Christian ministers should not settle for the comfortable and agreeable career of secular professionals, but courageously embrace their prophetic role, said President R. Albert Mohler Jr. in his Dec. 2 winter commencement address to 141 master’s and doctoral graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“The Christian ministry is a terrible profession, but it is the greatest calling on earth,” Mohler said. “Professions are decent, respectable, recognized, esteemed, regulated, and rationalized … The greater scandal by far are the churches, denominations, and church members who cheerfully domesticate the preacher and the preachers who are so willingly domesticated.”
Using Matthew 3:1-12 as his text, Mohler said contemporary Christianity can learn a lot from a passage not typically viewed as a Christmas story. While John the Baptist was a popular preacher, his message centered around unconditional repentance, Mohler said.
“The judgment is so clear, as is the grace,” he said. “The Messiah will judge the nations and every single soul. He will separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff. The coming judgment is horrifying. There is no allowance for annihilation here. We are warned of an unquenchable fire.”
The preacher’s ministry is infinitely greater than John’s ministry, Mohler said, as the Christian proclaims in light of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and the fulness of biblical revelation. Although John the Baptist’s role as Christ’s forerunner has passed, his message about the imminence of the kingdom of heaven and the necessity of repentance continues in the preaching of the Word.
“The faithful preacher is like the winnowing fork in the Lord’s harvest,” he said. “True gospel preaching leads to wheat collected into the barn, but also leads to chaff collected for the burning. This does not fit the expectation of a religious professional, but it is the glory of the true minister’s calling.”
The message of repentance both saves and condemns, Mohler said. With the surrounding culture increasingly hostile to the church of Jesus Christ and numerous adversaries arrayed against its message of repentance, Christian ministers must continue to preach faithfully.
“We are facing difficult days with unprecedented challenges. There will be no place to hide. This graduating class of Christ’s ministers will take the gospel to the ends of the earth and will likely serve long after so many of us are gone from the earth,” Mohler said. “There are few sights so glorious as this — a congregation of ministers at the very brink of deployment or rightly deployed in gospel service. This defies the wisdom of the world and reveals God’s good pleasure.”
Among the graduates was Edward Todd Wood, who died of heart complications in August 2016 while serving as pastor of administration at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His wife, Tara Lawhorn Wood, was present to receive his M.A. in Leadership posthumously.
Mohler presented the Josephine S. and James L. Baggott Outstanding Graduate Award to Tyler D. Clark, a Master of Divinity graduate from Fort Smith, Arkansas. The award was established in 1980 to recognize the outstanding graduate of each graduating class. Also graduating was Bryan E. Baise, assistant professor of worldview and apologetics at Boyce College, who earned his Ph.D. in the School of Theology. There were 141 attendees at commencement and 180 degrees conferred.