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Emulate the Good Shepherd, Crews exhorts 60 GGBTS grads

SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–Church leaders should emulate “the Good Shepherd,” Jesus Christ, in their service to others, said William O. Crews, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Dec. 14 to a graduating class of 60 students from 25 different states and four countries.

“A good shepherd puts the sheep before himself and sacrifices himself,” Crews said in his traditional charge to the graduates of the seminary. “A hired hand doesn’t care because he is only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter. We’re not trying to fill the world with religious CEOs. Those don’t last long in ministry, so there’s no other example than Jesus himself.”

To be good shepherds, Crews offered three pieces of advice:

— Live with and among the people. “Yours is a calling, not a position,” he said. “You’re not above people. Most ministers, I’ve learned, are introverts. They like their space and being by themselves, but we need to be among the people.”

— Lead the people. “A shepherd leads his or her flock not with a whip or by telling them where to go. The shepherd goes before them.”

— Love the people genuinely. “Let them know you love them. If you love them, they’ll love you back more than you ever know. And if you love them, you serve them. Jesus laid down his life for his sheep. He really expects no less from us.”

Karen Ball of California, who graduated with the master of arts in worship leadership degree, was among graduates who shared testimonies at the ceremony. Ball said she felt out of place when she first started taking classes at Golden Gate. “When I came to seminary, I had only been a Christian for five years,” she said. “The students in my first class were the same age as my son. They were raised in Christian homes, and two of them were pastors’ kids. I didn’t fit the mold.”

She realized, however, there were others like her who came from different backgrounds. “God calls us from all over the world. I grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, but we were all Americans. Here, I studied with students from all over the world, and though each had a different life, we all have the same God. In these days when churches are targeting specific groups, I am learning that God picks people who are different and outside the mold.”

Also sharing his testimony was Duffy Deardorff, who completed most of his course work for the master of arts in theological studies at the seminary’s Rocky Mountain Campus in suburban Denver. Nicknamed the “Old Man” by fellow students at the campus, Deardorff said he felt slightly out of place when he began studying as well.

“I had been out of school longer than some of the students had been alive,” said Deardorff, who serves as an associate pastor and church administrator. “Some of the students made me sit in the front row so I could see and hear the professor. And I had fun telling young students that it took a long time to finish seminary.”

After 36 years in the oil and gas business, Deardorff said he helped plant a church in the south Denver area before he began to earn his degree. “Currently, I’m helping my senior pastor do what God has called him to do. I don’t know how much longer God will have me serve, but I hope he will find me struggling, striving and continuing to do what he has called me to do.”

The need for church leaders in the vast region of the western United States requires Golden Gate Seminary to train students in their own context of ministry, Crews said. The seminary operates three campuses along the West Coast, as well as campuses in Arizona and Colorado. Only the Mill Valley, Calif., campus near San Francisco is a traditional residential campus program. “Because the West is different, it affects not only what we do and how we do it but also the manner of how we shape leaders,” Crews said. “We’re looking to the churches on what kind of graduates they want.”

Golden Gate exists, Crews said, to develop leaders of integrity, passion, vision, creativity, courage, wisdom and relational competency. “If you’re like me,” Crews said, “I’d want a leader that had those seven qualities, and we believe those graduating here are those kind of folks.”

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