Emotions in Worship: Part 1

by Kevin Hester

A Biblical Perspective on Emotions

Spike Jonez’ film adaptation of Maurice Sandek’s classic children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is a coming-of-age tale about the power of human emotion and the necessity of these emotions being governed by our intellect, especially in the context of human relationships. Emotions are part of who and what we are. They assist us as we interact with our environment. They help us to analyze situations and to communicate with others. Nevertheless, when our emotions run unchecked they can confuse reality and destroy effective interaction with others.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Christian worship. Christians have long been divided over emotional expression in the worship of God. From the traditionalists to the mystics, from the old lights to the new lights, different Christian cultures have grappled with the emotional nature of humanity. Emotions are powerful things that can drive action and in the end impact our theology. This is why I have chosen to explore this topic for the Commission for Theological Integrity. Over the next few days we will examine it according to Scripture and the Christian tradition. In part one we will look at what the Bible has to say about emotions. In subsequent posts we will study what it means for emotional beings to engage in worship and investigate some common misconceptions about emotional displays in corporate worship.

I admit that I have some trepidation in approaching this topic. I worry that some of you will think I am advocating something I am not or maligning certain “styles” of worship. At the same time I am passionate about applying what Scripture says to all aspects of our human experience, especially our worship. The emotional pull I feel, this conflict of emotions, is part of what it means to be human. Philosophers have known this for a long time.

Plato argued that the immaterial part of the human person can be likened to a chariot pulled by two horses. One horse represents our passions and the other our spirit – both of which speak to various aspects of our emotions. Plato argues that this chariot must be rightly governed by the intellect in order to produce true happiness. To extend his metaphor, our emotions must be tightly controlled but without them we will not get anywhere. Our emotions drive us and encourage us to do what reason says we must do. But philosophy is not the only place that speaks of our emotions. Scripture speaks to them as well

Biblical Principles on Emotions.

We were created as emotional beings. One of the things we learn is that we were created as emotional beings. I hesitate to point this out. It would seem a truism to say that all humans have emotions and that this emotional life is one of God’s creations. However, the stoicism of some would seem to indicate that emotions have more to do with the fall than creation. Nevertheless, we can see even in the beginning of Genesis that emotions were part of God’s creation. Adam’s disappointment with not finding a helpmate among the creatures is almost palpable and we sense his overriding joy when he awakes from his sleep and exclaims, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” It is for this reason that man was to “hold fast” to his wife.

  1. Emotions are good. Human emotions are an aspect of God’s creation. As such, they are good. In fact it was only after the creation of humanity that God looked at all He had made and pronounced it very good. However, even good things can provide an avenue for sin when they run unchecked. The Fall clearly impacts our control and interaction with our emotions for in chapter 4 we read of Cain’s anger at his brother. This is the beginning of Scripture’s discussion of the human need to sort our emotions. Our emotions can be inappropriate as in the case of Cain’s anger but they can also be appropriate as is his sorrow and fear in the face of his judgment. Our task is to reason between the two.
  2. Emotions are revelatory aspects of God and his nature. There has been a great deal of theological discussion whether or not God feels emotively. Early theologians said no arguing that for God to experience emotion would necessarily imply change. For the same reason, they argued that whatever constitutes the image of God in the human person it certainly does not include emotion. But if we stop there we miss something very important. Whether God experiences emotion or not, the Scriptures often choose emotional terminology to reveal aspects of God’s character to us. For example we read in Genesis 6:16 that “the Lord grieved in his heart that he had made man”. In Psalm 2 and Psalm 37 God laughs at the wicked. In Numbers, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah the Lord’s anger burns against his people. The fact that Scripture uses such images to convey truth means that our emotions are an avenue to understanding aspects of God’s character.
  3. Emotions must be controlled. No matter what we say about our emotions it is clear that they must be controlled. Though humans are emotional creatures they are not simply emotional; we also have will, and intellect. All of these aspects must work together appropriately if we are to honor God. The mind, will, and emotions are interdependent on one another. The emotions provide the mind with data for analysis and judgment; the intellect provides the emotions with direction and perspective. Ephesians 4:26 commands us to be angry but cautions us in our anger to avoid sin. The coupling of these two imperatives demonstrates the judgment that our mind and will must continually make in wrestling with our emotions.

