Thirty Years of Ministry

August 21, 2013

It was thirty years ago today, in the sweltering midday heat of Augusta, GA (seriously-it was 108 degrees), at the end of a Sunday morning worship service at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church, I was asked to stand before the congregation and respond to the following questions:

1. Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

 2. Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you?

 3. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

 4. Will you fulfill your office in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?

5. Will you be governed by our church’s polity, and will you abide by its discipline? Will you be a friend among your colleagues in ministry, working with them, subject to the ordering of God’s Word and Spirit?

 6. Will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love your neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world?

7. Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church?

8. Will you seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?

9. Will you be a faithful minister, proclaiming the good news in Word and Sacrament, teaching faith and caring for people? Will you be active in government and discipline, serving in the governing bodies of the church; and in your ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?

In the intervening 30 years, I have served in four churches (two “tours of duty” at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, where I am now); I have baptized more babies than I can keep track of, officiated at well over 300 weddings, who knows how many funerals, memorial services, and interments, taught countless Bible studies and Sunday School classes, administered the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in more cities, places and situations than I can recall (everything from formal worship with silver and robes to riverside camps), preached way too many really bad sermons and a few good ones (I hope!), served on committees, commissions, and task forces, laughed, cried, done things that Seminary never prepared me to do, and hopefully, along the way, made a little difference in a few lives.

As I look the questions of ordination over, while I hope I have kept true to them all, what I MOST hope I have faithfully kept is 1, 2, 6, and 8. I think if I hold those, the rest will fall into place.

Thirty years down, I figure I have another 12 to 15 in me. That’s enough time to finish strong.