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Pastor, Should You Be Ashamed? 

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

In a recent conversation with an anesthetist, he told me that he was headed to a resort hotel where he was required to take another training seminar.  The curriculum was going to cover new techniques, new studies that have been published about health issues, new trends in the industry, etc.  The trip has its costs.  It is an imposition on his schedule, it will be expensive and he may already know much of the material that will be presented in class.  “But,” he said, “I have to go in order to keep my license.” 

Why?  Why doesn’t the medical profession association have faith in its members that they will keep themselves apprised of the latest developments?  Why don’t they accept the fact that most of the consumers of health products and practices are happy with their guys?  Why should they demand such a rigorous education to become a health professional, and then keep badgering those who have earned their degrees to know more and more?  The answer is simple:  responsibility to the public.  The bottom line is that health care professionals, despite their masters’ or doctors’ degrees, are still servants.  While they may be handsomely rewarded for their work, their primary goal is not to make money or to swagger with the prestige associated with the job, but to serve their patients in the best possible way.

Let’s now switch tracks to the ministry—which, by the way, means “servant.”  What are pastors and preachers doing to keep their knowledge and skills on the cutting edge?  (And also, by the way, I didn’t bring this up.  Blame the Apostle Paul for this.)  Is the world of biblical knowledge so simple that nothing more than a basic education is needed?  Is the anointing of the Holy Spirit enough to cover any of the gaps in training?  Wouldn’t more education just result in an elitist corps of ministers more interested in becoming intellectual snobs than serving people?  Wouldn’t it be a huge waste of time, energy and money to sit around in classrooms instead of pulling souls out of the gutters of sin?  Isn’t the call of God on one’s life all that’s necessary to qualify him or her to do the work? 

You may look at these questions as casting unfair aspersions on sincere ministers who are already doing a good job and who are probably overworked and underpaid.  That’s seeing it from the standpoint of the minister.  That’s like the servant saying to the master, “Quit complaining.  I’m doing a good enough job.  You don’t need anything more than what I am giving you.  You’re fine.”  The irony of the matter is that the master (in this case, the congregation) could actually agree with the servant.  But the laity may not understand that something is being withheld from them, or that there is a better way to do something, or that something being taught to them is in error. 

Paul’s instruction to Timothy was to study.  Study involves curriculum, reading, writing, note-taking, time, concentration and learning.  Beneficial study requires a hungry attitude, an active mind and a sensitivity relevant to the needs of people.   But there is another stipulation attached to the Apostle’s order to study.  The servant studies in order to “show himself to be approved unto God.”  Approval is what a grading system is all about.  All students have to be tested to determine whether or not they have mastered the material.  In other words, students cannot design their own course of study and do just enough to satisfy themselves.  This means that there must be prescribed curriculum, course requirements and a way to measure progress.  This was true with Paul’s education and it is certainly true of the educational system in our day. 

I don’t mean to be rude or brutal, but the preacher who doesn’t know what he is talking about should be ashamed of himself!  The minister who is more caught up in the prestige of the position than actually serving people has cause for shame.  A license to preach must mean more than getting a one-time approval for ministry.  Licenses can become obsolete.  The changing times demand that the ministry should continually upgrade itself and become aware of the needs of people in these days.  Preachers who are preaching to 1990’s congregations in 2016 are doing a great and inexcusable disservice to a congregation. 

Should we develop a continuing education system?  Should we require continuing education as a means to keep one’s license?  Those are legitimate questions that we must ask ourselves.  If our intent is elitism, then obviously not.  But if we are truly interested in serving people to the best of our ability, then it is something substantial for us to consider.  Whatever we decide, we must not bow our heads in shame because we failed to be the best we could be. -JMJ 


Saints in the Hands of an Angry Preacher

by J. Mark Jordan

Most of us have heard of the iconic American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, who delivered the now famous address in colonial days, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  He thundered out his rhetoric with such ferocity that people nearly died of heart attacks.  One excerpt from this sermon serves as an example of the entire message:

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.”

It is said that “The people in Enfield ‘yelled and shrieked, they rolled in the aisles, they crowded up into the pulpit and begged him to stop,’ forcing Edwards at one point to ‘speak to the people and desire silence, that he might be heard’. There was ‘great moaning & crying out through ye whole House…ye shrieks & crys were piercing & Amazing…’” (

But I want to leverage this ancient illustration into something more relevant to today’s ministry.  I am equally disturbed by saints falling into the hands of an angry preacher.  Other than preaching outright lies, I can think of few things more egregious than a man of God mounting the pulpit and preaching God’s Word motivated by anger.  It is misguided, hurtful and a distortion of the purpose of preaching.  When we preach in anger, we suffer two failures.  First, we fail because we abuse the privilege of preaching God’s grace, and, second, we fail because we never accomplish the goal we were aiming for in the first place.  Let me explain.

Never confuse the sinner with the sin.  A saint is a sinner only in absolute terms in which none of us is without fault.  Whenever the preacher focuses on the person instead of the person’s wrong behavior, he triggers a whole range of emotional responses within himself that are inappropriate.  Keep in mind that we are all sinners saved by grace.  If we cannot extend grace to a misbehaving saint, then we cannot ask for grace to cover our own foibles.  It doesn’t mean to let people get by with sinning, but it does mean to love the person while correcting their wrong doing.

Never let personal animosity infect your message.  As a little leaven leavens the whole lump, so also expressed anger at some individual in the congregation injects a bitter flavor into your entire message.  Remember, a preacher does not approach the pulpit as his own person.  He basically loses his identity and stands before the people as an ambassador of good will, a representative of Jesus Christ.  “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”  2 Corinthians 5:20 (KJV).  No one should ever be able to tell that you are under pressure or that you are at odds with any person in the church. 

Never calibrate the intensity of your message with the response of the congregation.  Let me state this rather crudely.  If you want people to shout, give them something to shout about!  Just walking to the pulpit or making a statement or two is not enough to make people the run the aisles.  We are not rock stars.  Preach about the glory of God, the power of Christ, the victorious life of living for God—anything that calls attention to Jesus Christ.  If you get angry over what you perceive as a lack of response, you end up suppressing the very reaction you desire. 

Never think that “one size fits all.”  All saints are different.  So are preachers, for that matter.  What brings one person out of his seat may not register with another.  Some jump.  Some weep.  Some run.  Some wail.  If you expect the same response out of every person, you are not only going to be disappointed, you are going to be biased and offensive.  On the other hand, when you make it your business to preach the Word with anointing and love, you will almost always get a positive response. 

Never allow your facial expressions, gestures or volume convey anger.  If you don’t know what you look like when you preach, have someone take a video of you.  That will let you see what your people see.  A look of rage, scorn, sarcasm or disrespect will almost always produce a negative response.  I’m not talking about a fake smile, but a sincere, concerned expression that will be correct in every context.  If you raise your voice from time to time, it’s not necessarily a problem.  (Screaming from start to stop does get a little tedious.  My English teacher from long ago said, “If you emphasize everything [with exclamation points], you emphasize nothing.”)  If you raise your voice in anger, however, you destroy whatever edification, exhortation or comfort you are trying to establish. 

Always preach persuasively.  The Apostle Paul said, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” 2 Corinthians 5:11 (KJV).  Despite the fact that the Mossberg 500 Persuader Shotgun bears the name of “Persuader,” preaching with persuasion is not browbeating, blasting or threatening people.  It may sometimes be passionate, sometimes pitiful, sometimes with reasoning, sometimes with skillful verbiage, but persuasion is always gentle and received as an honest attempt to help.  Some synonyms are “coax, convince and win over.”  The preacher’s job is not like driving cattle, but leading sheep.

Always use a generous helping of the Word when you preach a message abrasive to the flesh.  All preachers must preach against sin and carnality, even though it rubs the flesh the wrong way.  It will be opposed, and human reasoning can always be countered with adverse human reasoning.  A preacher’s best caisson of munitions is the Bible.  Human reasoning can never stand up to a clear and abundant exposition of the Word of God.  If all you have is “because I said so,” or even “because this is what God wants!” then you are venturing ill equipped into dangerous territory.  Let the Word do the talking.

Always remember that “Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord.”  People who do not comply with your wishes, or do not respond to your preaching may incite feelings of anger within you.  You may be tempted to retaliate.  Of course, outright sin in the camp must be addressed, but if you try to punish people for wrong attitudes or non-compliance, then you are doing God’s job.  If there is nothing concrete to confront, continue to be sweet and preach the Word.  Trust that God will ferret out men’s secrets and will impose His justice on them.

