NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“What’s behind has given encouragement for
what’s ahead,” Chuck Kelley told students gathered for the annual Faculty Recognition Day chapel service at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Jan. 29.
Kelley, president of New Orleans Seminary, honored four faculty members for their anniversaries of service at the seminary, and he also used the chapel service to celebrate the collective years of Christian service for all full-time professors: 1,024 years.
Kelley was among 22 faculty members marking 20 or more years in the ministry; he was ordained 25 years ago Feb. 2 in his hometown, Beaumont, Texas.
Kelley’s message for the occasion cited five tests that will challenge any person called to vocational Christian service: tests of calling, silence, objective, opportunity and the impossible.
Kelley described a call as “a sense in your heart that God has a purpose and plan for you.” The test of calling is a time when that call is challenged. Though every Christian is called to serve with the gifts and abilities unique to each follower, he said, God calls certain people to full-time vocational service as ministers.
“The funny thing about that call (to full-time ministry) is that you have to let go of everything else,” Kelley said. He related the story of how as a young man trying to determine his future, he spoke to his father, offering as the only son to help with the family business.
His father said, “You know as well as I do that God has called you to preach.” He said his son’s contribution to the family business would be tremendously helpful, but he could not pursue both his calling to preach full-time and a secular profession. Though it had been his father’s dream for Kelley to one day take over the family business, he let go of the dream so Kelley could be obedient to God.
“Then in the life of everyone called to ministry will come seasons of silence from God,” Kelley said of the second test.
He described the experience by referring to the apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Although he twice prayed fervently for relief, God was silent. “It may make you wonder about your calling, if you’ll ever get a word from God again, if God has moved you from the ‘A’ list and
put you on the ‘B’ list,” Kelley said.
“There will be mysteries about God which we cannot understand. The silence of God is one of the most difficult mysteries of all,” he said, noting God’s response to Paul after his third season of prayer: “My strength shall be made perfect in weakness.”
“You are not called to be Rambo. You are called to be totally dependent on God. You won’t know the depth of your dependence until the season of silence,” Kelley said.
Kelley used personal illustrations to describe the third test, the test of objective. “Crises of soul” at three different times in his life caused him to question everything about his life and his relationship with God.
“Sometimes it was hard just to get through the day,” he said, describing how God used those times to “sharpen my attention to one specific issue: the goal of my life. …
“Along the way you may get seduced into thinking the doing of ministry is your identity, that that’s who you are. It’s not. You are a child of God. …
“What is your life objective? What is the greatest passion of your soul?
“We are not here to do ministry. We are here to know the Lord. … Anything else is inadequate as an objective,” he said.
Kelley said the fourth test, the test of opportunity, is nearly the hardest to withstand. Kelley spoke of the apostle Paul who traveled through Asia Minor and repeatedly stopped, believing God would have him preach at one location or another because the opportunities were good;
but the Holy Spirit kept urging him on.
“Opportunity is not direction,” Kelley said. “You will get more opportunities than you will get direction from God.”
Ministers must choose between taking opportunities to climb the ladder in life and saying “no” to opportunities in obedience to God, Kelley said, allowing their purpose for life to be a filter for sifting through options. “You will get opportunities according to your abilities,” he said. “But you will get direction according to the purposes of God.” To pass the test, he said, ministers must determine
beforehand that they will do only what God directs them to do, not what they have opportunities to do.
The most difficult of the tests is the test of the impossible, Kelley said, referring to the seemingly futile God-given dreams of Abraham and Moses.
“God will put something impossible on your platter,” Kelley said. When that time comes, ministers must remember “God is capable of doing anything he wants to do.” Kelley urged ministers not to make decisions based on what they know of themselves and of the circumstances. Instead, they should make decisions based on “who you believe God is and what he is capable of doing.”
“What do you do when you think you have a call, but you meet the tests of silence, objective, opportunity and impossibility?” Kelley asked.
“You are not secure in Jesus because of your faith; you are secure because of God’s great faithfulness,” he said.
“If your heart is determined to know God and do what he wants, he will do what’s necessary to help you hang in there and to fulfill his purpose. Your life and ministry are anchored in God’s grace, not your personality and gifts.
“With every test comes God’s amazing grace.”
Honored Jan. 29 for their anniversaries of service at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary were H. Leroy Yarbrough of Rome, Ga., professor of choral conducting and music theory, 25 years; Jeanine C. Bozeman of Pineville, La., professor of social work, 10 years; R. Dennis Cole of Daytona Beach, Fla., professor of biblical archaeology, 10
years; and Paul Robertson of Jackson, Miss., associate professor of theology and editor of “The Theological Educator,” the faculty journal, 10 years.
Kelley noted President Emeritus Landrum Leavell was ordained 49 years ago in his hometown, Newnan, Ga.
Two professors, meanwhile, were honored for 50 years in the ministry: J. Don Aderhold, professor of New Testament and director of the seminary’s North Georgia Campus in Decatur, was ordained in 1947 in Atlanta; his first pastorate was Edgewood Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Robert L. Hamblin, professor of evangelism and chairman of the division of pastoral ministries, was ordained in 1947 in his college town, Jackson, Tenn.; his first pastorate was Grace Baptist Church, Ripley,Tenn.