WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Although the exams and research papers have been completed, the greatest tests lie ahead, Paige Patterson told 118 graduates receiving degrees Dec. 18 from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Patterson, president of the Wake Forest, N.C., seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention, said every minister of the gospel must face “a moment of truth when you will decide what mark you will leave in this world,” either to be a success or failure.
Likening the ultimate test of ministry to that experienced by the 12 Israelites selected to be the first to enter the promised land of Canaan, Patterson said, “You’ve been called to an assignment — and most fail in the assignment.” He made those remarks after reading the names of the 10 Israelites identified in the 13th chapter of the Book of Numbers who failed to occupy the land of Canaan as God had instructed.
Patterson cited the response of Joshua and Caleb, the two Israelites who were willing to fulfill God’s commission on their lives, as the answer for achieving success in ministry.
While 10 of the men panicked in fear when faced with God’s mission, Patterson said, Joshua and Caleb looked beyond the obstacles to see the greatness of God. They knew, despite the difficulties, “the only thing that we must do is please God,” Patterson said, quoting Joshua and Caleb’s response recorded in Scripture.
While discouragement and despondency may one day come along, continue to love God and seek to please him, Patterson counseled. Time is like a vapor, he said, “seen for a moment and it is gone.” A choice therefore must be made, a choice to live in fear or a choice to keep looking to God and pleasing him and him alone, he said.
Patterson outlined three ways to please God, thus insuring God’s type of success in ministry:
— Walk with God, he said, for “the walk with God in the cool of the morning will sustain you for the afternoon’s temptations and the evening’s tribulations.”
— Abide by God’s moral mandates, for “if you wish to please God, make your life to conform to the mandates of God in godly holiness.”
— Tell God’s message, “not just on Sunday morning at 11 o’clock … but you must tell his story as a natural part of your daily existence,” as natural as breathing.
Patterson told the graduates that although the task of ministry may seem insurmountable, they must always believe that, “In the power of God, this can be done.”
Instead of asking God for an easy path of ministry, Patterson prayed that the graduates would sense God’s presence every step of the way and that their integrity would be known to all, so that when people see them they will say, “Now there goes a man of God. There goes a genuinely godly woman.”
Southeastern conferred the following degrees on students representing 23 states from Alaska to Hawaii, as well as Venezuela: associate of divinity, 5; bachelor of arts in biblical studies, 25; master of arts in Christian education, 7; master of arts in counseling ministry, 8; master of arts in intercultural studies, 6; master of divinity, 36; master of divinity with Christian education, 9; master of divinity with church music, 1; master of divinity with church planting, 6; master of divinity with counseling ministry, 10; master of theology, 2; doctor of ministry, 1; and doctor of philosophy, 2.
William E. Brown, instructor of evangelism and church planting and Nehemiah Project director at Southeastern, received one of the doctor of philosophy degrees. Brown’s dissertation was titled: “Pastoral Evangelism: A Model for Effective Evangelism as Demonstrated by the Ministries of John Albert Broadus, Alfred Elijah Dickinson, and John William Jones in the Revival of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1863.”
William Charles Suttles of Raleigh, N.C., who received the other doctor of philosophy, did his dissertation on: “Towards an Epistemology of Faith: A Critical Analysis of the Subjective Relation to the Object of Faith in the Thought of Soren Kierkegaard and Rudolph Bultmann.”