House Church, Anglican, Vineyard, Non-Denominational, …

September 21, 2009 at 11:44 am 2 comments

“What is ordination?” my oldest daughter asked a few months ago as we attended my friend’s ordination celebration. My friend has been on staff at my family’s non-denominational mega-church for something like seven years. I think she was called pastor at her prior church, but I’m not sure. She acts like a pastor and has basically functioned on the church staff as a pastor for a long time. But, historically, my mega-church has held the view that women should not be pastors and only recently have they amended their view and begun ordaining women. My friend was the second woman to be ordained there. The lead pastor was wandering by as my daughter posed her question, so we asked him to help us understand. Artfully, he described ordination as a recognition of God’s calling on a person’s life and mentioned some passage in one of the books of Timothy, I think, about the laying on of hands. (I should have written it down.)

Rick Warren at ConsecrationA couple weeks ago I attended the consecration service of my friend Todd Hunter who recently became an Anglican Bishop. Todd Hunter has been an encouragement and inspiration to me in many ways these last few years and I consider it a privilege to know him. I attended the consecration service as part of a church planting retreat Todd was leading. It was a fascinating service, quite different from my friend’s ordination. One of the most fascinating parts was that Pastor Rick Warren gave the sermon for this Anglican service.

As a seminary student, many people ask if I plan to become a pastor after I graduate. This is a very complicated question for me. First of all, I must answer the question of calling – is God calling me to be a pastor? Has he already called me and am I functioning as a pastor in unofficial ways? Who decides whether I am called – is it a personal conviction, something my pastors and leaders call out in me, something my professors attest to? Is pastor a calling, a lifestyle, a role on a church staff, a position in a particular order?

As a young adult I committed my life to following Christ – not just believing in God and Jesus, but devoting my life to serving God and following Jesus. As I began to be trained in college to be a disciple of Christ, I sensed God’s calling to radical discipleship and sacrificial ministry. I was ready to go to the farthest ends of the earth to make disciples of Jesus – and the farthest ends for me at that time was China. By the time I was a junior in college I had determined that my career path was to be a missionary in China. As my life unfolded, the doors to China kept closing. I read that at one time the Holy Spirit forbid Paul from speaking the word in Asia (Acts16) – so, as far as having doors closed, I was in good company. Even though the doors to China were closed, my devotion to following Christ remained strong and the calling to make disciples was clearly not dependent on my location – I could be a “missionary” anywhere.

I’m comfortable with the call to be on mission with God. All this talk about missional church is refreshing as I’ve never understood why more Christians in America didn’t get it that we are all called to participate in God’s mission for the world. I used to think that perhaps some of these people I go to church with just weren’t called or gifted or something, like I was. But the more I study and get to know God, the more I am convinced that all who follow Christ are called to participate in God’s mission – the Missio Dei. I also believe in the protestant idea of the priesthood of all believers.

But, I also believe that some are called, gifted, set apart to equip others. (Ephesians 4) So my burning question of late is, what does that look like in my life? I am confident that my time in seminary is for the purpose of equipping me for something – but what specifically is that something? For years I never even imagined that God might call me to be a pastor or teacher, except in Children’s Ministry. I was taught that women were not allowed to be pastors or teachers in the church, except with women or children. Recently, I have learned differently. A number of years ago I was privileged to be one of the first to hear our new pastor’s position statement on women in ministry which opened up the way for the two women to be ordained at my church in the last few years. Around the same time I was reading Growing Strong Daughters which challenged me to look again at the scriptures used to support the subordination of women in ministry position. My mind has been changed and my imagination now includes the possibility that God could call me to ordained pastoral ministry.

Now that the imagination is opened up the questions just seem to be increasing. OK, if I am called to be a pastor – what kind of pastor? Most of my adult life has been involved with large non-denominational churches. After being on staff at one twice, I don’t think it is the place for me. As a child I was involved with more liturgical churches like United Methodist and Lutheran and I love the beauty and connection with historical Christianity in some of the liturgy. At various times, I have dabbled in some more pentecostal/charismatic forms of church. Recently I have been learning about Anglicanism. Last year I was accused of being an Anabaptist in one of my classes. I am fascinated by the house church movement in China – I have been supporting and following what God has been doing in China since my college days. I am also intrigued by communal living and new monasticism.

Currently, I am spending some time with Vineyard Community Church in Shoreline to learn from missional pastor Rose Swetman. I am considering planting a church with Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO) when I graduate. I am also thinking about ordination – as an Anglican.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with choices. Now is one of those times. But, I am trusting those who know me well and are involved in my spiritual formation to help guide me. I trust that just as the Lord led Paul and others before me, the Lord will lead me. I pray I will be attentive to the Spirit as I walk this road. I hope I will not think more highly of myself than I ought to think, but that I will have sound judgment. I beg for your prayers. I thank God for your encouragement.

Join me in this time-honored prayer:

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

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Entry filed under: church, faith, imagination, school.

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2 Comments

  • 1. David Harris  |  March 26, 2010 at 3:57 am

    As a recent seminary grad myself I absolutely agree with your prayer. Having come from a Jewish background, it can be difficult to find one’s place in the body. Many blessings to you in your search, it sounds almost exactly like what I am going through. Thank you for writing this.

  • 2. Elizabeth Chapin  |  March 26, 2010 at 8:56 am

    David, thanks for reading. I am still in the discernment process regarding my next steps after graduation and finding more clarity as well as more questions in the process. All the best to you in your search as well, may God bring people around you to help guide and direct you to hear and see the leading of the Spirit in your situation.

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