(This series of articles has been adapted from a previously published piece in ONE Magazine)

 Part II of “Emotions in Worship” will post tomorrow.

A Solemn Appeal for a Serious Approach to Licensure and Ordination – Part 5

  (The following is Part 5 of a 5-Part series of posts adapted from Tim Campbell’s “A Solemn Appeal for a Serious Approach to Licensure and Ordination,” presented at the theological trends seminar at the 2014 FWB National Association Meeting. Readers who desire a copy of the full-length presentation can request this by emailing their request to fwbtheology@gmail.com)




The issues that have been raised are weighty and were written not only to precipitate a serious conversation about these matters, but to begin the process of designing corrective, biblical strategies. How we can implement a more serious approach to licensure and ordination?


A top-down approach is rarely successful among Free Will Baptists. My suggestion is that local associations should prayerfully, thoughtfully, and gradually implement changes in the licensure and ordination process. All comprehensive reforms will not materialize quickly. However, if someone does not begin the process, they will never occur.

With Consensus

There will be resistance if a move is made to change licensure and ordination standards. Some opposition will be principled and some will be emotional. While we will never achieve full consensus, I believe it prudent to secure broad support for changes. This means that there will need to be extensive, meaningful discussions on this issue and the peripheral ramifications cited in this work.

By Qualified Presbyters

No matter what you call your ordination committee (examining board, presbytery board, etc.); it should be comprised of men of God who see their duty as a grave responsibility and calling of the church. This is not to say that members have a permanent position on such a council. However, appointments to this council shouldn’t be shuffled around so that each minister gets a “turn.” As mentioned above, council members may need to reexamine or receive training in matters that pertain to true biblical ordination. Never let the novice or the unprepared occupy a place on the ordaining council.

Without Bias

It is my opinion that we often re-label issues of principle to “preferences.” When this happens, it is supposed to signal to all that this issue is undebatable. The modern view is that issues that have been downgraded to preferences are just opinion and have no substance. This is not always true. There is such thing a legitimate ethical reflection and discernment.

Nevertheless, genuine preferences can and do invade the ordination process. It is possible that an ordinand will be quizzed as to whether his wife wears pants, his millennial view, or anything in-between, but never asked to account for whether or not he is sober-minded or exhibits self-control. While I am convinced that many matters of propriety and belief are worthy of discussion, the ordination process must be kept biblical and never impose standards that are not required by or informed by Scripture.

There is also the danger of politicization. An ordinand may be related to a prominent churchman. He might be well-known to the examining council. But shortcuts should never be taken because of the fear of reprisal or due to familiarity. The process must be kept biblical.

It should be noted that this doesn’t necessitate total uniformity among associations. For example, some associations may stipulate that an ordinand be involved with a specific ministry prior to ordination. Some might require formal or informal (associational) training. Such stipulations would not qualify as a bias.

Under The Authority of the Body

I have emphasized the importance of a serious and qualified examining board. However, the importance of this council can never supersede the authority of the church body. In fact, when a candidate is licensed or ordained, a thorough account of his worthiness for ministry should be offered to the body for their prayerful, extended deliberation and approval.

Associational Ordination

Our Treatise reads:

SECTION I: His Ordination

A. The authority to ordain ministers has its source in the local church.

B. Free Will Baptist churches, in most areas, have traditionally delegated this authority to the associations in which they voluntarily unite themselves. This is done because the local churches desire the assistance of their sister churches and ministers [1].

Free Will Baptist churches, while independent, do not practice isolation. They form associations with one another in several levels of organization described in this chapter. It is to be remembered, however, that these associations are voluntary, both at the beginning and in their continuation. The local church remains at liberty to withdraw from the association it has voluntarily joined [2].

Voluntary association has always been an intricate component of Free Will Baptist polity. While maintaining the autonomy of the local church and upholding the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of the believer, most Free Will Baptists have always seen the wisdom and value of conference (association) membership on the district, state, and national levels. The reasons for these associations are numerous. One main reason is for the purpose of assisting in the licensing and ordination of ministers and deacons. J. Matthew Pinson in his book, “A Free Will Baptist Handbook,” describes the general process:

“How is a Free Will Baptist minister ordained? The process differs from association to association. When one sense a call to ordained ministry, his local church determines whether or not to recommend him to the presbytery or ordaining council of the association or conference. The minister must usually undergo a period of licensure for a year. To become a licensed minister, the individual must be recommended by his church and examined by the presbytery of his local association.” [italics mine]

In recent years some have trended away from associational licensure and ordination to local church ordination. The reasons for circumventing associational ordination will vary. As I have previously stated, the ordinand may not meet the qualifications that Free Will Baptist requires. However, some churches may ordain their own because of the anemic or superficial licensure and ordination process of an association.

