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Iorg to graduates: Be flexible following God

ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) – During the 2024 spring commencement ceremony May 3, 2024, Gateway President Jeff Iorg charged graduates to be flexible in their obedience to God’s calling in their lives.

“You graduated from seminary … and God has given you a great opportunity in that,” Iorg said.

“And now God expects you to be flexible as you follow Him forward.”

“You may have thought you came to seminary for one set of reasons, but God may direct you in an entirely new direction. Be open to following that new direction,” he said.

May 3 marked Iorg’s final commencement ceremony for graduates of the seminary’s primary campus in Ontario, California. Iorg has led graduation ceremonies at each regional campus during the spring – the final ceremony is May 11 in Phoenix. It will be Iorg’s final action as Gateway president before his new role leading the Executive Committee (EC) of the Southern Baptist Convention begins May 13.

Iorg encouraged graduates to follow God’s calling even when it surprises them or when it leads to difficult ministry circumstances.

“It’s a false assumption that you graduated and now will get to lead a happy church with a big salary and wonderful people who will always love you,” he said.

“Or (that you will go) to a mission field where people are waiting by the tens of thousands to place their faith in Jesus if only someone like you would come along with the Gospel.”

“Instead,” he warned, “it is more likely that you are going to go someplace where it is hard, where people are difficult and where lostness is entrenched.”

Iorg cited biblical examples of leaders who committed to a calling they knew was difficult. He shared the narrative of Jesus in the garden of Gethsamane asking the Father to “take this cup away,” but then committing to the Father’s will. Then he mentioned Paul, who was warned by his friends of the difficulty of going to Jerusalem, but still pursued the undeniable direction God placed before him.

“Recognize God is going to call you to do hard, difficult, challenging things,” Iorg said.

“Sometimes, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and plunge in where it is messy and dirty – go there with the Gospel and the healing Word of Jesus Christ.”

Iorg concluded his message by telling graduates that God uses the difficult work of ministry to do transformative work in them; as He is working through them, He is also working on them.

“Never lose sight of this great reality: God is shaping your character and places you in leadership circumstances to … make you more like Jesus Christ.”

“Most of you know I’m going through a major life redirection,” Iorg said, referring to his imminent appointment to the EC presidency.

He said that when people ask him about the difficulty of heading toward a complex and strenuous task, he knows the real challenge will be an internal one.

“It is hard to go forward knowing that I am going there because there’s something in me God has not yet eradicated or shaped,” he said. “I know the inner work is going to be difficult but worth it when I turn out a little bit more like Jesus.”

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  • Tyler Sanders