Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away … no, wait: wrong story. Let’s try “Once upon a time”, when I was in my 20’s, shortly after I had accepted Jesus Christ as my savior, I was studying under a dynamic young Preacher named Dennis. He was the first formally educated preacher I’d encountered in my adult(ish) life and he impressed me so much with his knowledge of the Bible that it ignited a fire in me. Dennis thought I showed promise and encouraged me to seek ordination by attending a local seminary. Dennis gave me a letter of recommendation and I filled out the admission paperwork and waited for the enrollment period to come around.
While I was waiting, the church Deacons discovered that Dennis was having an affair with the church secretary and sent him packing. When they announced this to the congregation, I felt personally betrayed by my mentor. Anger over this betrayal sent me off into a time I call my “prodigal period” where I shelved my faith for a while, including abandoning my plans for Christian education and ordination.
Those years were the most financially and socially successful years of my life. I accredit this to the idea that Satan can grant gifts and favors if it keeps someone following along on his path. Eventually that house of cards came tumbling down and I lost everything (worldly) I held dear. Like the prodigal son of the parable, this turned me back to my Father.
I saw the foolishness of my behavior, repented of my ways, and asked God for forgiveness. He also showed me that going into Seminary when I had planned would have been foolishness because my desire to teach the Word of God was based on my admiration of Dennis, not my love for Jesus. I also saw that the Deacons’ reaction to the situation was inappropriate and only furthered my feelings of betrayal.
Back on Track
That began a new chapter in my life. A time of slow growth and a building desire to seek clarity and serve God. Ordination was no longer part of the plan: I saw no need for it. There have been a couple more preachers who have influenced me quite a lot, but I have been careful to keep my focus where it belongs. I can appreciate the man for his Godliness and the knowledge he shares, but I will not revere the man. Jesus is my savior, He alone is worthy of my worship.
One of those men recently passed away, leaving our small church without leadership. This is a situation that could be seen coming, and I speculated if I could be of any service to my brothers and sisters in Christ by helping to fill the vacuum, when it came, until a permanent Pastor could be found. These were private thoughts. They were troubling thoughts. I still have a deep fear of standing before a room of people and speaking. But perhaps — perhaps — I could find the strength by leaning on The Spirit and not depending on my own (inadequate) strength.
Considering Ordination Again
Our church bylaws say that to remain a church, the body must be led by an ordained minister. I have been ordained as an Elder. This allows me, according to the rules of that denomination, to teach the Word to adults and to serve on the governing body of the church, but not to pastor a church. A question has been plaguing my mind as I’ve watched things play out: is it time I again seek ordination?
Ordination is a rule of man to insure that the people who stand in front of a congregation actually know something worth speaking about. Or, that’s the idea anyway. I’ve listened to some pretty goofy ideas being espoused by the ordained and some insightful preaching done by laymen.
It is not possible right now for me to abandon everything and enroll in a brick and mortar Bible college. So I’ve been looking into on-line colleges, courses, and programs that may serve the purpose. The results are eye-opening!
On-line ordination programs run the gamut from “Pay us a fee and sign this Proclamation of Faith and we’ll send you your ordination certificate in the mail” to on-line college courses that will take several years to complete and require completion of coursework (including two semesters of Greek) and the taking (and passing) of tests before ordination will be awarded. The most promising would allow me to obtain a BA in divinity (not the candy, but in religious knowledge) that is fully accredited so that, should I want to pursue a Masters or Doctorate through a university, my semester units will transfer into those programs.
The one I’m looking at most closely says that the classes are free to all takers, but if I want the certifications, there are fees (donations) involved. Obtaining a BA will cost $2,000 (for certification). Scholarships are available to promising students. These scholarships are funded primarily by alumni of the school who have gone on to preach.
There is one in between that says they charge a $125 up-front application fee, then a proctor will telephone and give me a verbal test of my Bible knowledge. If I can demonstrate proficiency, I will be ordained. If not, I must take classes to acquire the needed basic knowledge.
None of these are associated with denominational churches. Obviously, the “pay a fee and sign this” programs are a sham.
According to the the Supreme Court any proper, legal religious order can ordain their ministers without interference of state or federal regulations. So most of these offer *legal* ordination, but what you’re ordained into remains questionable and any church that isn’t completely ignorant will know this. One of these programs touts a variety of talk show hosts and Hollywood types (including Lady Gaga) as graduates of their program. To me that is a ringing endorsement of their Illegitimacy as Christian ministers. Identifying oneself with a group like that proves oneself to be a charlatan.
Even if I don’t end up standing in a pulpit, it may be worth pursuing this because, as a writer, I have submitted essays to Christian magazines and been turned down because they do not accept work from laymen. Some will accept work from certified Chaplains, others require ordination from a proper church as a Preacher of the Word of God. Some said they liked my work, but they have standards that must be met by all prospective contributors. That’s the rule.
So I continue to pray for guidance, and try to push my personal aversions aside. But I do not want to enter into this effort if I’m doing it for personal ambition. It must be a legitimate calling of God if it is to have any chance of success. That much, I have learned!