Barring extreme circumstances, I believe there are good reasons for associational ordination. On the negative side, most local congregations do not have a plurality of elders (ministers) for an adequate and thorough examination process. Also, local church ordination, I believe, is much more susceptible to partiality and bias. The networks of relationships are close in local congregations. In some churches family structures are embedded within the church assembly. The potential for partiality and bias is high, though it may even exist on a sub-conscious level. Local power structures and relational subjectivity are less likely to occur in an associational setting.

On the positive side, associational ordination fosters uniformity in the ordination process. It also brings years of experience and expertise from multiple, committed presbyters to bear on the process of examination. When local churches utilize the associational presbytery, there is also an apparent level of transparency and testimony for them and their candidate that conveys that they are an island unto themselves, but welcome the accountability of the broader body of associational churches.


[1] Treatise of the Faith and Practices of Free Will Baptists, part 4, chapter 2, section 1 (A. & B).

[2] Treatise, chapter 3, section 1.

A Solemn Appeal for a Serious Approach to Licensure and Ordination – Part 4

 (The following is Part 4 of a 5-Part series of posts adapted from Tim Campbell’s “A Solemn Appeal for a Serious Approach to Licensure and Ordination,” presented at the theological trends seminar at the 2014 FWB National Association Meeting. Readers who desire a copy of the full-length presentation can request this by emailing their request to fwbtheology@gmail.com)


The Encouragement to Obtain Formal Education

For many denominations, formal education is a requirement. For Free Will Baptists, it is not. While there isn’t space to devote to making the argument for this requirement, we must awaken to the realization of what our Free Will Baptist forefathers knew well: the necessity of an educated ministerium. Does this always mean attending college? In the past, formal education was not readily available to many in our ranks. However, there was a perceived need for upward mobility for the clergy in many Free Will Baptists minds, particularly when it came to learning. Yet, the commitment to providing a venue for formal education was very much alive in our history. Our historical landscape is dotted with colleges with Free Will Baptist roots [1].

Currently, if a person is willing to sacrifice, he can obtain a formal Christian education that is thoroughly Free Will Baptist (residential or on-line). Still, if a person feels like he cannot commit to such a course, he should be committed to attending seminars, Bible institutes and conferences, and reading broadly. This should be encouraged and instilled in all those seeking to serve the Lord in ministry. The District, State, and National Associations should provide the means and venues for this training. Learning and education should be a natural, noticeable facet of the Free Will Baptist culture.

A Required Commitment to Confessional Christianity

Confessional Christianity is another essential ingredient to licensure and ordination. Jeremy Craft captures the nature and significance of confessional Christianity:

“Confessionalism is not a term used very often among evangelicals. The idea is often associated with strict, rigid doctrine that has been the source of centuries of theological division within the Church. This, however, is a misconception of what it means to be confessional. Confession is the means by which the body of Christ seeks to identify and affirm the main doctrines and teachings of the biblical narrative as Christian truth. This enables us to know, teach, and protect sound doctrine. ‘[Confession] is the watchword by which [the Church] is known,’ states David Wells, ‘Without this knowledge, it is bereft of what defines the Church as the people of God, bereft of the means of belief, worship, sustenance, proclamation, and service. Confession must be at the center of every theology that wants to be seen as theologia, the knowledge of God, a knowledge given in and for the people of God’…

 “This is the sole purpose of confession and has been the Church’s priority since her inception. It is why Jude exhorted Christians to ‘contend for the faith that was once delivered to all the saints’ (Jude 3). Paul charged Timothy to follow the ‘pattern of sound words’ and to ‘guard the good deposit’ (2 Tim. 1:13-14). He taught that it is by this means that Christians walk in Christ, being rooted, built up, and established in the faith (Col. 2:6-7). For this reason the Apostle John tirelessly reminded Christians to remember what they had received from ‘the beginning’ (1 Jn. 1:1; 2:7). The protection and establishment of this truth is a primary function of confession” [2].

