Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Will Build My Church

by Bruce Mills

This weekend, I attended our church elder board's yearly retreat at which we gather to brainstorm new ideas, consider how to more effectively minister to our church flock, and build stronger relationships with one another.

While we were there, we went through the process of sitting as an ordination council for two men who have served in ministry at our church for the past year-and-a-half. Before coming to our church, they had both prepared themselves with excellent biblical and theological educations from highly respected Bible schools and seminaries, and were involved in ministry at other good churches, where they proved themselves to be men of godly character.

Like those who have gone before them, these two men underwent an extensive, in-depth questioning of their theological beliefs and understanding. Although I have already undergone the same thorough "grilling," I must say that I do not recall that the questions my ordination council asked me were as difficult as those which we asked these two men. However, these two men responded with a level of intellectual acumen and verbal articulation of their understanding of the Scriptures that was marvelous to behold. They were thoroughly grounded in the Word and completely capable of presenting their theological understanding of the Scriptures in great detail. They were, in a word, outstanding.

That is not to say that I agreed with every point of their interpretation of certain biblical texts and issues. But those on which I disagreed are matters which many good, sound Bible teachers disagree upon, so their viewpoints are well within the sphere of sound, conservative, orthodox evangelicalism. They are both men of the Word; men whose passion is to know Jesus Christ and to make Him known. Their character is impeccable, with both of them having proven themselves to be godly examples to those who follow their leadership.

Having had the privilege of participating in their ordination process, I pondered how unique these men are in the current American evangelical culture. Today there is a serious downgrading of the standards which are established in Scripture for the elders who shepherd the flock of God. Such requirements as being above reproach, temperate, free from the love of money, or managing one's household well have been seemingly discarded in favor of pragmatism and a charismatic personality. And the biblical mandates that elders be "able to teach" (1 Timothy 3:2) and " exhort in sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9) are often ignored in favor of those who can tell a winsome story or a "feel good" sermon designed to pump up their listeners. But having heard both of these men teach God's Word, my observation is that they are both careful, studious exegetes of the Scriptures whose greatest concern is to accurately proclaim the truth.

In conclusion, when I see men such as these, I am reassured of the truth of our Lord's statement in Matthew 16:18 that "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." God is still raising up men of godly character with an unwavering commitment to proclaim Christ and to do the difficult work of studying the Scriptures so that they can effectively admonish, exhort, and teach other believers so that they are matured and made "complete in Christ" (Colossians 1:28). I congratulate both of them and look forward to our future ministry together in the name of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Blessed said...

I agree that ordination should require extensive knowledge of accurate doctrine, and as you put it "intellectual acumen" and thorough "theological understanding." My concern is that there are certain qualities found in Scripture that cannot be "taught" simply by study or seminary degrees. I speak, for example of I Corin. 13:4-7, II Peter 1:5-10, Col. 3:12-14, and Phil. 1:27a. All of these passages speak of the great importance of "love, brotherly kindness, having a heart of compassion, and conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." (NIV) Without these attributes alive and working fully in every aspect of the believer's daily life, not just in the pulpit or an evangelistic setting, all the knowledge of exegesis and doctrinal accuracy is useless to those to whom it is taught. In other words, "faith, if it has no works, is dead." James 2:17 A very huge part of those works involve loving the unloveable, reaching outside of our "safe" zone, serving even when times are tough. I don't know how one can "test" for compassion or brotherly kindness, or ensure that it will be taught to a pastoral flock. Some believers have it naturally or allow God to develop it in their character, while so many other believers seem to lack it completely. It leaves me in a quandry. I have no quarrel whatsoever with the ordination exam; but I am left wondering how a lost person views a believer who is lacking in compassion and kindness, and would ever want to listen to doctrine alone.