Mohler to SBTS graduates: Celebrate divine calling as God’s messengers
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — Ministers of the gospel are not partakers in a career, but recipients of a divine calling, said President R. Albert Mohler Jr. in his May 19 commencement address to the 2017 graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
During 219th commencement exercises on the seminary lawn, 318 master’s and doctoral students received degrees. A week earlier, 149 Boyce College students graduated, and the combined 467 degrees conferred to Southern and Boyce students represents the largest commencement in Southern Seminary’s history.
“At every Southern Seminary graduation we remind one another of the great and essential fact that the Christian ministry is not a mere profession — it is a divine calling,” said Mohler. “The ministry is one of Christ’s gifts to his church. It is among the most serious — and indeed the most serious — and joyous of all callings.”
In his commencement address titled “As It Had Been the Face of an Angel,” taken from the text of Acts 6:8-15, Mohler encouraged graduates to be encouraged by Stephen’s example, who remained steadfast in the face of false accusations, his face shining like an angel’s. The contemporary depiction of angels in popular culture often misses the point, Mohler said, as angles in the Bible are messengers of God who inspire awe and fear.
“That is the ministry of the Word of God — the ministry we celebrate in these graduates today,” Mohler said. “We dare to pray that when they preach, when they bring the message from God’s Word, in this sense their faces look like the faces of angels — not cute, never harmless, not ready to jump off of a greeting card, but fearless, faithful, forceful to the end.”
The work facing Southern Seminary graduates is inherited from a previous generation, Mohler said, and commencement provides an opportunity to reflect on the faithfulness of spiritual forebears and to anticipate new ministries for newly trained gospel workers in the years ahead.
Just as the prophet Joel foretold that old men would dream and young men would see visions, so too seminary graduates are driven into the world with powerful dreams and visions for how they can be used for the kingdom. Their work is built on the work of countless Christians who have come before them and paved the way, Mohler said.
“These graduates go out now to build upon what others have already built. We will all build on the foundation someone else has laid. Even as the Lord grants opportunity to sow seed, we will spend much of our lives and ministries watering what other have planted, even as we plant what others will water,” Mohler said. “In the church age, ministry is handed from generation to generation. Our humble determination and our heart’s desire must be to receive this charge and to serve faithfully — planting and watering in the fields of ministry and taking care how we build upon the foundation laid before us.”
During graduation, Mohler presented the annual Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence to Jeremy P. Pierre, associate professor of biblical counseling and dean of students at the seminary. Pierre has taught at Southern since 2011 and is the author of The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life and co-author of The Pastor and Biblical Counseling. Pierre is a pastor at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He and his wife, Sarah, have five children.
The recipient of the 2017 Josephine S. and James L. Baggott Outstanding Graduate Award was Elias Coye Still IV, a Master of Divinity graduate from North Carolina.
Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and chairman of the board for the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., read a portion from the New Testament during commencement. His daughter, Lauren, and son-in-law, Michael McAfee, both graduated from Southern Seminary. Michael, an M.Div. graduate in the School of Theology, is director of Bible engagement for the Museum of the Bible.
The 2017 graduating class also featured the 2,000th recipient of a Doctor of Philosophy degree in the 125-year history of Southern Seminary’s doctoral program. David Casas, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, earned his Ph.D. from the School of Theology and his dissertation, supervised by Russell T. Fuller, was titled “A Defense of the Spiritual Interpretation of the Image of God.” He is a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Sandy Springs, Georgia, and teaches Old Testament at Luther Rice University. The terminal research degree was established at Southern Seminary in 1892 as a Doctor of Theology, making SBTS one of the first free-standing institutions to offer such a degree. Trustees approved the change to a Ph.D. in 1974.
Mohler’s entire address will be available in audio and video at equip.sbts.edu. A complete manuscript of the address, “As It Had Been the Face of an Angel,” is available at www.albertmohler.com.