Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) academic year concluded in celebratory fashion May 12 as graduates, families and friends gathered for the 61st commencement, launching theologically-trained gospel ministers into service.
Midwestern Seminary graduates Brandi Arndt and Colton Strother participate in the recessional following commencement exercises at Midwestern Seminary on May 12. Arndt earned her master of theological studies degree and Strother received a master of divinity degree.
The seminary’s largest-ever graduating class of 135 students received 31 undergraduate, 82 graduate and 19 doctoral degrees and three diplomas from Midwestern Women’s Institute.
In his commencement address, President Jason Allen challenged the graduates to “embrace the foolishness of gospel ministry.”
In an expository message from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Allen noted significant contrasts in the text. There is a stark difference between God’s wisdom and man’s wisdom; between God’s glory and the glory of man; between the ways of God and the ways of the world; and between two paths and two destinies that every man and woman on earth will know.
As such, there is a need for ministers of the gospel – which will seem as foolishness to those who do not know Christ as Savior, Allen said.
Allen listed seven exhortations about what it means to embrace the foolishness of gospel ministry:
First, he encouraged the graduates to value their degrees. In a world that sees the earning of a degree as self-validation, Allen told graduates to see it differently.
“We value the degree, and I challenge you to value the degree, not for the credentials that it gives you, but value the degree for what it represents – that is, a season of ministry preparation and training….”
Second, Allen said graduates should celebrate their accomplishments but never forget their weaknesses. Many may have come to seminary without the blessings of family and friends, he said, noting that type of opposition will likely be ever-present throughout their ministries. In spite of this, Allen stated that it is “a glorious reality to be in the defined minority that is guaranteed to be victorious.”
Third, Allen exhorted graduates to embrace the collision of worldviews, not to back away from the battle.
“The quicker we are willing to stand on these truths [the simple message of the Word], embrace them and own them, and realize that doing so puts us in direct conflict with the world, the quicker we will be secure and satisfied in your life in ministry,” he said.
Allen’s fourth and fifth points were for graduates to be committed to the foolishness of preaching and, more specifically, to making the cross central to their ministries.
“Be committed to a cross-centered ministry, a cross-centered pulpit and a cross-centered life. … The message we preach is 1,000 times true regardless of what the vast masses of humanity think of it in any generation,” he said.
“We take our calling seriously because we believe with all that we are that the gospel is true, that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation and that these graduates are giving their lives to serving the church because there is no grander or more glorious thing to give their lives to.”
Allen’s final points to graduates were to remain tender to the plight of the lost and to minister for God’s opinion, not man’s.
He concluded the message saying, “Have a life and ministry and family in which you aim to please the One who matters, the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when your time is up and your service is over, and some boasting is done, you and those affected by your ministry are boasting in the Lord.”
Following his address, Allen announced Midwestern’s Professor of the Year: Morlee Maynard, director of the D.Ed.Min. program and professor of Christian education who has taught at the seminary since 2010.
Maynard came to Midwestern Seminary from LifeWay Christian Resources, where she worked 30 years in various areas, including preschool Sunday School, family ministry, adult ministry, discipleship and evangelism and church library ministry.
Maynard holds a doctorate in educational ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, a master of religious education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University. She has written three books, Understanding Today’s Preschoolers, Understanding Young Adults and Happy Times with People (about younger preschoolers). She and her husband Ken have one adult son, Jonathan.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)