Handbook • ordination

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“The licensed minister is ordinarily ordained to the gospel ministry after he has satisfactorily fulfilled a period of pastoral/evangelistic service during which time he has given evidence of his call to the ministry. The spiritual rite of ordination constitutes the official recognition by the Seventh-day Adventist Church of his divine call to the ministry as a life commitment, and is his endorsement to serve as a minister of the gospel in any part of the world” (GC Policy L 25 30).

The length of service prior to ordination cannot be prescribed, because there are too many variables. Ordinarily, however, a licensed minister is ordained after about four years of field experience.
Ordination: a Statement*

“The Christian church is that body of people who have been reconciled to God and their fellow beings by Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:16; Rom. 12:5). United to God by baptism (Mart. 28:19), Christians are incorporated into His work of redemption as ‘a royal priesthood’ to ‘declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (1 Peter 2:9) [citations are from the Revised Standard Version]. This means, among other things, that Christians are to be ministers of reconciliation, forwarding God’s mission in the world (2 Cor. 5:18, 20). Ministry, therefore, is the function of every Christian as well as the corporate church and is carried on by means of the gifts that the Holy Spirit imparts (Rom. 12:4.8; 1 Cor. 12:4-7; Eph. 4:8-16; I Peter 4:10).
Ordination for particular service. While all Christians render spiritual service, the New Testament portrays an organized church, administered and nurtured by persons who are specially called by God, set apart by the laying on of hands to a particular service. Apart from

* This section reproduces the statement on ministerial ordination prepared by the General Conference Ministerial Association and the GC Biblical Research Institute. The statement received broad input from the world field and went through numerous revisions. It purposely omits the gender issue in ministerial ordination, seeking rather to lay down basic principles by which all ministerial ordination issues can be measured.




the appointment and ordination of the twelve apostles for their unique, unrepeatable role (Mark 3:13, 14; The Desire of Ages, p. 296), the Scriptures distinguish three categories of ordained officers: (I) the gospel minister, whose role may be seen as preaching/teaching, administering the ordinances, and pastoral care of souls and churches (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:1-5); (2) the elder (sometimes in Scripture called bishop), who exercises oversight of a local congregation, performing necessary pastoral functions as well (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5,9; 1 Tim. 3:2, 5); and (3) the deacon, to whose care the poor and the benevolent work of the congregation are entrusted (Phil. 1:1; Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 3:8-13).

“Ordained elders and deacons minister to the well-being of local congregations, attending to their outreach. But, possibly reflecting the unique role of the apostles, greater responsibility rests upon ordained gospel ministers. Supported by the elders and deacons, they, in any locale, serve the church in word and ordinance, continuously recalling it to its scriptural foundations (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
The Gospel ministry: a special call. While elders and deacons

are appointed on the basis of spiritual experience and ability (Titus 1:5; Acts 6:3), the gospel ministry, Seventh-day Adventists believe, is a special calling from God. Regardless of the means by which the Lord initiates it, His call becomes an all-absorbing passion, a relentless drive that leads its possessor to exclaim: ‘Necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (1 Cor. 9:16). The conviction becomes a ‘fire in the bones’ that will not be denied expression (Jet. 20:9). Historically, Seventh-thy Adventists have insisted on an ordination procedure for those thus called.
Significance of ordination. Just as prophets, priests, and kings were anointed by oil for special roles, so the rite of ordination by the laying on of hands recognizes that God calls some, who are already His, for special purposes (cf. Mark 3:13, 14). Ordination to the gospel ministry acknowledges special needs in the church body: (1) the need for leadership that provides to the membership both example and challenge to move forward in God’s program (1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Tim. 4:12); (2) the need for sentinels ‘on the walls of Zion,’ burdened with the responsibility to inform and alert the people of God (Eze. 3:17-19; 2 Cor. 11:2, 3); (3) the need for the Word and the authoritative preaching of the will of God to church members and in evangelistic outreach to the unsaved that rises from serious study of the Scriptures (Acts 6:2-4; 2 Tim. 4:2-4).

