Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) celebrated 376 graduates this spring at three in-person graduation ceremonies. The students graduating this semester make up 44 advanced degree students, 267 master’s students, and 65 undergraduate students.
SEBTS President Danny Akin took a moment to honor seven longstanding faculty who are retiring this spring – David Black, Mark Rooker, Chip McDaniel, Jim Porowski, Daniel Heimbach, Ant Greenham and Charles Harvey. These men have faithfully served SEBTS for decades and came to the seminary on the heels of the Conservative Resurgence, a crucial theological turning point in the life of the institution.
“I can tell you that each of them is not only a blessing to these students and to their colleagues, but each one of them have been a tremendous blessing and encouragement to me,” Akin said. “Not only are they colleagues and my brothers in Christ, but each of them is also my friend.”
In his charge to graduates, Akin preached from Philippians 1:21 where Paul writes, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Akin introduced the passage by highlighting three missionaries who gave their lives to fulfilling the Great Commission until their final breath – David Livingstone, John Falconer and Henry Martin.
Akin called Paul’s statement “the ultimate win-win scenario” because it is a reminder that believers have a life worth living and a death worth dying. God created life to be filled with purpose and meaning, and that meaning comes from living a life that glorifies Him. Akin charged graduates to live with the mindset that everything they do should first and foremost be about Christ and His mission around the world.
“Graduates, I pray with all of my heart that that will be you,” Akin said. “You will not try to put conditions on the Lord Jesus Christ in terms of where you serve and how you serve. ‘Lord, you’re my sovereign king and master. Where you tell me to go, I’m going to go. And whatever you call me to do, I am going to do because for me to live is Christ.’”
Everyone has something in their life that is ultimate, Akin said, adding that everyone fills in the blank of Paul’s statement, “To live is Christ and to die is ____.” How someone fills in that blank says much about a person’s priorities, he said, and what he or she is truly living for. This is why, for the Christian, life and death are equally of great worth.
“To be in Christ, death becomes your friend because death simply ushers you into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Akin said.
Akin closed with a story of four missionaries to the Middle East who gave their lives to the Great Commission – Larry and Jean Elliot (SEBTS graduates), David McDonnall and Karen Watson. He closed by reading a letter Karen Watson wrote to her church in the event that she would die overseas, a testimony to her commitment to a life on mission no matter the cost.To view the commencement programs from each service, visit sebts.edu/graduation.