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Baptist ministers have to be licensed and ordained into service. They are licensed soon after making their calling known to their local church. Ordination usually takes place after accepting a position to pastor their first church. Requirements vary, because Baptist churches are autonomous and have no governing body that serves as the sole source of authority. Baptist churches do have similar traditions they follow in acknowledging a candidate's qualifications for ordination.
An individual must declare that he has been called by God to serve in the gospel ministry. This is usually expressed by the person making his calling public to his local church body. This church will usually license him into the ministry after approval by church vote. Usually, church leaders also consider his current role in the church and how he handles present responsibilities as evidence of a genuine desire to enter the ministry. When the candidate has accepted his first pastorate, this church will ordain him into the ministry, giving credence to his professed calling. Ordination is a one-time event for a Baptist pastor. It is not repeated if the pastor moves to other churches to serve.
Baptist churches use scripture from the New Testament as qualifications for their ministers. First Timothy 3:1-7 is commonly referenced. This book, written by the Apostle Paul, details the qualifications for deacons and pastors. They include faithfulness to spouse and family, integrity, temperance and humility. Pastors also should be well grounded in the doctrine of the Gospel and be able to teach others. Relationships with others is also crucial. A candidate seeking the office of pastor must be able to reach out to others in a spirit of goodwill, love and forgiveness, exemplifying the actions of Jesus.
Baptists utilize the ordination service to recognize a candidate's worthiness to enter a ministerial vocation. This ceremony is symbolic and is not believed to be supernaturally empowering. Baptists believe that all Christians are set aside by God at conversion. Like baptism, ordination is important, but does not have any life-saving power in itself. Because of these beliefs, there are no denominational requirements for ordination other than adherence to the Bible as God's infallible word and compliance with Biblical mandates like those outlined in the book of Timothy.
Denominational differences are most evident concerning the ordination of women into the ministry. Southern Baptist churches do not ordain women as pastors, but do allow women to lead specific areas of church like Sunday School or mission groups. African-American and Independent Baptists accept and ordain women pastors, but they are few in number.
- Southern Baptist Convention: Ordination Information
- My Pastor: Qualifications
Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.