Luke 2:52 (ESV)
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
One very real surprise for me this year as I traveled to the churches of this great District is in finding that so many of our pastors have only the minimum required credentials with the Assemblies of God. This became even more apparent when I began my search for the DYD position. I had the greatest number of resumes that I could not consider because of a lack of ministerial, or adequate ministerial, credentials. Even worse, these were young men of accomplishment and certain giftedness, but I could not even consider them in the process!
For some certified or even licensed credential holders, moving forward in the credentialing process has just dropped off their radar screen. They are too busy, too successful, and maybe even unconvinced of the need, to put the time and effort into going to the next level.
Every so often, I will be asked about the purpose of ordination and why it is necessary if a minister already has a ministry license. First, I want to say that I am not talking about anyone having a second-class status in the Kingdom of God or in the Assemblies of God if you have stopped at the certified or license levels. In fact, just the opposite may be true. In certain situations of ministry or calling, these levels may be the best fit. Probably the greatest misconception I see is the idea that ministers do not need to be ordained unless they desire certain areas of leadership in our fellowship. The truth is, each credential level – certified, licensed, and ordained - has its own purpose! And you, as a credential holder, should understand where you fit.
The certified level is available to persons who feel called to a vocational ministry calling, but their ministry is not yet proven, or they have not completed the prescribed preparation track. In theory, a certified minister is one who has begun a journey of preparation whose life, character, and call have been examined and is released with entry level recognition to engage in ministry while he or she continues ministry preparation. The General Council bylaws underscore that certified credentials are entry level by stating, “In the event a certified minister is serving in a position as the pastor, he or she shall be expected to advance to license to preach within 2 years of acceptance of the pastorate.”
The license level is available when the individual is actually engaged in his/her ministry calling. This person may have more preparation to complete before being fully released, but that preparation is ongoing. Ministry license is a preliminary step toward ordination and gives the candidate an opportunity to develop proven ministry before being fully recognized as an ordained minister of the Gospel. The required two-year period gives the candidate’s spiritual leaders an opportunity to observe the candidate’s character, preparation, and ministry before the “laying on of hands”.
Though we never finish growing, ordination is a recognition by the other ministry elders of the church that the candidate is ready to be released as an elder in ministry. Ordination says that the minister has completed the required preparation, has a proven ministry, and has demonstrated God’s recognition and call.
When these steps have been completed, the ordination candidate is the recipient of a wonderful gift called “the laying on of hands.” In this act, God and man come together in will and purpose to see the great commission accomplished. Hebrews 6 speaks of it being elementary or foundational in God’s work in our lives. Rather than being optional, the writer sees it as a necessity, which opens the door for much more from God! It is God’s way of sending out as He did with Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:3, and it is the proper way to be sent, into the fields of harvest today!
During the 1978 South Carolina District Council, I went forward along with others to be ordained in the Assemblies of God. Now understand me when I say this, I was already called by God, felt that His hands were upon me, and His Spirit upon me to do ministry. I was already pastoring a very small but growing church and had grown up with white haired ladies prophesying that I would be used of God. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”
I did not need ordination to minister or pastor. But, I did need it in a deeply intrinsic way. I wanted to obey scripture and model my life after the Way. I liked the ancient paths! I also revered my District Leaders and my Elders in the faith. I loved my fellow pastors; I wanted to be on the front line of ministry with them. I felt that the right way was to have their recognition and to give them a share of my life and ministry. “Laying on of hands” makes us partakers together whether it is bearing someone’s burdens or sending them out into a spiritual adventure. Paul tells Timothy, “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.”
I wanted to receive the mantle of my Elijah(s) and dreamed of receiving a double portion of what they had, to do God’s bidding. So, I submitted myself to bowing down and receiving from others what I suppose I could have tried to receive on my own. As a result, I can testify that once I rose from that time of being set apart for a purpose and sent into the harvest field, my life and ministry have never been the same!
Today, more than in times past, it is easier to attain that next credential level with options available such as GSOM (Georgia School of Ministry). So settling for a minimum requirement doesn’t have to be your only option when you can have the approbation of God and man, being sent out with preparation that will bring glory and honor to God! If you are on the fence about advancing your credentials, I encourage you to pray and consider advancing the call of God on your life to a new level. Give our office a call and speak with us; we’ll be glad to walk through the decision process with you.