MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) — Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, reminded graduates that ministry leaders are called to serve others as “spiritual parents.”
This spring, across five separate commencement ceremonies at each Golden Gate Seminary campus, a total of 162 students received diplomas, master’s and doctoral degrees.
“The title ‘Father’ is not common for Baptists, yet the Bible uses the motif of parenting to describe ministry leaders,” said Iorg, delivering a commencement address based on 1 Corinthians 4:9-17. “Paul describes his own leadership role with three different parenting references: calling the Corinthians his dear children, identifying himself as their father, and describing Timothy as his son.”
The parenting motif continues in several key ways that future ministry leaders can learn, he said.
The first characteristic shared by ministry leaders and parents is that the responsibility is both unique and specific. Iorg referred to 1 Cor. 4:15, in which Paul points out a person may have 10,000 instructors, but only one father, a role Paul took in relation to the church at Corinth.
“As you enter ministry, find the people you are responsible to lead and parent them in the Gospel,” Iorg told 97 graduates during the commencement ceremony at Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael, Calif.
Ministry leaders must also be vulnerable. Iorg explained the graduates will likely be in a position in which their lives and decisions will be “on a stage for others to see.” The challenge of leading in public is to lead by example.
Sacrifice is also required of ministry leaders, who will be thought of as “fools” and will be “reviled” by the world. Iorg reminded the graduates that hard work will be required of them.
“Parents make great sacrifices for their children so that they can have what they need,” he said.
Finally, ministry leadership requires longevity. Paul introduced the Corinthians to Christ and then stayed with them for a time. He sent Timothy to be with them and promised a return visit.
“You will likely overestimate what you can do in one year, but you will underestimate what you can do in 10,” Iorg said. “A calling to ministry is a lifetime responsibility. As a parent, I still get calls from my children as they navigate their adult lives.”