RIALTO, Calif. (BP) — Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, challenged its 73 graduates during winter commencement to “take the Gospel to everyday people who are struggling with life.”
The seminary granted degrees and certificates to students from 17 states and four countries during ceremonies at Sunrise Church in Rialto, Calif.
Iorg told the graduates that if Gateway had shaped them to make the Gospel real to those who are struggling in life every day, then the seminary had succeeded in its mission.
“The Gospel is good news, and it’s supposed to produce joy,” he said. “The Gospel when preached properly will first bring conviction but inevitably bring joy.
“If you share something that only brings condemnation and distress, then you have not shared the whole Gospel,” he said. “I challenge you to share the Gospel as good news because you’re sharing the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.”
Among the characters in the Christmas story, Iorg said he is particularly captivated by the shepherds.
“These shepherds were recipients of the Gospel. They represent everyday people, working people, people who show up every day and do their job. When the Gospel was boldly announced, it was announced to them.
“These shepherds experienced the message of the Bible. They experienced the Gospel as good news, personified in a baby.”
Iorg reflected on what the shepherds did after the angel appeared, a choir of angels sang and after they traveled to see the baby and worship Him.
“They went back to work,” he said. “They went back to what they were doing, except they went back glorifying God for the things they had seen and heard. They returned to life with the Gospel. They were transformed by the Gospel and went back to work sharing the Gospel.
“As graduates,” Iorg told the new degree recipients, “you have a full circle responsibility to train others to take the message back to the culture and subcultures of the world.”
Griffin Harrel of California, who received a master of arts degree in educational leadership, gave the student testimony during the Dec. 15 commencement.
Harrel said he struggled for acceptance as a child because his father was in prison. Eventually, he found himself incarcerated as a high school student and thought he might be following in his father’s footsteps. However, he met Jesus while he was in prison and began a different path when he got out. Later, working for a church, he was encouraged to go to seminary.
“I found acceptance at Gateway, and I’ve seen God’s grace and redemptive power in every class,” Harrel said. “I could talk to you about the academic excellence I found at the seminary, the way practical application was offered to every theory introduced.
“What really struck me, though, was the amount of care the professors gave for students first,” Harrel continued, recounting one example of when a professor took time for a “double-double at In-N-Out Burger. I’ll never forget it.”
During the ceremony, the seminary awarded the Will Edd and Lila Fae Langford Award for Outstanding Doctor of Ministry Project Report to Brent Bond, senior director of chaplaincy for the North American Mission Board.