The examination concerning, and subsequent ceremony for, my ordination has now been completed. Therefore, I was able to, this morning, submit my application to the North American Mission Board for the Southern Baptist Convention for their endorsement of me to the Navy Chaplain Corps. The ordination proceedings took place at Gateway Fellowship where I currently am serving as community/discipleship pastor. The event (all aspects) were given the weight they should enjoy.
The board interview primarily wanted to know the story of my journey of faith: from receiving Christ as my Savior at age six, up to ministry in the present day. Throughout the "testimony" I tried to intersperse significant developments of faith that reveal why I minister the way I do today. In addition, I also sought to proactively share doctrinal developments that explain what my theology is what it will remain to be. I know I rambled considerably. No matter how relaxed such a setting may be set up to seem, I was quite nervous nonetheless. When I'm nervous, I talk; and oh boy did I talk. Retrospectively, I'm somewhat embarrassed. However, better that I am embarrassed by having talked too much than to be embarrassed by having choked on a vital question regarding biblical knowledge or orthodoxy.
One part of the board interview that was quite disappointing to me what how poorly I answered a rather basic question. Having gone there prepared to converse on the complexities of theology, ministry or personal testimony, I was ill prepared to answer the most fundamental question of all. No doubt sensing this, my professor asked, "What is the Gospel?" Oh my, how I must have resembled a stammering savant. I stuttered about in my glossary of words concerning the Cross and substitutionary atonement, but left grossly under-emphasized Christ's resurrection. That, in essence, was 50% of a good answer, and my professor pointed that out. I new this to be true, but in my nervousness acted on instinct. I come from a tradition that emphasizes the Cross more than the empty tomb, instead of both equally. This episode made me determined to maintain the dual emphasis from now on.
The following ceremony was incredibly special. It was rather sobering how such an event has echoes of a "living funeral." The gathering comprises many who God has given me the privilege of ministering to. Nevertheless, it's slightly uncomfortable to so be the center of attention. Having said that though, I was significantly touched by all those in attendance. Classmates and colleagues from Dallas Theological Seminary, personnel from Fate Fire & Rescue and my recruiters for the U.S. Navy were present as well. I felt incredibly supported and loved.
In large part, what makes such an event so significant in the life of a minister is how it raises one's awareness of the seriousness of the calling. A solemn charge is not only spoken by leaders in attendance, but is delivered from God. With the various people on hand to witnesses the event, the responsibility to "do right by them" is also accentuated. Certainly it was important to get a certificate of ordination from it, but the memory of its emotional and religious impact on me will remain forever.