District Credential’s meetings leaves me with mixed emotions. This week was no exception. Some of the ministers-in-training hit it out of the park. Others swing and miss. It happens every year. There are those that completely know who we are and what we believe, while others leave me wondering if they have ever stepped foot in a Church of the Nazarene. Usually, I leave saying “Hooray” and “Ugh” in the same breath.
I received my first district license in 1989 on the Northern Michigan District. I was fresh out of Nazarene Theologian Seminary with my Master of Divinity degree. At the time, I was the only person on the entire district, District Superintendent Rev. Milton Hoose included, that had a Master of Divinity degree.
Because of this fact, I was filled with trepidation when I showed up for my district credential meeting. Would the ministers on the Credential Board want to show this “whipper-snapper” what was what? Would they have any anti-seminary bias (It happens). Would they drill me with obscure Bible references? I didn’t know, so I studied up. I knew the Articles of Faith by heart. Could recited what Nazarene’s believe on every conceivable subject. Could give Biblical references to support our various responses. I was ready!
I entered the room filled with men wearing suits and ties. I had on my best tie too (that’s what we wore back in the day). They looked stern and intimidating. I’m sure my knees were shaking. The first statement from one of the ministers came, “Golly Rob, you’ve got a M.Div from NTS. You should be asking us questions, not the other way around.” They proceeded to toss me softball type of questions, but seemed to be more concerned whether I liked living in Northern Michigan or not. I left the meeting thinking I could have been the biggest heretic in the world and that group of ministers would never know.
Our system isn’t perfect. Sometimes the candidates blow it. Sometimes the committee does. Sometimes the candidates answer the questions wrong. Sometimes the credential board asks bad questions. Sometimes the candidates say too little. Sometimes the members on the credentials board say too much. The system can be flawed.
Still I am thankful for the process. We hold our ministers-in-training accountable. Before ordination, we require that they meet with the board several times. Our society reflects too much of what the prophet Isaiah warned when he wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). We need ministers who are able to discern good and evil; light and darkness; right from wrong. In the end, we get there.
This week also reminded me how we need to be praying for our ministers. Proclaiming the truth is tougher these days than ever. Navigating the cultural waters with Christ-like love and wisdom isn’t for sissies. In our dark and getting darker world, we need to pray that our minsters live into Jesus instruction to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). Sitting before a credential board can be intimidating. Standing before an angry agnostic, a broken believer, a hurting teenager, a troubled couple can be worse. We need our minsters ready. We need to pray that they are.