“Ordination, an act of commission, acknowledges God’s call, sets the individual apart, and appoints that person to serve the church in a special capacity. Ordination endorses the individuals thus set apart as authorized representatives of the church. By this act, the church delegates its authority to its ministers to proclaim the gospel publicly,

to administer its ordinances, to organize new congregations, and, within

the parameters established by God’s word, to give direction to the believers (Matt. 16:19; Heb. 13:17). In short, ordination invests ministers with full ecclesiastical authority to act in behalf of the church anywhere in the world field where they may be employed by the church (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 161). Seventh-day Adventists do not believe that ordination is sacramental in the sense of conferring some indelible character or special powers or the ability to formulate right doctrine. It adds ‘no new grace or virtual qualification’ (Ibid., p. 162).

“The biblical background of the rite indicates that it ‘was an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office and recognition of one’s authority in that office’ (Ibid.). By this means the church sets its seal upon the work of God performed through its ministers and their lay associates. In ordination, the church publicly invokes God’s blessing upon the persons He has chosen and devoted to this special work of ministry.
Qualifications for ordination. The Lord qualifies those whom He calls to special service (Ex. 31:1-5; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). By ordination the church recognizes the work of Christ-the Head of the Church-in the making of a minister. Since ministers carry out their ministry within an earthly organization, that organization must determine whether the individual’s inner conviction is only a general call to serve Christ as all members should, or is, indeed, a genuine call to the gospel ministry. God’s call and His equipping constitute the first step to the ministry; the recognition and confirmation of that call by those authorized to evaluate its validity comprise the second (cf. I Tim.


“Candidates for the gospel ministry should evince:

“1. Spiritual experience. They must have a deep, experiential knowledge of and devotion to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ that reveals itself in an exemplary lifestyle and reputation, in sound judgment, in representative home life, and in positive character traits (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-11).

“2. Knowledge of the Scriptures. Christian pastors are primarily called to the ministry of the Word. Therefore ordinands should have a mind furnished with the truth, utterly subject to the Word of God, and prepared to penetrate and make plain its right meaning. They will have given evidence that they have mastered and are able to apply the discipline of theology in their preaching, teaching, and counseling (Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:15, 24-26; 2 Cor. 4:1,2; cf Gospel Workers, p. 105).

“3. Competence for the tasks of ministry. Ordinands must manifest that God has equipped them with the gifts necessary to the ministry ­the gifts of intellect and utterance that enable them to proclaim, defend, and teach the faith (Eph. 4:12; 1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:2) and


the gift of leadership that enables them to guide, motivate, and train the congregations entrusted to their care (1 Peter 5:1.4).

“4. A fruitful ministry. It is unthinkable that Christ would call and equip His servants without blessing their efforts, Ordinands will reveal their call to the ministry both by soul-winning success and by their ability to nurture those under their care (1 Cor. 9:2).
Responsibility of ordination, Though ordination conveys no special powers upon the recipient, it does impose solemn responsibilities and for that reason should not be accepted lightly. Ordained ministers are not their own, but God’s. Their time, talents, and lives are dedicated to Him without reservation, for they are His mouthpiece and representatives of His church, Ministers proclaim the word of the Lord to judgment-bound people whose eternal destiny is in the balances. The care and salvation of souls is a weighty commission entrusted to them both ‘in season and out of season’ (2 Tim. 4:2). It is God’s intention that there be no release from this vocation while life and strength last-until the Lord, ‘the righteous judge,’ shall award ‘the crown of righteousness’ to all His faithful servants on ‘that Day’ of His appearing (verse 8).”

Authorizing Ordination
Jesus chose certain ones for ordination. “And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted, And they came to Him, Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:13, 14). Thus, the example of Jesus authorizes His church to ordain those experiencing an intimacy with Christ, who are prepared to preach Christ.

Barnabas and Saul labored in the ministry for some time, and the seal of success was on their work as soul-winning evangelists. Then the Spirit authorized their ordination, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2, 3).

