The ordination process for an aspiring Baptist minister involves prayer, counseling, and advice from Baptist elders. It also involves an approval process by the denomination or the local Baptist church. The requirements for ordination as a Baptist minister vary from one Baptist denomination or local church to another. Each denomination or local church determines how its ministers are licensed and ordained.
Ordination Starts with the Local Baptist Church
Baptist churches can be fiercely independent. Even churches that join together as a denomination retain a great deal of local control. If you want to be a Baptist minister, you have to start with your local church. For certain Baptist denominations, that's as far as it goes; the local church ordains you, and the rest of the denomination recognizes that ordination. For other Baptist denominations, the local church is only the beginning of the ordination process.
The Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention makes it clear that, as a collective body, they do not ordain anyone. Southern Baptist ordination is strictly a local decision. Southern Baptist Churches can decide whether to require that their pastor be ordained or not. In Southern Baptist churches, the deacons and pastor often control the ordination process. They may require the candidate to have a bachelor's degree in ministry, or they may require seminary training at the master's level. Others may not require a degree at all.
The American Baptist Church
For the American Baptist Church, ordination is both a local and regional concern. The local American Baptist churches ordain ministers, but regional officers in the church choose whether or not to recognize the minister's ordination. If the regional officers recognize the candidate, the candidate then is authorized to minister in any American Baptist Church within that particular organizational region. Regional ordination standards vary from one region to another.
Free Will Baptists
Free Will Baptists believe the local church has the authority to ordain. In practice, Free Will Baptist churches often will cooperate on ordination. As a group, they will delegate ordination oversight to a particular delegated or elected body. Free Will Baptists usually license ministers for one year, after which the candidate is evaluated for ordination. If the church or the delegated body approves the candidate, the candidate will be ordained. Free Will Baptists may or may not require educational degrees as part of the ordination requirements.
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