A Glorious Day

What a great day today! Monday, January 29, 2018. Our church ordained an inmate on death row. He will now be our pastor behind prison walls. I wrote about this last week. Today’s service was one of the highlights of my ministry. To receive communion from a condemned man is transformational. Thanks to all who prayed with me about this service. Below is what I read today. I have changed the name of the ordained. I have done so out of respect for the victim and their family, as well as my incarcerated friend.

__________________________

A little more than 3 ½ years ago, I walked into this room for the very first time. The first person I met that day was Paul. Without knowing me, he came up, gave me a hug, and said, “I have been praying for you to come here.” Now, here we are, ordaining Paul to the gospel ministry.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

A lot has happened over the last 42 months. But one thing has not changed. When you ask Paul how he is doing he will say, “Today is the best day of my life.” Those words have never been truer then today.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Not long after meeting Paul, on Fridays, he and I starting going from pod to pod; cell to cell, talking, laughing, praying, and reading Scriptures with the guys in Unit 2. One of the highlights of my 30 plus years in ministry has been building relationships with all these guys, but especially with Paul.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

One Friday, after making our rounds, Paul and I were talking. He was expressing his appreciation for me, encouraging me with how much everyone in the unit loved me, and informing me that I was his pastor. I assured him that he had done more for me than I could ever do for him. I then went on to explain that the only reason any of these guys in this unit talk to me is because he is with me. I said, “Paul, you are the one who has the respect of all these guys. You are their pastor, and Unit 2 is your church.”

That conversation was a turning point in our relationship, because not long after that day, I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, “Kevin, if you really believe Paul is a pastor, you need to ordain him.” So, here we are, all these months later, ordaining Paul to the gospel ministry.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Everyone here needs to understand that this has not been an easy process. A lot has been expected of Paul, and he has done a lot of work to get to this point. When I presented this idea to the Elders of my church, they were all in favor of doing this, but they wanted to make sure this was something that wasn’t just given to Paul, but something he could be proud of because he earned it. So we, as Elders of Franklin Community Church, submitted several questions for Kevin to answer. We gave him those questions in December of 2016. After he answered those questions, we licensed him to the gospel ministry. That was round one, and that was about a year ago.

After licensing, Paul moved to round two. This time it was a series of 45 plus questions. Most of the questions were the exact same questions I had to answer for my ordination way back in 1988. There were personal questions, questions about church history, theological questions, and questions about some key social issues of our day. Here is a sampling of those questions:

  • Explain what is meant by the church invisible, visible, and local.
  • What effect did the sin of Adam have on the human race? What is Pelagianism?
  • Define God and the Trinity. How would you evaluate the Council of Nicea?
  • Explain what you mean about the deity and humanity of Christ. How would you evaluate the Council of Chalcedon?
  • What is regeneration and when does it occur in relation to personal faith?
  • How would you define social justice? Is social justice biblical?

 In addition to answering the questions, Paul had to continue to meet with me, and keep a journal of all the ministry opportunities he had been involved in during this time. Paul has gone through the same process of ordination that I went through. His ordination, is just as legitimate as my ordination, or anyone else’s ordination. Today is a big deal. What we are doing today is serious business. This ordination has not been given to Paul. He has earned it.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

The Bible tells us in Acts 13:3, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

In God’s economy of things, He has given “some to be apostles, some to be prophets, and some to be evangelist, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). All Christians have gifts that are to be used in ministry, and while no one’s gift is more important than anyone else’s, God does call some to use their gifts in full time service. For these people, who have received this call, a time of public commitment and prayer is needed. This is why we have gathered today.

Paul senses God’s call on his life to be an ordained minister. Through my relationship with him, our church senses the need to affirm that call through ordination. Since Paul has been faithfully serving the Lord, here at Riverbend, as a chaplain’s assistance for several years, some may ask why the need for ordination? They may ask, “Paul doesn’t need man’s approval to serve, and besides, what difference is a piece of paper going to make, especially inside Riverbend.” Ordination is not man approving a person. Rather, ordination is a public conformation, and affirmation, of the Holy Spirit’s calling on an individual’s life. The difference a Certificate of Ordination makes is twofold:

First, it gives authority to the position of a minister. The ultimate authority comes from God, but being recognized by the people of God as a minister gives a degree of authority. With authority, however, comes responsibility, and Paul must always remember that the authority of a minister is the authority to serve, not be served.