Ellen White comments: “God had abundantly blessed the labors of Paul and Barnabas during the year they remained with the believers in Antioch, But neither of them had as yet been formally ordained to the gospel ministry. . . . Before being sent forth as missionaries to the heathen world, these apostles were solemnly dedicated to God by fasting and prayer and the laying on of hands, Thus they were authorized by the church, not only to teach the truth, but to perform the rite of baptism and to organize churches, being invested with hill ecclesiastical authority. . . . Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself~ and the ceremony of the laying on of


hands added no new grace or virtual qualification” (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 160-1 62). Thus, the church today should authorize the ordination of only those whom God has already both chosen and proven.
Ordination not a reward, - “Ordination must never become simply a reward for faithful service or be considered an opportunity to add tide and prestige to an employee. Neither is it an honor to be sought by the individual or his family or friends on his behalf” ((SC Policy L 35 50).
Ordaining nonpastors. - “Workers who are ordained to the gospel ministry are set apart to serve the world church, primarily as pastors and preachers of the Word, and are subject to the direction of the church in regard to the type of ministry and their place of service, It should therefore be understood by those accepting ordination and who are engaged in specialized ministries such as administration, teaching, and departmental leadership, that they may be reassigned the church to pastoral, preaching and evangelistic duties” ((SC Policy L 40).

Calls to serve the church in other than pastoral ministry may be just as divine in origin, but should be recognized in some way other than ordination to the gospel ministry.
Who authorizes ordination, - “Ordination to the ministry is the setting apart of the employee to a sacred calling not for one local field alone but for the world church and therefore needs to be done with wide counsel” ((SC Policy L 45 05). The proper procedure is as follows:
1. Preliminary examination by the local conference/mission administration.

2. Recommendation by the conference/mission committee.

3. Approval by the union

4. Final examination.
“The time and place for the ordination ceremony, including the examination of the candidate, with his wife, shall be arranged by the approving organization in counsel with the union” ((SC Policy L 45 10). This final examination is usually given by a group including guest ministers from outside the local conference and union, thus emphasizing that ordination is by and for the world church.

“The examination of candidates for ordination is conducted by ordained ministers. Ordained representatives of conferences/unions/ divisions/General Conference, who are present, may be invited to assist in the examination, Where it is deemed advisable by the conference/mission executive committee, one or more laypersons may be selected to participate” ((SC Policy L 50).




In-depth examination is essential. “Before any ordination i5 carried out, there shall be careful, unhurried, and prayerful examination of the candidates as to their fitness for the work of the ministry. The results of their labor as licentiates should be reviewed, and the examination should cover the great fundamental facts of the gospel” (GC Policy L 50).

“There has been too little done in examining ministers; and for this very reason churches have had the labors of unconverted, inefficient men, who have lulled the members to sleep, instead of awakening them to greater zeal and earnestness in the cause of God” (Gospel Workers, p.


The best place for an in-depth examination of ordinanations is under step I above, preliminary examination by the local administration. This is where time is most adequate and information is most available. The ministerial secretary should have gathered detailed information about the ordinand’s life and ministry. Candidates can be examined individually by conference/mission leaders, including the ministerial secretary.

Examination by visiting ministers from higher organizations just before the ordination takes place comes very late in the ordination process. Ordinands have already been informed of their ordination. Plans have been laid. Family and friends have been invited. It’s almost too late to deny ordination. This is not so much a time for making ordination decisions as it is for giving affirmation, counsel, and encouragement.

Marriage before ordination is recommended but not required. If a candidate for ordination is married, homelife and the commitment of the spouse should be weighed. Some research indicates that more ministers leave the ministry because of unhappy spouses than for any other reason,

Neither hasten nor delay ordination. “Undue haste has sometimes been apparent in recommending candidates for ordination. On the other hand, there has also been undue delay, extending as long as 20 years and more, Both these attitudes are wrong. Although no employee should be hurried into ordination, it is just as important that when a man is ready to be thus set apart, the service should not be unduly delayed” (GC l Policy L35 25).
Communicating with possible ordinands. - Ministerial ordination is not a thing to be sought after, On the other hand, the church plainly teaches that it is the rite by which the church expresses approval of the licentiate’s ministry. Licensed ministers and their families should not be blamed for being deeply concerned about whether or not their work is approved. Conference/mission leaders ought to communicate with them openly. Remove the mystery surrounding ordination, It is a solemn step, not a secret one.


