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SBC seminaries send forth their graduates

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The work of the six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention is showcased with each spring’s commencement. Reports on the seminaries’ services follow:

GOLDEN GATE — Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary conferred 202 degrees at the seminary’s five regional campus commencement ceremonies this spring.

President Jeff Iorg urged the graduates in his commencement address at each of the campuses to “build your ministry on the Gospel, not to please men, but to please God.”

“Whether you are now beginning a ministry or continuing a ministry, you have a responsibility to enlarge your impact for the Kingdom of God,” Iorg said at the seminary’s campuses in Northern California (Mill Valley), Southern California (Brea), Washington state (Vancouver), Colorado (Denver) and Arizona (Phoenix).

“Do not preach from arrogance or impurity, for personal gain or flattering speech, nor greedy motives. I challenge you to move beyond these motives…. You are responsible as ministers of Christ to live differently than your followers -– righteously and blamelessly. You have a higher calling, a responsibility -– and your motives matter.”

Referencing the recent decline in baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention, Iorg urged the graduates to help the SBC “do better.”

Iorg challenged the graduates to “have a deep, caring relationship with the people in your ministry.” Describing the type of love parents have for their children as a sacrificial love, he implored the graduates “to be willing to sacrifice to build a ministry that lasts, to have that same type of sacrificial love for your community, your ministry.”

The seminary’s highest student award, the William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award, was given to David Englekemeir, a master of divinity graduate from the Northern California Campus at Mill Valley, and Keith Evans, a doctor of ministry graduate from the Pacific Northwest Campus in Vancouver, Wash.

In its spring commencement ceremonies, Golden Gate conferred:

— 67 master of divinity degrees, including those with concentrations in areas such as missions or biblical studies.

— 19 master of arts in educational leadership degrees.

— 34 master of theological studies degrees.

— one master of theology degree.

— two diplomas in theology.

— one diploma in educational leadership.

— 10 doctor of ministry degrees.

Through its Contextualized Leadership Development centers across the country operated in partnership with local churches, associations and state conventions, the seminary also conferred 53 diplomas in Christian ministry and 15 diplomas in theology.

MIDWESTERN — Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in conjunction with Midwestern Baptist College, SBC, held its 48th commencement May 17 at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo.

This year 123 degrees were awarded among Midwestern’s 119 graduates, a 43 percent increase from the previous year’s 86 degrees.

Also during the service, Jim Anderson and Darrell Robinson received Presidential Medallions, the seminary’s highest honor for individuals who have made a significant impact on Midwestern and Christian higher education.

MBTS President R. Philip Roberts challenged the graduates to get the Gospel straight wherever they go.

Roberts noted four biblical elements of a great and evangelistic Gospel in an address drawn from Acts 2.

First are Gospel revelations — “God was behind the Gospel for each and every one of us,” Roberts noted. While such revelations are predictive, Roberts said preachers always should refer to what God is doing and back to the historical root of the Gospel as they preach.

Second, Roberts spoke of Gospel roots and events — the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, with particular focus on Christ’s atoning death. This is what makes the Gospel “The Gospel,” Roberts said.

Third, there are Gospel requirements, which preachers should clearly present when preaching the Gospel, Roberts said, noting that alvation requires faith, belief, admitting that one is a sinner and repentance.

Finally, there are Gospel rewards — forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in believers’ hearts, Roberts said.

“When we preach, we leave a legacy,” Roberts said in closing. “Let’s be sure we all get and keep the Gospel straight.”

Midwestern awarded 12 doctor of ministry degrees at the service and four doctor of educational ministry degrees.

Forty students received the master of divinity degree, including those with emphases in Christian education, collegiate ministries and North American church planting, while 36 master of arts degrees -– in biblical archaeology, biblical languages, Christian education and counseling -– were awarded. Two students received both a master of arts degree and a master of divinity degree, while one student received two master of arts degrees in biblical archaeology and biblical languages and a master of divinity degree.

From the college, 23 students received bachelor of arts degrees in biblical studies. One student received an associate of divinity degree and four graduated with an associate of arts degree with emphases in missionary aviation, biblical studies and Christian education.

Also during the service, Jim Anderson and Darrell Robinson received Presidential Medallions, the highest honor from the seminary to individuals who have made a significant impact on Midwestern and Christian higher education.

Roberts, speaking of Presidential Medallion recipients Jim Anderson and Darrell Robinson, said, “These gentlemen’s commitment to building strong relationships within families, the church and the community is a wonderful testimony to others.”