Contrary to popular opinion, confessionalism is not divisive, but actually unifying. It unifies those with similar beliefs and enables them to see what degree of fellowship they can exercise with other movements. When a Free Will Baptist is confessional, he commits himself to a body of doctrine and practice that he believes to be the truth. In doing so, he becomes more than an enthusiast in a movement; he becomes a guardian of truth and an ambassador for Christ.

I believe that Free Will Baptist doctrine is the faith delivered to the apostles that they in turn delivered to the church. I believe that every minister should have the same commitment. Doctrine is not a necessary evil. Doctrine guides practice and therefore we are able to define our roles as Christians as well as ministers.

Where does a commitment to confessional Christianity fit into the ordination process? Every ordinand should be required to commit to the Treatise. It is our confession. If he cannot, then he should not be considered for ordination in the Free Will Baptist denomination. He should be charged that if he ever violates this oath and retreats from any doctrine or practice, he should voluntarily surrender his credentials. It also should be made clear to the candidate that if he is found in violation of any doctrine or practice, his papers will be rescinded [3]. This would strengthen our Free Will Baptist ministerium as well as the denomination.

Things Less Considered

Personality Problems

F. Leroy Forlines has perhaps been the foremost authority on personality among Free Will Baptists. In his unpublished manuscript “Understanding Yourself and Others,” Mr. Forlines explains, in effective detail, to difficulties that plague the human experience. It very well could be that upon examination the candidate may reveal or exhibit significant personality problems. Should this prevent him from seeking ordination? That should be answered on a case by case basis. Yet, if personality problems appear to be substantial, then this must be taken into consideration.

Additionally, the prevalence of such problems that congregants experience should be pointed out in the training process. It is unlikely that anyone can be fully prepared for the problems he will face in ministry. However, it is much less likely to be overwhelmed when there is an awareness and anticipation of difficulties that may be present ahead.

Upward Mobility

“Upward mobility” is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as “the capacity or facility for rising to a higher social or economic position.” Again, Leroy Forlines expands the use of the term in relation to matters of propriety and ideals. It should be explained to each ordinand that a minister is to be a sterling citizen of the culture of excellence and ideals. The man called by God should be suitable the office to which he is called. Manners, deportment, and culture should adorn the office of the minister.

This is not a popular subject and many will disagree about this matter. Though I am in the lower class of citizenry of this culture, I do sense the need for improvement. Radical informality, a fascination with popular culture, and a disregard for propriety has no place in the ministry.


I long for the day when Free Will Baptists take an involved and serious approach to ordination. If there is to be a bright future for us, we must. I am convinced that God still calls men. But I am equally as convinced that we have issued a call “that whosoever will may come.” While this is true as it pertains to salvation, it is not true to those who are to be considered for formal ministry. God has made it clear in his Word that only the qualified may serve.


[1] William F. Davidson, The Free Will Baptists in History (Nashville: Randall House, 2001), 289-303.

[2] Jeremy Craft., The Importance of Being a Confessional Christian, February 14, 2011, http://www.helwyssocietyforum.com/?p=127.

[3] Treatise, part 4, chapter 2, section 2.

A Solemn Appeal for a Serious Approach to Licensure and Ordination – Part 3

 (The following is Part 3 of a 5-Part series of posts adapted from Tim Campbell’s “A Solemn Appeal for a Serious Approach to Licensure and Ordination,” presented at the theological trends seminar at the 2014 FWB National Association Meeting. Readers who desire a copy of the full-length presentation can request this by emailing their request to fwbtheology@gmail.com)


II. A Return to Biblical Ordination

The Call to Ministry

In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the ghost of Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge’s deceased business partner, appears to him. While Scrooge is distraught, he doesn’t trust his own senses. The bitter old miser doesn’t believe what he is experiencing is real. He tells the ghost, “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” [1] It is not nearly as amusing to realize that, in many cases, the call to ministry has been reduced to no more than a peculiar feeling in the pit of a person’s stomach. Yet for many presbyters and congregants, this is all that is required to be considered for licensure.

