Saturday was rough. Sunday was worth it.
The ordination service on Sunday was awesome. Carl Barr, a long time friend and evangelist, directed a challenge to me personally while my dad gave a powerful ordination message. Then when I knelt as the guys came around to pray over me, the whole church rumbled with a gigantic thunderclap outside. I hope that was confirmation! But I’m getting ahead of myself, back to Saturday morning:
The crowd was small. I shared a bit about my conversion and call, read my doctrinal statement through (yawn) and then the questions began. For about three hours, I fielded questions—some difficult, some complex, others fairly straightforward. I think my favorite questions were either the ones that were poorly phrased and I could toss back to the questioner or the ones where the questioner answered themselves. For starters, I’ll run through the list of questions my dad gave me beforehand:
Do you desire the office of a bishop? (1 Tim 3:1)
The answer is yes, but this was probably the most controversial point. Similar questions were asked like “why do you want to be a pastor” and “if a church asked you to leave would you try to find another church right away”. I kept wanting to add qualifiers; I don’t want to be accused of lying! What happens if a church asks me to leave and for two years between ministries I’m working on my business? Does that mean I don’t desire the office of a bishop? More than meets the eye to this one, but I’ll recap this more at the end.
What are your top 3 priorities as a pastor?
Sadly, this didn’t get asked. But for the record, my three top priorities would be:
- My Walk With God
What do you see as the greatest challenges the church faces in the 21st century?
Another unasked question, but really important in my estimation. Apathy and relativism. People are apathetic for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is pastor’s who don’t apply the truth to their lives and give them a way to act on it. I also think it’s a problem with the world at large, constantly inundated with news stories that you can’t do anything about except form an opinion. So we’ve got a country full of lazy, opinionated people. Secondly, relativism, or the idea that what’s true for you may not be true for me and vice versa, is killing our world. Truth is absolute; belief in relative truth has disastrous consequences. Unfortunately, most preachers aren’t addressing this.
How far should the church go in seeking to attract the unsaved to worship services?
The church service is a worship service, not an evangelism service. The purpose of the church is for believers to gather together and worship God. The church is commanded to go into the world and preach the gospel, not reel them into the church service. Ask me “How far should the church go in seeking to evangelize the unsaved outside the church?” and I’d have a different answer altogether.
You mentioned your belief in the preservation of Scripture. In what sense is the Bible preserved: in a single translation, manuscript, etc.
This caused a little stir, but I’ve done so much study on this, I felt like I answered competently. I believe every word that was written down in the original texts was inspired by God, and as long as a translation is faithful to the words of the originals (the copies of the originals), then I believe we are reading God’s Word. Further clarification was requested:
“Are you saying that we can’t be 100% certain we have God’s Word in the English language?” Language is a tricky thing, because it’s always changing and growing. There are archaic words in the King James Version that were very accurate translations to the people of that day; however, some of the words don’t mean the same as they did then, so to today’s reader, it’s not as clear a picture of God’s Word as it could be.
“So, you’re saying that the Greek and Hebrew are needed in order to know God’s Word.” I counter with a question. Isn’t English needed in order to know God’s Word? If someone comes up to you in a language you’ve never heard before, you can’t communicate God’s Word to them and your KJV is meaningless to them. Then it’s time to break out the English books. There has to be some understanding of language, of grammar, of syntax; we could deny this and say that God’s Word alone is all we need, but it’s just not true. That being said, I do believe that God’s Word has been accurately translated and thereby preserved in several translations. Lots more there, but I’ll leave it at that.
How should your church respond if a convicted child molester begins attending your services?
There are many subtleties in a situation like this. Has the molester served his time? Has he sought reconciliation and forgiveness? How long ago was this? Is he being held accountable by anyone? I suppose the one thing I could say is that he wouldn’t be working in the nursery.
Describe the process and purpose of church discipline.
The purpose of church discipline is threefold: purity, unity and reconciliation. Matthew 18 tells us that if one person has a valid complaint against another person, he is to approach that person with humility and love. If the person will not hear him, he is to gather 2 or 3 witnesses. In our church, this is usually the deacons and pastors. If the person will still not hear the 2 or 3 witnesses, the matter is to be brought before the church. Our church actually takes this approach, and if after a long enough time, a person is still sinning and unrepentant, we have a closed meeting for members of the church where we discuss the issue at hand. Pastor tells everyone that they have a responsibility to help bring reconciliation with the person at hand. At the end of a month, if they’ve still not turned, the Bible says we are to set them out of the church and treat them as if they were an unbeliever.
Explain your understanding of the Bible’s teaching on divorce and remarriage. Address ministry limitations regarding this issue.
This one could go very long, but I’ll give the brief summary. Divorce is not part of God’s plan for marriage; it breaks the symbolism of the permanency of Christ and the church. But Jesus tells us that divorce is allowed if there is any kind of fornication (sexual unfaithfulness of all kinds) on the spouse’s part. If a person is divorced for any other reason, they are not to be remarried as this would essentially make them adulterers. The only case for remarriage is if there is fornication. I believe divorce eliminates a man from the office of a pastor or a deacon (1 Tim).
Is there any reason we should not approve your ordination?
This was another tough one. I deferred to the story of Moses who constantly felt inadequate, but God still used Him. I feel extremely inadequate and I always seem to reminded time and time again of my failures; it’s these things that often flash before my eyes when considering the office of a pastor.
There were many more questions, but I think I’ll end with the one that got the most gasps:
Could Jesus have sinned?
Sounds easy, right? But wait. Hebrews tells us that He was tempted; in fact, Jesus Himself even told Satan in the wilderness that it was wrong to tempt God. Yet James says that God cannot be tempted with evil, nor does He tempt any man. God is holy, without sin. How could He have sinned and still remain holy? My answer was “yes”. If he couldn’t have sinned, the temptation’s not a temptation, it’s a farce, a charade pulled by God the Father to make it look like He can sympathize. Questioner: “I think you meant to say ‘His humanity could have sinned, but His deity prevented Him from sinning’.” Me: “Sure, that works.”
My brain is tired just writing this entry. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers!
You can listen to the Sunday morning messages here. (Three for the price of one!) Carl’s charge to me, Pastor Dan’s charge to the church and my dad’s “flangin’ down the Word”—you have to listen to them all. I’ll have a video of them up shortly!
A sample platter of examination council members:
From left to right: Frank Cirone, Keith Gardner (my dad), Me and Joe Roof; missing from the picture are Carl Barr, Pastor Dan and Rob Bailey.