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Overflow crowds prompt seminary to hold outdoor commencement

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–More than 200 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southeastern College at Wake Forest students graduated May 25 in a historic first outdoor commencement ceremony on the Wake Forest campus.

“We would have turned hundreds away from an indoor graduation this year had we held the ceremony in Binkley Chapel because it only holds about 1,425 people,” said Ryan Hutchinson, vice president for administration.

Seminary officials estimated that approximately 1,800 people attended the outdoor graduation.

The spring 2002 graduates sat in the mid-morning sunlight in front of Binkley Chapel, as Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission, charged the new ministers to be alert in their new areas of ministry as they face spiritual warfare.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” Land said quoting Ephesians 6:12. “But greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.”

Land, standing on a temporary platform constructed on the chapel steps, underscored four principles to help the graduates be on guard against the enemies’ tactics of destroying their ministries.

First, Land warned the new graduates against falling into immoral relationships with the opposite sex.

“If David is not the most frightening character in the Bible, he should be,” Land said. “If the devil can use a woman to get at David, he will use a woman to get to you.”

Land further urged the new ministers to exercise extreme caution, even to the point of prudence, when ministering to the opposite sex.

Next, Land warned the crowd against setting their sights on false finances.

“Don’t do what you do in the ministry for the money,” he said. “Reject the devil’s golden rule, which says, ‘those who make the money, make the rules.’ Preach what God wants you to preach.”

Then, Land encouraged the students to not let the devil entice them with fleeting fame.

“If you become lovers of the first place at the feast, you’ll begin to trim what you say. You’ll become a butter knife instead of a scalpel.”

Land said a subtle way the devil tries to get at ministers is enticing them with fearless familiarity to the holiness of God.

“Seek the law of God. Don’t be content about this day without knowing more about the Bible than you did yesterday. Don’t get to the place where you’re not in awe of God when you’re standing at the sacred desk,” Land said, referencing a term the late W.A. Criswell used for the pulpit.

Concluding his charge to the graduates, Land said the only inoculation against any and all temptations is to “practice filial fidelity to our Heavenly Father.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GRADUATION CEREMONY and NEW GRADUATE.

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  • Kelly Davis