ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) – Following the recognition of graduates (the conferring of degrees) at winter commencement Dec. 9, 2023, Gateway president Jeff Iorg charged graduates to “live the Gospel,” in a world in turmoil.
“Live a transformed life that is so unusual, remarkable – even radical – that people look at you and say, ‘That person is truly different,’” he said.
Iorg compared the world Jesus was born into to the current cultural context; one of political, financial and spiritual strife.
Drawing from Luke 2, Iorg described the lives of Caesar Augustus and Quirinius, governor of Syria, who were respectively a serial adulterer who exiled his own children and a man “known for his evil and abrupt way of governing,” he said.
“Jesus came into a world of political turmoil marked by people in power who used every opportunity for their own advantage, rather than the good of the governed.”
He pointed out that both the census, a means of further taxation, and the fact a young, pregnant Mary was not provided a room to give birth demonstrated the “financial confusion” that marked the world of Jesus’ birth.
Iorg said in spite of the numerous predictions of Jesus’ arrival in the Old Testament, only a few faithful people were there to recognize the miracle of His birth.
“A handful of people were looking for Jesus while most were indifferent to His arrival,” he said.
Then Iorg shared examples of current political tumult: open warfare between Israel and Palestine and thousands killed in Sudan, along with the coming turmoil of the U.S. presidential election and economic challenges rooted in rampant consumerism in both U.S. culture and churches.
Iorg said the current world’s spiritual indifference has led to Christians who are “lethargic, half-hearted and divided,” living as though they do not believe Jesus is real.
“Why is God sending you into this kind of world, and what do we expect you to do as graduates of Gateway seminary?” Iorg asked.
He pressed the graduates to live the Gospel personally, in their churches and in their communities so “there might be transformation in everyone around [them].”
Iorg shared a brief story from a California pastor who had been sharing the Gospel in a challenging context and getting slow results. Iorg asked the pastor if he was discouraged.
“The pastor answered me, ‘No because if the Gospel doesn’t work, nothing else will either.’”
“He wasn’t distracted by the pace of response – he was determined! The only thing that will change our communities is the Gospel,” Iorg said.
Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) graduate Kelly King earned the William O. Crews Leadership Award, the highest recognition for graduating students at Gateway Seminary.
“In past years, we have given this award to persons who went on to become ministry executives, faculty members at schools, and administrative leaders of ministry organizations,” Iorg said.
“We’re going to give the Crews award not to a person who has the potential of being a national leader but one who has demonstrated it while they were a student at Gateway Seminary.”
King’s D.Min. project brought together women’s ministry directors from state conventions for mentorship, direction and motivation that impacted hundreds of thousands of women across the country for the Gospel.
Steve Reynolds, pastor of FBC Barstow and Doctor of Philosophy graduate, shared a brief testimony about the challenge of receiving a cancer diagnosis while completing his dissertation. “I believe Martin Luther is correct: I’m a better theologian and pastor because of suffering,” he said.
“But I would also add that having a community that urges you to faithfulness is essential to theological education, and I’m forever grateful to Gateway seminary for giving me this.”