Solemn Vows: Taken Before God

A few years ago, I was part of a commission of our denomination to ordain and install a dear friend into the pastoral ministry.

As I read the vows on the screen behind him, as I heard Pastor Walter read them aloud, my friend could barely keep it together. His sincerity caused me to look into my own heart. I was struck by the depth and significance of these vows. He’s taking this so seriously – and so should we all.

The tribe I’m in now is more known for intellect than emotion. But that is not my friend’s background. He was moved to tears several times throughout the night. This man’s overwhelmed state got to me. I’m an easy mark when it comes to Jesus and His church.

I was not the only one moved by this holy moment. As the Westside congregation, a church I helped give birth to, I was equally moved by the depth and meaningful sincerity of the vows taken by the congregation. It took me back to the day in January 2007 when Crosspoint, the church I founded, made these same vows. I too was moved to tears.

And I am again as I write these words.

Church, this is deep.

God is calling forth a movement of His Holy Spirit in some new churches in Atlanta and He is crossing hereto seldom approached barriers. In these churches Jesus’ gospel is all the good news that matters. Not race, not class, not ability, not looks, not power, not hipster coolness. Jesus is King. And He’s awesome.

I’m copying those vows below. Read them. Think about them. It should move you as you think and feel what this means.

Consider again (or for the first time) the covenant, the trust and the honor we have of being a church so loved by our Savior Jesus Christ and so well led by His Sovereign Kingship.

Vows Taken Before God by the Officers of Our Church and Declarations about Their Roles

All Officers (Elders and Deacons) Take These Same Ordination Vows:

  1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
  1. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?
  1. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity?
  1. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?

(Book of Church Order Chapter 21 Paragraph 5 and Chapter 24 Paragraph 5)

Teaching Elder’s Take These Distinct Ordination Vows:

  1. Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?
  1. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?
  1. Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?
  1. Are you now willing to take the charge of this church, agreeable to your declaration when accepting their call? And do you, relying upon God for strength, promise to discharge to it the duties of a pastor? (BCO 21-5)

Ruling Elders’ and Deacons Take These Distinct Ordination Vows:

  1. Do you accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon, as the case may be) in this church, and promise faithfully to perform all the duties thereof, and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your life, and to set a worthy example before the Church of which God has made you an officer?
  1. Do you promise to strive for the purity, peace, unity and edification of the Church? (BCO 24-5 (#4 &6)

At the conclusion of the Ordination of Ruling Elders and Deacons, the Following is Declared:

I now pronounce and declare that ____________________ has been regularly elected, ordained and installed a ruling elder (or deacon) in this church, agreeable to the Word of God, and according to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America; and that as such he is entitled to all encouragement, honor and obedience in the Lord:  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen. (BCO 24-5)

At the Ordination of a Teaching Elder, the following is Declared:

I now pronounce and declare that ____________________ has been regularly elected, ordained and installed pastor of this church, agreeable to the Word of God, and according to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America; and that as such he is entitled to all encouragement, honor and obedience in the Lord:  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.  (BCO 21-7)

Congregations’ Vows Taken Before God at the Ordination of Officers:

Vows Taken by Congregation in Receiving/Calling a Teaching Elder:

  1. Do you, the people of this congregation, continue to profess your readiness to receive _________________, whom you have called to be your pastor?
  1. Do you promise to receive the word of truth from his mouth with meekness and love, and to submit to him in the due exercise of discipline?
  1. Do you promise to encourage him in his labors, and to assist his endeavors for your instruction and spiritual edification?
  1. Do you engage to continue to him while he is your pastor that competent worldly maintenance which you have promised, and to furnish him with whatever you may see needful for the honor of religion and for his comfort among you? (BCO 21-6)

Vows Taken by Congregation in Receiving Ruling Elders and Deacons:

Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon), and do you promise to yield him all that honor, encouragement and obedience in the Lord to which his office, according to the Word of God and the Constitution of this Church, entitles him? (BCO 24-5)

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Pro Tip: after Easter

Pro Tip: Often after resurrection comes doubt

Doubt and despair have a funny way of sneaking in the backdoor after hours. 

I’ve preached Easter sermons 13 out of the last 14 years. Most of those years, right after celebrating Easter, I would get hit by lies and doubts and want to quit. Sometimes on the way home from service, other times that night when I was wrung out. I am the worst at tying my performance to my happiness. Even Jesus’ followers had their doubts after His resurrection (Thomas, Peter).

If you feel that way on Sunday or Monday, it’s a normal temptation. But it’s also one from the pit of hell and smells like smoke. Be quick to repent and run to the truth of Jesus’ love. If you can’t remember. call until you find someone who will remind you. Call me and I’ll remind you!

Reminder for Easter and after

You are beloved NOT based on how well your Easter sermon goes or how smart you are or how many people attended or how many of them think you are awesome or how much (insert name of your worst critic here) thinks you stink.

You are beloved simply because God loves you. Because Jesus died for you and was raised again and by the faith the Father gives you, you receive his life and righteousness! Prepare and preach like a warrior remembering your acceptability is BASED ON WHAT JESUS DID!!!

Revel in this: you GET to be part of the in-breaking of GOD’s Kingdom as you preach and pastor/plant JESUS’ church. It isn’t your church. Or even technically your sermon. The Holy Spirit preaches the gospel as you preach. He is the power!

One other pro tip: Don’t take yourself too seriously. My colleague Tom Wood wrote a great post about an Easter sermon illustration he used one year. I dare you to use it. I want to hear the stories!

As a planter and a coach for church planters with CMM, I have to say I’m proud of all of you who preaching the gospel in church plants on Resurrection Sunday. Its our big day as Christians!

Graced