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Southeastern graduates challenged to stand for Christ amid controversy

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson challenged the school’s 155 graduates May 22 to lead ministries marked by “fullness.”
Preaching from the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, Patterson drew lessons from the life of the early New Testament church’s first martyr, Stephen. Like Stephen, “You are to be characterized in your character, in your life and in your ministry by this word fullness … full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom, full of grace and full of power,” Patterson said.
“The number is legion who carry the name of ‘Minister of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,’ but it is a rare find indeed to find a minister who is full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom, full of grace and full of power.”
Patterson, who is also president of the Southern Baptist Convention, warned the graduates from 19 states and six countries during his spring commencement address they would not be popular as they minister to the world.
“If you stand for the lordship of Jesus Christ, if it is your insistence that, short of a born-again experience, a new birth, a regeneration, no man and no woman will ever see God; if you’re to take those kinds of perspectives and hold high the morality of God’s precious Word, take it from me, you will be point men and point women in controversy.”
It’s during those trials, Patterson said, that a Christian’s witness is most effective. “Precious students, the eyes of the world will be upon you,” Patterson said. “When people look at what you are doing, what will they see?”
The people knew that Stephen had been spending time with Jesus, that he was “fresh from the fountains of the living God,” Patterson said.
“When they looked at Stephen steadfastly, they just kept gazing at him to see how he would do under the pressure, and you know what they saw? They saw ‘his face as though it were the face of an angel,’” Patterson said, quoting from the last verse of Acts’ sixth chapter.
Relating accounts of some of the great martyrs of the church, including Cassie Bernall, the Littleton, Colo., high school student who stood for Christ while another student aimed a gun at her temple, Patterson asked the graduating class to remember these examples of Christlikeness.
“For all of you, it will be more difficult than it was for my generation,” Patterson said.
“How will it be with you? As you walk through life, may people look at you and say, ‘There’s a man, there’s a woman who has been with God. Look, I can see it in their faces; it is the face of an angel,” Patterson concluded.
Included among the awarded degrees is the school’s first graduate of Southeastern’s new Master of Divinity with Women’s Studies program: Buffy Murtland Brown of Winston-Salem, N.C.
Southeastern also awarded the school’s second doctor of philosophy degree to Mark Anthony Howell. Howell, who is Patterson’s son-in-law, serves on the faculty at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.

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  • Byron McMillan