This question some times may seem hard to answer, but the bible has clear direction for us on this issue. Let's look at the first ordination recorded in the New Testament in Acts 1.
First, I see 7 qualifications for the congregation. From verse 1 we see the need to be following Jesus not man. Secondly, verses 4-8 show the need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Verse 8 gives the qualification of being faithful in evangelism. The fourth qualification, taken from verse 14, is that we need to be dwelling in unity. Verse 14 also shows the need for prayer and supplication. The sixth qualification, we need to study and know what the Scriptures say. This is found in verse 16. The final qualification for the congregation we find in verse 24. We need to believe that God is sovereign and makes no mistakes. All of these qualifications will be a part of every spiritual congregation and they need to be in place before we should consider having an ordination.
Now that we have a spiritual congregation, when should we ordain? The first answer to this question is that ordinations should be in response to a need. We should ordain when there is no minister in a congregation as was the case in acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5.
We should also ordain to replace aging leaders as in II Timothy 2:2 and Deuteronomy 34:9. Moses was faithful in replacing himself with Joshua, and God's people could go on serving Him. However, in Joshua 24:29-31, Joshua did not replace himself; and the story of God's people in the book of Judges is quite different. "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
another reason for having an ordination is to replace an erring leader as in acts 1:15-20.
Needs that are not being met as was the situation in acts 6:1-7 also signal the need for an ordination.
We should also ordain in order to have a plurality of ministry. Not only a bishop, minister, and deacon, but a bishop with not more than two or three congregations at the most (please note-this was agreed upon in the early days of our conference), and at least two ministers and two deacons in each congregation.
Now, let me explain. I believe every congregation should be looking ahead at starting an outreach. a good goal would be to do this when the congregation has twenty families. With every outreach, there should be a team of ministry that has learned to work together and is ready to go to the new work along with four other families. Now you have two congregations, one with fourteen families and one with six families. as both grow, they should be looking at adding more leadership so the process can be repeated again and again and the Gospel can be spread to the uttermost part of the earth.
If this plan were put into action, at the time of this writing, we would need to add two bishops, sixteen ministers, and twenty deacons to meet the present needs in our existing congregations. Furthermore, if all of our churches with more than twenty families would start an outreach, the need would be even much greater. but, we serve a great God who has promised to supply ALL our needs.
Another reason for plural ministry is that sometimes there are other types of needs such as mission fields and new groups requesting help in other areas. If we had more churches with plural ministry, we could meet these needs in a timelier manner.
Now sufficient ministry is not the only thing needed to supply these needs. We need a change of thinking on the part of the laity in releasing their ministry to the work that God is calling them to.
We also need a change on the part of the ministry to be willing to be used anywhere that God wants them.
The third reason for plural ministry is that the devil is very busy causing stressful situations in many churches. Sometimes it is helpful to have a minister or a team of ministry unrelated to the problem to help them through it.
Finally, there is much work to be done; and as the saying goes, "Many hands make light work."
The second answer to the question, "When should we ordain?" is when a congregation has qualified brethren. I do not believe a lack of qualified brethren is limiting the number of our ordinations as much as the fact that we do not like change.
Let's think seriously about the great commission and branch out. There are a lot of areas that have no conservative witness, and we could reach so many more people as we spread out. but, we need leadership to start new churches.
Is our congregation ready for an ordination? Probably it is. "Lift up your eyes and look on the fields for they are white and already to harvest" (John 4:35). We should prayerfully be seeking the Lord's direction in this matter.
- Kokomo, MS