Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
As a follow up to the earlier post on the importance and benefits of credentialing in the EFCA, I thought it might be insightful to hear from a few who actually participated in an ordination council of an EFCA pastor.
Prior to the ordination council, council members read the pastor’s 40 page ordination paper (you can see the credentialing process here). At the council, the pastor expounded his doctrinal beliefs as stated in the paper, and also responded to questions asked by council members.
After the ordination council, I asked a few of the members to include a few words about the importance of ordination in the EFCA, for the pastor, the local church where the pastor serves and the EFCA. This is stated from the perspective of members who are not pastors serving vocationally, with a couple of them also serving as elders in the local church.
Although the names and local church are not identified, this is representative of ordination councils across the EFCA. I thought it would be fruitful for you to hear the testimonies from a few who participated in a council and affirm it and the process.
Here is one response from a member and elder in the local church where the pastor serves.
As a lay leader in a local EFC I came away from my exposure to the EFCA credentialing process more deeply committed to being a part of the EFCA and deeply grateful for the protections it offers us as a local congregation. The group of EFC pastors and laymen from neighboring communities provided a depth and perspective through the ordination council for our pastor that we never could have assembled ourselves. Through a process that was both theologically rigorous and humbly gracious, they invested themselves selflessly to help us to establish a new level of confidence in what we had already observed in the life and ministry of our pastor. The moderator masterfully guided this process without inserting himself or his considerable experience inappropriately while setting a tone for the entire evening that was both challenging and genuinely encouraging. I came away very impressed with the caliber of EFC pastors and deeply grateful for the EFCA’s commitment to high standards of biblical faithfulness.
Here is a response from one who is a member of another local EFC church that is nearby. He wrote it to the pastor who went through the credentialing process.
I am a layperson who attends a different church than the one in which you minister. I was asked by our district superintendent to participate in your EFCA ordination council. I’d never done that before. As a person that is a member of an EFC church and one who entrusts my family to sit under the teaching and shepherding ministry of an EFCA pastor, I was very pleased to see the process that you and other EFCA pastors willingly submit yourselves to in order to become ordained pastors in the EFCA. It was obvious that you worked very hard to get to know God’s Word over years of ministry and study. You answered theological questions from other ordained pastors and from lay people competently. You explained well how this theological competence translated into personal ministry within the congregation you serve and among the people in the community with whom you live. You showed us that your life reflects your theology. It was a long day of interacting with those of us on the council. But I could see at the end of it that you and your wife were pleased with the affirmation you received from those you respect in the Lord. It was a profitable time for you, and for me.
As I shepherd my own family, I want to know that the pastors and elders of the church we attend are lovers of God and lovers of His Word, leaders that I can depend upon in the Lord. 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Thank you for putting in the hard work to become a worker who has no need to be ashamed and one who rightly handles God’s Word. Thank you for willingly submitting yourself to be tested and to be open to correction. Thank you for being teachable and for being a teacher and minister of God.
Here, finally, is another response from one who is a member and serves as an elder of a neighboring EFC church.
I think Scripture is clear in Jude that we are to "contend for the faith". In Titus we see Paul instructing that we "must hold firm to the trustworthy word". In first Peter we are told to be "ready to give a defense". In 1 Timothy we are told that the church is to be the "pillar and buttress of the truth". Little of this will happen in a local church if the leadership, primarily the lead pastor(s), aren't sound in their understanding of the truth.
I was recently asked to take part in an EFCA ordination council for a local EFC church. It was very encouraging to see how serious the EFCA takes the ordaining of their pastors. The process requires pastors desiring to be ordained to be thoroughly knowledgeable in the Scriptures and to have had experience in applying this knowledge in daily practice. It was a pleasure to be a part of such a process and it was also reassuring that by God's grace and processes like this, we can have hope that God's truth will continue in this often seemingly truth-less society
I appreciate these testimonies giving personal insight into the importance of the credentialing process, for the pastor and the local church. This is a vital aspect of being committed to the spiritual health and well-being of local EFC churches, to remain faithful to Sound Doctrine, which, in turn, will do the same in the EFCA, both now and into the future.
This is our prayer, by God’s grace and for His glory.