Always use plenty of honey and grace as you nudge people towards righteousness.  The gospel should never be a bitter pill to swallow.  Preaching against sin and evil must always be counterbalanced with the joy and freedom of salvation.  We do not live against something; we live for something.  People need continual encouragement that living the saved life is worth giving up the lost life.  “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:17-19 (NKJV). When love ceases to be the preacher’s incentive, his message becomes a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.

Invariably, saints in the hands of an angry preacher lose their incentive to come to church, to get involved and to respond positively to the preacher.  There is infinite wisdom in the admonition of Jesus to Peter when He said, “Feed my sheep.”  Sheep are affectionate, loving, loyal creatures who gravitate towards their shepherd.  Also, Paul wrote to Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:2 (KJV).  If we are going to reprove, rebuke and exhort, we must do it with ALL longsuffering and doctrine.  One without the other results leads to spiritual abuse. 






Do not continue with any phase of licensing application until you have read this booklet in its entirety. This process is detailed and involves the time and effort of many people. Each step is important and mandatory. To omit or mishandle any requirement will result in a failed application.

Published by the Ohio District Board, United Pentecostal Church, International 2013


PATHWAY TO MINISTRY IN THE OHIO DISTRICT outlines the path that a ministerial candidate in the Ohio District UPCI must follow, starting from the point where an applicant senses a call of God all the way to receiving a license. Each applicant must meet definite requirements to qualify which include possessing a basic knowledge of the Bible, fulfilling various assignments and following through with procedural steps as stated in the UPCI manual. The purpose of this booklet is to clarify this pathway. Applicants should become familiar with the entire process so that nothing is overlooked which may prevent a qualified candidate from obtaining a license. A
secondary purpose for this material is to supply vital information to Ohio District pastors. Since the process has changed to a great extent in the past few years, this booklet will help them to respond to requests for a license from those in their congregations who believe they have heard the call of God to minister.

The Ohio District board meets each person who professes a call to the ministry with a sincere desire to facilitate his or her efforts to become licensed. At the same time, because the ministry must be held in the highest regard, the board has a solemn obligation to thoroughly examine each candidate’s life, qualifications, attitudes and fundamental beliefs. This ensures that we maintain a ministerial constituency that faithfully represents the scriptural mandate for the office. The candidate should understand that the purpose of this process is not to discourage the application, but to promote excellence and true commitment to the ministry.

In a birds-eye view of the application process, it begins with the call of God on the individual, then progresses to the pastor, the presbyter and the district board. If there are questions about the applicant, the UPCI Executive Board will review the decision of the district board and either confirm or deny the application. This booklet will explain each of these steps in greater detail. May God bless you as you embrace your calling and move forward in your service to our Lord Jesus Christ.


Few people see the majority of a minister’s actual work-time activities. As a result, an outside observer may have misconceptions concerning the life and work of a minister. Preaching, teaching and leading services comprise the average person’s view of the pastor’s job. Behind the scenes, however, untold hours are spent in study, prayer, planning, administration, visitation, counseling and personal devotion. Added to these obligations are other burdens and stresses that are difficult to define; the weight of the church rests on the shoulders of the minister. Still, to many, the ministry seems to involve more glory than grit.

This description of the minister’s job is not given to discourage anyone from entering the ministry, but rather to bring a sense of reality to the calling. When a person considers the minister’s accountability to God, it is very sobering to assume this role. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17). Whoever seeks the position of a pastor, teacher, evangelist or any other kind of ministry from an idealistic perspective is in trouble from the outset. Such a person may be overwhelmed with the challenges of the office, and the consequences can be disastrous.

The ministry is about many things, but nearly all of them can be summed up in three words: people, life and faith. People are unpredictable, the issues of life are inevitable, and faith is indispensible. Any candidate for the ministry who believes that people can be controlled; that life can be manipulated; or that faith in God is unnecessary, is not only destined to fail, but he or she will be plagued with disillusionment, bitterness and resentment. The minister who adjusts to these realities, however, will find a rich and rewarding life in working for the Kingdom of God.

First, ministry requires you to have direct interaction with people. This means that you are in the “people business.” Everyone who comes to you must be treated fairly, sincerely and receive the best help you can give. Moreover, those most likely to come to you have been hurt or rejected by others. The life of Christ perfectly illustrates this principle. He cared for the sinner, the poor, the destitute, the outcast and the sickly. He said, “Come unto me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV). You cannot avoid those you may think are undesirable, and you must not manipulate people or treat them with prejudice. On the other hand, you must also be prepared to interact with the gifted, the successful and the high achievers in life. Revelation 22:17 includes the entire spectrum of humanity when it says “whosoever will” may come.

Second, when you embrace the full spectrum of humanity, you necessarily become involved in the issues of individual’s lives. These issues are a diverse as the people themselves. Marital problems, financial difficulties, addictions, relationship conflicts, and personal psychological and emotional problems are some of the more common situations with which people need help. Add to that their spiritual problems and need for training in the scriptures and the full picture starts to develop. The minister will be called upon to be (among other things) a counselor, a coach, a mediator, a confidante, an intercessor and a friend, as well as a preacher and teacher. The baggage that people carry cannot be separated from them. Moreover, most people travel life’s pathway in stops and starts.

Even when they receive all the tools they need to succeed, they often have setbacks and disappointments. You are to rejoice with them that rejoice and weep with them that weep. Finally, you need to be an endless supply of faith, both for the people to whom you minister and to your own self and your relationship to God. This requires an active prayer life, a continual and intense quest for the operation of God’s Spirit in your life, and a comprehensive grasp of the scriptures. It is a major mistake to think that the demands of the ministry can be met through carnal means. It takes an intimate walk with God to be the minister you must be to the people whom God has placed in your care. This is really what ministry is all about.


Licensing its members represents the most critical function that a ministerial organization performs. Licensing screens applicants for membership eligibility, it ensures uniformity in doctrine and it enforces guidelines for the activities and behavior of individual members. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this function. The singular authority of the United Pentecostal Church, International to grant or withhold a license ultimately governs its very nature and purpose.

It has been said “as go the saints, so goes the church.” Likewise, as go the ministers, so goes an organization. All policies, provisions, rules, regulations, programs, missions and visions proceed directly out of the hearts of the constituents.

Organization and licensing evolved out of conditions that followed the early stages of the twentieth century revival. The times were so chaotic that they threatened to derail this spiritual upsurge. Strange doctrines and heretical ideologues took advantage of the movement’s unregulated landscape and caused untold damage to many sincere congregations. The scripture warns us to “know them that labor among you,” but in those early days, many unfortunate things happened that were destabilizing and destructive. It soon became evident that all would be lost unless the ministry found a way to regulate itself. We are very grateful that the solution to these challenges eventually evolved into the United Pentecostal Church, International.

In addition to the general concept of licensing, there are a number of practical reasons why each minister in the organization should have a license. Here are a few of them:

Approval. A ministerial license demonstrates that you have the approval of seasoned ministers who have examined your qualifications, character, references and understanding of the Bible and deem you worthy of belonging to a fellowship of like-minded ministers. A license does not replace continued study, prayer and dedication to the ministry, but it does offer a form of protection to UPCI congregations as well as enhance a minister’s standing among his peers.

Authority. When you receive credentials from the UPCI, you possess documentation issued by a governing board which attests to your qualifications. (Each licensed minister receives a certificate for display or file, and a wallet-sized card to carry as proof of license.) A licensed minister does not operate under self-proclaimed authority, but exercises his or her ministry with the strength and support of the organization.

Acceptance. Every professional community enjoys a sense of belongingness to a group of colleagues. It enables members to share experiences, ideas and plans with others who have similar interests and backgrounds. Because the ministry is especially challenged in spiritual, emotional and psychological ways, membership in this group of ministers is vitally important. It is comforting for you and your family to know you are accepted, valued and understood by other ministers. In order to maintain this connectivity, the UPCI sponsors conferences, seminars and special meetings that inform and inspire ministers. It also sends each minister a special magazine, THE FORWARD, as well as the official publication of the UPCI, THE PENTECOSTAL HERALD, and sends frequent letters, emails and special bulletins to all members to keep everyone informed. These communiqués are part of the ministers’ benefits package paid for by the budget fee.

