Last Sunday, we affirmed a dear brother to gospel ministry who had been tested and trained for the last few years in our church. He will be sent out in the next couple of months, Lord willing. The congregational vote of affirmation was 2 months ago and last Sunday was the official “Ordination Service.” These are some of the most meaningful services I am privileged to be a part. I preached from 1 Timothy 3:1-13, both he and the congregation exchanged vows, then the pastors laid hands on this brother and prayed for him, his family, and his ministry.
The big question is, “What do you pray for someone in that very significant moment?” Are there any words that capture the importance of this affirmation? I would argue that one of our pastors, Adam Embry, who prayed publically for this brother on behalf of all the other pastors, came very close. Here is a portion of his powerful words:
We gather here tonight to ask your blessing on this dear brother and his call to the ministry.
You have placed in his heart the desire to fulfill a noble task, being a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You have given him gifts to speak your word pervasively to others, but we ask that you would speak the word first to his heart. You have given him gifts to care for troubled souls, but we ask that you would first renew his soul. Lord, make every sermon he preaches and every time of counsel be a means of grace first to his life then to others. Watch over his life and doctrine, as he seeks to guard his life and doctrine so that he and those who hear the gospel through him may be saved. Through his ministry, we ask that the indignant be corrected, the troubled soul be comforted, the sin-sick find spiritual health, the despairing find gospel hope, the sorrowful find joy unspeakable, broken marriages restored, lost friendships renewed, and many prodigal sons and daughters return to your embrace.
Through him, Lord, we ask that the power of the cross of Christ be glorified. We ask that he would remain above the accusations and temptations of sin and Satan. So may his ministerial gifts lead him to a deeper sense of his own sinfulness, and allow him to realize that the more feeble he is the more useful he’ll be in your kingdom. Deliver him from those indwelling sins that entangle him: insecurity and concern about other’s opinions; self-seeking ambition that places himself above others; conceit in bible knowledge; any laziness that would lead him to misuse his gifts, neglect opportunities to minister, or speak ill-advised words of error and falsehood. Instead, may your Spirit grace him with a harvest of spiritual fruit: sober mindedness to speak the gospel persuasively and courageously; self-control to deal gently with your people’s souls; respectable living that mirrors a life of holiness; a hospitable heart along with his wife to embrace sinners and saints into their home to share the truth; a gentle spirit that is able to speak comfort and conviction when necessary; a heart that holds lightly the pleasures of the world such as material gain and leisure. May this brother model faithfully and thoroughly godliness to any flock he ministers.
We also ask that he manage his household well, knowing that how he leads his family reflects on how he will lead in the church. Also, give him a charitable and collaborative attitude when he serves with other pastors. May he learn that gospel leadership comes through service and humility. May his marriage be a living example of Christ’s love for the church, a devoted, unwavering, committed love to his godly wife. And may his role as a father to his son be a gracious display of your fatherly care for your children. And so, may he never bring the gospel into disgrace in any area of his life, and so keep Satan far from him, reminding him in times of temptation that Christ delivered him from Satan’s power when Calvary crushed Satan’s skull…
May this remind all pastors and ministers of the gospel what God requires of us and why we should labor with great confidence in the work He will do through us. Those who are considering pastoral ministry–submit yourself to a local congregation so to be tested, trained, and affirmed by them with hopes of experiencing their unshakable support as hands are laid upon you, powerful words as these are spoken to our sovereign God on your behalf, and you are sent out.