One of the solemn-but-joyful events in the life of a church is the ordination of a pastor (or elder, if you prefer). This is a rare event compared to many others, so is a time of special celebration. We have recently been able to enjoy it in our own church and in one of our church plants and have been greatly blessed. I thought it might be helpful to share the ordination vow our elders take before the church, and the reply our church takes before the elder. I trust you will see how each part of that vow is deeply grounded in Scripture. (You are free to adapt it for your own use as you see fit.)
Having repented of sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ; having been baptized and having been made a member of this local church; having faithfully served for many years in many capacities; having prayed and studied and read and grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus; and having aspired to this office of elder; and having been approved and affirmed to that office after careful examination by the elders and members of Grace Fellowship Church, do you now promise:
- to lead a life worthy of emulation (Hebrews 13:7);
- to joyfully watch over the souls of this flock as one who will give an account to God for each of them (Hebrews 13:17);
- to always preach with the day of God’s strict judgment for teachers in mind (James 3:1);
- to pray believingly for the sick (James 5:13);
- to shepherd God’s flock that has been allotted to you willingly, eagerly, seeking to model first what you ask of them (1 Peter 5:1);
- to serve the Lord with both joy and tears, to resist every temptation to shrink back from declaring the whole gospel whether in the privacy of someone’s home or the public square, to preach repentance and faith in Christ alone, to willingly accept suffering, should God place you in a position where obedience requires it, to value the calling and gospel of Jesus Christ above your own life, to guard the church as the blood-bought possession of Jesus Christ, and thus to care for her as his most valuable possession, to stay alert at your post, even willing to rebuke fellow elders who preach or teach any doctrine not found in God’s Word, to live as if, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:17-35);
- to carefully weigh the words of the preached Word in this assembly (1 Corinthians 14:29);
- to willingly suffer for Jesus’ sake hardship, physical torture, betrayal, inconvenience, exposure, disappointment, persecution, sovereign weakenings, calamities, and the daily pressures of concern for the church (2 Corinthians 11-12);
- to value the Word of God over an argument won, to train yourself in godliness, to labour and strive with persistence in the work of your ministry more than any before you, giving God all the glory for any success, to address men’s lives as well as minds; calling others to follow your personal growth in godliness and sanctification, to keep close watch on your own life and your own doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6-16);
- to purse righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness, to never quit, give up, swerve from or slack off in your effort to fulfill your ministry, not even when you are middle-aged, tired, and suffering; to despise the allure of riches in this world and to live for the eternal wealth of Christ’s presence in heaven, to guard the sacred deposit entrusted to your care (1 Timothy 6);
- to teach the Truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that old men, old women, young men, young women, and children will understand how to adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ with good works, to value Jesus above your wife, your children (should God grant them to you), your church, your ministry, your knowledge, your self, and anything else in this world, to speak to God’s people with gentle authority, to be zealous for good works (Titus 2);
- to not be ashamed of the gospel or the Savior, regardless of the audience, to flee youthful sins and run toward being a man of God who handles the Word of Truth accurately, to correct the ungodly with gentleness, not quarrelsomeness, to preach the Word of God; in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with complete patience and teaching, to entrust your soul to the faithful Creator no matter the blessing, the trial or persecution (2 Timothy)?
If, in the sight of God and these witnesses you do now set your heart to make this pledge, promising that when you fail you will seek both forgiveness and restoration as soon as is possible, then I call upon you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom to answer, “I do.”
And now, would all the members of Grace Fellowship Church please stand.
Do you, the members of Grace Fellowship Church, commit:
- to obey this man, and to submit to him, remembering that he is keeping watch over your souls, as one who will have to give an account. Will you let him do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17);
- to encourage and identify God’s grace in his life, especially the grace of humility, remembering that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4);
- to pray for him, that God may open to him a door for the Word, to declare the mystery of Christ that he may make it clear, as he ought to speak (Colossians 4:2);
- and to pray that he will finish his course and the ministry that he has received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20)?
If so, answer “We do.”
Brother, because we believe the Holy Spirit has gifted you to this ministry and made you a gift to this church and trust that we have not acted in haste, but in prayerful dependence on Christ, therefore, it is our joy as the elders of this church to lay hands on you and call upon God himself to seal to you this ministry for your life and his glory.
(At this point the man kneels and the current elders lay hands on him and pray for him.)