Anderson, chancellor and founding dean of Midwestern Baptist College, SBC, has worked 31 years as a seminary professor, 12 years in the pastorate and eight years in full-time evangelism. He has served as guide for more than 70 Bible Land study tours. He has published more than 30 books, including “The Life of Christ” and “Philosophy, Viewed Through a Biblical Lens.” He began his formal training at Calvary Bible College in 1954 and then studied at Baptist Bible College and Ottawa University where he received his B.A. degree. He received both his M.Div. and doctor of theology degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Robinson, distinguished professor of evangelism at Midwestern, also is president of Total Church Life Ministries, Inc. In nearly 30 years of ministry in various roles, Robinson has served as vice president of evangelism for the former Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) from 1989-97. He is the author of several books, including “People Sharing Jesus” and “Total Church Life” and preaches revivals, crusades and evangelism rallies. Robinson earned his B.A. degree at Baylor University and went on to study at Southwestern Seminary and Luther Rice Seminary, where he earned his D. Min. degree.

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary conferred 184 degrees during its 90th commencement service May 17.

NOBTS President Chuck Kelley issued his charge to the graduates — including a number who who endured losing every material possession in Hurricane Katrina –- by offering encouragement to those who would face trials in ministry.

Kelley, speaking from John 14:1-3 when Jesus warned of the troubled times to come, including Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, donned dark glasses that gave him the look of a New Orleans jazz man. Kelley paraphrased Jesus’ admonition to the disciples -– “Be cool,” even in the troubles to come.

“This is a tough time, a difficult time, a dangerous time,” Kelley said. “But be cool. Do not be troubled. It’s actually more accurate to hear Jesus say, ‘I know your hearts are troubled -– stop worrying.'”

Jesus could give that assurance, Kelley said, because “He knew that all things –- no matter how hard or difficult they looked -– were in the Father’s hands.” Christ’s counsel is one of the most important lessons graduates could take from their seminary experience, particularly in the wake of Katrina, Kelley said.

“There is not any circumstance in life that you will ever find yourself outside of the hand of God,” Kelley said. “There is absolutely no circumstance in life in which the grip of God can be broken from around your heart or around your soul. At every moment of your life, at every moment of your ministry … whatever kind of setting God sends you to for your ministry, you are going in the grip of God … in the shadow of His presence … under His watch care.”

Also reminding the graduates that they have a limited time on earth and in ministry, Kelley displayed a pocketwatch that once belonged to the seminary’s first president, Byron Hoover DeMent, that now rests on Kelley’s office desk. The hands of the timepiece are frozen, a daily reminder to Kelley that his time as president of the seminary — and his time of ministry — is limited.

“There is a time limit,” Kelley said. “Trouble will come to an end. Trial will come to an end. Your opportunity to do ministry in the name of Jesus will come to an end.” In that light, Kelley reminded the graduates of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who kept a heavenly perspective, fixed on the glory to come even as he was being put to death.

Kelley also urged the graduates not to lose their passion for ministry, even when trouble comes. Using another prop -– this time a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce –- he urged them to serve God with flavor and passion, with an energy that can impact thousands for the Kingdom of God.

“Don’t you dare walk out of here as graduates of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and give Jesus anything less than the full spice and flavor of your passionate best,” Kelley said. “Give it to Him because, my friends, glory is coming.”

As part of the graduation exercises, four married couples earned their degrees simultaneously. Page Matthew Brooks and his wife Ashley Nalls Brooks were awarded Ph.D. degrees. Page Brooks, a native of Montgomery, Ala., earned his doctorate in theology, while Ashley Brooks, a native of Tifton, Ga., earned her Ph.D. in psychology and counseling.

Michael Williams completed his doctor of ministry degree in 2007 but wanted to share the moment with his wife Charity as she received her doctor of philosophy degree. The Williamses seerve in Mobile, Ala.

At the master’s level, Rhyne Putman was awarded a master of divinity degree with specialization in biblical languages while his wife Micah received a master of arts in Christian education. Derek Brown received a master of divinity degree with specialization in psychology and counseling and his wife Ariel Denise Brown was awarded a bachelor of arts in Christian ministry.

SOUTHEASTERN — Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and its undergraduate school, The College at Southeastern, in Wake Forest, N.C., celebrated their May 23 commencement services with more than 230 graduates from 27 states and five foreign countries. The degrees ranged from associate’s and bachelor’s degrees to master’s and doctoral degrees.

The seminary’s commencement speaker, Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., set forth guidelines on living a life worthy of hearing the Lord say, “Here is a man or here is a woman after my own heart.”

“Wouldn’t you like that to be said about you?” Page asked in a message with examples from the life of David. “David fell greatly, but as great as his falling, so great was his repentance.”

