Modern Reformed Baptist Theory of Ministry

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
In The Church of Christ, James Bannerman discusses the differences between Presbyterian and Independent theories of the ministry, including ordination. The Presbyterian theory in Bannerman's explanation consists of 3 distinct calls:
1. The internal call (qualifications, gifts, and desire)
2. The external call (confirmation by church officers to ordain to office)
3. The pastoral call (election by a particular congregation to establish a pastoral relationship)

Thus, there can be an ordained minister without a pastoral position (although ideally he is in some ministerial role). As Bannerman explains the Independent theory, it does not include the external call (but rather collapses 2 and 3 into one). Thus, office / ordination are only in the context of some pastoral role. If the pastoral relation is dissolved, so is the ordination. If that person then is called to a different congregation, he must be re-ordained.

Is Bannerman's description of how Independency understood ministry in his day the same as how modern Reformed Baptists understand it? What does the modern Reformed Baptist theory of ministry look like, and what are some of the practical consequences of it?
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've seen several pastors come and go in the SBC and they've never been re-ordained. At least in the circles I've been, the usual pattern seems to be that one is not ordained until he is called by a church, but after that his ordination is not rescinded if he moves.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Baptists are known for having a wide variety of practices - in keeping with true independency, ehh... But in my current SBA church the process is essentially identical to what Bannerman describes as the Presbyterian procedure, minus the apparently unstated but I suppose implicit involvement of a presbytery. And in line with what Warren said, I don't think actual reordination is the norm upon moving.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
In The Church of Christ, James Bannerman discusses the differences between Presbyterian and Independent theories of the ministry, including ordination. The Presbyterian theory in Bannerman's explanation consists of 3 distinct calls:
1. The internal call (qualifications, gifts, and desire)
2. The external call (confirmation by church officers to ordain to office)
3. The pastoral call (election by a particular congregation to establish a pastoral relationship)

Thus, there can be an ordained minister without a pastoral position (although ideally he is in some ministerial role). As Bannerman explains the Independent theory, it does not include the external call (but rather collapses 2 and 3 into one). Thus, office / ordination are only in the context of some pastoral role. If the pastoral relation is dissolved, so is the ordination. If that person then is called to a different congregation, he must be re-ordained.

Is Bannerman's description of how Independency understood ministry in his day the same as how modern Reformed Baptists understand it? What does the modern Reformed Baptist theory of ministry look like, and what are some of the practical consequences of it?
I would say Bannerman's description is consistent with our church's practice and those with whom we hold communion. I would say most Baptist groups approach to ordination is inconsistent with historic Baptist ecclesiology.
 

Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
Good question. I would think Reformed Baptists typically espouse 'gifted brethren' (as opposed to the Presbyterian license to teach). This issue is described in Chapter 26, Paragraph 11 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. It reads:

11. Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it. (Acts 11:19-21; 1 Peter 4:10, 11)

So it would seem that it may skip #2 in the OP, but in practice it doesn't seem to.
 

Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
Baptists are known for having a wide variety of practices - in keeping with true independency, ehh... But in my current SBA church the process is essentially identical to what Bannerman describes as the Presbyterian procedure, minus the apparently unstated but I suppose implicit involvement of a presbytery. And in line with what Warren said, I don't think actual reordination is the norm upon moving.

Baptists generally? Yes. Reformed Baptists? Much less so, from what I've seen.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
The ideal that I keep hearing about--Al Martin spoke of it--is that each congregation should nurture possible candidates from among her numbers, and assist them through seminary or other pastoral training, with the view to calling them to pastor in that same place. While seminary is important (says Martin), their principal formation and preparation for ministry is within the church itself.
I'm not sure how often this actually works out in practice--it seems guys get ordained at their home church and then another church offers them a pastorate. And it seems, judging from a church in Seattle that's been pastor-hunting for six years, that qualified candidates are in short supply.
 

Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
The ideal that I keep hearing about--Al Martin spoke of it--is that each congregation should nurture possible candidates from among her numbers, and assist them through seminary or other pastoral training, with the view to calling them to pastor in that same place. While seminary is important (says Martin), their principal formation and preparation for ministry is within the church itself.
I'm not sure how often this actually works out in practice--it seems guys get ordained at their home church and then another church offers them a pastorate. And it seems, judging from a church in Seattle that's been pastor-hunting for six years, that qualified candidates are in short supply.

I've heard that 'qualified candidates are in short supply' before, and I think it is, at best, an incomplete answer. Are we not a royal priesthood? (1 Peter 2:9) You might be asking "what's that got to do with anything?" Well, think about it. The brethren within the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ share a great many things among them. They have striking similarities and features, spiritually speaking. For this reason, I see no way for there to be a deficiency in qualified candidates without there also being a deficiency in qualified congregations.

