The Wrong Reverend
I have big news: I was ordained this week. I am now a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The next time you see me, please address me as “Reverend.” And bow. And if I happen to be wearing a signet ring, you may kiss it.
I’m joking of course. I don’t actually expect anyone to treat me any differently now that I’m ordained. And that’s what I want to write about today.
Yesterday, I read the passage in Acts 1 where the first, tiny church plant chose Matthias to replace Judas as one of the 12 apostles. Here’s how that went down.
First, Peter said,
Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.
Then this happened:
So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”
Sounds pretty standard so far. They had a job opening. They identified some quality candidates (Joseph and Matthias) based on some specific criteria. In this case, tenure was important. They wanted someone who had been around for all of Jesus’ ministry. Then they prayed about things. This is exactly the process that every church engages when identifying who God has ordained to serve in their ministry.
But then this happens:
Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
They flipped a coin. Left it to chance. This seems like a colossally bad idea. It goes against everything we know about good staffing and leadership. Scour bookstores and Amazon lists, but I promise you will not find any leadership book that recommends filling the seats on your bus by casting lots. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Unless God is in it.
Imagine how it changed Matthias’s ministry to know that it wasn’t his buddies who chose him, but the Lord Almighty. Imagine how much more confident, humble, passionate, and obedient he would have been with that as part of his story.
David knew that feeling. When common sense would have ordained Eliab or Abinadab or Shammah or any of Jesse’s other sons, the Lord whispered to Samuel that David was chosen for the task. Samuel didn’t line up the resumes of the sons of Jesse with pros and cons. The apostles didn’t create a SWOT analysis for Joseph and Matthias. However counterintuitive it was, however foolish it seemed, they purposely removed themselves from the final decision. To the apostles, it seemed better to leave it to chance — even with the possibility that God wouldn’t direct the lots — than to leave it to their own limited wisdom.
So what does that have to do with my ordination? Am I comparing myself to Matthias the Apostle or David the King? No. But I know how they feel, because the decision about establishing and ordaining my service at my church had nothing to do with my resume, and that’s as should be. I’ll never forget the words I heard when I was invited to interview for a position at my church.
“We’ve been thinking about launching a small groups ministry, and praying about who should lead it. Your name keeps coming up.”
My ordination and my pastorate have absolutely zero to do with my ability or qualifications. In fact, there were several poor decisions on my docket that could have easily disqualified me. The sentence I didn’t hear was, “We have an opening and you seem like the most qualified candidate.” I started this ministry gig with scant experience and no training. I was working in a completely different industry when I heard the sentence above. I have received this post more than earning it.
So this week, my church ordained me. That was probably a foolish thing for them to do, but as we’ve been reminded by another apostle — one named Paul — “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” In the church, anointing is more important than aptitude.
Take it from me. I'm a reverend.