Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg told students graduating from the seminary’s Los Angeles-area campus May 20 that their primary role in God’s kingdom is to be witnesses to the gospel.
Photo by Rebekah Wahlberg
President Jeff Iorg, right, presents Benjamin Friedman of California with the William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award.
“Tell your story and watch how God transforms those around you,” he said. “Be expert witnesses. You have expert information about the Bible and practical ministry. Tell the truth no matter the consequences.”
Iorg reminded them that they needed to pray that God would give them insight.
“We spent the last years giving you the tools of effective ministry,” he said. “Use them wisely, but trust none of them to accomplish the supernatural work that God wants you to accomplish in the years to come. Trust instead in Him.”
He challenged them to never lose sight of the ends of the earth.
“While your primary job is your current ministry, never lose sight of the world,” he said. “Keep it in your vision. You are leaders in a spiritual kingdom. Tell your story, even if it’s painful, and then tell it locally and globally.”
The seminary’s Los Angeles-area campus in Ontario graduated 101 students from 17 states and three countries during commencement ceremonies held at Hillside Community Church in Rancho Cucamonga.
The service was the fourth of five ceremonies, with a total of 201 graduates, conducted on the seminary’s campuses. The Pacific Northwest campus, located in Vancouver, Wash., recognized the seminary’s 9,000th graduate during ceremonies there May 12.
LeShon Archer of California, who received the master of arts in educational leadership degree, said she came to Gateway because she wanted to be a Bible teacher. She began classes in the spring term of 2014, just before the announcement that the seminary was moving.
“Dr. Iorg told the students that some had expressed concerns about competition in Southern California from other seminaries,” she said, “but he told us that our mission was different. Our mission was to train leaders who expand God’s kingdom around the world. That’s when it dawned on me that we were partnering and joining with other believers to expand God’s kingdom.”
Archer said she felt the faculty was there because they wanted to teach and that they challenged and changed and equipped her to fulfill the teaching ministry God had given her.
“I enjoyed the training and the teaching the most,” she said. “I still want to be a successful Bible teacher, wherever God leads me to serve.”
Benjamin Friedman of California, who earned the master of divinity degree, said he accepted Christ as a college student, felt the call to preach, and came to Gateway three weeks after college graduation and seven days after his wedding.
“A call to ministry is also a call to prepare,” he said. “I wanted the rich denominational history of the Southern Baptist Convention, but I wanted to do ministry outside the Bible Belt. I saw in Gateway Seminary a combination of those two factors. The most significant learning experience for me has been the training combined with intellectual rigor and practical application.”
Friedman received the William O. Crews Presidential Award and the Zondervan Award in Theology.
Other award winners included Lindsay Nicole Vacek of California, who received the Fletcher and Claudia Royal Award in Educational Leadership; Jin Ah Yi of California, who was awarded the Roger and Martha Skelton Award in Educational Service; Hannah C. McCloy of Minnesota, who received the Jack O’Neal Award in Intercultural Ministry; Cameron Schweitzer of California, who received the Baker Bookhouse Award in Theology; Miles Paul Wallace of California, who received the Gateway Award in Theology; and Bryan David Gill of Alabama, recipient of the Will Edd Langford Award.
In addition, the Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Wayne Eurich, who graduated in 1950 with a bachelor of theology degree. At age 97, Eurich may be the oldest living alumnus of the seminary. He served in churches in Oregon, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Alaska, Germany and South Africa.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Katherine Chute is director of communications for Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.)