Qualified congregations? Why, yes. Are a body of believers collectively held to any fewer requirements than the individuals which comprise it? Surely this is not the case. The many calls to separation come to mind, as do the warnings. This could certainly be a chicken and egg problem if there ever was one, but the Epistles of Paul in God's Word, along with the whole pattern of the Bible spanning both Testaments, really, would suggest to us that God's people never had more people problems than they had trouble with a particular leader. Yes, Israel had many wicked kings, but I am speaking chiefly here about the Prophets of the Old Testament and Apostles of the New Testament.
 
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83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
Very interesting responses, thanks! For those like Pastor Sheffield who believe there is a common inconsistency, how/why do you think this situation came about? For those who would consider re-ordination to be unnecessary, how do you perceive it to be consistent with Independency?

For this reason, I see no way for there to be a deficiency in qualified candidates without there also being a deficiency in qualified congregations.

This is an interesting thought. What would you consider the qualifications for a congregation? Are they essential to a congregation? I'm also curious about how more generally the Reformed Baptist churches would understand qualification of candidates: is it qualifications as in the sense of the listed attributes required by Scripture (above reproach, husband of one wife, etc), or is this understood also in the modern professional sense of having a theological education of some sort?
 

Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
Very interesting responses, thanks! For those like Pastor Sheffield who believe there is a common inconsistency, how/why do you think this situation came about? For those who would consider re-ordination to be unnecessary, how do you perceive it to be consistent with Independency?



This is an interesting thought. What would you consider the qualifications for a congregation? Are they essential to a congregation? I'm also curious about how more generally the Reformed Baptist churches would understand qualification of candidates: is it qualifications as in the sense of the listed attributes required by Scripture (above reproach, husband of one wife, etc), or is this understood also in the modern professional sense of having a theological education of some sort?

I think the qualifications for a congregation (ecclesiology, etc., aside) would be no different than the qualifications for believers. This is easier to understand if we look at the word 'qualify' and its meaning: to be entitled to a particular benefit or privilege by fulfilling a necessary condition. What is the necessary condition? If we look at the listed attributes required by Scripture, countless believing men should meet this criteria. If the vast majority do not meet this necessary condition, is there nothing we can infer from the state of the body as a result?

As to your next question, I don't know what is meant by your question regarding whether those qualifications would be essential. They would certainly be essential to instrumentality, to witness, etc. I can't speak for how Reformed Baptist churches understand the qualification of candidates generally, but in my experience it's primarily based on the listed attributes required by Scripture. A theological education or mentorship of some sort would often be in order, but attendance at a modern professional seminary may not be. There are tragically few Reformed Baptist seminaries, especially ones that are doctrinally sound.

P.S. The main thrust of my comments in this thread have been that in times past you had this notion of a clergy and a laity. Clergy read from God's Word, the laity could not, and so on. We know since the Protestant Reformation that this distinction is artificial and arbitrary, as all believers are represented in 1 Peter 2:9, et al. Therefore, the state of the candidates (themselves, a part) must necessarily inform us in some manner as to the state of the local body, as well as the body as a whole. I suppose instead of using the term 'qualified congregations' I could have simply said, "if we perceive a genuine reduction in the quantity of qualified preachers, this ought to tell us something about the state of our churches" and my point would have been made all the same.

This is because the undershepherd of the flock is of the flock himself.

Hope this helps. God bless!
 
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C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
qualified candidates are in short supply.
This is true. But let's be clear, there are an abundance of men who call themselves "Reformed Baptist" and claim to hold to the 1689 who would be happy to pastor your confessional church. However, when you actually begin delving into what they believe, you find many of these men 1) have a very superficial knowledge of the Confession's teaching and/or 2) hold positions which are completely at odds with it. They either reject the Regulative Principle of Worship or modify it in such a way as to cleverly turn it on its head. The same thing goes for the Confession's teaching on the Sabbath. Many will deny the normative use of the Law which forms the basis of the Reformed teaching on practical piety. But such teaching to these kinds of men is often regarded as legalistic. Any emphasis on growing in godliness is seen as being at odds with their "gospel-centered" approach to ministry. So, qualified candidates are in short supply because there are so few men who are actually confessional. But theirs's no shortage of Calvinistiky Evangellyfish who think the essence of being Reformed consists of a love for craft beer, cigars, and growing an epic beard. From such men may the Good Lord deliver us.
 

Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
This is true. But let's be clear, there are an abundance of men who call themselves "Reformed Baptist" and claim to hold to the 1689 who would be happy to pastor your confessional church. However, when you actually begin delving into what they believe, you find many of these men 1) have a very superficial knowledge of the Confession's teaching and/or 2) hold positions which are completely at odds with it. They either reject the Regulative Principle of Worship or modify it in such a way as to cleverly turn it on its head. The same thing goes for the Confession's teaching on the Sabbath. Many will deny the normative use of the Law which forms the basis of the Reformed teaching on practical piety. But such teaching to these kinds of men is often regarded as legalistic. Any emphasis on growing in godliness is seen as being at odds with their "gospel-centered" approach to ministry. So, qualified candidates are in short supply because there are so few men who are actually confessional. But theirs's no shortage of Calvinistiky Evangellyfish who think the essence of being Reformed consists of a love for craft beer, cigars, and growing an epic beard. From such men may the Good Lord deliver us.

