Liturgical Studies -- By: Terry L. Johnson

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 60:1 (Spring 1998)
Article: Liturgical Studies
Author: Terry L. Johnson


Liturgical Studies

Terry L. Johnson*

The Pastor's Public Ministry:
Part One1

* Terry L. Johnson is the senior minister at Independent Presbyterian Church in Savanah, Georgia.

What is the meaning of your involvement in seminary, and for many of you, your submission to the process of care of session, care of presbytery, three years of theological education, internship, call, oral and written presbytery exams, and finally ordination? Presbyterians have always emphasized the need for a “learned clergy,” but not as an end in itself. Why must ministers be so carefully trained and so thoroughly examined? There is not a chapter and verse that says that it must be done this way. Indeed other traditions don’t. Allow me to interpret our practice for you: the church is fulfilling its responsibility to guard the gospel. By limiting the public ministry of the church to those called, gifted, and prepared to do so, it is protecting the gospel from the theological errors of the untrained and the moral failures of the unexamined. It is especially the public ministry about which the church is concerned, and preparation for which you should be devoting yourself.

The public ministry has been carefully guarded by the church from the very beginning. Recall the foundational texts upon which is built our understanding of the offices of the church. In Acts 6 a dispute arose concerning the serving of meals to Hellenistic and Palestinian Jewish Christian widows. Men were chosen to perform this very public function. It was required that they be of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom (v.3), elected by the congregation (v.5), and set apart, or ordained, by prayer and the imposition of hands (v.6). This, mind you, was for the purpose of waiting on tables. Contemplate the meaning of this for future generations. The apostolic church was guarding its reputation by guarding its public ministry, limiting participation in it to proven men.

Is this not also the meaning of the long lists of character and conduct requirements found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? Elders and deacons are to be men observed over a period of time sufficient to prove their character and demonstrate their knowledge and

conduct. They must not be novices or recent converts. Elders must be “able to teach,” even “exhort in sound doctrine” and “refute tho...

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