Accountability. One of the most important factors in guarding one’s reputation is accountability. Not only does being accountable provide safety for one’s own name, it assures the congregation and fellow ministers alike that integrity and honesty are priorities in the UPCI. No one, not even a minister, should place so much confidence in the flesh that he or she would discount the need to be answerable to someone in leadership.

The organizational architecture of the UPCI provides for a built-in system of accountability. Each minister has a sectional presbyter, each presbyter has a district superintendent, and each superintendent has a general superintendent and a general board that maintains authority over his retention of credentials. If a question arises about any licensed minister, the district board reserves the right to summon that minister for inquiry. Also, every two years, each minister must sign an affirmation statement verifying that he or she believes and adheres to the fundamental doctrines and practices of the UPCI. This signature is mandatory in order to retain one’s license.

There are many benefits to licensing that will be mentioned later in this booklet. A license with the UPCI has value much greater than can be stated here. The best way to describe it is that it unites ministers in the fellowship with one mind and one accord. As the Psalmist said, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).


If you are aspiring to enter the ministry, you probably already have a specific kind of ministry which you feel called to do. Yet, many times, a minister must venture into other activities thathave little to do with his or her particular calling. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5. It is possible that evangelism may not have been Timothy’s strong suit. He may have preferred teaching or studying over reaching the lost. He was admonished to “make full proof of thy ministry,” which means to “completely fulfill” the requirements of your position as a minister.

There are many different kinds of ministries, and God has especially equipped those He calls with the abilities and gifting to fulfill each special need. Even in early apostolic days, there were designations of kinds of ministries. Today, we have further refined the kinds of ministries that are needed in the church at large. Let’s look at these different categories:

Helper. Every church needs leaders who serve the congregation in cooperation with and under the authority of the Pastor. If you have a desire to do a work for God, but you do not have a need for a ministerial license, then you may fulfill your calling in your local church under the direction of your pastor. Some have applied for a license, but later realized that their area of ministry did not extend beyond the local church. The UPCI has created a special license called a Christian Worker’s License for those who need some additional authority as a local church leader, but do not need or cannot qualify for a license with the general fellowship of ministers. If this is a suitable path for you, and if the pastor approves you for this designation, then a certificate for this license may be obtained through the World Evangelism Center. The requirements for this license level are very minimal. The most important criterion is the pastor’s approval. For those who feel a definite call into the ministry, however, let us review the various kinds of ministries for which a license is necessary.

Senior Pastor. The Senior Pastor is the overseer and shepherd of a single congregation (some pastors oversee more than one congregation), and is the seat of spiritual authority in the local church. The Senior Pastor preaches, teaches, leads, presides over the business and financial matters of a church and is generally in charge of the congregational affairs. This minister represents the local congregation in all matters and becomes the face of the church to the community.

Assistant to the Senior Pastor. These are ministers with special assignments to work in prescribed areas, always under the authority and direction of the Senior Pastor. These areas may include outreach, visitation, youth, children, family, music, worship, business and executive leadership. These ministries can be fluid, and ministers’ job descriptions can evolve into other ministries. Many of these special ministers eventually become senior pastors. Formerly, assistants were not required to be licensed, but now, many of them not only seek a license, but their work often demands that they be licensed (prison and hospital chaplains, for example). Today, the UPCI recognizes these specialty ministries as legitimate and as deserving of credentials as pastors or evangelists.

Evangelist. An evangelist is one who spreads the good news of the gospel. In today’s setting, the evangelist travels from church to church, preaching to different congregations and primarily reaches out to the unchurched and those who need salvation. Just as in the pastoral ministry, there are different kinds of evangelists: youth, student, campus, children, prophetic, prison and crusade evangelists to name a few. Our diverse culture calls for evangelists who have special ministries that relate to a specific segment of society.

Missionary. A missionary typically goes to an unchurched area, whether a city, a county, a population center, or a foreign country and plants a church or a group of churches. In case an organized church or churches exist, the missionary oversees the work. A missionary may fulfill all the duties and obligations of other kinds of ministries, but it is usually in a venue far from home, and usually with financial support from the sending organization.

Teacher. A minister with a gift for teaching may be resident in a local congregation or may travel to many congregations to teach the Word of God. The teacher is especially gifted to help people to better understand the Bible or to learn how to apply spiritual principles to their lives. He or she may also work in a Christian education area, whether in children’s ministries, academic K-12 settings or at college levels. The purpose of this ministry is not necessarily to motivate or to lead people to Christ, but to strengthen and equip them to be more productive disciples. Again, as with assistants to the pastor, there is now widespread recognition of the teacher as a legitimate ministry and worthy of a license.

There are a number of other specialized ministries that cover a wide range of areas, and all are vital to the life of the church at large. Along with the few that have been mentioned are counseling ministers, stewardship ministers, ministers involved in organizational oversight at district or general levels, and ministers who direct para-church ministries like orphanages, half-way houses, recovery ministries and evangelistic organizations. All of these are legitimate ministries to which God has called men and women. The diversity of ministries reflects the complicated needs of the twenty-first century culture.


Training for ministry has been required since the days of the apostles. Paul wrote to Timothy “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). The rigorous demands of ministry today require even more intense training and preparation than in the first century. The minister is not only expected to have knowledge in the scriptures, church polity and tenets of faith, but also in many other fields. In order to help meet these expectations, the United Pentecostal Church, International endorses several Bible colleges, a Christian liberal arts college and a seminary, plus a number of other educational options. Let us look at the available choices to prepare one for the ministry.

Bible College. Traditionally, anyone interested in becoming a minister has been directed to attend a Bible college. UPCI endorsed Bible colleges include Apostolic Bible Institute (St. Paul, MN), Indiana Bible College (Indianapolis, IN), Centro Theologico Ministerial (Channelview, TX), Northeast Christian College (Fredericton, NB), Christian Life College (Stockton, CA) and Texas Bible College (Lufkin, TX). All of these schools offer diploma or Bachelor’s degree in various fields of study. Urshan College is a liberal arts college, but offers a qualifying degree in Christian Ministries. 

Urshan Graduate School of Theology (UGST, Florissant, MO) offers master’s degrees beyond the Bible college level. The Manual of the UPCI provides for recognition by a district board for a general license for anyone who completes three years of study at one of these institutions. “Theological students (majoring in religion) who complete three (3) years of Bible training in any Bible college endorsed by the United Pentecostal Church, International, and who otherwise qualify, may be granted either a Local or General License at the discretion of the District Board of the district in which they establish their legal residence.” (Article 7, Section 4, Paragraph 3).

All UPCI Bible colleges require students to be residents and attend traditional classes as prescribed by the college. Some colleges are now instituting distance learning programs for select classes. (UGST operates an extensive distance learning program.) Any prospective minister who chooses to attend one of these institutions must consult with the college for specific requirements and information.

Purpose Institute. For ministerial students who cannot or who do not choose to attend one of the afore-mentioned colleges, the Ohio District Board has chosen Purpose Institute as the preferred arm of training for ministry. This training program is organized to conduct classes on a Friday and Saturday once a month, with four weekends comprising one semester. An Associates Diploma in Ministerial Studies may be obtained in four semesters. A Bachelor’s Diploma may be earned in eight semesters. There is currently one campus (or anticipated campus) in each of the seven sections of the Ohio District. More information may be found at Bishop F. Joe Ellis is the CEO of Purpose Institute.

It is important to note that mere attendance at an endorsed college or Purpose Institute is not a guarantee for licensing. Each applicant must also agree to have his or her academic record forwarded to the district board by the institution. The school must also send a confidential Bible school report which is a separate record. These records will be reviewed by the board. If the applicant had failing grades or has an otherwise unsatisfactory scholastic report, it will factor into the final decision the board must make concerning one’s license.

Alternative Paths. It is highly recommend that each candidate for the ministry enroll in a Bible college or in Purpose Institute. It is possible, however, that neither option is feasible for some applicants. In that case, a third alternative exists to obtain a license. Anyone who chooses this path needs to understand that it may be the most difficult one. This is because it is designed to be as closely equivalent to the rigors of a college education as is possible. The main features of this training are 1) completing a book list of required reading with a book report and a test administered for each book; 2) a comprehensive test over the entire Bible and the Manual of the UPCI, with a minimum passing grade of seventy-five percent; and 3) documentation that the applicant
has preached on the average of one time each week over a designated period, depending on the level of license desired.