Amen, brother! I was merely pointing out that the deficiencies in these men, as members of the body, are representative of deficiencies in and of the body. Still, very well said. God bless you.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
Amen, brother! I was merely pointing out that the deficiencies in these men, as members of the body, are representative of deficiencies in and of the body. Still, very well said. God bless you.
Oh, no doubt! Too many of our church's are indifferent to their church's confession or worse, embarrassed by it! They suffer fools gladly but cannot tolerate a man who's after a robust confessionalism in the ministry of the church.
 

Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
Oh, no doubt! Too many of our church's are indifferent to their church's confession or worse, embarrassed by it! They suffer fools gladly but cannot tolerate a man who's after a robust confessionalism in the ministry of the church.

Amen. For this reason, I'm under no illusion of ever being made a Pastor, even after completing my studies at LRBS. I enrolled initially because of a years long search for a doctrinally sound local church. I wanted to, at the very least, shepherd my growing family during that time of spiritual famine. I don't know of a single generation that Isaiah 30:10 could not describe.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
This is true. But let's be clear, there are an abundance of men who call themselves "Reformed Baptist" and claim to hold to the 1689 who would be happy to pastor your confessional church. However, when you actually begin delving into what they believe, you find many of these men 1) have a very superficial knowledge of the Confession's teaching and/or 2) hold positions which are completely at odds with it. They either reject the Regulative Principle of Worship or modify it in such a way as to cleverly turn it on its head. The same thing goes for the Confession's teaching on the Sabbath. Many will deny the normative use of the Law which forms the basis of the Reformed teaching on practical piety. But such teaching to these kinds of men is often regarded as legalistic. Any emphasis on growing in godliness is seen as being at odds with their "gospel-centered" approach to ministry. So, qualified candidates are in short supply because there are so few men who are actually confessional. But theirs's no shortage of Calvinistiky Evangellyfish who think the essence of being Reformed consists of a love for craft beer, cigars, and growing an epic beard. From such men may the Good Lord deliver us.
This is one of the dangers of independency--anyone can claim to be Reformed Baptist without having the slightest notion what that means. There is so much regrettable variety that when I travel I look for OPC churches to visit--you always know what you're going to get with the OPC, and my communion with them is sweet.
As for the poster who asked how independency squared with non-reordination at every move (sorry, haven't figured out how to multi-quote), we accept other churches' ordinations because we believe that other churches are real churches--their baptisms are valid, after all--and to a certain degree we have to trust that they did their homework before ordaining a minister. Even so, any church that was going to call a man ordained in another church would be remiss if it didn't examine him closely regardless of his recommendations.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
This is one of the dangers of independency--anyone can claim to be Reformed Baptist without having the slightest notion what that means.
If Independency is the problem, why would you not be equally open to worship in a church of the PCA or EPC? Of course, we both know the answer. However, the problem lies no more with Independency than its solution can be found in Presbyterianism. You will find a remarkable degree of uniformity in the churches with whom our church holds communion; equaling if not rivaling the uniformity found among the OPC. Is that good fruit the product of our "Independency" or of the Spirit's grace within our churches? I would humbly submit, it is the latter.

That isn't to make light of the importance of biblical ecclesiology. God forbid! It is instead to make clear, that the most carefully ordered church under heaven, if constituted of goats, will fare far worse than those who, while having an inferior understanding of the finer points of ecclesiology, nonetheless had a more fixed resolve to conscientiously sanctify the Lord Jesus in their hearts, albeit with inferior light. If the Lord were pleased to raise up many such churches—whether Presbyterian or Independent—and I should be thankful.
 
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Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
If Independency is the problem, why would you not be equally open to worship in a church of the PCA or EPC? Of course, we both know the answer. However, the problem lies no more with Independency than its solution can be found in Presbyterianism. You will find a remarkable degree of uniformity in the churches with whom our church holds communion; equaling if not rivaling the uniformity found among the OPC. Is that good fruit the product of our "Independency" or of the Spirit's grace within our churches? I would humbly submit, it is the latter.

That isn't to make light of the importance of biblical ecclesiology. God forbid! It is instead to make clear, that the most carefully ordered church under heaven, if constituted of goats, will fare far worse than those who, while having an inferior understanding of the finer points of ecclesiology, nonetheless had a more fixed resolve to conscientiously sanctify the Lord Jesus in their hearts, albeit with inferior light. If the Lord were pleased to raise up many such churches—whether Presbyterian or Independent—and I should be thankful.
All very true, and there exists up north here a little network of mostly uniform churches from which we may draw pulpit supply and which we visit when out of town. But when in far-flung places, without the chance to call in advance to see just how a congregation conducts itself in worship, it's a toss of the dice. With the OPC it is not a gamble. I cannot speak to the other Presbyterian affiliations--my understanding is that the PCA is a mixed bag, but I have no experience with them. I have visited safely CRC and RCUS congregations, but not frequently enough to know whether they're homogenous in practice.
 
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