Christ’s flock. He is not to think of his people as intrusions into his busy day; He is not to consider them hindrances to his professional reputation; He is not to think of himself as a manager of a corporate business nor a therapist for a counseling center. Instead, Christ’s shepherds are called to care for hurting broken lives, to pursue lost wandering sheep, to protect vulnerable sheep from wolves in sheep clothing, to feed hungry sheep from the pastures of God’s Word, to be there with them from birth to the grave and to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. And after an exhausting week spent studying and preparing for his sermon, meeting with various committees, answering phones, writing letters, counseling the bereaved, conducting a funeral and preaching on Sunday, he must learn to smile with those who joke, “Why don’t you get a real job” and “It must be nice to work only one day a week and keep your lawn green.” This is when his sense of calling must drive him back into the Scriptures on Monday to repeat the whole routine again and be grateful for his calling.

Christ’s Shepherd must also care for his own wife and family. He must learn to say, “No!” to some church commitments so he can say, “yes” to his family. He must share with his family the joy of serving Christ’s Church and not bemoan the smell and bite of ornery sheep. He must constantly remind himself that those he has charge over are called by Christ... “Saints” whom Christ declared holy and blameless; “Adopted sons & daughters” whom God chose in Christ before the foundation of the world; “the Bride of Christ” whom He clothed in His righteousness; and “brothers and sisters” whom Christ united together into one forever family. He must be willing to invest his life in others and then send them into the world to serve others. He must be willing to be rejected by friends and parishioners for preaching what others fear to say. He must be willing to sit before his critics and objectors with the intent of reconciliation, not triumph over them. He must be slow to anger and quick to forgive. He must be a leader of leaders, a leader amongst leaders and a servant of all. And he must constantly have an eye on eternity where the greatest reward for service will be to hear the Chief Shepherd say, “Well done thy good and faithful servant. Enter into the pleasures of my kingdom.”

Tim Culling, those seated before you recognize and celebrate God’s call on your life. Today we lay our hands of affirmation and blessing on you. Therefore, I charge you to faithfully declare the whole counsel of God; to proclaim the holy birth, the perfect life, the atoning death, the bodily resurrection, the glorious ascension, the providence & sovereignty of God and the personal return in judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ; to faithfully administer the ordinances instituted by Christ; to uphold the work and worship of the church that He who is the great Head of the Church may be glorified.

I give thanks for Don Smith and my time of training at the Evangelical Free Church of Laguna Hills!


Dave McShea said...

I stand and say AMEN! What a charge.

I agree with you Tim. Don is a unique man in this age of "pupose driven" pastors. It is not the program, or the formula, or the performance, it is the gospel that will make the difference. A clear consistent preaching of the gospel is what we all need.

Tim, I am sure Don gave you a similar charge when you were ordained. I praise God that you do continue to preach the Word.

Sounds like it was a great trip for you. I am glad you were there.

GDL Wong said...

Amen Tim!

Ah, this is a text for ALL MEN, for all people.

What a FANTASTIC reminder to not only pastors, but to all men.
We should not shirk the responsibility of being men of the Word, men of godly zeal just because we do not have the 'title' of pastor.

We should cling to this text as our own.

Jeannett Gibson said...

Wow, and I thought my job was hard!

Pastor Steve Leonard said...

All I can say is I'm thankful that I've had the opportunity to rub shoulders with Don Smith and be challenged by him in my own calling to the pastorate. Don truly is a rare breed in the pastorate today. He was the first to expose me to such a robust view of pastoral ministry.

I'm also thankful to have the privilege to serve under a man who was trained under Don and exhorted similarly in his own ordination. I sit in a unique seat to see Pastor Tim as he strives to live out his calling and challenges me to do the same not only by instruction, but especially by example.

Finally--blessings to you Tim C. as you celebrate your ordination (I know you're out there!).