Regardless of the path of preparation that the applicant pursues, it is necessary for each one to properly complete the application form, meet with the presbyter, provide all the necessary documentation and be examined by the entire board. These steps will be detailed in the remainder of this booklet.


Anyone applying for a ministerial license with the UPCI must have first experienced full Bible salvation according to Acts 2:38, must fully believe and embrace the doctrinal position of the UPCI and be currently living an overcoming life. Moreover, the applicant should be deeply involved in ministry in the local church and possess an exemplary character and reputation. The scriptures teach us that faithfulness is required among managers. (1 Corinthians 4:2). If a person feels a call to the ministry but has major personal or spiritual problems, then much work needs to be done before qualifying for a license. Any applicant who has ever been convicted of child abuse or attempted or actual sexual abuse of a child is not qualified for license with the UPCI. Also, if the applicant has ever been convicted of felony, the board will examine the record closely to determine whether a license should be granted.

As soon as the applicant feels a call on his or her life, the first step is to earnestly seek out the will of God through fasting, prayer and reading the Bible. At this stage, these feelings can be very confusing and even frightening. It may be that God is only speaking to the individual about a closer spiritual walk and not issuing a call to the ministry. If the person feels that the call is persistent and will not go away, then he or she should consider the ministry more seriously in terms of its impact and implications. This requires a deep spiritual assessment of the person’s life, but it also calls for some very practical considerations as well.

From a practical standpoint, here are some questions that should be asked of one who thinks that God is calling him or her into the ministry. 1) How old are you? If you are too young or too old, the hurdles may be unlikely if not impossible to overcome, at least at the present time. 2) What are your life’s circumstances? If you are married with several children, the attempt to prepare yourself for ministry may be unrealistic or have a negative impact on your family. 3) What kind of encumbrances do you have in life? If you are deeply committed to a job, if you are heavily indebted, or if you have serious health issues, you may not be a candidate for the ministry. God may work miracles for you to put you into the ministry, but it is incumbent upon you to use wisdom as well. It is never right to shirk one area of responsibility in order to embrace another.

If and when a prospective minister senses a definite call of God to the ministry and knows it is time to act, then it is absolutely necessary to schedule a meeting with the pastor. The pastor is the spiritual authority in the local church and it should be apparent that his or her approval is the first stepping stone to ministry. The pastor also knows the applicant’s life and experience and will be able to provide counseling to the applicant so that a wise choice may be made. The applicant should know that the Ohio District board will not consider any applicant without the recommendation and signature of the local pastor.

Should the pastor agree that the expressed call is legitimate, the next step is to call the sectional presbyter to begin the process of licensing. The presbyters will then speak with the candidate, send him or her application form and schedule an interview. Next, we will look at each of these steps and see what each one entails.


When an applicant begins the licensing process, a comprehensive application form must be completed. Although it may seem obvious, when you fill out the application form you must write legibly, make sure factual information is answered correctly and supply all the requested documentation. You will be asked to redo the application if it cannot be read. Requested information includes questions about bankruptcies, legal problems and divorce and remarriage issues. In case of a divorce and/or remarriage, be advised that copies of court documents will be requested along with signed statements or letters that contain specific statements that affirm your innocence after the point in time that you received the Holy Ghost. Your presbyter will inform you as to the nature of these statements. Without this documentation, your application will be automatically rejected. You will also be asked for permission to conduct a credit check. It is mandatory that you do so. It is important that you answer every question on the application form. If a question or a request for information on the form is not clear, then you should consult the presbyter for an explanation. Any question that the applicant leaves blank will be ultimately brought to the attention of the district board.

The application form contains questions that may only be answered by specific information contained in the Manual of the UPCI. If the candidate has not thoroughly read the manual, it will become apparent when the form is completed. Among the questions are specific doctrinal positions and terminology with which the average layperson is unfamiliar. For example, be sure you understand the concepts of the eternal punishment of the wicked, divine flesh and preterism, along with other doctrinal positions that you may not presently know.

On this application, it is better to supply more information than seems necessary rather than little or no information. Answer fully any question that gives you the opportunity to tell about yourself. You should tell about souls you have won to Christ, your experiences in teaching home Bible studies, and any unusual opportunities you have had to minister and any outstanding results you have had through your ministry.

Finally, two more items must accompany your application: a current picture of yourself (married applicants must also send a photo of their spouse), and cash or a check that will cover the first month budget fee plus administrative charges. This payment is not refundable.


Meeting with the presbyter of your section is a critical step in the licensing process. If married, both you and your spouse are required to attend. If you have been sent the application form, you should have completed it and will give it to the presbyter at this interview. The interview may last an half an hour or longer, depending on the discussion about the application. Also, it will take longer if the presbyter uses the time to administer the initial test.

This interview fulfills several purposes. He needs to gain a first impression of you and assess your appearance, your attitude and your general demeanor. Also, the presbyter needs to administer the basic test of scriptural knowledge to you, discuss your progress in reading the required book list, inform you of the all the specific requirements of the application process, and answer any question you may have about the process or the ministry in general.

The presbyter will not be a “rubber stamp” for your desire to enter the ministry. He is obligated to seriously examine your qualifications, and determine whether he will recommend you to the board for a license. His voice on the district board carries more weight than any other because you are from his section. The ultimate decision will rest heavily on this interview and the presbyter’s impression of your candidacy.

After the initial interview, anything that is amiss with the application form should be corrected. Also, any required documentation that has not yet been submitted should be given. The presbyter will then present the completed application form to the board at the following meeting for review. If everything is in order, you will be scheduled to meet the entire board at its next meeting. That is approximately a six month waiting period. This intervening time will allow you to satisfy any unfulfilled requirements or make any corrections to the application form.


The prospect of meeting the district board is undoubtedly the most stressful part of the licensing process. To walk in before a room full of men whom you may have never met and feel their eyes on your every move and know that they are critiquing every word you say can be very intimidating.  You should know, however, that these are compassionate and anointed men of God who want you to succeed, perhaps even more than you do yourself. While their experience and wisdom temper their judgment, rest assured that they treat each candidate with kindness and respect.

The board consists of the district superintendent, the district secretary/treasurer, a presbyter from each of the seven sections in Ohio, and several honorary presbyters. After your presbyter introduces you, he will ask you to explain your call into the ministry. Be as succinct as possible, but make sure your response includes all the significant points of the call of God on your life. If your pursuit of license has brought you this far, the board knows you are serious and that you have something substantial to say. You should also be prepared to relate your current responsibilities and activities in ministering at your local church. The board is very interested in how you have demonstrated your burden and commitment to the work of God prior to becoming licensed. You should be ready to tell the board how you have prepared yourself for ministry and how you continue to gain personal growth and understanding of the Word of God. Your personal devotional life is of great concern to the members of the board so you need to inform them about your prayer life, how you impose spiritual discipline on your life and, for those applicants who are married and have children, how you demonstrate spiritual leadership in your home.

On your application form, you were asked about your credit history, bankruptcy, divorce and remarriage. If any of these were applicable, you should be ready to give an explanation. Make sure you have included the proper documentation. These are sensitive subjects and they will be handled confidentially. Because they are germane to your reputation as a minister, and they have implications for liability issues for the Ohio District and the UPCI, the board does need to examine them. At some point, the interview will be opened up to the board to ask any other question that may occur to any member. There may be something in your back-ground, some response you gave on your application or something else that has piqued the interest of the presbyter. There is no way to predict what these questions may be. Do your best to respond as sincerely and thoroughly as possible.

For married applicants, it is necessary for your spouse to accompany you to the interview. He or she will be asked some relevant questions as well. Since both husband and wife in ministry constitute a team, it is important for the board to hear the spouse’s response to ministry.

The district board meets for one week in both the spring and fall to conduct interviews with applicants for license. Your presbyter will tell you what day of the week you will meet and the time of day. An effort will be made to make the interview amenable to your schedule. Because the nature of the board’s business is so unpredictable, you may not be summoned precisely at the scheduled time of your interview. You should be prepared to wait.


The constitution of the UPCI gives licensing power to each district board. Aside from a few general rules that must be uniformly observed, the district board’s task is to examine each applicant and vote to either grant or deny a license. Both decisions have significant consequences. Before you enter the process, you should be prepared for the decision, however it may go.


