Draper, president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources, delivered the commencement address, titled "The Call to Ministry," relaying four principles from what he called the "forgotten verses" of John 3, verses 22-31. Draper urged the graduates to follow John the Baptist's example in their ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ.
In providing the context for his address, Draper said Jesus' ministry was gaining momentum and many who had been following John the Baptist were now flocking to Jesus. John's disciples might have been jealous for John and may have felt he was being pushed aside. Feeling injured, neglected or unjustifiably forgotten would have been easy for John, Draper said. However, John responded in verses 27-31: "No one can receive a single thing unless it's given to him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Messiah, but I've been sent ahead of Him. … So this joy of mine is complete. He must increase but I must decrease. The One who comes from above is above all. …"
Draper noted four of John the Baptist's attributes the graduates would do well to imitate -- an absolute confidence in recognizing the final authority of God over his life, clear understanding of his commissioning/calling, contentment in his calling and a driving compulsion that Jesus must increase and he must decrease.
After summarizing each principle, Draper returned to his first point, saying, "As the ultimate authority, God has given us an assignment. Students, graduates, you shouldn't be here just because it seems like a good thing to do or because you have a talent for ministry. You should only be here because you know in your heart that God has called you to the ministry."
Draper added that statistics show approximately half of the graduates would not be in ministry in five years. He suggested the reason for this is because many who are studying for the ministry don't have a calling to it.
"I want to suggest to you that God does have a call for your life -- for all of our lives," Draper said. "It's especially true of those called into ministry. Without the assurance of God's call on your life, you will not make it in ministry. Listen carefully to what I say: The ministry is a terrible vocation, but it is a wonderful calling."
This calling is evident throughout all of Scripture, Draper said, quoting biblical passages that showed God's call of such people as Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, the prophets, Jesus' disciples and the apostle Paul.
Ministers should not be jealous of their colleagues because God made them each for different, specific purposes, Draper emphasized.
"God has a plan and purpose for our lives. … His plan for you may include different responsibilities, but you are called to Him," Draper said. "This is tremendously important because it removes any possibility of rivalry or competition in ministry. It removes the idea that any of us are more important than another. We must be able to understand that we're working together and our assignments are unique and all of them are significant. To have anything to do in God's Kingdom is a supreme privilege and honor that we ought to cherish."
Ministers are examples to others and must examine their own hearts and lives, Draper added.
"God's call to ministry is different than any other career a person could have," he said. "It's a call to a different kind of life. You have to live out your ministry. You are your ministry and you set the example of holiness and devotion. It's not just important what you do, but who you are. You are a prototype. You are one that is an example of integrity, purity, honesty, passion, devotion and stewardship. You cannot lead people where you are not at yourself."
Midwestern's interim president, Robin Hadaway, charged the graduates to "not let this be your last honor." He said it is alright to take some time to appreciate the moment, but it is only the beginning of their ministry and learning. Hadaway reminded the graduates that Christians should not look to attain honors for themselves, but instead should "honor Jesus as you serve Him in the ministry He's called you to."
In addition to awarding degrees at the ceremony, the seminary and its undergraduate college announced the recipients of 16 academic awards. Nathan Edwards, a master of divinity graduate, received the Wanda J. Keatley Award, which included an all-expense paid trip for him and a guest to the Holy Land. In other awards, J. Craig Kubic, the seminary's director of library services since 1987, was named Professor of the Year.
T. Patrick Hudson is director of communications for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
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