RIVERSIDE, Calif. (BP) — President Jeff Iorg charged Gateway Seminary graduates Dec. 17 to “walk out of this commencement with the knowledge that God loves everyone — every single person in the world.”
Sixty-nine students received diplomas and degrees, including 38 diplomas, 15 master’s degrees and 16 doctorates. The seminary’s winter commencement was held at Magnolia Church in Riverside, Calif.
As part of his message, Iorg shared personal encounters from early in his ministry which helped him discover his callousness toward seemingly unlovable people. He recalled judging one unkempt, slovenly dressed woman and then reported, “I don’t often claim to hear the voice of God, but that day this message came clearly to me: ‘She’s beautiful enough that I gave my son to die for her sins.'”
He reminded the audience that God loves everyone, no matter their economic status, nationality, political persuasion or how sinful they are.
“God loves ugly people; God loves dirty people; God loves every person in the world,” he said. “Most amazingly, God loves you; He loves you enough that He sent His Son to die for you. So you have to ask yourself ‘how do I demonstrate the love of God to others?'”
Iorg challenged graduates to accept others where they are, reach them where they are, meet needs where they find them and to share the Gospel with incredible frequency.
He said more than 9,000 Gateway Seminary graduates are now “touching the world with the love of Jesus Christ.” He introduced Michael Clements, pastor of First Baptist Church, Floresville, Texas, who received a doctor of ministry degree. Clements was one of the first responders to the horrific November shooting at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Hills, Texas.
Zach Edwards, who was also awarded a doctor of ministry degree, received the William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award for his “effective leadership in church planting in Wyoming.” Edwards, a former Ouachita University football player, serves Wyoming Southern Baptists as church planting catalyst for the North American Mission Board.
Carney Lucas, a D.Min. graduate from Washington, shared his experience as both a student of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (the seminary’s former name) and now a Gateway student. Lucas formerly graduated with a master of divinity degree when the seminary’s primary campus was in Mill Valley, Calif.
“Professors at Golden Gate and now Gateway make it a priority to forge relationships with their students,” Iorg said. “That has not changed. My time at Gateway equipped me for ministry and deepened my relationship with God.”
More than 2,000 students are enrolled at Gateway Seminary’s five campuses and Advance Centers, including the main campus in Ontario, Calif.