If you are granted a license, you will be informed by your presbyter and brought back into the boardroom for a charge, followed by laying on of hands and prayer. At that time, you will receive instructions about certain obligations you now have as a licensed minister and when your budget fee and district dues are to be paid. Our international headquarters, World Evangelism Center in Hazelwood, Missouri, will process the paperwork and send your credentials to the district superintendent for his signature. He will then forward them to you. This usually takes several weeks or even months. Your status as a licensed minister takes effect immediately, however, even though you have not received your written credentials.

There is also the possibility that a candidate has applied for higher level of license, but the board granted a lower level. (Licensing levels will be explained in later paragraphs.) There are several reasons why this may happen. The candidate may not have qualified for a higher license due to the provisions in the manual. Also, the board may feel that, given the circumstances of the candidate, there is no need for a higher level. Should those circumstances change in coming years, the candidate is welcome to reapply. Finally, the candidate may not have demonstrated the spiritual maturity or experience necessary for the higher level of license. If this happens, the candidate should not feel that he or she has been rejected. The fact remains that a license has been granted, even though it was not at the anticipated level. Again, after gaining more maturity and experience for a year or more, the candidate may go through the process again for an upgrade.


It is with much regret that any applicant is told that the board has declined to grant a license. Although it happens infrequently, the board can find that the applicant does not possess the necessary attributes that warrant licensing, or that some fact or trait in the life of the applicant has precluded the granting of license. Any time one enters into a process like this, there is always a risk that it will not prove successful. This sometimes leads to discouragement and embarrassment for the applicant. Should this be your outcome, you must not allow disappointment to overwhelm you. You may have had unrealistic expectations from the start. Bitterness, resentment or any negative reaction on your part will only serve to reinforce the board’s decision. You must make a conscious and intentional decision to accept this decision as the will of God for this time and continue on in the work you have been doing. Remember, you still have a ministry in your local church, you still have relationships that are meaningful to you, and you still have great value in the Kingdom of God.

If you are denied a license, you will be given the news gently and with sensitivity. You will be given a full explanation of the reasoning of the board. If there are some things that, with correction or improvement, will qualify you in the future, it is possible that you will be encouraged to try again.


The following paragraphs about the levels of license are adapted from the UPCI Ministers Manual.


1. All applicants must be seventeen (17) years of age or over.
2. All applicants must have preached an average of one (1) sermon each week for a period of six (6) months or more before being examined by the District Board in relation to their call to the ministry. Exceptions to this requirement would be left to the discretion of the District Board. (It is understood that teaching a Sunday school class or leading services does not meet this requirement.)
3. All local licensed ministers are to labor in full cooperation with, and under the supervision of, their local United Pentecostal Church pastor until they enter into ministerial responsibilities severing them from their local assembly.


1. All applicants must be nineteen (19) years of age or over.
2. All applicants must be presently engaged in the ministry as pastor, full-time evangelist, full-time teacher, assistant pastor, assistant to the pastor, elected or appointed official, full-time Bible school administrator, or instructor, except those qualifying under Paragraph 3. Exceptions to this requirement would be left to the discretion of the District Board.
3. Theological students (majoring in religion) who complete three (3) years of Bible training in any Bible college endorsed by the United Pentecostal Church International, and who otherwise qualify, may be granted either a Local or General License at the discretion of the District Board of the district in which they establish their legal residence. These students shall request their respective colleges to send the Bible College Report form to the District Superintendent. In no event shall the students be granted a license from the district in which the Bible College is located unless they are actively engaged in the ministry in that district prior to and at the time of licensing.
4. All applicants who are not Bible College graduates must have held Local License for at least one (1) year. They must also have proven their ministry for a period of one (1) year or more. During said time, applicants must have preached an average of one (1) sermon each week. (It is understood that teach-ing a Sunday school class or leading services does not meet this requirement.) Exceptions may be made for applicants who are being accepted from another church organization.
(See Section 5, Paragraph 4.)


1. All applicants must be twenty-one (21) years of age or over and must have held General License for at least two (2) years. Any exception to this would be left to the discretion of the District Board.

2. All applicants must have proven their ministry for two (2) consecutive years and must presently be an active pastor, full-time evangelist, assistant pastor, appointed or elected official, full-time Bible college administrator or instructor.
3. All applicants for Ordination to Military Chaplaincy must fulfill all doctrinal and other qualifications except the specified time of active ministerial service and the need to hold General License prior to applying.
4. All applicants who have previously been ordained by another church organization shall appear before the District Board and be thoroughly examined to determine the merits of their ordination and their qualifications for the ministry. The District Board shall determine whether to accept their former ordination, recommend ordination by the United Pentecostal Church International, or grant Local or General License.
5. All applicants endorsed for ordination shall be notified by the District Secretary as to the next official meeting where they may be ordained.
6. An ordination may be held at any district meeting and must be presided over by a member of the Board of General Presbyters. A district meeting includes regular or special called District Conferences, conventions, or camp meetings to which all of the ministers of the district are invited. It does not include fellowship meetings, youth rallies, or other sectional gatherings.


There are many benefits to holding a license with the UPCI. Some of them are listed here. Official fellowship. When a minister becomes licensed with the UPCI, he or she owns a certificate recognized by peers, whether it be local, general or ordination. Not only does this certification have significant personal meaning, it also has a legal effect on the minister’s status insofar as governmental agencies are concerned.

Representation on a national and international level. Often, the UPCI speaks for the entire ministerial body to the nation. Our General Superintendent has written letters to the President of the United States from time to time on social, moral and legal matters that pertain to the church.

Official membership also incurs benefits to individual ministers such as the right to visit or administer baptism to incarcerated persons.

Right to have a voice and vote. Every individual minister in the UPCI may influence the decisions made at the sectional, district or national level. It includes the right to speak out in an official meeting of ministers, communicate with elected officials, write any personal views and publish them in a letter or send them to a district or general publication. Moreover, in district and national elections, full-time ministers can vote for or against candidates or issues. Without a license, a minister has no such rights.

Practical, informal fellowship. One of the great joys of belonging to the UPCI continues to be the rich and edifying fellowship among the general body of ministers. Licensed ministers have a compelling reason to converse with their colleagues about organizational matters, about plans and developments on a national or international scale, about all the people who are performing various tasks in the organization. They share in the give-and-take of social dynamics that take place among those who occupy common ground.

Other rights, privileges and benefits. Since the UPCI is a recognized, ordaining body, each minister has a legitimate basis for ordination. The organization represents and protects the member. The minister can appeal to the judicial procedure if ever accused of misconduct. In case the minister encounters problems in the local church, an automatic appeal to a presbyter or district superintendent is possible. The minister also maintains insurance or other benefits provided by the organization. Licensed ministers draw much strength from the backing of an organization

Opportunity for ministerial functions. Licensed ministers are eligible to participate in functions of the UPCI at any level. If appointed or elected, members can belong to committees or boards, not as a mere observer but as a participant in crafting policy and making decisions. There are provisions in the manual that govern these activities.

Access to special ministries in the UPCI. Children and young people of churches pastored by licensed ministers may attend UPCI functions such as camps, retreats and conferences with their pastor’s signature on their registration form. They can come by right, not mere courtesy. Another ministry of the UPCI is “Points of Refuge.” It is a group of both professional and highly trained counselors who will provide support to ministers who are experiencing personal problems. There are many other ministries of the divisions of the UPCI as well.

Access to UPCI Bible colleges. As in the case of youth and children’s camps, Bible college applicants need the signature of a UPCI pastor. If a student’s pastor is not a member of the UPCI, he or she is at a clear disadvantage from applicants from UPCI churches.

Hosting privileges. One of the great blessings of many churches is the privilege to host a district conference, a rally or some other special meeting. These meetings expose local community and church members to the ministry of highly respected and renowned ministers, and they see the wide influence and stature of the organization. Local pastors gain stature and strength from their involvement in the UPCI.

Input into divisional or departmental ministry. God has blessed many ministers with a wonderful creative ability and a vision that extends far beyond their local church. The UPCI affords a venue for expressing and utilizing these talents at every level. Whether in administration, Christian education, youth work, planting churches, foreign missions service or some other field, a UPCI minister may find fulfillment in organizational work.

Freedom to engage UPCI ministers to preach. UPCI pastors enjoy an unrestricted right to ask anyone who is licensed with the organization to come and speak in their pulpit without requesting clearance. Our protocol stipulates for UPCI pastors to get special permission before engaging any non-affiliated ministers to preach. This provision helps to protect the integrity of the fellowship.

