SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–Love for God and for people are the critical ingredients for lasting ministry, President William O. Crews told graduates of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
During commencement ceremonies at the Mill Valley, Calif., campus near San Francisco, 91 graduates hailed from 25 states, one U.S. territory and three foreign countries.
With their seminary studies completed, Crews offered graduates three last “words of advice” May 25:
— Know yourself. “You are the only one like yourself that God ever made and he called you as you are. As you go from here, understand that God has called you and chosen you just as you are.”
— Enjoy people. “People want to be led, but they also want to be loved by people who serve them. If you don’t enjoy people, you’d better find something else besides ministry to do.”
— Love God. “Love God with all your heart. The first two will never work if you don’t get this third one right.”
Speaking of the seminary’s lasting influence in the lives of its graduates, Crews said, “Tonight, you leave a campus behind, but you won’t leave Golden Gate behind. I hope that in the relationships that have been part of your experience at Golden Gate, that you have come to better understand the gifts God has given you and become overwhelmed by the fact that he has called you.
“You are going to the ends of the earth,” he added. “As you go, love God with all your heart, enjoy people and know that he has called you and made you.”
In addition to Crews, several of the student speakers at the ceremony pointed to the importance of relationships in ministry and in the learning process.
“So many people have brushed up against my life and have left me changed,” said Stacey Harris of Tennessee. She paid special tribute to her mother — who raised nine children while working full-time to support her family and earn a college degree — as a “model of faithfulness.” She also praised fellow students and seminary professors.
“Over the last three years, so many people have breathed into my life,” she said. “Through them I have learned about courage, forgiveness, the mercy of the Almighty, the grace of the Most High God and his wild, extravagant love.”
Matthew Watson of Texas also thanked the seminary family for helping him grow in ministry. “Over the last three years, the Lord and my teachers have shown me what it means to minister at the edges rather than in the middle,” Watson said.
Citing 1 Corinthians 1:27 — where the apostle Paul wrote “God chose foolish things of the world to shame the wise” — Watson said, “We are the ‘fools’ God has chosen to use. We are at the edge of the country looking at the edges of the world with the love of Jesus.”
Receiving this year’s President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership was Rachel Maw, a master of divinity graduate from South Carolina. Maw served as president of the seminary’s Campus Life Association, the main umbrella organization for student clubs, during the past year.
Also among the graduates was a father-daughter duo. Curtis Marshall of Hawaii received a doctor of ministry and his daughter, Sarah Marshall, also of Hawaii, received master of divinity and master of arts in intercultural studies degrees.
A week earlier, Golden Gate held commencement services at two of its regional, non-residential campuses where full graduate degree programs are offered.
The Southern California Campus of Golden Gate held ceremonies May 18 at the nearby Rose Drive Baptist Church in Yorba Linda, Calif. The seminary awarded degrees to 12 graduates, including the first graduates from that campus with the master of arts in theological studies, the seminary’s newest degree.
“Our graduates this year reflect a tremendous commitment to ministry in the Southern California region by either their service in existing churches or their labor to plant new churches,” said Sam Simmons, director of the Brea-based campus. “I will not be surprised to see God use them in marvelous ways in the years ahead. To a person, these graduates have a heart for joining God in his kingdom work, whatever the cost. It’s a joy to be a part of their lives.”
The Baptist Association of Religious Educators honored Kristi Sprague of California during the event for distinguished study in the field of religious education.
At the seminary’s Pacific Northwest Campus in Vancouver, Wash., degrees were awarded to 11 students who completed their work at that regional campus. The May 19 ceremonies were held at the Vancouver’s Northside Baptist Church.
After the presentation of diplomas, the spouses of each graduate knelt on the stage with them, and seminary professors and staff prayed for God’s blessing on each couple in their lives and in their ministries.
Several graduates from the Mill Valley campus received academic awards prior to the graduation event: The Will Edd Langford Memorial Scholarship for outstanding doctor of ministry work to Curtis Marshall of Hawaii; the Craig Skinner Award in Biblical Preaching to Michael Fong of California; the Western Baptist Religious Education Award for outstanding Christian education study to Debra Choi of California; the Buren Higdon Christian Leadership Award for demonstrated leadership ability to Stacey Harris of Tennessee; and the Baker Book House Award for distinguished study in theology and biblical studies to Jodie Walling of California.