Second, with a Certificate of Ordination comes accountability. Paul is not just an ordained minister. He is an ordained Franklin Community Church minister. He has submitted himself to our Elders. Being accountable to others is Biblical and it keeps a person humble and in line with the gospel. With this in mind, I will now ask Paul to respond to the following questions:

  • Are you fully aware of the responsibilities that are about to be placed upon you by being ordained and set apart as an ambassador of Jesus Christ?
  • Do you accept the Bile as being the Word of God?
  • Since you are being ordained to the gospel ministry by Franklin Community Church, will promise to preach and uphold the doctrines and practices of Franklin Community Church?
  • Will you assume the responsibility to serve God faithfully in whatever capacity God calls you to, and to give yourself sacrificially and without reserve to the building of the body of Christ?
  • Will you endeavor to be diligent in the study of God’s Word; instant and faithful in prayer; opened to and directed by the Holy Spirit; living as an example of Christian character and discipline before the church and the community, in order that your life may be a worthy Christian example and that upon your ministry the blessing of God may rest?

In 1777, after much struggle and prayer, Benjamin Randall (a personal hero of mine), submitted himself to the gospel ministry and prayed this covenant to God:

Dear Lord, here I am, I am Thine. Thou hast made me and I have been the care of Thy kind providence continually, though most unworthy. Lord, take me, and use me as seemeth good in Thy sight. If it is Thy will that I should preach the gospel, Lord, take me and send me where Thou wilt; only go with me and let me have the assistance of Thy Spirit. For Thou knowest, Lord, I do not count my life dear to myself, so that I may win souls to Jesus Christ. I will by Thy grace, wear out my life in Thy cause. My greatest happiness shall be to die a martyr for the gospel of Christ…Now, O Lord, accept this hearty surrender, which I make for Christ’s sake, Amen.

Paul, may God bless you as you re-enter His work as an ordained minister. Your life and ministry are now linked with my life and ministry, and the life and ministry of Franklin Community Church. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Will the Elders of Franklin Community Church now come forward for the laying on of hands?

_________________________

Here was the order of worship for today’s service. The songs were picked out by Paul.

The Ordination of Paul

Monday, January 29, 2018

Welcome

Pastor Kevin Riggs, DPhil.

 Opening Prayer

The Rev. Dr. Joe Ingle

Scripture Reading

Old Testament – Joshua 1:6-9 (Eric Boucher, Elder)

New Testament –  1 Timothy 3:1-7 (Fred Adams, Elder)

Congregational Song

Saved, Saved, Saved

Rev. Michael Hollifield

Charge

Pastor Kevin Riggs, DPhil.

Laying on of Hands

Franklin Community Church Elders

Phil Davis, Elder

Sermon

Paul 

Solo

Amazing Grace

(On of the Inmates)

Communion

Rev. Paul

Congregational Song

Doxology

Rev. Michael Hollifield

 Closing Prayer

Paul’s Dad, an Ordained Minister / Pastor

 

 

Saved, Saved (Jack Scholfield)

I’ve found a Friend, who is all to me,

His love is ever true;

I love to tell how He lifted me

And what His grace can do for you.

Saved by His pow’r divine,

Saved to new life sublime!

Life now is sweet and my joy is complete,

For I’m saved, saved, saved!

He saves me from every sin and harm,

Secures my soul each day;

I’m leaning strong on His mighty arm;

I know He’ll guide me all the way. 

When poor and needy and all alone,

In love He said to me,

“Come unto Me and I’ll lead you home,

To live with Me eternally.”

 

 Doxology (Thomas Ken)

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Paul would like to thank everyone for coming out to celebrate with him today. Thank you for all your prayers and support through the years.

A special thanks to Warden Tony Mays, Chaplain Brian Darnell, and all the staff at RMSI for your help and support in making this service possible.

And a big thank you to The Rev. Dr. Joe Ingle for your assistance in organizing this day.

 

 

 

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About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider...in that order.
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