Along with these benefits, however, there are also responsibilities attached. Organization among ministers cannot exist without responsible fellowship. This means that what each minister does or fails to do will affect every other minister. We should all be accountable, submissive and respectful to each other. We cannot expect the blessings of fellowship if we do not shoulder the difficulties. Each minister ought to submit to provisions that he or she may not personally like. That is responsible fellowship. It is not always easy, but it is always best. Here are the basic responsibilities that fall to the licensed minister:

• Pay the required budget fee.
• Attend organizational meetings at every level.
• Sign the affirmation statement.
• Support the various divisions and fund drives.
• Speak positively about the organization.

The tests of time confirm the needs and benefits of organization. Actually, licensing expands a minister’s effectiveness and ministerial potential far beyond the level that he or she could otherwise reach. Also, not only does a preacher personally benefit from having a license, the ministerial body as a whole needs the strength of the organization to be effective. In our diverse and mobile society, organization ensures uniformity on major tenets of faith.


The Ohio District board has created this booklet in an effort to clarify the licensing process and explain each step along the way. We hope it will make the pathway easier to follow. We see a growing need for more men and women to enter the ministry, and if those who indeed have a genuine call of God on their lives are not hesitant or are not intimidated by the process, then this effort will have succeeded.

The ministry has its stressful moments and it presents great challenges almost every day, but the rewards are rich and fulfilling. In the end, there is nothing more satisfying than doing God’s will. If you feel a call into the service of the King, do not dismiss it as an insignificant notion. Fervently pray, diligently seek and willingly enquire of God what He would have you to do. If God wants you to be a minister, the United Pentecostal Church, International and the Ohio District stand ready to help you prepare and become qualified for your high, heavenly, hopeful and holy calling!

May God bless you in your quest to serve Him.


What Will You Do When You Stop Pastoring?

Part Two

How will my relationship with people I’ve known for many years change?  The rule of thumb is that whatever relationship you had as their pastor must now be filled by the new pastor.  All counseling, advising, directing and playing any official pastoral roles must come to an end.  You must now treat them as you always treated members of other churches.  You have vacated the place of authority in their lives.  This needs to be strictly observed and you should inform everyone of the new arrangement.  My predecessor, Fred Kinzie, used to delight in saying to any church member who wanted to counsel with him (with a hearty laugh and an exaggerated gesture of his thumb) “Next door down!”  Harmless social interaction, talking about the past or discussing generalities about the news or weather shouldn’t be a problem.  If any conversations go deeper than these levels, however, you should tell the pastor.  It is the pastor’s call if you should be involved from that point on.  

Two factors can complicate the relationship question: a) Family (both immediate and extended) in the church; and b) contractual-type associations with church members (e. g. business partnerships, shared properties, neighborhood associations, deer leases, etc.)  Even in these situations, the rule of thumb still applies.  It would be best to get out of any contractual relationship you can.  Also, you should not be naïve about the tendency for some people to manipulate or use your words for their benefit. If they can get you to opine about a subject that differs from the beliefs or preferences of the pastor, they can drive a wedge or create tension between you and the leadership.  Family ties need to be handled cautiously as well.  Talk is often much freer among families, and there is a real danger that thoughts and feelings may be shared that could cause serious problems in the church.  The relationship your relatives have to the church and pastor must be respected more than your blood ties.  All of these relationships must be handled with good grasp of ministerial ethics. 

What should my relationship be to the new pastor?  If you have ever worked closely with an assistant or an associate pastor, or you have served another pastor in a helping capacity, then you know all about multi-staff dynamics.  Ministers down a notch or two on the totem pole often engage in (mostly) friendly competition and maneuver for as much advantage as they can possibly get.  They want favors for their ideas, funding for their projects and positive reviews for their performance.  As the retired pastor, you have a unique role in that you have more experience than the Senior Pastor, but you have relinquished leadership authority.  You must not try to tacitly regain the leadership you gave up by veiled criticism, subtle directives or strategically withholding affirmation.  You are best served by serving the pastor.  Buy into the Senior Pastor’s ideas, give public compliments and become his or her greatest fan.  

While I am reluctant to share this, I am aware of several situations in which a retiring pastor brought in a new man who began to successfully energize and lead the church to growth and revival.  Rather than bask in the glow of success, the retiring pastor grew jealous.  Consequently, he orchestrated a coup and railroaded the new pastor out of his position.  In every case, the church suffered permanent damage and stagnated, shrank in size or folded altogether.  A true leadership crisis is one thing, but pettiness and jealousy must not overtake you.  You have no greater honor than to watch the church thrive.  It represents the good work you did to establish a foundation for growth, and it is a credit to your foresight to bring a capable person in to lead it into the future.  Remember, all the reasons why you retired still exist.  

Can I decline any preaching and/or teaching assignments in the church?  Any ministerial tasks you perform as a retired pastor must be voluntary, which means you have the option to refuse to do them.  It’s probably not wise to allow your name to be put on a regular preaching or teaching rotation, or you should not accept counseling, visitation or administrative assignments in a routine manner since it may have legal or taxation implications.   Otherwise, feel free to do as much ministry as you are asked or as you want to do.  

Should I still officiate at weddings, baby dedications and funerals?  The policy for most churches is to ask the pastor to officiate at all special occasions.  If you are asked by a family to participate in an event, you should always defer to the pastor.  If they insist that they want you, make sure they clear it with the Senior Pastor.  

I give this advice because there could be an ulterior motive for families to ask you instead of the pastor.  They may be in disagreement with the pastor on certain arrangements for the event and think that you would be easier to persuade.  It could also be nostalgia for your ministry or simply a lingering dislike for change.  If you permit yourself to go along with them, you may impede the transition process and be perceived as harboring mistrust of the new leadership.  The value of church unity far exceeds any fleeting ego stroke you may receive.  

What role will my spouse play in the new arrangement?  Beyond the transfer of pastoral authority, this may be equal to, or more important than any other issue in the transition.  I can’t speak to a female pastor situation, but for the typical male pastor, his wife’s new role must not be overlooked or minimized.  When he retires, so does she.  Her peace with the arrangement is critical to its success.  Some wives don’t feel they are ready for retirement when their husband decides it’s time.  She may have deep and ongoing interests in people she is trying to lead or disciple.  She may have responsibilities that she is not prepared to release.  If she is forced to withdraw from fulfilling ministries, she may feel like a limb has been amputated.  She undoubtedly has a prominent identity as the first lady and mother of the congregation that her husband may not fully appreciate or understand, but for her, it is her very life.  Findings strongly suggest that the psychological profile and sense of self-worth in a woman is based more on relationships than all other factors.  This is precisely where the impact of retirement delivers its most concentrated blow.  Thus, to ignore this impact is dangerous indeed. 

Whether you stay or leave will determine much of the future role of the wife.  If you stay, she will have to adjust to her new relationship with the Senior Pastor’s wife in addition to that of the congregation.  This dynamic will largely be a function of the personalities of the two women.  There is no way to predict the outcome, but the new arrangement certainly needs to be entered into with eyes wide open.  If you leave, then your wife will have to adjust to a much more personal impact of her loss of relationships, her familiar surroundings, her home and her routines that developed over many years.  Perhaps the subtitle question of this article should have been “What will your wife do after you stop pastoring?”  In observing how retiring ministers have coped with this situation, those who have focused on specific ministries, projects or roles have fared the best.  As we will discuss later with the minister, she needs a new focus in life; a new reason to live.  This needs to be deliberately managed and not left to chance.  

How will my family’s relationship to the church change?  The social reality for many churches finds the pastor’s family occupying a prominent position.  Many treat the church as if it were a family business.  They assume authority that may not have been formally given to them, but, by virtue of their parents in control, most members have accepted the arrangement as logical and comfortable.   With the entrance of a new Senior Pastor, the family not only loses that identity, they see another family move into the position that was formerly theirs.  One can easily see the caveats involved here.  All the players in the new arrangement need to be cognizant of these dynamics.  

In a preemptive strike against any trouble, the retiring pastor may want to bring in a trusted counselor to have a conference with the family.  This will allow family members a time to express their feelings and hear how they should handle the changing situation.  Regardless of how the subject is broached, it must not be ignored.  In addition, the new Senior Pastor should show great sensitivity in how the former pastor’s family is treated.  If these precautions are taken, a potential problem can be diffused and turned into a positive force in the future of the church.  

