It has been thirty years since the stormy evening that I knelt down under the authority of Christ and the church and General Superintendent Eugene Stowe laid his hands on my head. In his booming voice, he pronounced the words, “I ordain thee elder in the church of God.”
It’s probably a good thing that I had no earthly idea that night of all that would unfold over the next thirty years. I might have run for my life!
Actually, though, the act of the church pressing into me the vows of ordination has given me life in so many ways. The experiences and the relationships of these three decades have been means of grace for me. There is no doubt that a life given to vocational ministry is costly and often burdensome, but it can also be filled with joy and great satisfaction when done in the truthful awareness that there is nothing earned here. Rather, it is a gift in every way.
Ministry is hard and can be lonely, even when a minister is surrounded by other people. Part of the charge we are given at ordination challenges us to “endure afflictions.” When ministry gets difficult and lonely, it can be tempting to retreat into the foggy space of fantasizing what life could be like were we not lashed to the mast of this high and holy calling. But ordained ministry, though it is often accompanied by affliction, is not an affliction in and of itself. Rather, it is a means of grace that, even in burdensome times, carries the transcendent rewards of the kingdom of God.
Ministers cannot accomplish much of anything of lasting value outside the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Pastors and pastors-to-be, I plead with you: Guard your hearts, minds, souls, and bodies by surrendering your entire lives, on a daily basis, to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
When ministry gets difficult and lonely, it can be tempting to retreat into the foggy space of fantasizing what life could be like were we not lashed to the mast of this high and holy calling.
My ordination certificate hangs on the wall of my office, just where I have to run into it each time I round the desk to sit at my workspace. Every so often I stop and read the words again:
Know all men by these presents, that under the protection of Almighty God, and with an eye single to his glory, by prayer and other religious services, Jeren Leon Rowell has this day been set apart and ordained an elder in the church of God according to the rules of the Church of the Nazarene being judged worthy and well qualified for that work by the Chicago Central District Assembly, and he is hereby recommended to all whom it may concern as a proper person to administer the sacraments and ordinances and to feed the flock of God so long as his spirit and practice are such as become the gospel of Christ and he continues to hold fast the form of sound words according to the established doctrines of the gospel.
May your Spirit-filled life become the gospel of Christ. May your ministry bear fruit, joy, and reap lasting rewards. May the God of eternity crown the end of your service with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”