In what manner is someone ordained to the office of a pastor?


  • Author James Rondinone
  • Published June 4, 2022
  • Word count 3,411


If a Christian is called and qualified by the Spirit, has met the qualifications of the leadership office, and evidence knowledge of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, then in what manner should they be ordained?

Before I attempt to answer this question, I’d like to leave you with this story. Back in the early eighties, I was attending Bible school. At this time, my family was living in housing that was provided by the college. The accommodations were like living in a student dorm, except in each room, there were, instead of single males or single females, families. Some of them were made up of a husband and wife with no kids, others with a husband and wife with kids, and still others with just a father or mother with kids. Each family had only one room to live in. Breakfast and lunch were provided at this location in a cafeteria-type setup.

Over time, I got to know just about everyone in the facility except for the husband of one of the families. I remember his wife as she had aspirations to work on staff for the Bible college. Her husband had other intentions, and that was a desire to become a pastor. While there was nothing wrong with this ambition, many of the other males, including myself, thought that this was a pipe dream.

Why not, because he wasn’t sociable at all? Whenever one of us tried to start up a conversation with him, he was always aloof. It seemed like he didn’t want to be bothered to converse with any of us or even be in our company. This attitude of being non-sociable seemed to be the contrary attitude for someone who was wishful to be appointed to a leadership office in the church.

Well, the time came when his wife did indeed get a position to work in the administration. So, off she and her family went. After a short period of time, one of my fellow believers at the residence came up to me and said something like, you’re not going to believe this. To this, I probably said, believe what? Do you remember the couple whose wife secured a position on the staff and whose husband wanted to be a pastor? Well, he just got ordained as a pastor. When I heard this, I couldn’t believe it. This caused me to contemplate, what should be the protocol for someone being formally assigned to the office of a pastor?

Like many biblical topics, this is another one of them that has much-divided opinions. There are at least two distinct views as to the protocol for promoting someone to the office of pastor. The first states that it’s only those in leadership that will decide who to select for consideration and confirmation. The second states that it’s the assembly of believers who are given the opportunity by those in leadership to choose those that meet the qualifications which are expounded upon and then vote to approve them. After which, it’s the leadership’s responsibility to ordain them.

The best way to find out which approach is biblically grounded is to look at various sections of Scripture that pertain to this issue. Are you ready to begin? Let’s start by going to the first chapter of the book of Acts.

Suggested Reading: Acts 1:12-26

16-17 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

Just prior to the arrival of the day of Pentecost, an apostle was to be chosen to replace the vacancy left by the deceased Apostle Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Christ and subsequently committed suicide.

21-22 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

The Apostle Peter suggested that the replacement should be filled by someone who accompanied the original twelve apostles, beginning with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and culminating with being a witness of Christ’s resurrection.

23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

We’re told that two men were appointed, one named Justus and the other named Matthias. Right away, many questions surface. What do the words they appointed mean? How many men out of the one hundred twenty disciples that were abiding in the upper room waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit were with the apostles during Christ’s public ministry? How were the two men that were appointed chosen? What was the method used to determine which one of the two would take the vacancy left by Judas Iscariot? The approach we’ll take in trying to answer these questions is to look at the meanings of the various words according to Koine Greek, the original language of which most of the New Testament was written. Let’s see how much we can learn from using this approach.

We’ll begin by looking at the words they appointed. These words are from the Greek word esteesan, which is derived from another Greek word histemi, meaning to bring forward or to present. This tells us that the two disciples were brought forth before the group.

What condition was used to determine who would be chosen? As was previously stated, anyone who accompanied Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. Why were only two picked out? Commentators are divided on this. Some contend that these were two among many other candidates. And that these two men could have been more personally acquainted with Jesus than the rest of them. Other commentators suggest that these were indeed the only two who accompanied the apostles and Christ throughout His earthly ministry.

24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

And they prayed, or prayer was made to the Lord by the entire group of disciples asking the Lord to reveal which one of them should be noted as the twelfth apostle.

26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

And here is where there’s added controversy. We’re told that they gave forth their lots. What does the word lots mean? This word refers to the casting of lots. This was a common practice among the Jews and was incorporated on difficult occasions. The simple approach was to put two stones, pieces of board, metal, or slips of parchment, with the names of the persons inscribed on them, into an urn; and after prayer, sacrifice, etc., to put in the hand and draw out one of the lots, and then the case was decided.32 If this was indeed the process, then there it is, case closed. But, wait just a minute.