There is one thing for certain in the impact of retirement on both the spouse and the children: the personal relationship that each person has with Jesus Christ will become paramount.  Both the strengths and the weaknesses in the individual family member’s spiritual experience will be exposed.  Situations that may cause turbulence and confusion always find their ultimate solution in drawing close to God.  

How important is it for me to attend every service on a regular basis?  When you are at home and as long as you are able, it is very important for you to be in service.  You now have a unique role to play in strengthening the church.  Even though you are no longer leading, people will look to you for your reaction to anything that goes on.  Your positive response speaks volumes to the new pastor and the congregation.  

Don’t forget, your relationship with God eclipses any involvement you may have with the church.  One camp meeting speaker was asked by a visitor, “Do you get paid for doing this?”  When he said yes, the visitor said she wanted to talk with someone who wasn’t getting paid to be in the service.  To her, that meant more because it was voluntary.  Likewise, your church attendance should not change simply because your pay no is no longer determined by being in church.  

Should I still come to the office on a day to day basis?  This will be basically up to you, but the key is to be inconspicuous and non-intrusive.  If you have a hard time staying quiet during office discussions, or refraining from offering your opinion on critical issues, then it might be better for you to stay away.  If you do come in, don’t (for lack of a better phrase) bother the help!  Did you ever have an unwelcome guest come in right while you were in the middle of a huge project and get in the way?  If so, you have an idea how your presence in the office may be appreciated!  If you are capable of serious introspection, ask yourself why you feel a need to be there.  Now, it is someone else’s time to shine.  Step back.  It will be better that way. 

Can I volunteer any suggestions or ideas I may have for the new pastor?  If you are asked for your input, feel free to give it.  If not, you can suggest all you want to, but keep in mind that you no longer have follow-through authority!  Give your suggestion or idea and walk away—without checking up on it later to see what was done with your idea.  Whether or not it is implemented is not your concern.  A small tip may be in order here:  the more often you suggest what the new pastor should do, the less it will be appreciated or taken seriously.  If you do have something to say, determine whether or not it is of great importance.  If not, forget it.  If it is, pray about it and state it as succinctly as possible.  Actually, your compliments and affirming statements are far more important than your suggestions or criticisms. 

What can I do to make the best use of my time in retirement?  This last question brings us to the reason for this article in the first place.  Retirement is like a car:  just because the vehicle is not in gear doesn’t mean the motor isn’t running.  You do have energy and you still have capabilities for many tasks and/or missions.  Don’t turn that motor off simply because you aren’t going in the direction you have always gone.  Find a different road and keep going!  

My predecessor kept going for twenty-six years after retirement up until a few months before he passed away.  Some things were easier for him in his relationship with the church since he was my father-in-law and he could come and sit in my wife’s office without any awkwardness.  Still, he was wise in that he specifically mapped out for himself certain projects that he intended to do after his active pastoral years.  He wrote his autobiography, plus several other books that kept him very busy.  We also went through two major building programs after he retired.  He loved construction and so his advice and work (as a gopher!) was invaluable to me.  Other retiring ministers have made themselves available for interim pastoral assignments, special speaking engagements, visitation assignments, prayer ministries in the local church and other outlets for ministry.  Many have given themselves to teaching in Christian school venues, as Bible college instructors or have gone into missions work on the foreign field as well as at home.  The opportunities are endless. 

You need to plan out your post-pastoral life in the same way you managed your active years.  You may not know what you will do every day, but you need to have an idea which direction you are headed.  It is vital that you permit your vision to change.  Whether it is bigger or it is smaller, your vision will drive you onward.  Without it, you will perish.  Do not measure your value by what you did as a pastor.  That was then; this is now.  If you are only important because of what you used to do, you are now officially a has-been!  You can’t let that happen to you.  Retirement gives you the opportunity to re-create, re-envision and re-imagine your life.  In fact, who you are in retirement may actually become the defining years of your legacy.  

Today, you are a force for good; a force for God!  Your assignment as a pastor was short-lived (or so it seemed).  Now, the future beckons.  You and God have been at the drawing board for this stage.  It can and should be as exciting as the last stage. 

Retirement is not “Good-bye.” 

It is “Let’s go!”


What Will You Do When You Stop Pastoring?

Part One

If hours were diamonds and minutes were rubies, even the most foolish among us would guard them jealously.  Instead, they run through our fingers like water, as if we had an endless supply.  Yes, time flies, but it’s because we pay scant attention to how we spend it.  Tomorrow is often the curse of today, and nobody feels this more acutely than does the individual who wakes up one day and a strange presence in the room called retirement reaches out to shake hands.  For pastors in this predicament, the ramifications of this encounter can cause anything from a little nervousness to being scared out of his or her wits. Now what?  

So, let’s calm down, collect our wits and ask a reasonable question, “What will you do when you stop pastoring?”  The closer a pastor gets to retirement age, the more critical this question becomes.  Nearly everyone in the executive and professional world knows what’s ahead after the job years are over, but pastors are different.  The call and commitment of ministry does not just disappear, even after a conscious decision to step back from active ministry has been made and all the steps of transition have taken place.  The stamina may decline, but the inner compulsion to preach remains.  When that compulsion finds no release, feelings of guilt and frustration can be overwhelming.  In severe cases, depression may follow.  In addition, retiring pastors lose long-standing relationships with generations of families whom they have served, nurtured, counseled and loved over the years.  These seismic shifts in the life of a minister need to be negotiated with great care. 

In addressing this issue, I have several observations to make, and some possible solutions to suggest.  As we consider them, understand that the subject is too broad for every scenario to be covered.  Nothing we say here may quite fit; you may fall somewhere between the cracks.  I am sure, however, that most of these situations vaguely resemble, at least, the challenges of retirement that are common to all of us.  Please note that I will not deal with finances here, except in terms of some policies that impact finances.  Consult a professional if money is your main concern.  Beyond finances, let’s take a look at some of the significant questions for prospective retirees. 

Is retirement an option in the Scriptures?  Let’s begin with the whole concept of retirement.  Some have such a negative visceral reaction to the idea that their stomach turns over just hearing the term.  According to the Old Testament, there seems to be some precedent.  Numbers 8:23-26 says, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, ‘This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge.’” The Bible Exposition Commentary explains, “It’s probable that the Levites had a five-year apprenticeship before entering into the full ministry at the tabernacle, because there was certainly a great deal to learn. When Levites turned fifty, they were released from the more strenuous duties but were still permitted to assist the priests as needed.” Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - Old Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – Pentateuch

For some reason, we have a difficult time in letting someone else do the work that we ourselves are used to doing.  Our culture has deeply ingrained the work ethic within us.  We equate watching and advising with laziness and dereliction of duty.  If retirement means total cessation of ministry, then that feeling may be valid.  On the other hand, if retiring means that we simply perform tasks that are less strenuous, then the Bible has nothing to forbid it, and even seems to encourage it.  One commentator says, “How we struggle to hold on to power, long after it’s time for us to turn responsibility over to others. How hard it is to realize that the most important role for the spiritually mature is one of advising. It is more important to enable others to do God’s work than to do that work ourselves.”  Bible Reader’s Companion.

It seems to me, then, that retiring from active duty in the trenches of ministry follows the process of natural progression.  If we were meant to continue full bore until the day we drop, then there would not be a gradual decline of stamina, physical prowess and abilities.  Our activity level should correspond to the status of our physical being.  Not many of us would want the trembling hands of an eighty-five year old brain surgeon operating on us nor would we want a rather forgetful, aged attorney defending us in a multimillion dollar lawsuit.  The fact is that the scriptures are replete with statements about elders and old age.  I don’t want to be cynical, but I suspect that those who refuse to retire (long past the time when they should) do so for reasons other than their understanding of the scriptures.

Am I violating my call to ministry by retiring?  The particular ministerial role one plays does not validate the call of God to minister. As a young man, I had the call of God on my life when I worked in the youth group of the church my father pastored.  I had the same call as a Bible college student, as a young evangelist, as a youth pastor, as an assistant pastor, as an associate pastor and as a Senior Pastor.  The same call motivated me in the different jobs and positions I have held in organizational work, whether at the sectional, district or general level.  The call never became greater or lesser with any ministerial role I have had.  If I now function as a writer, an occasional teacher or preacher, as a guest speaker, as an advisor, as a mentor, or in any other slot into which I may be plugged, I still operate out of that same call.  What is the call of God anyway but a dedicated relationship to God?  The call is not a “job” or else the church would be frozen in some kind of caste system in which a minister is valued only by the position he or she occupies.  

