Thoughts on Ordination

Thoughts on Ordination

In our evening service Ross Hodges will be ordained to the ministry of Word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church in America. While we are all very excited that Ross is being set apart for a lifetime of faithful ministry, perhaps there are some who are curious about the biblical process of ordination.

Several years ago Ross discerned an inward call to the ministry–– a growing desire to preach God’s Word and shepherd His people. After receiving counsel from the elders of his local church in Montgomery, Alabama, Ross matriculated at Westminster Seminary California in order to study God’s Word and learn to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15b).

During his four years of excellent seminary training under some of the world’s most gifted pastor-theologians, he would have ample time to reflect upon the authenticity of his call to the ministry. In these crucial years of study, internships, and mentoring, Ross’s internal call to gospel ministry would either be increasingly confirmed or invalidated. And this brings up an important point: The call to sacred ministry (or ordination) is not merely inward, it is also outward. In other words, a true call to ministry is constituted of both an inward “sense” (or desire) of God’s call, and an outward confirmation of the church (I Tim. 3:1; 4:14). Indeed, before a man is ordained, the church leadership (i.e. pastors, elders, presbyteries, seminary professors, etc.) must confidently affirm that he is qualified, gifted, trained, and equipped to serve as an under-shepherd in Christ’s Church (I Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Eph. 4:11-12).

Regarding the qualifications, it is worth mentioning that in our day of personality-driven churches almost all of the qualifications that Paul enumerates in I Timothy 3:1-7 deal with character traits rather than competence issues, integrity over prowess. While skill, capability, and competence are essential qualities for the ordained minister, they are secondary to a life of sincere piety, love, faithfulness, and godliness. Paul exhorted Timothy to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, [and] in purity” (I Tim. 4:12).

During his four years of seminary training, Ross spent two summers in my former congregation (Grace Presbyterian Church, Douglasville, GA) as a pastoral intern. In addition to a heavy regiment of reading and reflective writing on subjects such as Reformed worship, confessionalism, ecclesiology, and personal piety, Ross was occasionally given responsibilities in leading worship, preaching, and visitation. It was a blessing to spend time with Ross as he was eager to learn and grow in his understanding of the pastorate and the Church. Of course, Ross was very warmly received by the congregation of Grace Presbyterian Church, and he was strongly encouraged by the elders to continue in his preparation for the ministry.

As Marla and I were praying about the possibility of planting a church in the Charleston area, I asked Ross and Joanna Hodges to pray about joining us in the work. After much prayer and counsel, the Hodges committed to move to Charleston and help us plant Christ Church Presbyterian in June 2013.

After moving to Charleston, Ross contacted the Palmetto Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America and was officially taken “under care” as a candidate for ordination. He had already fulfilled his seminary requirement, and according to the PCA’s Book of Church Order he still needed to complete a one year internship and pass written and oral licensure and ordination exams on English Bible, theology & views, church history, sacraments, and church government. Ross completed his internship and exams with flying colors! We are all very proud of him. In both character and competence Ross has demonstrated an authentic call to the ministry, leaving no doubt in the minds of the presbytery that God has called him to be an ordained minister of Word and sacrament (I Cor. 4:1; II Tim. 4:1-5).

In our evening service –– November 16th –– a commission from the Palmetto Presbytery will set Ross apart unto gospel ministry through the “laying on hands” with prayer (I Tim. 4:4; 5:22; Titus 1:5). Ross will take sacred and weighty ordination vows before God and our congregation. The ordination service will be the end of a long and important process, and the beginning of a lifelong ministry of Word and sacrament in Christ’s Church. Some complain that the ordination process in the PCA is too demanding and time consuming. I, for one, am thankful for the process–– that which tests, examines, and prepares men for faithful ministry. The church in our day needs more theological training and godly mentoring, not less.

As our dear brother Ross is set apart for ordination, may we support him with our earnest prayers, constant encouragement, and loving hospitality. Let us pray for our dear sister Joanna, a faithful woman of God who is a gift to Ross and to the church, as she seeks to be an encouragement to Ross and to faithfully carry out the unique role of a pastor’s wife. And at the end of a lifelong ministry may Ross be able to express with the Apostle Paul,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).

- Pastor Jon