A conversation about a recent presbytery meeting and the ordination examinations that took place at it reminded me of one of the first ordination exams I ever witnessed.
After the trials were over I asked some older and wiser Elders for advice on how to vote regarding exams. I was particularly concerned because everyone was in agreement that one of the candidates had done a very poor job, but voting to ordain him had been pressed on the Presbytery as an “absolute necessity” and they had done so. So one of the questions I asked was “are there times when you should vote to ordain even though you aren’t convinced the man is really called to be an elder?” The advice I was given in response to my question boiled down to four principles that I have tried to apply ever since:
1) Remember that Presbyteries aren’t rubber stamp operations, we are gate-keepers, and we’ll be called to account by God for every man we let into the sheepfold. So ask yourself, “is that man a true shepherd or something else?” No church absolutely has to get someone if that someone was never really meant to be a pastor. Calling the wrong man will do them more harm than calling no one at all!
2) Anyone can graduate from seminary, my wife could graduate from seminary but she isn’t qualified or called to be a pastor. Not everyone who graduates is called.
3) If you are in doubt, ask yourself, “would I be able to stomach this man being the shepherd of my own family?” If the answer is no, don’t vote for him. Christ’s other lambs don’t deserve less than your own family!
4) Go home and read Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 [vs. 17-36] and treat those words as Christ’s advice to you.