The church is a “great house” in which there are many kinds of vessels.  (2 Timothy 2:20).  It is important for us to perceive retirement as the management and reallocation of God’s resources, not a demotion or devaluation.  Take the bigger view instead of the smaller, personal view.  Remember, it’s the house that is important, not the individual vessels.  God measures our worth by our intrinsic relationship to Him.  It is my obligation to be faithful to that overarching call. 

What title or role should I assume after my active years?  Moving now to the nuts and bolts of post-pastoral years, there is much angst attached to the title you will take.  I am inclined to say that it doesn’t make any difference, but that’s not really true.  Words do mean things, and if an incorrect term is chosen, it may have unintended consequences.  Pastor Emeritus is a term of honor given to those who have done a good job, but will have no further ties to the leadership of the church.  Senior Minister (not Senior Pastor) means that the person will stay on staff in some capacity, as a helper, minister of visitation, occasional pulpit or administrative duties.  The Senior Pastor will determine the activity of the Senior Minister.  

The term Bishop is given to the former long-standing Senior Pastor who is still seen as an authoritative figure.  The level of authority and the extent of involvement with the church must be specifically spelled out in the bylaws.  In most cases, the Bishop will turn over the leadership, the spiritual, organizational and financial program of the church and the day-to-day activities to the Senior Pastor.  The Bishop functions as a Senior Minister unless a major problem erupts with the Senior Pastor with regard to a doctrinal, moral or leadership crisis.  In that event, the authority of the Bishop is limited to helping the church through the crisis and securing new leadership.  (This is only an outline treatment of the situation.  It calls for much more detail than is given here.)  The Bible does define the role of the bishop, or overseer, but his role seems to pertain more to the church as general or world-wide entity rather than a local assembly.   

Should I leave or remain a part of the congregation?  This decision needs to be made before retirement and selection of a new Senior Pastor.  It may determine if the new person will accept the position.  There are many reasons why you would want to stay—family, finance, familiarity, friends—but the most important consideration is how you will handle new leadership.  If you resent change, if you have a hard time with someone else getting credit, if you believe that there is no better way to do things than the way you did them, if you have a critical spirit, then you should leave; trouble is definitely on the horizon.  Your new role is to facilitate the transition, not impede it.  

When you were in charge, you wanted good follower-ship.  Now that the shoe is on the other foot, it is incumbent on you to be the church member you always desired others to be.  It is amazing how difficult some find it to practice what he or she preaches!  Someone has astutely said age has nothing to do with maturity.  Prove that you have the same integrity and attitude in retirement that you had in active ministry. 

How should I negotiate pension benefits with the church?  Broadly speaking, there are a number of ways that a pension can be given, depending upon whether or not a church is capable of it in the first place.  There can be a percentage of the income designated for pension benefits, a set dollar amount, a range of benefits tied to the specific periodic income of the church, a lump sum given at the outset of retirement, or various other ways to structure a pension.  

Regardless of the end agreement, two things need to be clear.  First, the negotiating needs to be realistic and in good faith.  The church should not be expected to follow through with a program that will hurt its present and future operations.  Second, the arrangement should be very clear and known to all the significant persons in the church including trustees, board members and other ministry leaders.  These same people need to be kept informed of the pension payout on a regular basis.  

If I move away, will it affect any pension I receive?  First, let’s define pension.  According to the Concise Encyclopedia, a pension is a “series of periodic money payments made to a person who retires from employment because of age, disability, or the completion of an agreed span of service. The payments generally continue for the rest of the recipient’s natural life, and they are sometimes extended to a widow or other survivor. Military pensions have existed for many centuries; private pension plans originated in Europe in the 19th century. There are two basic types of pension plans: defined contribution and defined benefit. A defined contribution plan invests a defined amount each pay period. The individual may have some discretion as to how the money is invested. The benefit, the amount of the pension, depends on the success of those investments. A defined benefit plan pays a known amount according to some formula, but the amount invested in the fund may vary. Pensions may be funded by making payments into a pension trust fund or by the purchase of annuities from insurance companies. In plans known as multiemployer plans, various employers contribute to one central trust fund administered by a joint board of trustees.” 

It is clear that a pension is not earned income, but payment for a period of time in which active work was done.  Thus, what a retired person does or where a retired person lives has no bearing on the pension guarantee.  No further expectations are made of a retiree after the date of retirement.  As obvious as this should be, it may be necessary to include it in the bylaw that provides for a pension.  

Can the church reduce or deny any benefits it has agreed to give me?  As much as I would like to say no, in all honesty, I can’t.  Should the church fall on hard economic times, it may be impossible to service a pension agreement and still keep the church doors open.  But beyond that, in the event of future pastoral changes, someone may see the pension as a burden that can no longer be tolerated.  Whatever safeguards can be written into the contract should be done.  Contracts can be and have been broken, but any terminology should be included that make it much more difficult to do so.  One of the best safeguards is open knowledge.  The entire congregation should be apprised of a pension agreement.  This, by virtue of the common knowledge, enlists every member as a watchdog so that nothing can be done secretly without a general consensus.  

Can I still have some perks I enjoyed as pastor?  Anything is negotiable, but the whole idea of retirement is to scale back.  Keep that in mind in the transition.  Perks that don’t require cash flow, like a reserved parking spot, the use of an office or office equipment, shouldn’t be a problem.  Health insurance, expense accounts, professional fee reimbursements and similar benefits, however, may not be possible.  Perhaps the attitude with which you treat others may be a key component.  You should not have an entitlement mindset.  A humble spirit is always appreciated and often rewarded. 

Do I relinquish all authority or still retain some say in church matters?  There are four kinds of authority, according to the P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training) creator, Dr. Thomas Gordon.  They are authority based on 1) expertise, 2) position, 3) contractual agreements and 4) power.  Since you no longer have position, contract or power, the only authority you have left is expertise.  Yet, having so recently had these other claims on authority, you may still be operating with the mindset that you are in charge.  Actually, this question brings us to the sensitive core of pastoral transition.  To ask if you have any authority is tantamount to asking if you matter as a person any longer.  The technical answer to the question is yes, you should relinquish all authority. The “real world” answer is more in the category of “yes, but.”  It’s not necessarily that you want the final say, but you would like to have some input.  Wisdom dictates that a new pastor, out of respect and sensitivity, should consult with you about major decisions coming up.  But, even from a practical standpoint, then new pastor should understand that you have an invaluable historical perspective on church operations, plus you have intimate knowledge of people in the church and their personalities.  One word of caution from you could mean the difference between unprecedented success and unmitigated disaster.    

Lots of nuances get thrown into this mix, however, complicating the relationship.  For example, if you appear peeved, upset, irritated or disgusted at some new development, you will marginalize yourself.  If you become non-communicative, distant or stony, you signal your displeasure to the new leadership without providing a pathway to resolution.  If you share your negativity with others in the church, you can cause division and foment huge problems.  On the other hand, if the new pastor deliberately crosses you in an attempt to exert leadership authority, there are consequences to those actions as well.  As you might imagine, these prickly situations can escalate into insurmountable problems for the church and its future.  It may be too late to say this, but any incompatibility between the former and current leaders should have been addressed and resolved before the transition was ever begun.  If it shows up later, a private meeting to work things out is absolutely essential.  Even if no change in positions can be negotiated, bad attitudes must be changed for the climate and general good.  You may have to revisit the question about staying or leaving! 

The best model for treating your new relationship with the church leadership resembles your relationship with your married children.  All you can do is offer counsel and advice.  Then, you have to back off and let them make their own decisions.  You can try to pressure and manipulate them if you like, but excessive intrusion in their lives will drive them away from you.  Even the happiest of families have certain problems in which family members have to agree to disagree and leave it at that.  In fact, there can be no happiness without it.  Likewise, understand that change is inevitable and be content with what you have.  

Coming up in Part Two: 

How will my relationship with people I’ve known for many years change?

What should my relationship be to the new pastor?

Can I decline any preaching and/or teaching assignments in the church?

Should I still officiate at weddings, baby dedications and funerals?

What role will my wife play in the new arrangement?

How will my family’s relationship to the church change?

How important is it for me to attend every service on a regular basis?

Should I still come to the office on a day to day basis?

Can I volunteer any suggestions or ideas I may have for the new pastor?

What can I do to make the best use of my time in retirement?


Stay tuned!