I believe in a divine call to ministry. Paul told Timothy: “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” (1 Tim. 3:1, NASB). Martin Luther described this call as “God’s voice heard by faith” [2]. He believed there was a divinely-precipitated sense of leading. Charles Spurgeon described the call to the ministry as “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work” [3]. While God cannot be limited in how and whom He calls, there must be presbyters, endowed with God’s wisdom and spiritual discernment, who examine those who claim to have been called by God into ministry. They must be able to recognize the call of God upon a man’s life for the ministry. And, this must be done before commencing the licensure process. It would not be unreasonable to have a pre-licensure period for reflection and counsel with the person who claims God’s call on his life.

 Preparation and Selection of Presbyters

Dr. Darrell Holley once said in a chapel address at Welch College (then Free Will Baptist Bible College), “If you take the Bible seriously, you will find it hard not to be a scholar.” While most pastors will not be a scholar in the classical sense of the word, every man of God should be an ardent student of the Word. Every minister should be scholarly as well as pastoral [4]. There are different levels of intellectual abilities. God certainly does not always call the strong, the smart, or the influential, but has chosen at times to show His power through the weak. However, He does expect each minister to have more than just a cursory knowledge of His Word. There will be times that ministers should conduct intensive studies on pertinent passages in the Bible. It is my contention that ordination should be one of those occasions since ordination carries great weight in the church. Thomas Oden describes this importance:

“The received means of passing on an intergenerational ministry is by the laying on of hands with prayer by the power of the Spirit. This is a mark of apostolicity typically enacted ritually by the tactile laying on of hands in due order. It practice requires the due transmission of apostolic teaching. The act of ordination points beyond itself to the promise of transmitting the sacred deposit of faith to succeeding generations (italics mine), (2 Tim. 1:14; Irenaeus, Ag. Her. 3:4).”[5]

Many of the ministers who are called upon to serve on an examining committee or ordaining council may not have adequately grappled with the Scriptures concerning ordination. Yet the ordination of a minister is one of the most consequential events in Christianity. As mentioned above, district associations have little in place for the examination of an ordinand. Therefore, each district should appoint a group of ministers to meet each month to pray, study, and discuss all biblical passages pertaining to the Scriptural qualifications for a minister. The study should not only focus on the meaning of the passages, but on their practical relevance in ministry. Then, the ministers should devise an effective process for examination from the ordinand’s first petitioning to the end of the ordination process.

The Licensure Process

The candidate must usually be licensed for a period prior to ordination, often at least a year.

Treatise of Faith and Practices of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, Inc.

In my opinion, this is the most critical time of considering a person for ordination. While I have proposed a season of examination and godly counsel in regard to a person’s claim to having been called by God, I think that this period should be the most rigorous time of scrutiny. It should also be a time for training and advice from the presbytery. While this process will necessitate a substantial commitment of time and effort on the part of the presbytery, it is vital for the future health and life of the church.

If an ordinand is unwilling to go through this process or is slothful in his participation, then the examination committee should terminate the process. If the ordinand has trouble, but is committed, the committee should work with him and perhaps extend the period of licensure. Yet, the fact remains that if the presbyters see that the candidate is unable to meet the criteria for ministry, then they should terminate the process and counsel the person to reconsider this calling and redirect himself to another area of service in the broader ministry of the church. In my lifetime, I do not know of a single time this has been done. Nevertheless, this responsibility rests on the examiners not the candidates.

Again, I have attached the Free Will Baptist Mentorship Program as an example, a starting point if you will, to precipitate this process. It needs much more work and certainly can be improved, but it is a beginning.

The Accountability of Association

Free Will Baptist churches, in most areas, have traditionally delegated this authority to the associations in which they voluntarily unite themselves. This is done because the local churches desire the assistance of their sister churches and ministers.

 Treatise of Faith and Practices of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, Inc.

Local church autonomy is a vital component of congregational polity. This is why the Treatise emphasizes the free exercise of corporate volition in association. The Treatise is very clear on this point.[6] Yet, the language suggests the real need for not only the organization of associations, but for the accountability they provide. Even the Free Will Baptist Covenant alludes to this need.

 Having given ourselves to God, by faith in Christ, and adopted the Word of God as our rule of faith and practice, we now give ourselves to one another by the will of God in this solemn covenant.