Page said he believes the reason God said David was a man after his own heart, despite the sin in his life, is because he lived Micah 6:8, the verse that teaches Christ’s followers to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

“I could give you a lot of advice, a lot of advice about ministry, but I could give you no better advice than is found in Micah 6:8,” Page said. “Then, God will say, ‘Here is a man or here is a woman after my own heart.'”

Southeastern President Daniel Akin, the college’s commencement speaker, focused on another well-known example of a fallen man who found redemption, Zaccheus.

“Zaccheus was ‘too bad to be saved,'” Akin said. “He was getting rich off of his own people, was despised by everyone -– except Jesus. He was hated, but blessed with lots of stuff. He was miserable because he couldn’t find peace and happiness. He couldn’t buy a ticket to the front of the line to see Jesus.”

Out of this longing for salvation and the shame of his actions, Zaccheus ran ahead to climb into a tree, both where he could see Jesus and where he could hide from the harassment, criticism and ridicule of the people, Akin recounted.

“I suspect he froze in fear, fright and horror at the first words out of Jesus’ mouth,” Akin said, referencing Jesus calling Zaccheus out of the tree and to dinner. Unlike the people of the day, though, Jesus looked up into the tree with a heart of grace, love, mercy and compassion, Akin said.

“The friend of sinners is now a guest of sinners, and the sinner is about to become a son,” Akin said. “Aren’t you glad Jesus is willing to be a friend of sinners?”

Akin told the graduates, “My prayer is that the heartbeat of the Son of God is the heartbeat you have.” He added, “With one voice, with one heart we all agree we would gladly dispense our diplomas into the trash bin to see one person come to see the Lord who came to see and save the lost.”

SOUTHERN — A record 272 students received degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during its spring commencement May 16.

The seminary’s 201st commencement was held outdoors on the seminary lawn for the third straight year to accommodate the crowd in Louisville, Ky.

SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. used the example of Apollos in his commencement address to remind the graduates that a central part of their calling is to be mighty in the Scriptures.

“We are told that Apollos was an eloquent or learned man, and we are told that he came to Ephesus and was mighty in the Scriptures,” Mohler recounted. “Of all the things we might want said of us, of all the things we would want said of these graduates, could we possibly imagine any words that could be a more significant ambition than these: To be known as mighty in the Scriptures.”

Being mighty in the Scriptures represents the ultimate goal of theological education, Mohler said.

“The motto of this institution is taken from Paul’s second letter to Timothy: That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished unto all good works and that the man of God might rightly divide the Word of truth,” Mohler said.

“We know very little about Apollos, but what we know of him is most significant — that this man who spoke boldly and publicly did so because he was grounded in the Scriptures in which he found his power and authority.”

Apollos is an example of what the late Martin Lloyd Jones called “logic on fire,” Mohler pointed out, as his knowledge of Scripture poured forth in fervent proclamation.

“Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures because he had been instructed in the way of the Lord. We also understand that this produced a spirit and attitude, a commitment in him: He was being fervent in spirit,” Mohler said. “And it produced activity: he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus.

“The purpose of theological education comes down to this: that knowledge and learning would be invested in these graduates, not in order that it would simply reside in them, but that knowledge of the Scriptures would come out of them, [so] that being mighty in the Scriptures they would teach and preach the Word of God with a boldness learning, and fervency of spirit equal to that of Apollos.”

The story of Apollos also underscores the reality that learning is a lifetime pursuit for the minister, Mohler said. In Acts 18, Apollos was preaching mightily, but the content of his teaching was not entirely accurate. Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos’ teaching and took him aside to explain privately how he could more accurately proclaim Scripture.

Mohler reminded the graduates that they have much more to learn, and that such knowledge might well come from the people to whom they minister.

“We need to admit something: Your theological education, graduates, is incomplete,” Mohler said. “Apollos was a man who was mighty in the Scriptures. He was accurately teaching and speaking the things concerning Jesus, but there were gaps in his theological education.

“I can honestly say that I have learned far more since I graduated than I knew when I graduated. You will learn a great deal from the people to whom you minister. Be ready to learn far more than you know now in the actual crucible of ministry. Be prepared to learn, even as you teach and preach and minister.”

Also during commencement, Brian Vickers, assistant professor of New Testament Interpretation, received the Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.

SOUTHWESTERN -– The centennial-year spring commencement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, was held May 9 and was published by Baptist Press in conjunction with coverage of the 100th anniversary of the seminary’s founding. For the SWBTS commencement report in BP, click here.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston with reporting by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; Paul F. South of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Lauren Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Garrett E. Wishall of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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