Preaching from Mark 2, in which Mark describes the scene where a crippled man's friends let him down through a roof to see Jesus, Patterson reminded the graduates that they can never be a better friend to someone than they can be when leading that person to Christ. He told students that while their secular counterparts graduate this spring with the objective of making a living -- and a good one at that -- the charge of Southwestern students is singular in nature and quite counter-cultural.
"How different it is for you," Patterson said. "Today you graduate with only one purpose in mind, and that is to proclaim the in-breaking of the Kingdom of Almighty God."
He charged them to preach the Kingdom of God no matter what and above all else.
"May I tell you, my children, that is the priority," Patterson said. "Not physical healing, though God grant that we do everything we can for everybody. Not to minister to the poor; they are our responsibility, and we minister to the poor, but if that's your priority, it is totally misrepresenting the Word of God. Not to bring peace to the earth; we are not war mongers. We are apostles of peace. But that's not our main responsibility. Our primary responsibility and your primary responsibility must be to preach the life-saving, eternity-changing Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which says, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Place your trust in Him. Commit yourself to Him, and the moment that you do that, you will be saved; your sins will be forgiven.'"
Senior pastor Hayes Wicker and senior associate pastor Doug Pigg of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., assisted in the May 10 ceremony, as both men had sons graduating from Southwestern. Wicker, whose son Evan graduated with a master of arts in Christian education, read a passage from 2 Timothy; Pigg, whose son Timothy graduated with a bachelor of arts in humanities from the College at Southwestern, gave the invocation.
"Father, how we're encouraged that these men and women will go out equipped and prepared to share the Gospel in a world that so greatly needs just that -- the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Pigg prayed. "Father, help us to remember that's what we've been called to do, that's what we've been sent to do, is to share your love and share the truth with a world that desperately needs it."
Associate professor of counseling John Babler also had children graduating with degrees and thus wore the badge of proud father and proud professor as his own children and his Southwestern "children" received diplomas. His daughters, Rebecca Babler and Sarah Babler Hampton, both received bachelor of arts in humanities degrees, which Patterson allowed him the privilege of presenting to each woman.
After the presentation of degrees and a congregational hymn, Bill Apelian, father-in-law of Ph.D. graduate Scott Aniol and chief publication officer of Bob Jones University, offered the benediction.
"Heavenly Father, we've come to the end of this Christ-honoring service, but it is a day of beginning for these graduates -- new places of ministry, new shapes of ministry, new opportunities to bring glory to Christ. We ask, our God, that you would teach them, in all walks of life, to preach the Word and to win the lost," Apelian prayed.
Sharayah Colter is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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