I surrendered to God’s call on my life in the mid 90’s.
Not long after, my church endured an ugly split that tore our fellowship apart.
Undeterred, I began my ministry career as a summer camp counselor and eventually went on staff part-time with a church seventy miles away from where I lived. Those years were fruitful and educational. However, at no point did my pastor or church leaders feel led to take steps to formally recognize me as a minister of the Gospel through licensing or ordination.
I should say that the normal ordination process of the churches in which I was raised and serving was as follows:
- Individual senses call to ministry.
- Individual shares with his/her spiritual leaders (pastor, elder, deacons).
- Individual begins working in or toward ministry opportunities.
- Home church recognizes call on individual and begins process toward possible ordination.
- Individual is licensed to ministry. (a kind of prerequisite/observation period toward ordination)
- Home church invites individual into formal ordination process.
- Individual submits requested content (written content on conversion, calling, personal theology).
- Home church and individual hold an ordination council.
- Home church formally ordains individual.
Since my “home church” somewhat imploded my senior year of high school, I never felt like I had a true place there once I went off to college.
My first full-time church staff position resulted in getting me back in the pipeline toward ordination as they licensed me to ministry. God was kind in giving me an opportunity to work at a church I genuinely thought I would never have the chance to work.
This church had a very different culture and perspective on the ordination process. In fact, they didn’t even use the phrase ordination. The leadership of this church viewed my licensing as the only needed step in being an official pastor of the church (the US government also shares this view).
Over the years I would watch, celebrate, and even participate in the ordination services of friends and fellow ministry partners. In the back of my mind I always felt like I had been left behind or missed out on this special time of affirmation, celebration, and recognition.
Fast forward to September 18, 2022.
Tonight I arrived at Grace Collective Church for our Night of Worship. A wonderful gathering I helped plan.
Enter Anita Bishop McCart (my wife). Knowing about my secret insecurity and disappointment, Anita had been working for months with the elders of our church to put together a surprise ordination ceremony for me. I had absolutely no idea. Our church, family, close friends, mentors, former students, and ministry partners had all been contacted and invited to attend, send a video, or letter as a part of this wonderful honor.
Twenty-eight years after surrendering to the call to full-time vocational ministry; twenty-five years after my first ministry job; nineteen years after being licensed to ministry; eight years after planting a church, this amazing gathering of brothers and sisters in Christ gathered to celebrate God’s work in and through my life.
So this not-so normal journey to becoming a not-so normal pastor would of course result in a not-so normal ordination. I am honored, overwhelmed, and incredibly humbled. Thank you to my amazing wife who, despite all evidence to the contrary, has been a never-ending source of love and support; to my children who see the flawed reality of me more than anyone else yet still respect and love me; to my parents and in-laws who have rallied to our aid both physically and prayerfully in more ways than I will ever possibly know; to my church family who continues to trust this broken blind guide as we travel the path God has given us together; to the countless number of friends who have carried the weight of my fear and insecurity throughout the years and provided the framework of confidence I needed to push through any adversity.
Finally, thank you to my Father in Heaven, my Savior Jesus, and Holy Spirit, my ever-present help. You have preserved, protected, rescued, restored, endured, empowered, equipped, and qualified me to do your will. I will never understand your ways, and I will never be worthy of your blessing. I will always be thankful.
Here am I Lord, send me.