EDITOR'S NOTE: During the first two weeks of December, six Southern Baptist seminaries sent out more than 1,100 graduates to pursue their ministry callings. Each institution celebrated milestones and shared words of inspiration to the students who were going out. The mission of the seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention is to prepare God-called men and women for vocational service in Baptist churches and in other Christian ministries throughout the world through programs of spiritual development, theological studies and practical preparation in ministry.
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
KANSAS CITY, MO (BP) – The Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary community celebrated the culmination of its students' hard work, dedication and perseverance, as the school held its 66th commencement Dec. 6.
Additionally, president Jason Allen announced that the seminary will begin a series of messages during upcoming graduation and convocation services focusing on specific doctrinal topics of urgency and relevance.
Two-hundred-five students were conferred 222 degrees and began their service as the next generation of pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders. With the school's enrollment growth, now surpassing 4,000 students, the number of graduates has also increased, up from the 169 this time last year.
Midwestern Seminary also celebrated a milestone during the commencement ceremony, as 29 Spanish-speaking church planters earned their Church Planting Certificates. Two of those graduates also received their Masters in Theological Studies with an emphasis on Pastoral Ministry.
Allen's 10-part graduation/convocation sermon series will focus on topics such as the sufficiency of Scripture, the exclusivity of the Gospel, and penal substitutionary atonement. He began the series with a message from Jude entitled, "Truths Worth Contending For: Biblical Inerrancy."
Allen acknowledged that commencement is an ideal setting to focus on the topic of inerrancy because it's the "biggest, grandest stage that we have to offer, and our topic today, biblical inerrancy, merits such a stage." He added that, as Southern Baptists, there is never a wrong time to reassert, cling to and contend for one of our central and foundational truths.
For more information about Midwestern Seminary's commencement, click here.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
FORT WORTH, TX (BP) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's fall commencement ceremony Dec. 6 celebrated 191 bachelor's, master's, doctoral and certificate graduates.
Among the graduates were roughly 40 women, including Susan K. Rainey, who was the 10,000th female student to complete theological education at Southwestern since its founding in 1908.
Reflecting on the milestone after commencement, SWBTS president Adam W. Greenway said, "The 10,000th female graduate is noteworthy because of what it demonstrates about Southwestern Seminary's longstanding commitment to train women called by God to Christian service. Now, more than ever, we are resolved to offer the best and most comprehensive options for theological education to our sisters in Christ for their more faithful service to His church."
Preaching from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, Greenway told the graduates that "while we celebrate what you have accomplished and achieved today," never forget that "it is not ultimately about what you have achieved, but about what you have received." He referred both to their salvation and to their calls to ministry.
"Yours is to be a ministry of light," Greenway said. "Yours is to be a ministry where people will find hope, real hope, that comes only through the life-giving power of the Gospel of Christ."
For more information about Southwestern Seminary's commencement, click here.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
LOUISVILLE, KY (BP) – Graduates of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are heralds of the good news of salvation through the forgiveness of sins, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president the seminary in Louisville, Ky., at its 224th commencement exercises Dec. 13.
During the ceremony in the historic Alumni Memorial Chapel, 150 master's and doctoral students were present to receive their degrees as members of a 208-person graduating class. These graduates are sent out as stewards of the knowledge of salvation into a world that desperately needs that knowledge, Mohler said in his commencement address.
"We are sending out these graduates to go out into the nations and out into the pulpits and into the churches, and to speak to everyone everywhere in order to communicate the knowledge of salvation," Mohler said. "But it's not just [a message of salvation that says], 'This is good news; God loves you.' That's true, but it's infinitely better than that. [The message is] that 'you are a sinner, but God shows His mercy to you in Christ in whom your sins can be forgiven.'"
His mission, Mohler said, is similar to the one passed down to ministers of the Gospel today.
"Why are we happy about these graduates? What gives us such joy on this occasion? It's because what was here assigned to John is what, by the call of God, is now assigned to them. They are to give knowledge of salvation to God's people in the forgiveness of their sins," Mohler said.
During commencement, Mohler also presented the Josephine S. and James L. Baggott Outstanding Graduate Award to Caleb T. Shaw, a master of divinity graduate from Glasgow, Ky.
The award is named after the Baggott family, who established a fund in 1980 to recognize an outstanding graduate of each graduating class.
The recipient is voted on by the members of the graduating class based on outstanding leadership, exemplary character and sound scholarship. The recipient receives an award from LifeWay Christian Resources and carries the seminary standard during the graduation procession.
Mohler's entire address will soon be available in audio and video at Southern Equip.
For more information about Southern Seminary's commencement, click here.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
WAKE FOREST, NC (BP) – Friends and family gathered together to celebrate the conferring of degrees upon 251 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and College at Southeastern graduates Dec. 13.
Of those who graduated, 49 received advanced degrees, 171 received master's degrees and 31 received bachelor's degrees.
During this semester's commencement address, SEBTS president Danny Akin exhorted graduates to consider how Christ's humble sacrifice on their behalf compels them to give sacrificially as seen in 2 Corinthians 8:9.