Did you know that there could have been a second avenue which is what we commonly call [a] ballot, [with] God inclining the hearts of the majority to ballot for Matthias?33 What does the word ballot mean? The word ballot refers to a slip or sheet of paper, cardboard, or the like, on which a voter marks his or her vote.34 So, here’s the question to consider. Was Matthias chosen by means of two stones placed in an urn or by the majority vote of the disciples? I don’t know. We’re not given a clear indication of either one.

However, there’s another word in this verse that might shed some light on this. And that’s the word numbered. Some believe that this word means added to. This is to say that Matthias was added with the eleven apostles. However, the literal definition of it is as follows. The word strictly means to [“vote down” or “condemn,”] but here it evidently means to [“vote in.”] 35 The UBS New Testament Handbook believes that this word means to choose (by a vote).36

Well, let’s not make a decisive conclusion yet based on one section of Scriptures. Are there any other Scriptures that talk about appointing or ordaining someone to a leadership office? Yes, there is. Please stay in the book of Acts and go to chapter 14.

Suggested Reading: Acts 14:8-24

10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

While Paul and Barnabas were at Lystra, there was a man that was born crippled, whom God healed by the intermediary of the Apostle Paul. The priest of a nearby temple that worshipped the god Jupiter Custos thought that this god had visited the city in human form; and Barnabas, he imagined was this person; and as Mercury, the god of eloquence, who was the general attendant of Jupiter, the people and the priest supposed that Paul, who had a [powerful,] commanding eloquence, was that god, also disguised.37 Therefore, the priest decided to offer animal sacrifices before the people in honor of Paul and Barnabas, whom they thought of as deity.

Subsequently, Paul and Barnabas intervened and persuaded the group to turn from these sacrifices unto the one true God. Unfortunately, there were present within the crowd certain Jews that came from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the contingent not to follow these directives. As a result, Paul was apprehended and then stoned appearing to be dead. When some of the disciples came and gathered around him, miraculously, he rose up.

Following this tumultuous event, Paul and Barnabas determined to leave Lystra and departed to a place called Derbe, where they preached the gospel and taught many disciples. After which, they returned again to Lystra, later went on to Iconium, and finally arrived at Antioch. The purpose of returning to revisit these cities was twofold. They wanted to ordain elders (pastors) in every church (in private houses) and strengthen the souls of the believers by encouraging them to remain faithful to what they had believed.

23a And when they had ordained them elders in every church,…

Here’s another example of certain believers being elected to a leadership office. In this case, it’s that of an elder (pastor). Although, in this instance, it’s more than just one of them being appointed. So, here’s the question to consider. What does it mean when Scripture says they had ordained?

These words come from the Greek word Cheirotoneesantes. It has a few different meanings such as, they had appointed; the holding up or stretching out the hand, as approving the choice of any person to a particular work38; to appoint without any reference to voting, and to appoint by the raising of hands.

Here are a few more descriptions of what this Greek word means. That they [those in leadership] presided in the assembly when the choice was [made, which doesn’t] mean that they appointed them without consulting the church…[but rather] in the usual way of appointing officers, by the suffrages [votes] of the people.39 Another meaning is that [apparently,] each congregation had the privilege of voting on qualified men.40 And finally, [there’s] indisputable evidence that the concurrence [agreement] of the people was required in all elections to sacred office in the earliest ages of the [church].41

It’s pretty obvious that the majority of the references believe that ordination to any of the church hierarchical designations, whether of apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastor-teachers, was made by those in leadership but not before the approval of such by the assembly of believers through voting by means of the holding up of the hands. While this avenue is still considered as supposition, we’ll consider this to be the path taken unless further study provides a conclusive alternative approach.

23b …and had prayed with fasting,… they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Scripture also tells us that they had prayed with fasting. When did this take place? It appears that prayer with fasting followed the declaration of those who had been chosen. I’d suggest that based on the order of the words, this appears to be a correct interpretation. Wouldn’t you agree? But hold on, hold onto your Greek horses.

The words had prayed according to Koine Greek are in what is called an aorist middle participle. Without getting into too much minutia, although we might have to get into some triviality, is the word Aorist. What does this word mean? This word refers to the tense (what kind of action) of the verb had prayed. This simply tells us that prayer took place at a point in time. The word middle (the subject produces the action and then receives it) refers to the voice (how the subjects are related to the action of the verb), meaning that those who prayed participated in the results. And finally, the word participle is a verbal adjective that denotes the purpose as to why someone is doing something or why something is being done. This helps us determine that the action of the minor verb or verbs occurs before the action of the main verb or verbs. Well, the minor verbs are prayer and fasting, while the major verb is ordained. So, what we can deduce is that before certain were chosen by vote, prayer and fasting took place.

