We’re making Adam Gillespie “bonafide” tomorrow, Saturday. The ordination council comes at 4 pm, followed by the ordination service 90 minutes later. Obviously, we’re fairly confident he’ll pass the first easily to have scheduled the second on its heels.
“Bonafide” comes from the Latin meaning “good faith.” Fans of the wonderful movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” will recall the term being bandied about regarding George Clooney’s character. “Mama says you’re not bonafide!”
I use the term here tongue-in-cheek to mean that Adam is officially becoming a minister of the gospel with all the rights and privileges and even legal standings pertaining thereto.
Every denomination has its own procedures and qualifications to be ordained. Southern Baptists, easily the most loosely organized religious family on the planet, have our own also.
Even though every one of our thousands of churches is independent, we have a commonly recognized tradition as to who can be ordained. Either you have finished seminary or you are called to a ministerial position with a church, one or the other.
Usually, the church you will be serving sends a request back to your home church saying, “We’ve called this person to our staff and would like to request that you ordain him to the ministry.”
The home church does two things: One, schedules an ordination council in which the candidate (i.e., the minister-to-be) goes before a group of veteran ministers for a time of testimony and questions, and if everything is in order after that, two, arranges for a service of ordination, the official “setting aside” ceremony.
The ordination council has no official standing in the church and is formed by whoever shows up, of all the ones invited by the host pastor, in this case, Pastor Sam Gentry. All the council can do is recommend to the church that the minister be ordained. The congregation actually votes in the service to proceed with the event.
Adam Gillespie is no kid. He’s just completed his 20 years in the Navy, the last several while stationed at the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station just below New Orleans. (In fact, he and his wife Amy were saved in this church, led to Christ by former pastor Freddie Williford.) Adam retired as a chief petty officer. In his last assignment, he had perhaps 200 people reporting to him.
And now, as the new pastor of Metairie’s Lakeside Baptist Church, he has maybe 25 or 30 church members “reporting” to him. Big change. And you know what? He’s excited about it and even a little nervous. Which is good.
Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman philosopher of a past generation, wrote a fascinating little book on “The Ordeal of Change.” No matter how insignificant the change, being human, we tend to get anxious about it. Hoffer told how during the Great Depression, he worked alongside migrants in a California field picking peas. One day, the foreman announced that the next day they would be trucked 200 miles north where they would begin picking green beans. Hoffer lay awake that night wondering if he could pick green beans.
I like to see the new young pastor of a church being nervous and excited. It says a lot about him. It will drive him to his knees in prayer, seeking the Lord’s lead and strength and confidence.
The worst thing imaginable for a new pastor is to walk into this most-challenging-of-all-assignments with a swagger that says, “Piece of cake. I can do this.” And yet, God wants His servant to stand tall and speak with confidence from the pulpit and is not honored or pleased by our stage fright and timidity. So, what is the answer?
The answer is to be low on our knees before the Lord so He will make us effective on our feet before men.
This calls for a strong determination of the minister to draw his life close to the Lord. And that will require time spent in reading and studying the Bible, interspersed with much prayer. Underlying it all — around it, underneath, over, everywhere! — will be his attitude. He wants the Lord ruling over every dimension of his life and he wants to bless God’s people.
The last item on the young (or new) minister’s agenda must be his personal ambition for success in this work. Go into the ministry with your career uppermost in mind and you will not last. You’ll be forever miserable, frequently disappointed, and absolutely disgusted with what God will put you through.
Go into the ministry intending to serve people — and that means to devote yourself to making other people successful — and you will have the key to the only kind of success a minister should ever bother with. “He who would be great among you, let him be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26)
Adam is a little nervous about the questioning to come in the ordination council. He needn’t be. Most of the queries thrown his way will be of the type a good Sunday School teacher can answer well. Beyond that, he’ll need a testimony of God’s grace, how the Lord saved and called him, and the ability to say, “I don’t know.” No one expects a candidate for ordination to have all the answers. Lord knows those of us with four decades of battle scars don’t!
I suggested to Adam he might practice answering some questions with, “I don’t know what to think about that. Tell me what you believe about it.” That will open the door for one of the best things to come out of such a council: a teaching moment. The men gathered in that room will have much to share with the young minister, and — if I’m any judge — will be glad to share it.
In the ordination service itself, we usually have two brief messages called “charges,” one to the candidate and the other to the church. I suppose I’ll be doing one of them. A couple of weeks ago, the Lord gave me the text for Adam.
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves; if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (II Timothy 2:24-25)
In the military, Adam has been used to “saying to this man ‘come’ and he comes, to this one ‘go’ and he goes.” (Matthew 8:9) However, it doesn’t work that way at church. The few pastors who have modeled themselves after General Patton have soon found themselves forced out of work by a rebellious congregation. The most effective pastors — remember, the word means “shepherd” — I know have been (and still are) kind and gracious, patient and gentle.
If you have this image of the Apostle Paul bullying the Lord’s people into obedience, I suggest you get it out of your mind. Listen to him in his first epistle to the church at Thessalonica.
“We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children….you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children….” (I Thess. 2:7,11)
That’s the ideal image of a pastor, both a father and a mother to the congregation. As the father, he exhorts; as a mother, he comforts.
We will appreciate your prayers for Adam Gillespie, his wife Amy, and their children Gabrielle, Jordan, and Jake (who are having to learn what it’s like having a pastor for a father!), as well as the congregation of Lakeside Baptist Church in Metairie, Louisiana. Pray particularly for Adam’s health. You’d never know it by looking at him (he appears to be the very definition of macho), but he’s having serious back problems and is facing surgery soon.