"We give not out of obligation, we give not out of guilt, but we give out of gratitude for what the Lord has done for us," said Akin.
Akin gave three charges for every graduate to consider based upon Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians.
First, know the grace of Jesus. Akin built upon Paul's statement to the Corinthians that they know Jesus. He explained that Christians are given the gift of knowing and experiencing the life-changing power of Jesus' death and resurrection.
"This is something that we know as a deep, abiding, personal knowledge," Akin said.
Second, remember Christ's humble, atoning sacrifice. Akin explained that Jesus gave up all of the honor He had in heaven and humbled Himself to a cross so that mankind could be justified before God and one day stand righteous in His presence.
"This is how much this great Savior, this great God, loves you. He went all the way from the heights of heaven to the depths of humanity to death on a cross so that He might purchase you and He might purchase me."
Third, seek the riches found only in Jesus. Paul writes that those who follow Christ are given the riches found in God.
"Because of His amazing grace, we give," said Akin. "Yes, we give our money, but more than that, we give our lives. We give our lives to the Lord, and we give our lives for others."
Akin concluded with a final exhortation: "Graduates, you will go where others will not go. You will do what others will not do. You will serve where others will not serve. And you will give what others will not give."
For more information about Southeastern Seminary's commencement, click here.
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
NEW ORLEANS, LA (BP) – Jamie Dew, presiding over his first graduation ceremony as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, congratulated graduate candidates at a packed house at Leavell Chapel and then asked a probing question.
"To what end?" Dew asked. "Why has God blessed you? What is this for?"
Dew, elected president by NOBTS trustees June 3, 2019, explained that God had blessed and sustained graduate candidates through countless hours of study and sacrifices to pursue the degree.
Graduation is a reason to celebrate, Dew explained, but he pressed candidates further to consider if they now hoped the degree would bring opportunity, a new platform and a name for themselves.
God will bring new opportunities, Dew assured listeners, but each will be temporary.
"A day is coming when your name will be forgotten," Dew reminded them. "So why labor for something that doesn't matter or count for all eternity? With that in mind, we now send you out as graduates of this institution into the harvest of our Lord. We send you now to go, in His name, to build His kingdom."
Making every moment count is a lesson that has stayed with him, Dew explained, and he urged graduate candidates to remember the same.
"The day is coming when you will lay this down," Dew said. "Live now for that day. Go forward with an eye for the very end, to Christ's return."
Dew closed with the Gospel message and, drawing from John 3:16, urged attendees unfamiliar with its meaning to consider God's love. Dew said, "This day as we celebrate Christ and we celebrate our graduates, I urge you if you do not know Jesus Christ, make today the day that you meet Him."
Before the conferral of degrees, provost Norris Grubbs pointed to 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 to remind candidates that God is faithful and will be with them.
"You must always keep learning," Grubbs told the candidates. "Our prayer is that you will serve God's people as you walk with Christ, proclaim His truth, and fulfill His mission."
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary conferred 121 master's degrees and 37 doctoral degrees including 14 Ph.Ds., one Ed.D, one D.M.A., 19 D.Min., and two D.Ed.Min. Forty-eight M.Div. degrees, 15 with specializations, were conferred.
Leavell College conferred 29 bachelor of arts in Christian Ministry degrees and four associate of arts in Christian Ministry degrees.
The Lockman Foundation presented each graduate with a copy of the New American Standard Bible.
For more information about New Orleans Seminary's commencement, click here.
ONTARIO, CA (BP) – Gateway Seminary conferred 42 diplomas, master's and doctoral degrees Dec. 14 on students from nine states and three countries. President Jeff Iorg noted the graduates would join more than 9,600 alumni who had received degrees over the seminary's 75 years of ministry. Commencement exercises were held in the chapel of the seminary's main campus in Ontario, Calif.
Iorg challenged graduates to follow Christ as the magi did, with endurance and submission. "Following the Lord is the essence of Christian leadership," he said. "If you follow the Lord, you must endure when circumstances are baffling, when time moves slowly and when opponents are threatening you."
He recalled the story from Matthew 2:1-12, when the wise men, also called the magi, modeled what it meant to follow Christ.
"They encountered unusual circumstances, the guiding star," he said. "The magi overcame geographic and time obstacles and arrived at the place where Jesus could be worshiped. They confronted a powerful enemy while following the Lord. Herod had slaughtered every male child under the age of 2."
Iorg said the magi followed the star, not knowing where it would lead, and they worshiped Jesus when they finally found Him.
"Here's Jesus, not an infant any longer but certainly a toddler, and they fell to their knees to worship Him. These were prominent, well-known men, and they were on their knees in front of a baby, giving gifts."
Iorg likened the magi's experience to that of those called to ministry.
"Submission means following God's direction, not always knowing where He will lead or what will happen when you get there," he said. "Submission is demonstrated and reinforced through worship. Privately and publicly, I worship and in my worship, I demonstrate submission."
In addition to the main campus in Ontario, Calif., Gateway Seminary serves through four regional campuses in the Pacific Northwest; Phoenix, Ariz.; Denver, Colo.; and Fremont, Calif.
For more information about Gateway Seminary, visit gs.edu.