Patterson commissioned graduates as "prophets of the Most High God" during fall commencement at Travis Avenue Baptist Church. He exhorted graduates from the Fort Worth campus and the Havard campus in Houston to remember their responsibility "to prepare all men for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ" and compared their commission to the one given to Zechariah about his son John the Baptist in Luke 1:16-17.
The focus on preaching the Gospel to the world spans individual callings and ministry posts, Patterson said.
"Whether you are preaching or teaching, if you are singing and directing in the worship of song, or whether you are reading the Scriptures, teaching the children or counseling, may it all be with one goal in mind, to teach them the knowledge of salvation," he said in December.
The message holds infinite value when compared with what else the graduates could offer their people, Patterson said.
"If you taught them how to gain worldly goods, they'll all be taken away. If you taught them how to gain position and prestige, someday it will vanish with the coming of age and ultimately of death. But you are a prophet. You have the word of salvation, which, once received, will never be taken away."
Members of the graduating class carry this word as they enter their respective areas of ministry. Two students, Megan and Tyler Downing, were married last summer and shared the experience of graduating together.
Megan, who graduated with a master of arts in Christian education with a concentration in missions, walked the stage Dec. 10 right after her new husband, who earned the same degree. The couple hopes to serve overseas in the future.
"I've learned how to meld practical ministry with what I know about the Bible and God," Tyler said.
Tyler earned a student ministry concentration and attributed much of his learning to veteran youth and family ministry professors such as Johnny Derouen and Richard Ross. He serves as minister to students at Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bethlehem, Texas.
Peyton Hill, who earned a master of divinity degree, will leave for Woodstock, Ga., in the coming weeks to serve as an intern with Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church. Hill said his studies at Southwestern prepared him for the position by teaching him about the importance of the Bible in pastoral work.
"I feel like I've learned what it means to believe in the inerrancy of the Word and to preach that," Hill said. "I think the three things I've learned more than anything at Southwestern are how important it is to have a strong, conservative theology; how important it is to be able to preach the Bible and to bring the Word of God to bear on people's lives; and lastly, just personal holiness and the importance of keeping a holy life day in and day out."
Marisa Yanaga, from Honolulu, Hawaii, earned a master of arts in Christian education and hopes to return to her home state after her husband finishes his undergraduate degree at Southwestern.
"We've been trying to be like a sponge and soak up everything that we can, so that when we go home we would be able to share with people back at home all that we've learned," Yanaga said.
Kyle Walker, a master of divinity graduate, will stay at Southwestern to pursue a doctorate in theology. He hopes eventually to serve in the pastorate, but "about halfway through, I felt God calling me to this next degree," he said. Further studies will prepare him for both the pulpit as well as opportunities to train pastors in the future, Walker said.
More than 42,000 students have graduated from Southwestern Seminary since its founding in 1908.
Rebecca Carter writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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