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Kelley to NOBTS grads: ‘You are never alone’

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Chuck Kelley, in his final commencement address as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, challenged the graduates to remember that God is able to accomplish the task each is called to do.

Kelley retires July 31 concluding his 23-year tenure as NOBTS president.

Noting that God’s plans for each graduate in the future will hold surprises, Kelley said, “Never be afraid of it. Never be intimidated by it. Never think that you’re not up to it.

“It does not matter what you think of yourself,” Kelley said in standing before graduates in Leavell Chapel May 18. “What matters is that the Lord God is able to accomplish whatever He wants to accomplish through you.”

Kelley and his wife Rhonda were honored at the spring trustee-faculty dinner earlier this spring. Appreciation for the Kelleys’ service to NOBTS will be expressed during the June 11 alumni dinner at the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

Kelley, voicing a message of hope and encouragement, told graduates that God uses those who simply are willing. He reminded the audience that noted evangelist D.L. Moody at the start of his ministry heard British preacher Henry Barley say that “the world has yet to see what could happen if one man fully devoted to God would do what God wanted him to do.” Moody determined that day to “be that one man,” Kelley said.

Yet brokenness will come, Kelley acknowledged, noting that in his 44 years at NOBTS — first as a student, then as a faculty member and then president — he has watched God work through brokenness.

“I’ve learned the meaning of discouragement. I’ve learned the meaning of staying faithful in my 23 years as president,” Kelley said. “God will make you strong in the broken places. Do not be afraid. Do not ever be afraid. You are never alone.”

Drawing from God’s promise in Isaiah 40:29-31 that His people will not grow faint, Kelley noted that the seminary’s 100-year history includes both hardship and perseverance because God remains faithful.

“We are NOBTS,” he said. “We go to the hard places, we attempt the difficult things, not to be impressive, but for the glory of God and the work of His Kingdom and the salvation of the lost.

“We are NOBTS,” Kelley continued. “When we hurt, we don’t give up. When we’re discouraged, we don’t quit. When it gets hard, we bear down, for we know we are in the grip of God.”

Provost Norris Grubbs, before conferring the degrees, pointed to 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 that “the one who calls you is faithful.”

“Knowledge is not enough,” Grubbs said. “You must always cultivate a growing relationship with the Lord so that you can remain faithful to the end.”

The seminary conferred 110 master’s degrees and 39 doctoral degrees, including eight Ph.D.s, 24 doctor of ministry and five doctor of educational ministry degrees. Thirty-nine M.Div. degrees, 17 with specializations, were conferred.

During NOBTS’ Leavell College commencement, 80 bachelor degrees were awarded May 17. The class included inmates from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola; the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women; the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman; and Phillips State Prison in Buford, Ga. The inmate graduates will receive their diplomas during special ceremonies at each of the correctional facilities.

The Lockman Foundation presented each graduate with a copy of the New American Standard Bible.

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  • Marilyn Stewart