I was ordained in 1986 (yes, I’m that old) by The Irish Channel Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational Christian church located in the heart of New Orleans. My official certificate says that I was ordained to the work of the Gospel Ministry. There were no exams that needed to be passed, nor were there any diplomas that needed to be earned as a prerequisite. All that was needed was recognition. The members of The Irish Channel Christian Fellowship recognized my work with the inner-city youth of the area and wanted me to continue doing what I had been doing for the previous three years, but on a full time basis. I could have been hired without being ordained, but the elders of the church felt the recognition of “being set apart for a particular work” was important. So, after a rather ritualistic type ceremony, the elders laid their hands on me, prayed for me, and I was ordained. The Sunday morning church bulletins listed me as Reverend Bob Kuhn. It seemed a little uncomfortable at first, but I began to like it after a while.
One day, about a year later, I was driving with a traveling evangelist who was preaching a week long revival service at our church. He began to ask me questions about my ministry at the church. When he asked me from what seminary I graduated, I honestly replied that I was still in seminary. He was surprised and said that he thought I had been ordained. When I again honestly replied that I had been ordained, he became upset and went into a mild tirade about the problems with non-denominational churches ordaining “untrained” people. He asked me how I could possibly feel equipped for ministry without the proper educational credentials. I, once again honestly, told him that I didn’t know what proper training or credentials were, but all I knew was that one day I was the manager of a parts department and the next day I was working for a church and being called Reverend. He became very quiet and seemed to pout a little.
I’ve often thought about that evangelist and wondered why he was so upset. The only reason I can think of is that my ordination somehow, in his mind, minimized his. He was ordained into the Presbyterian Church. In order to become a Presbyterian minister, one must have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from an approved seminary before becoming a candidate for ordination. Then a grueling series of interviews by a group of senior Presbyterian ministers takes place, and if approved, the candidate then qualifies to be ordained. For someone to just walk off the street and get the same type of certificate he had framed in his office at home must have been depressing. And what does all that mean regarding my ordination? Is it real, or just pretend?
Well, I’m not called Reverend anymore, but I must confess, I like my ordination certificate. I think it’s a cool representation of the fact that a body of believers whom I love and respect recognized God’s call on my life. But, everyone has a call from God on their lives. They may not all be the same, but they’re equally important. My ordination certificate is like my Father’s Day cup from my kids. I like it, not because I think I’m the only father in the world, or some kind of super special father, but because I am a father, and that’s special enough for me.
So, how about giving every born again believer an ordination certificate. All Christians have a special call on their lives. Let’s recognize that special call and ordain them. Those of you who believe in a clergy/laity distinction, please don’t get upset. I’m not proposing that we honor you less. I’m just saying that we should honor each other more.
If you want to be ordained into the ministry of God, come to our church fellowship on Monday nights and we’ll be sure to accommodate you. For more information on being ordained, becoming a priest, or being a disciple of Christ, please post a comment on this blog.