Coming from the Protestant Christian slant of faith, there is a general distancing from ceremonies or similar terms within the church setting. Some denominations cling to them more readily than others, but it does seem like the idea of “ceremony” has, in general, become an archaic form of worship. Sure, most churches you visit across the nation will have their Baptism and Communion ceremonies, but these are like the minimum requirement. (I’m going to buffer this with a qualification, though. There are some churches that are making a return to a more regimented, ceremonial format to worship. It’s kind of a new thing, but more of a renewal of an old thing. Dig?)
I’m not going to say that one is wrong and the other right. I think I would be ok with the minimal stated above, but there are some pretty sweet ceremonies that I have witnessed and been a part of over my life. One such is a foot-washing ceremony. That is mostly based on the text from John 13:1-20, and has a lot to do with encouraging humility among the brethren and servanthood and is often part of a commissioning service for those going on the mission field. It was sweet and beautiful and I loved every minute of it.
Another ceremony is one I mentioned, the Commissioning ceremony. This is for those going on a mission trip or into missions as a career choice. There are several aspects of this type of ceremony: typically, Laying on of Hands and Collective/Individual Prayer for the commissioned. I’ve even had my head anointed with oil. This type of ceremony has the purpose of encouraging the ones going to be brave, purposeful, and to have success on their journey. It also is to encourage those sending them out to pray while they are gone and for the hearts of those they will meet. I also really love this type of ceremony. I believe the format for this ceremony and the following is based on Act 13:1-3.
Another, which I recently witnessed and have been to a few times before, is the Ordination ceremony. The purposes of this ceremony is to ordain, order or authorize, an individual for a life-career in ministry. This can be as an elder in the church or as the actual pastor. This type of service can have many facets, but it typically involves the one chosen, a committee who did the choosing, and the congregation to act as witnesses. The committee will state why they think this person is a good candidate and, with the blessing of the congregation, they will lay on their hands in prayer.
I was so excited to find out that a dear friend, the husband of a dear friend, was being ordained this past weekend. In my own church, we had just covered the first chapter of Titus, where Paul is speaking on the qualifications of an elder in the church, so everything was pretty fresh in my mind. Here’s the list:
- anyone who is above reproach
- husband of one wife
- children are believers
- not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination
- not arrogant, or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain
- hospitable, lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined
- hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, able to give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it.
(Titus 1:6-9, ESV)
I am proud to say that this all fits my friend to a T (aside from the third point, because his kids are both under 5 yrs old). We discussed in church the meaning of the phrase “above reproach.” This doesn’t just mean that they have a good reputation, but that if anything bad is said about them, it is immediately quelled because everyone knows him to be good. That is something special to be said about anyone. It’s not that this person is perfect, but that in every part of their life, they strive to follow God’s Word and commands. The Huz and I attended another high school friend’s ordination ceremony a year or so ago. It was such a special evening. I feel so blessed to have such friends in my life.
As the ceremony was progressing, I was reminded of how important it is to continue praying for those who are ordained or commissioned for ministry. It seems that when someone is set apart like this, they immediately begin to face spiritual attack. Pray for those in spiritual leadership positions to withstand spiritual attack and keep their spirits up. They have an important task ahead of them – pray for sound wisdom and teaching. That’s a lot of responsibility and they need our support.
As someone who has been on the mission field before, I greatly valued the prayers and encouragement from friends and family back home.
Is there any ceremony in church that you particularly enjoy? It can be one mentioned above or one I missed. I’d love to hear about it!
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Titus 3:1-7, ESV