Seeking Ordination?: Strive for a Greater Goal

A friend made an observation in Sunday School once. “So many people claim that ‘God called me to preach.’ Doesn’t He ever call people to be quiet?” There is no shortage of people who want to proclaim the Gospel. In some Protestant circles, it is easier for a church to find a pastor than it is a musician. Catholics and Orthodox also have their share of people who want to take leadership roles in a parish.

A Mattaponi River Sunrise

There is nothing wrong with striving to be a good leader. The Apostle Paul considered it a worthwhile goal for a man to seek to become a bishop. But, there is a risk of seeking the public offices of the church to a point where it becomes detrimental to the health of the congregation. A major split happened in ancient Carthage as one group of bishops declared a newly appointed clergyman invalid because of the status of a member of the ordaining council. In more modern times, the first split among African-American Baptist occurred over a dispute over ownership of a publishing house. When position seekers will not concede to the correct direction or share resources for the greater good, the church is at risk of stunted growth and unnecessary division. Either way, the enemy of our souls has an easier time planting seeds of discouragement which can grow to choke out the spiritual health of the parish.

St. Anthony the Great

The monastics in the Nile Valley were careful to avoid seeking an office for the sake of having a position in the Church. Some, like Abba Pachomius, established communities and were known as, “The Great” for their leadership and wisdom. Abba Moses the Black was ordained a priest by the Patriarch of Alexandria. While they had issues of their own, the Desert Fathers were more interested in being examples of humility, repentance, and virtues than wearing vestments during services. Abba Daniel was ordained as a Deacon, but refused to serve. He would run to another monastery whenever the brothers tried to compel him. When confronted at one church, he told them that he had asked the Lord if he could perform his Diaconate duties. A pillar of fire stood before him and a voice from heaven said, “If you can climb this pillar, you can serve at the altar.” With that explanation, the brothers stopped approaching him.

Reading the Epistle as an Altar Server

Anyone who wants to pursue the ordained ministry or some other leadership position in the church would do well to avoid rushing into it. Unless God has called you to such an office, it may be detrimental to your soul and others. A solid prayer rule and reading the scriptures and other spiritual books should be a prerequisite. Focus on the struggle against your own passions before declaring yourself worthy of instructing others. Strive to live blamelessly in private as well as public. Be willing to accept guidance, criticism, and (as much as possible) seek more education. Wear garments of righteousness that God can see. If it’s His will, the vestments will follow.

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