Ordination: African Style

Greg Strand – March 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Earlier I read of this ordination council and service in Africa as recounted by Garry Friesen. You may recognize the name as the author of the book Decision Making and the Will of God. For the past 37 years he served on the faculty of Multnomah University. Recently he transitioned to what he refers to as his “second ‘dream job’ teaching at Africa College of Theology (ACT) in Kigali, Rwanda.”

Friesen recounts this ordination experience in a brief letter, Ordination, African Style I include the letter in full below.

February 2, 2015

Family & Friends,

Last Sunday afternoon was the ordination testing of four pastoral candidates.  I expected a distinctive African flavor.  I predicted instead of 90 minutes long, it would be four hours long.  That was correct.  The rest was a surprise.  About 200 people came to watch and cheer on the new candidates.  They were asked to summarize Scripture books and theological topics.  After 3 hours it went into high gear.  Each candidate was asked to quote 50 Bible verses.  They did not falter or hesitate.  Each one started then picked up speed and more zeal as they quoted.  The audience started to respond right during the quoting.  They stood up as the quotes rose to a fever pitch.  Then they began cheering and taking pictures.  The candidates were not just reciting, but passionately declaring the words of Scripture as the best news ever heard.  It was better than football, because the audience felt every verse was a glorious goal.  When the four finished quoting, the audience surged forward to hug, kiss and congratulate their husbands, fathers and friends. The candidates beamed and sweated with relief. The council went out to deliberate, but I thought, “If they don’t come back with a positive report they might have a church mob on their hands.”  After four hours we had four new victorious candidates.

Rwandan Rookie, G

This is a great story! In comparison and contrast, it makes me think about those who claim our councils are too rigorous. And furthermore, it makes me think about those who claim requiring ordination for our pastors and other leaders is a hindrance to the spread of the gospel and the planting of churches, as it sets up a sub-biblical, non-biblical or unbiblical requirements.

And then to read the account of this biblically and theologically rigorous ordination council in a country in which the church is growing significantly (and also being challenged greatly by heresy, which makes this all the more important for the spiritual health and well-being of the church) was a great encouragement to me.

We certainly need to think of various pathways to this end of ordination, but we don’t have to apologize for what we require at the end!

And importantly, it is vital to remember that ordination is not the end. As I write to those who have been approved for ordination in the EFCA,

At this time we pause to give thanks and praise to the Lord for this important mile-marker on your lifelong journey as a student of God’s Word. But remember, this is one mile-marker among many more ahead for you. It is not a final destination. Being an approved workman (2 Tim. 2:15), means we continue to study God’s Word.

Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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