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Northwest pastor receives leadership award at Golden Gate commencement

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Washington pastor Kevin White became the first graduate from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s Pacific Northwest Campus in Vancouver, Wash., to receive the President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership during the school’s commencement ceremonies Dec. 18.
President William O. Crews established the award several years ago to honor graduates who have shown outstanding leadership during their seminary studies and ministry experiences.
Golden Gate is one of six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and the only SBC agency in the western United States.
Sharing his testimony with fellow graduates, White said it was a challenge to enter seminary after having been a pastor for 10 years.
“When I started seminary, I felt the ‘establishment’ needed crumbling, but God had to deal with the establishment I had within me,” he said. “I was the pastor of a growing church and a father of four, and my heart ached to leave all of my friends in the Nevada Baptist Convention.”
He visited both the Mill Valley and Pacific Northwest campuses of Golden Gate and sent resumes out for pastor positions in both areas. However, he received no response until his wife challenged him to take up a road atlas and pick a place to live.
“I picked Longview, Wash., a town 50 miles away from the Pacific Northwest campus,” he said. “We closed the atlas and prayed about it. The very next day, we received a phone call from First Baptist Church, Longview, wanting to interview me. God’s call became a lot stronger in my life then. I love my church, and I’m grateful to God for what they’ve meant for me.”
White said his education is important to future ministry development. “I know God will not honor me by the degrees on my wall, but how I pastor the people he gives me,” he said. “However, each semester here has added to my teaching and preaching. Languages that once scared me have opened me up more to the Word of God. I’m so glad God called me to the Pacific Northwest campus.”
Also included among the graduates was Tom Cowley, the first to earn the seminary’s new Master of Arts in Theological Studies, a degree aimed to train church lay-leaders in theology and ministry. Cowley, a member of BayMarin Community Church in San Rafael, Calif., was among several students who were advisors to the seminary’s academic leaders as they designed the new degree.
“I’m a big believer in Sunday school, but much more in having a Christian education program in the church. It’s one thing for a layperson to read a book or even audit a class, but it’s more to take classes for credit under the good professors that are here. It’s definitely strengthened my Christian walk.”
Crews challenged the 44 students from 13 states and six foreign countries who received degrees to retain their sense of calling, to keep their integrity in “this fallen world” and to be competent in their ministries — in that order of importance.
“It is important that you can do something with your hands,” said Crews during the annual winter commencement ceremony. “It is more important that you have character. It is most important that you know, undeserving as you were, that God chose you.”
Using Psalm 78, Crews said in his charge to the graduates that they should be skillful with their hands. “What I hope you leave here with is that you’ll continue to keep learning about being the best God wants you to be.”
He noted recent political turmoil in the United States capital reveals character and integrity are more important than ever. “I don’t have to illustrate the need for this. If your life is not right with God, He will not use you. I don’t want to be under a doctor who has dirty hands. That’s the kind of thing you have to nourish.”
He emphasized the graduates’ sense of calling is one of the most important things they need to cherish. “David was a shepherd, and we often glorify shepherds in our Christmas plays, but it was a low job. When God called David, it surprised his father, his brothers and probably even Samuel. And if it doesn’t surprise you that God has called you, something is wrong. When times get tough, may God remind you it was his choice and not yours. Because it was his choice, God will bring his will to pass.”