Reflections on Twenty-Five Years of Ordained Servant

Gregory E. Reynolds

Ordained Servant was born in January 1992, twenty-five years ago next month. It was “Vol. 1, No. 1,” with an engraving of John Calvin on the cover. This set the tone for the next quarter of a century. It was published by Pleroma Press in Carson, North Dakota, a little over an hour away from Bismarck, where J. Gresham Machen went to be with his Lord. The publication was directed by three members of the Committee on Christian Education, Dr. James Gidley, Mr. David Winslow, and Rev. Larry Wilson. An annual subscription was $12 per year.

The editor, G. I. Williamson, announced that “Ordained Servant will be published from two to four times a year in the present format.” In fact, after publishing three issues in its first year, the journal was published quarterly for the next twelve years. The only year that saw only two issues was the final year of Mr. Williamson’s editorship, 2005. Here is the first table of contents:

Introducing Ordained Servant, by the Editor
Taking Action in Time, by Rev. Thomas E. Tyson
How to Get Started, by the Editor
Taking Heed to the Flock (1), by Dr. P. Y. De Jong
The Diaconal Task, by Dr. C. Van Dam
The Deacons (from The Ecclesiastical Ordinances), by John Calvin
The Forms

Here is editor Williamson’s sagacious introduction:

Introducing Ordained Servant
G. I. Williamson

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift … And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (NKJV Ephesians 4:7 and 11–12).

In September of 1989, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Committee on Christian Education appointed a special subcommittee with the title and task of “Equipping Ordained Officers.” This issue of Ordained Servant, mandated by the entire committee in September of 1991, is the first tangible result of that appointment. The immediate aim is to provide materials to help in the training and effective functioning of the elders (both teaching and ruling) and the deacons of our church. But in a sense Ordained Servant is a means to a more important end. For, as the above quoted text clearly shows, God’s purpose in giving his church ordained servants does not end with their being well equipped. Quite the contrary, in fact, because their calling is to equip the saints for the work of ministry as believers. It is only when both of these become a reality in the church—only when there is “the effective working by which every part does its share”—that we can expect to see the kind of growth that brings glory and honor to God.

The American church is enamored with methods—yes, and even gimmicks—that seem to promise numerical growth in the church. But let us put the question quite bluntly: what is the use of numerical increase when the church is not functioning “according to the effective working by which every part does its share” which, in turn, “causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love”? The answer is that you have an even greater monstrosity. We believe the biblical view of church growth is quality first, and then increase in numbers. On the American scene it is too often quantity first, and then (much later on, if at all) quality. And, to be honest, our own churches are not all that they ought to be either. Can any honest person evade this? To answer that question ask yourself another: is there all that much difference between the way our people live and the way their people (the members of the liberal church on the next street) live? Can we honestly say, without hesitation, that the elders of Orthodox Presbyterian congregations are faithfully exercising oversight of the flock according to biblical standards? At the very least we should be willing to admit that we can—and must—do much better. It is this conviction that motivates the production of this journal.

We (the editor, and the editorial oversight committee) are aware of the difficulty of the task we are undertaking, but willing to do it because we sincerely believe the need is urgent. The exaggerated individualism of many, if not most, Americans today—even in the soundest Reformed churches—presents a difficult problem. How are we going to convey to the people of God a respect for authority, a respect that has so sadly diminished? How are we going to bring it about that, once again, membership vows will be awesome and sacred to our members? We will only see these deficiencies remedied if, first of all, the proficiency and diligence of the ordained servant is uplifted. So in this journal it will be our intention to point the way to more effective leadership by elders and deacons.

We do not intend to make this journal a forum for the invention of new ideas. We have too many of these already. But neither will we baptize the status quo as automatically holy. Further, we do not intend to use this journal to promote a partisan viewpoint, such as the  two- or three-office view as exclusively legitimate. Our task, as we perceive it, is much more important. We want to find the best material written—old or new—to help all who are, and all who aspire to be, ordained servants.

This periodical is yours—the Lord’s (present and future) ordained servants in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church—and your comments and contributions are welcome.

