The Problem with Commissioning Services

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Several churches hold commissioning services in September as a way to acknowledge, bless, and celebrate those who are involved in leadership roles within various church programs. It's a way to acknowledge that they too are involved in 'ministry'. This is often the only recognition within a church setting of a group of people who are 'set apart' to become engaged in 'ministry'.

We seem to have lost that Reformed notion that every sphere of our lives belong to God—that all of us are called to ministry. Some congregations create a special fund to provide support for those who feel called to the ministry: i.e. those on a pre-seminary track that will lead to ordination as a pastor.

If we truly believe that we are all called by God to our specific professions, careers, and endeavors, then we should equally support those who feel called to enter law school, or pursue a career in accounting, teaching, farming, business, or entrepreneurship.

A commissioning service, therefore, should include every person within the congregation—perhaps by profession or occupation—from student to aging retiree. All are called by God to dedicate their lives and their occupation for service to God. A praying 80-year-old is as important as a preaching 30-year old; a corporate CEO is as involved in ministry as the custodian or teacher or factory worker.

There should be no room in our local church structure for a 'ministry hierarchy'; certainly no room for delusions of grandeur. Church ministry staff don't have the corner on the Great Commission. That's our task, collectively, as the body of Christ. A commissioning service that focuses on inclusion rather than exclusion will capture the essence of what it means to be Reformed.

What do you think?

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What if we viewed more events in the Christian life as commissioning services? What if, rather than scrapping the idea of commissioning people altogether, we emphasized in other events how we are being sent. We could incorporate acknowledging, blessing, and celebrating into baptism, profession of faith, graduation and regular celebrations of communion. 

Perhaps we don't stop commissioning elders and missionaries, pastors and mission teams but rather acknowledge the significance of these moments of sending. Significant parts of a significant life.