 We will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together for church conferences, public worship, and the observance of the ordinances of the Gospel:

 To this end we agree to labor for the promotion of educational and denominational enterprises…

We can see that voluntary submission to one another through association is built into the fabric of our movement. Associations serve a valuable purpose in many ways. One of the most valuable is ordination. Through association, we preserve our doctrine, maximize outreach and benevolence, and create a means of accountability. In ordination, we call upon the presbyters of the association to examine the ordinand to see if he is qualified for the ministry, committed to Free Will Baptist doctrine, and see if he pledges to be supportive of denominational endeavors on the local, district, state, and national levels. By requiring a commitment from the ordinand on these issues, our movement would be much more progressive.

Many decry the decline of associational meetings. However, if we would emphasize the importance of the association on every level to the next generation who are seeking ordination, we could revive these conferences in our ranks.

It should also be noted that some churches choose to bypass the district association and ordain on their own. Some of the time it is because the candidate will not or cannot meet the qualifications required for ordination among Free Will Baptists. When this happens, the association should not recognize them as ministers or deacons. While they can be elected as a local church delegate, they cannot serve as one of the ordained. This would serve further to purify the ordination process.


[1] Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (Plain Label Books), 35-36.

[2]Albert Mohler, Jr., Consider Your Calling: The Call to the Ministry, Thursday, July 15, 2004., http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/07/15/consider-your-calling-the-call-to-the-ministry.

[3] Ibid.

[4] John Piper, D.A. Carson, The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor (Wheaton: Crossway Publishing, 2011), 13-17.

[5] Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology (New York: Harper One, 1992), 758.

[6] Treatise, part 2, chapter 3.

A Solemn Appeal for a Serious Approach to Licensure and Ordination – Part 2

(The following is Part 2 of a 5-Part series of posts adapted from Tim Campbell’s “A Solemn Appeal for a Serious Approach to Licensure and Ordination,” presented at the theological trends seminar at the 2014 FWB National Association Meeting. Readers who desire a copy of the full-length presentation can request this by emailing their request to fwbtheology@gmail.com)

Disregarding Scriptural Qualifications

There is a process that has been established for ordination among Free Will Baptists[1]. Most ordaining committees have a questionnaire that candidates for licensure are required to complete, which are them examined by the committee [2]. There also may be an oral examination. Usually, in the questionnaire there are questions that address the Scriptural qualifications for ministry. Answers may range from a few words to a paragraph or two. However, rarely is an ordinand required to give thorough answers to the questions. Many times applicants simply consult commentaries and give general, rote responses. Seldom are the specific qualifications for ministry found in Scripture considered with any depth. This is not only true of the applicants, but also the examiners.

When considering someone for ministry, the Scriptural qualifications for ministry should be given more attention than a common word study. There must be a thorough understanding not just of what the qualifications are, but practical applications of what they mean in the context of life and ministry. The gravity of this duty falls on the examination committee (presbyters). Again, quoting Dever: “As they have the charge of souls, and are leaders in the house of God, churches cannot be too careful in choosing men to the ministerial function” [3]. The committee who meets with the candidate should be fully prepared to spend a significant amount of time in conveying and exploring the significance of each qualification. This should be done from the perspective of knowledge, but also from the crucible of experience. The examiners should speak specifically about the gravity of each qualification and speak directly to the applicant about his ability to adhere to the qualifications [4].

For instance, it is insufficient to give the meaning of not being a striker.  Hypothetical situations born out of real experiences should also be discussed in detail with the ordinand. He should be questioned and observed. Does he lose his temper? Does he strike back under pressure? This is but one example.

Out of necessity, this will require that the period of examination will be extended. But these qualifications cannot be compromised. They must be dealt with in serious detail.

A Detached Licensure Process

The last point raises another issue in the licensing process. Most associations say they are “setting someone aside” for ordination [5]. Unfortunately they are literally “setting them aside” for a year or whatever time is specified. Frequently a candidate is licensed and there is little or no contact with him until it is time for him to be ordained. Consequently, the licensure period is meaningless and of no benefit.

This observable time is crucial to the qualifications for ministry. It is one thing to hear an ordinand formally pledge that he will endeavor to live up to the qualifications for ministry; it is quite another thing to observe him doing it. This means that the ordaining committee/council should have scheduled mentorship meetings with the candidate [6]. When time is spent one-on-one in mentorship meetings with the ordinand, and time is specifically devoted to observe him in various facets of family and church life, then there will clearer discernment of the candidate’s worthiness for ministry.

