Since the time our children were babies, we have always gathered together as a family and prayed together before bed. But from the time they were able to talk, that prayer time has always been preceded by us simply talking together. It always starts with the simple "So how was your day?" kind of conversation; but from there it has often taken wild flights of hilarity. This is likely because, while we have always demanded purity of life and behavior from our children, we have also always encouraged them to be adventurous, inquisitive and unique.
And yet somehow I was still shocked when "Wait, what? You didn't know I got ordained?" came spilling out of my youngest daughter's lips recently.
After calming her peals of laughter, she finally managed to tell us that story. As it turns out, when she was in the eighth grade in some computer lab, an ad popped up on her screen, an ad for a site that would quickly and easily ordain a person to the ministry. Of all the people for that to pop up to, my lightning-in-a-bottle youngest progeny would be the surest choice in all of humanity to immediately think "sure, why not, this ought to be fun!"
Within five minutes she had her "certificate of ordination" printed out and stored safely in her book bag.
"Babe," I said, "are you seriously telling me there is a site out there that will 'ordain' eighth-graders to the ministry?"
"Well, I may possibly have lied just a little bit about my age," she replied.
Now, we are the traditional, orthodox, biblical literalist types when it comes to ministerial requirements, so please hold off on that hate mail from the right. And we make no apologies for that stance, so please spare the hate mail from the left as well. My point in all of this is not to make any kind of a statement about gender and ministry, or even about age and ministry. I am just thoroughly intrigued that though my daughter thought it would be a great joke to see if she could trick some internet ministerial paper mill into "ordaining" her, somewhere out there are people who actually believe that is acceptable and sufficient.
I was ordained at 27 years of age, after 15 years of preaching in nursing homes and prisons and other various places, and after four years of Bible college. I went on to get four more years of training from a small but thorough school and earned a Th.D., which I hung on the wall of my office and have largely ignored ever since. Mostly because, like most pastors, I have learned far more by being in the ministry than by being trained for the ministry.
When I think back to those early years, I often cringe at the stupidity I exhibited in some of my preaching and thank God regularly that there was not such a thing as the internet back then. I also thank God, though, that there were people all along the way telling me not to take any shortcuts. I do not think for a moment that everyone with less training than I have is somehow unqualified; I am not the standard for anything. And my motivation for this column actually has just a small amount to do with ministry. My greater focus is on our "shortcut generation" that often produces accolades without abilities, and style without substance.
One of my other "unique" children messed with our GPS a few years ago when we were heading to Georgia. Unbeknownst to us, he set it for "shortest route." And mile-wise, yes, it was the shortest route by a good bit. It also took us an hour longer to get to our destination, everyone was carsick by the time we arrived, and I am pretty sure I heard banjo music along the way.
Whatever it is that you do in life, there is a biblical formula for success that basically goes as follows: Do everything the right way, even if it takes a lot longer. In 2 Samuel 6, David determined to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem on a new cart. That was the quickest possible way to do the job. It was also a disaster, and a man named Uzzah died in the effort. Shortly thereafter, David determined to do it the way it was always supposed to be done, by having the Levites carry it on rods placed on their shoulders. That was the slowest possible way to do the job. This was 3 miles or more of four men walking in tandem with a very heavy weight on their shoulders. But that effort was entirely successful.
There are no shortcuts to the things that matter. So entirely jettison any thought of always doing everything the easiest way possible. Always think instead in terms of doing everything the right way, no matter how long it takes. Others may get out of the gate before you; they may even arrive at the destination before you. But you will actually know what you are doing when you arrive and will not have to spend your life redoing all of the things you messed up in heedless haste.
This is a good column. I know that because my ordained daughter said so. And if you can't trust someone who lied about her age and got ordained over the internet in the eighth grade, whom can you trust?
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at email@example.com.