Reordaining clergy converts, - “When a minister from another denomination accepts the Adventist message and desires to become an Adventist minister, he shall, before he becomes involved in a formal study program, be expected to give evidence of his stability in the message and of his aptitude as a candidate for the Adventist ministry by being active in a local church” (GC Policy L 30).

After six months to a year working under the local pastor, such ministers may be sent to an Adventist college or seminary for at least one year. Then they could be considered ready to accept a call to the Adventist ministry.

“Ordained or unordained ministers from other denominations who accept the Advent message and continue in the ministry may be issued ministerial licenses after they have completed their period of study and orientation and have entered upon regular employment in any conference, mission, or institution, Ordained ministers received thus into denominational work shall be ordained to the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church prior to issuing ministerial credentials to them” (Ibid. L 30).
Examination for Ordination
Self-examination, .- The most thorough preordination examination of ordinands should not come from any committee or group, hut from themselves, Ellen White wrote to a minister, “You do not closely search your own heart. You have studied many works to make your discourses thorough, able, and pleasing; but you have neglected the greatest and most necessary study, the study of yourself’ (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 433; italics supplied).
Formal examination. - Below are three sources listing areas that might be included in an ordination examination, Questioners should feel free to choose any one of the three as the basis for their questions.
1. GC Policy L 50. Thirteen areas are suggested:

  1. A call to the ministry as a lifework.

  2. Belief in and knowledge of the Scriptures.

  3. Acquaintance with and full acceptance of the vital truths we believe we are called to proclaim to the world,

  4. Experience in various kinds of ministerial responsibility.

  5. Entire consecration of body, soul, and spirit

  6. Spiritual stability.

  7. Social maturity.

  8. Aptness as a teacher of truth.

  9. Ability to lead souls from sin into holiness.


j. Fruitage in souls won to Christ.

k. A cooperative attitude and confidence in the organization and functioning of the church.

1. A life of consistent exemplary Christian conduct.

m. An exemplary family.
2. Intern Manual. This manual includes 50 ministerial functions, divided into seven, categories. The conference/mission is responsible for having given each intern some training in each of the 50. Thus, questions from this list test both the conference and the candidate.

Any examination testing an individual’s preparedness to enter either

a calling or a profession ought to be based on that profession’s job

description. These 50 functions cover the areas in which every pastor

needs expertise and thus, although they are not written in job

description form, do provide the church’s most official outline of what

a Seventh-day Adventist pastor is expected to be and to do:
a. Personal growth: (1) personal devotions; (2) Adventist doctrine, Adventism as a unique, worldwide movement; (3) attitudes, ministerial call, commitment to ministry; (4) church policies, organizational structure; (5) continuing education; (6) development of a personal support group; (7) filing system; (8) leadership abth , (9) ministerial ethics; (10) personal appearance; (11) personal finance; (12) personal health; (13) team ministry with spouse; (14) time management, family time.

b. Personal relationships: (15) relationships outside the church

-home, community, race; (16) relationships within the

church-Christ, congregation, conference.

c. Evangelism and church growth: (17) church growth awareness systems; (18) church growth outreach systems; (19) church growth planning and strategy; (20) getting decisions; (21) personal evangelism; (22) public evangelism; (23) small group evangelism; (24) specialized outreaches, prison, etc.

d. Lay training: (25) recruiting and training volunteers, officers, spiritual gifts.

e. Preaching and worship: (26) baptism; (27) child dedication; (28) Communion; (29) funeral; (30) planning and leading worship; (31) prayer meeting; (32) preaching; (33) wedding.

f. Pastoral care and nurture: (34) assimilating new members; (35) church discipline; (36) counseling; (37) former members, inactive members; (38) spiritual formation through communication with members; (39) visitation of members.



g. Organization and administration: (40) Christian education; (41) church building, maintenance; (42) church social life; (43) committees; (44) conference departments; (45) finance; (46) pastoring multi-church district; (47) problem solving, conflict resolution; (48) promotion, campaigns; (49) Sabbath school; (50) youth leadership.
3. Seventh-day Adventist Minister’s Code of Ethics. This code

(see p. 51) provides an excellent basis for examining an ordinand’s commitment to ministry. Some suggest that such a statement be signed by ordination candidates.


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