Pastor’s Friday Comments (07.09.21)

This Sunday afternoon we will be ordaining Hannah Rule for ministry. Hannah began the practice of ministry as our Minister to Students while attending McAfee School of Theology. She is now preparing for a career as a pastoral counselor. I hope you will be able to join us for this service, both as a way of encouraging Hannah, but also as a reminder of the role each of us plays in ministry.

The Baptist understanding of ordination is derived from the biblical practice of praying for and symbolically laying hands on people sent out from the congregation to engage in ministry. It conveys nothing to the candidate that is not already there, but recognizes in a tangible way that God has placed gifts in that person’s life. We not only commend the individual, but promise to pray for and support the minister in God’s work.

Through the years, Parkway has played a significant role in the lives of many young people who are going into ministry, not just as a place where they can practice their developing skills, but as a supportive environment where they can see what a loving family of faith, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, can be for one another. I often tell students that they need to experience a spiritually healthy congregation like Parkway so that they will be able to recognize dysfunction when they see it and not assume that is the norm.

It has been very gratifying to see those who have begun in ministry with us go on to such fruitful work in other places. Angela Yarber, Matt King, Jared Neal, Ryan Wilson, Matt Hester, and now Hannah Rule are all making significant contributions to the kingdom of God – and you helped them to get started. 

Other students who have not served in official capacities with us have also been part of this fellowship and they also have gained so much from your examples of faithful service.

It was also my privilege for ten years to serve as a teaching supervisor in the Contextual Education program of The Candler School of Theology. Each year I taught and mentored a group of students from various backgrounds and denominations as they used local congregations to hone their skills in ministry.

I can tell you from all of these experiences that the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ is in good hands. The challenges to the effectiveness and even the survival of local congregations is as great as I have ever seen them over the course of my career. Yet God continues to call bright, committed young persons to help God’s people navigate the treacherous waters of modern society and to continue to share God’s love in a troubled world. 

I can face the conclusion of my more active ministry with confidence in the Church’s future, most of all because it is God’s will that through the Church God’s love is shown. But I am also confident that there will be strong leaders for the congregations and you, the family of faith at Parkway, have helped to make it so.