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Crews poses 4 last questions to 89 Golden Gate graduates

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Eighty-nine students from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary students received their degrees May 29 as the president of the Mill Valley, Calif., seminary challenged them to be 21st-century ministers.
“These men and women have come to Golden Gate and are now prepared to go out to the ends of the earth,” said William Crews to the graduates, their friends and families at the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in nearby San Rafael.
In a ceremony spiced with a Filipino anthem, contemporary worship choruses, a slide show and a Bach chorale, 50 students received master’s degrees, seven received the doctor of ministry and 32 received certificates and diplomas — some of them through the Ethnic Leadership Development program of the seminary, which provides basic theological training in a variety of languages throughout the West. The graduating class represented 19 states and six foreign countries.
Crews posed four “final questions” to the graduates.
“Over the years here, you are asked to answer many questions,” he said. “They are sometimes posed by professors or classmates or family members. You also asked a lot of questions, and we hope some of them were answered. But these are questions I wish I was asked early on, and I’ve answered them, most of them the hard way.”
He first asked, “Who am I?”
“We wonder why God would have anything to do with us at all,” he said. “But God knew who you were when he called you, and he called you to be you and not anybody else. I went to seminary with a fellow who, if you closed your eyes, you thought Billy Graham was preaching. But he wasn’t Billy Graham. God has called some insignificant people to do some very significant things. Just be who you are.”
Crews’ second question was, “What is my address?”
“When I was studying, the place I served didn’t make any difference,” he said. “Every place was the same. Then I moved from Brownwood, Texas, to Seattle, Wash., and I jumped several cultures. Ministry is not only different state to state, but sometimes across the street requires a different method. It makes a difference how people can be reached.”
The third question was, “What time is it?”
“That wasn’t important to me in seminary because time ran slower,” Crews said. “Churches and cultures didn’t change that much, but that’s not the case today. The day in which you minister will not be like today. It will change rapidly and dramatically.”
The last question: “Whose church is this anyway?”
“You know theology, and we all know it’s the Lord’s church,” he said. “But if you talk to some preachers long enough, you’d think that it’s their church. And if your church is going to be yours, it’s never going to be very big or very effective. When you leave, there won’t be much left when you’re gone. The fact is, you’ll do a lot better if you learn to give away your ministry to the Lord and to the others in the church. Folks are no longer going to be satisfied to be spectators.”
Crews said if the students have not answered these questions by now, they will sooner or later.
“God has a great and wonderful thing he wants to do in your life,” Crews said. “Let him.”
To graduate Lisa Hoff, who received master of divinity and master of arts in intercultural studies degrees from the seminary, Crews awarded the President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership at the ceremony. It included a statuette of an eagle and a $1,000 check.. Hoff has been appointed to serve with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in Asia.
Grace Wong, the first-ever student to earn the master of arts in church music degree from Golden Gate, spoke at the ceremony about her journey to Golden Gate from her childhood in Hong Kong to her rebirth as a Christian in Australia to her move to the San Francisco Bay area.
“The course that I studied has taught me how I could use music more emphatically,” she said. “I can use it to support Christian education or missions or pastoral care. I was amazed that music can be so powerful.”
She gave heartfelt thanks to her colleagues and teachers. “I had a chance to learn what theology is all about, and what I believe now is so real to me,” she said. “It’s not just the content they teach. It’s the lives they live.”
Master of divinity graduate Joel Stephens traced his journey from the arenas of the professional bull-riding circuit to the arena of ministry he now has as pastor of a church reaching cowboys in Las Vegas.
“I’ve begun to realize that life is full of many journeys,” he said. “I learned a lot about riding bulls growing up, and I studied with some of the greatest. But I also learned some bad things. I learned to drink and take drugs and abuse people.”
Though he stayed in the pros for 10 years, he lost a wife because of abuse, but they reunited as his days as a bull rider ended. Though she was a Christian, she was “not walking with God,” but over some months they started going to church.
“I realized that I could no longer be the master of the ship and captain of my destiny,” Stephens said. “Three months later I was in detox, and my associate pastor prayed for me. God delivered me from cocaine and alcohol.”
After being discipled, Stephens felt a call to the ministry.
“My new arena had no bulls and horses, but tests and professors,” he said. “I didn’t know how I was going to make it. However, the Lord put me in hands of loving friends and professors, and God placed me with my blessed wife. None of us made it through this journey on our own. We can only do it with the power of Christ.”

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