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Cell phone call interrupts NOBTS graduation service

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–God “called” during the spring commencement service at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary May 21 as 200 candidates for graduation and their 1,500 friends and family members watched in amazement as seminary president Chuck Kelley stopped his annual commencement address to answer his cell phone — not once, but three times.
After stating he did not know “a better, more exciting, thrilling, glorious, wonderful way to spend your life than in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Kelley’s cell phone rang.
“I’ve been told to tell you the whole story,” Kelley said, after acknowledging his call from “The Boss.”
While the ministry is wonderful, it is not easy, Kelley said. In fact, “It may never have been more difficult to be a minister of the gospel than it is today.”
At this time, “one of the most risky, challenging, difficult, dangerous ministry lives you could ever have is that of being a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Kelley said, as more people have died as martyrs for the Christian faith in the 20th century than in all the other centuries of the church put together.
While the ministry is an exciting and wonderful calling, “more than 70 percent of our Southern Baptist churches are plateaued or declining, and about 10,000 of our churches baptized zero last year.”
Therefore, the great task of the graduates will be to re-energize “that sleeping giant” and help congregations to learn to grow again. Kelley described the task of changing the character and nature of an organization’s personality as the most difficult task in any form of human organization.
Again the cell phone rang.
“I’ve been reminded of something I need to share with you today,” Kelley said. While ministry has never been tougher than now, “God knew that when he called you out. He knew what you were going to face. He knew the challenges you were going to have.”
And although ministry is very challenging and difficult today, “it has always been so,” such as for the Apostle Paul, who suffered through shipwrecks, imprisonment and beatings; refereed church fights; and started churches where the gospel had never been preached before.
“All through Scripture we are reminded that those who stand for the Lord Jesus Christ, those who call people to repentance and faith, those who challenge Christians to live godly, caring lives always have their own lives challenged,” Kelley said. “But God is not going to expect anything more of you than he has expected of all those who have served him in years gone by, nor is he going to expect anything less.”
Ministers today are called to make the same kind of commitment and to be willing to pay the same kind of price, he said. “You may not have to stare down lions in an arena, but you may have to stand tall and strong with a church that doesn’t share your vision of reaching a community for Jesus Christ. You may not be hauled before a court and told it’s illegal to profess your faith, but you may be challenged that it’s no business of yours how people live their lives.”
Again the phone rang. This time Kelley was told by “The Boss” to let graduates know something “The Boss” continually has to remind him of: While ministry is hard, “there will always be people out there who are kind and generous and thankful that you are doing what you are doing. There will always be people out there who will be your encouragers.”
Kelley urged the graduates to remember that although they may be called upon to pay a great price, “God has already paid a greater price.”
And never forget that he is “The Boss.”

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  • Debbie Moore