If there is a comprehensive examination period, members of the council will be able to see if he, for example, rules his own house well. They can observe his wife to identify if she is behind his move into formal ministry. They can observe if he is prideful. But they will not be able to do this without meaningful, extended, and purposeful interaction with the ordinand.

Radical Individualism and Heart Mysticism

It is my contention that Free Will Baptists have been significantly and negatively influenced by the radical individualism that grew out of the Pelagian views [7] rampant in the revivalism of the Second Great Awakening (especially exemplified in the practices of Charles Finney and his followers) [8]. William McLoughlin states,

“Finney considered himself orthodox according to the standards of reason and experience and he did not feel that any other standards were necessary or valid: ‘The fact is, unless [a minister] can preach the Gospel as an experience … his speculations and theories will come far short of preaching the Gospel’ [Finny]. This pietistic concern for personal faith coupled with the implicit reproach against a learned, speculative ministry epitomized the whole evangelical movement. After 1835, churchgoers and ministers alike dropped their preoccupation with theology and based their religion on ‘experience.’ ‘Experience religion’ or ‘heart religion’ as opposed to ‘head religion’ was the essence of modern revivalism from its outset despite Finney’s (and Beecher’s) Lockean claims regarding the reasonableness of Christianity” [9].

The result has been nothing less than a lack of emphasis of commitment to theological purity and a swell of unbiblical aspects of heart mysticism and radical individuality. Doctrine is intentionally or unintentionally set aside in favor of Christian experience [10]. Guinness explains this matter in a discussion on pietism: “Whenever evangelicals have an experience of direct, personal access to God, we are tempted to think or act as if we can dispense with doctrine, sacraments, history, and all other ‘superfluous paraphernalia’ of the church—and make our experience the sum and soul of faith” [11]. Of course, this is a heretical denial of corresponding essentials of personhood; of thinking (intellect), feeling (emotions), and acting (will) [12]. Inner experience becomes the final authority in a person’s life. Michael Horton points out: “Obviously, if the truth or importance of doctrine is determined by what we consider most useful for our moral improvement and religious experience, many of the most important Christian doctrines will lose their weight and eventually their saliency” [13]. In this approach, personal experience always trumps doctrine.

The prominence of this error is easily seen in the call to ministry, and subsequently in licensure and ordination. A particular candidate may not be able to teach, but he claims that God has spoken to his heart. He may not at all fit the qualifications that Scripture requires, but the general consensus of examiners is, “Who are we to tell him that the Lord has not called him?” His personal experience trumps any or all of the Scriptural qualifications for ministry. What the ordinand claims that God told him overrules what God says in His Word. This is a travesty, yet it is prevalent among Free Will Baptists. We must repent and return to strict, Scriptural standards for licensure and ordination. Paul warned Timothy: “Lay hands suddenly on no man…” (1 Timothy 5:22a, AV).


[1] A Treatise of the Faith and Practices of Free Will Baptists, part 4, chapter 2, section 1.

[2] There is an ordination guide and questionnaire available from the National Association of Free Will Baptist, Inc. at www. http://fwbpastor.com/?p=256. However, there is not a standard guide for the denomination.

[3] Dever, Polity, 120.

[4] It is the responsibility of both the ordinand and those who ordain to proceed with caution toward the rite of ordination. The crucial injunction to “not be over-hasty in laying on hands” comes from First Timothy: Oden, Op Cit., 102.

[5] Treatise, part 4, chapter 2, section 1, C:1.

[6] Timothy G. Campbell, Free Will Baptist Mentorship Program (Unpublished Resource).

[7] This is a reference to certain features of Pelagianism. One specifically is the belief that one is not affected by original sin and has the power of will to choose good over evil without the “interior action of God upon the soul,”: Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (second edition), (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 897-898.

[8] Ibid, 1029-1030.

[9] William G. McLoughlin, Jr., Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy Graham (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 1959), 66-67.

[10] Paul V. Harrison, “Pastoral Turnover and the Call to Preach.” The Journal of Evangelical Theology 44.1 (2001): 100.

[11] Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think And What To Do About It (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 38.

[12] F. Leroy Forlines, The Quest for Truth (Nashville: Randall House, 2001), 136-138.

[13] Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 99.

Preserving and Promoting Free Will Baptist Doctrine