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Sen. Jim Talent addresses Midwestern Seminary grads

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, guest speaker at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s commencement May 22, challenged the 2004 graduates to be servant leaders.

“The pre-requisite for leadership is service,” whether in the church, home or community, the Missouri senator said. Talent pointed to Jesus as the example of servant leadership as demonstrated at the Last Supper.

In biblical times, Talent noted, sandals were the footwear of the day. After a day of walking on dusty roads, a traveler’s feet no doubt would be quite dirty. It was customary, therefore, for the host to wash the feet of his dinner guest. The passage recounting the Last Supper in John 13 followed a dispute between the disciples as to who would be the greatest in God’s Kingdom.

Since none of the disciples volunteered to perform the menial foot-washing act, Jesus did as He had so many times before -– He led by example, Talent said. After He had washed their feet, Jesus exhorted them to do likewise.

“As you take the role of leader, be a servant,” Talent told the seminary’s 66 graduates. “Cultivate humility. On any given day, the most important task you will perform is to be an encouragement to someone else.”

As well as developing a servant’s heart, he noted it is vital that the graduates protect their character.

“Watch out for small things,” Talent said, quoting from C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”: “The safest way to hell is the gradual one.” Talent added, “The way to character is one step at a time.”

Character is demonstrated when no one is looking, the senator said. “What will you do when the moments of crisis come?” he asked. “How you practice is how you perform.”

Following the awarding of certificates and degrees, various awards were presented.

Stephen J. Andrews, professor of Old Testament and archaeology, was named Professor of the Year.

Among the awards presented to graduating students were:

— Ellen Stickland, the Broadman & Holman Seminarian Award, as the graduate with the highest grade point average. Stickland also received the North American Professors of Christian Education Award.

— James Amonette, Outstanding Doctoral Studies Graduate. He also was the first graduate to earn Midwestern’s doctor of educational ministry degree.

— Stephenie Long, Zondervan Greek Award and J.J. Owens Hebrew Award.

— Loren Phippen, William H. Collier Evangelism Award.

— Joseph Zimmerman, Baker Book House Award in Theology.

— Daron Caswell, the Wornall Road Baptist Church Award in Theological Field Education.

— Mindy Rose, the Wanda J. Keately Award, which includes a trip to the Holy Land.

— Andrea Elder, Lora Lee Kieser Church Music Award.

— Shane Kastler, the Lifeway Preaching Award

— Matthew Ward, the G. Hugh Wamble Award in Church History Studies.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SEN. JIM TALENT.

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  • Susan Reed