One of the features that we plan to include in future issues, therefore, is a Question and Answer page. Here is a little sample. We received a letter from a young pastor a few weeks ago, asking this question: “Should a ‘hospital baptism’ by a Roman Catholic nurse— performed when she feared an infant was about to die—be accepted as valid?” Our answer was as follows. “No, we do not think it should be. There is at least one instance in the Scriptures, of what could be called a private baptism (Acts 8:26-40). But it is important to note that, even in this instance, the one who administered this baptism was an office-bearer in the church, and the church in which he was an office-bearer was in genuine submission to the Word of God. It may have been just such biblical teaching that led the Westminster Assembly to insist that neither baptism or the Lord’s supper ‘may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained’ (Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 27. sec.4). This reason, alone, would seem to us to disqualify the nurse’s act. Furthermore, for baptism of infants to be valid they must be children of parents that the church acknowledges, at the time, to be true believers. It is extremely doubtful, to say the least, that this essential qualification was accounted for in the nurse’s unilateral decision to act as she did.”

Some questions will undoubtedly stump us. But when this happens we intend to seek the wisdom of others. We also welcome your wisdom. If you have an insight that you believe to be truly biblical, and helpful in strengthening other office-bearers in the church, please send it to us. We cannot promise to use everything that is sent, but we will give everything that is sent to us our serious consideration.

You are invited to send any questions that you may have—and/or any other material that you may wish to have considered for inclusion in Ordained Servant—to the editor, whose address is listed above.

“As Christ is the only head of the Church, it follows that its allegiance is to him, and that whenever those outside the Church undertake to regulate its affairs or to curtail its liberties, its members are bound to obey him rather than men. They are bound to resist by all legitimate means such usurpations and to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free. They are under equal obligation to resist all undue assumption of authority by those within the Church, whether it be by the brotherhood, or by individual officers, or by Church councils or courts. The allegiance of the people terminates on Christ. They are to obey others only so far as obedience to them is obedience to him.” — Charles Hodge

Among the themes the first editor promoted, was a concern for the “exaggerated individualism” in American culture and the ways it weakens the Reformed church. Along with the specific goal of providing “materials to help in the training and effective functioning of” church officers, Ordained Servant seeks to explore the aspects of American culture that present a direct challenge to the health of the church and its leadership. As its second editor I have sought to further examine the ways that American culture disciples its citizens, especially as a technological society. I articulated this in my first editorial in 2006:

It is also my conviction that officers need to understand more deeply the battlefield on which we find ourselves engaged in a fierce conflict. So I hope to include thoughtful analyses of different aspects of our culture, so as to better minister within it and to it.[1]

In order to overcome the default nature of our fallen humanity, the renewal of our minds prescribed by Paul in Romans 12:2 requires a critical awareness of our environment. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Long before the Industrial Revolution, the idolatrous tendencies embedded in all fallen cultures have required Christians to test or discern our culture’s temptations and blessings in order to navigate our environment wisely.

But because God has also given many blessing on common culture by his common grace, I have sought to develop an awareness of poetry and fiction as means of cultivating the general intellectual and spiritual lives of officers. As to the particulars of training and nourishing church officers, I continue to be committed to what I first promised:

I will continue building on G. I.’s pastoral and confessional themes, as these form the core of our focus. As a church planter, I have grown to appreciate the importance of sound doctrine, worship with reverence and awe, passionate expository preaching, and the training of gifted elders who fulfill their pastoral callings. The latter is the key to implementing everything else.[2]

A bedrock commitment of Ordained Servant is an Old School obligation to our confessional standards. In 2006 I set forth J. Gresham Machen as a model of ministry: “Machen is particularly useful because he lived in the same world we inhabit. He excelled in understanding the modern world and engaging it from a distinctly confessional perspective.”

I hope to continue with these basic planks in the platform of this journal. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome as they have formed a serious part of the development of Ordained Servant over the past quarter of a century. May the Lord bless us with continued faithfulness to his Word and his church.


[1] Gregory Edward Reynolds, “Galvanized Iron: A Tribute to G.I. Williamson for His Pioneering Work on Ordained Servant,” Ordained Servant 15 (2006): 7; http://opc.org/os.html?article_id=4.

[2] Ibid.

Gregory E. Reynolds serves as the pastor of Amoskeag Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Manchester, New Hampshire, and is the editor of Ordained Servant. Ordained Servant Online, December 2016.

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Contact the Editor: Gregory Edward Reynolds

Editorial address: Dr. Gregory Edward Reynolds,
827 Chestnut St.
Manchester, NH 03104-2522
Telephone: 603-668-3069

Electronic mail: reynolds.1@opc.org

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Ordained Servant: December 2016

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Also in this issue

Geerhardus Vos: Professor at the Theological School in Grand Rapids

Six Anti-Church Evangelical Trends

ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set

The Epistle to the Romans by Richard N. Longenecker

An Unlikely Witness: A Review Article

I Syng of a Maiden

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