And just who were they that prayed and fasted? Was it only the leadership? Or was it everyone in the assembly, including the leadership? This is a tough one. What do you think? If the choice of certain candidates was made by the assembly of believers, then wouldn’t they also be asked to participate in prayer with fasting? I’d think so.

23c …they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

After which, those who were chosen, approved, and appointed were commended…to the Lord. What does it mean that they were commended? The word commended means to be entrusted. And the word entrusted means care and protection. So, the newly appointed pastors were given over to the Lord for His care and protection. What this could have actually been was a proclamation prayer made by leadership in accordance with the presiding believers.

So, could there be any more sections of Scripture that might shed new light on the protocol of ordination? Believe it or not, there’s one more group of verses that talk about appointing certain believers not to the position of a pastor but to that of a deacon. You might be thinking, well, this isn’t a leadership consideration to church administration. That’s true. But if the circumstances are similar, then the path taken should be given examination. Don’t you think? Please go to the book of Acts chapter 6.

Suggested Reading: Acts 6:1-6

3a Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men ...

What was taking place in the early church was that the Grecian Jews (Jewish immigrants to Palestine – those who spoke Greek) were complaining about the native Hebrews (those who also spoke Aramaic and Greek) because their widows were overlooked in the daily administration of money and food. Consequently, the apostles came up with a suggestion to address the matter. They recommended that the brethren look ye out among you. These words are derived from the Greek word Episképsasthe which means to choose certain ones by the showing of hands from among the assembly.

3b …of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,…

But before these men were chosen, the apostles conveyed to the congregation the qualifications for consideration that should be recognized by their fellow brethren concerning each one of them. They were to be men of honest report (authentic testimony) and full of the Holy Ghost. The latter means that each one of them was being directed by the Holy Spirit and, as such, was spiritually minded. And as for the word wisdom, this conveys the skill associated with this post, i.e., proficiency in practical affairs.

And according to 1 Timothy 3, we can surmise that the credentials for choosing a deacon are similar to those aspiring for the application of a pastor.

1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

Instead of going over each of these particular aspects, what I’d like us to do is take a look at only one of them, and that’s the word proved. This word has a couple of interesting meanings. The first one is that they should be men who understand and hold [on to] the deep truths of the faith.42 And secondly, this word has reference to the general judgment of the Christian community as to whether they [fulfilled] the specifications set down.43

Acts 6:3c … whom we may appoint over this business.

And presumably, after the men were chosen by the showing of the hands of the assembly, then the apostles would appoint them. The word appoint is from the Greek word katasteesomen which is derived from kathistemi, and it means to put them in charge by the imposition of hands. This is another way of saying that leadership had the responsibility of putting their hands on each one of them.

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

What we’re told is that the whole multitude…chose these seven men. This would insinuate that each of them was nominated and approved by a majority vote.

Acts 6:6ab Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, …

And as we can see, prayer comes into play again. This begs the question, when was prayer made? The words had prayed according to the Greek language are, you guessed it, in the Aorist Middle Participle. This means that prayer occurred before the congregation chose and set (presented) the candidates before the apostles. Based on the context, prayer could have been made so that God would direct them with the spirit of wisdom and discretion to choose the best and most meet men. In that regard, it would seem to follow scriptural sense that everyone would be involved in prayer. Right? Any thoughts?

Acts 6:6c …they laid their hands on them.

And then we’re informed that when each man was presented before the apostles, hands were laid on them. This signified that the apostle’s hands were placed on each person’s head, indicating that they were appointed (put in charge) over the distribution of the alms of the church. The imposition of hands can also signify the commissioning and granting of authority44 along with symbolizing blessings from the assembly.

Well, there you have it. That was a lot to take in. But I think we could conclude that ordination or an appointment of certain believers to church authority was made by someone in the church hierarchy, but not before corporate prayer, followed by the choosing and subsequent voting on the candidates by the churchgoers.

So, where do we go from here? Another consideration that we should make in choosing the right church is recognizing what the duties are of those who are in leadership. Is what their life exemplifies in words and actions consistent with the biblical declarations of such. Let’s find out by turning the page to the next chapter.



32Adam Clarke.

33Adam Clarke.

35Jamieson, Faucet, and Brown Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005. BIBLESOFT.

WEB. 03 March 2020



37Adam Clarke.

38Adam Clarke.


40The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament.

41Jamieson, Faucet, and Brown.

42Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament.


44Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament/New Testament.

My name is James Rondinone.

I grew up in Massachusetts and began my own spiritual journey early on in life.

I attended Bible college, having completed a two-year Christian Leadership course of study, and graduated as valedictorian (summa cum laude).

I’ve written and published a number of spiritual books on various biblical topics.

These books can be found online.

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