My Mixed Feelings about Ordination

How could I know if ordination was the right step for me?
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During college, both my understanding of Scripture and my experiences in the church collided, causing me to question what I believed about women in ministry. During my sophomore year, I found myself saying, “I could never go to a church with a female pastor. I don’t have a theological problem with it. It’s just not what I’m familiar with.” What a shift from my upbringing! But oh, how I was making God laugh with my arrogant assumptions of how my life in ministry would look.

My Journey Toward Ordination

“If your home church won’t ordain you, we will.” Those were the words of my pastor in college as we sat on the back row of the sanctuary. He had observed me over the past year, and he challenged me to see something in myself that I hadn’t seen before. He continued, “You are a pastor and you should be ordained as one.” I counter-challenged with the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:4–9) doctrine from my childhood, questioning whether ordination should even be practiced in the church. He kindly prodded, “If you were a man, would you be questioning your ordination? Would you hesitate to be called a pastor?” “Actually,” I said, “I hope I would.”

And there it was—in my mind I could see my dad’s look and I could hear my dad’s voice reminding me, “Just call me Dad.” With those four words from my father, I learned never to use titles to my advantage, to serve rather than to lord power over others, and to never seek to make a name for myself. It’s not what comes after your name that matters, I thought. It’s how you live into your name that counts. This wasn’t because I was a woman—it was because I was a follower of the servant leader, Jesus.

So, why in the world would I seek ordination from my home church? Why would I consider co-pastoring a church in Chicago? All I can say is that God works in mysterious ways. My life has been radically changed through altar call moments. I come by my Southern Baptist roots honestly in that way. I surrendered my life to follow Jesus by coming forward in a church service and later being baptized. I responded to a call to vocational ministry by coming forward in a church service and later being ordained. As I sat with the question of ordination, it seemed similar to baptism—an outward sign of an inward calling. Baptism is not a decision to flaunt, but a gift to receive. Likewise, I pray that my ordination was not an attempt at self-promotion but a simple longing to receive the commissioning prayers from the church that raised me and sent me.

February22, 2018 at 8:00 AM

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