The newest graduates of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School were urged to bless the world “with faithfulness to the call and task” with which they have been entrusted during a commencement and consecration service on Wednesday, Dec. 3.
“The preciousness of our call to and task in the ministry supersedes the preciousness of life itself,” said Baptist World Alliance (BWA) official Fausto Vasconcelos, basing his remarks on the Apostle Paul’s ministry as referenced in Acts 20:24.
The “impressive and moving” verse, he said, reflects Paul’s courageous commitment to the ministry despite the hardships, challenges and uncertainties that lay ahead.
Paul received a clear call to the ministry from Jesus, along with a task to testify to the gospel of the grace of God, said Vasconcelos, director of the BWA’s division on mission, evangelism and theological reflection.
“The call and the task dictated Paul’s purpose in life regardless of risks and threats,” Vasconcelos said, challenging the graduates to ask how the verse will play out in their ministry.
They should consider if they are on the same page with Paul regarding their willingness to tackle suffering and trials in the ministry, to acknowledge their call from the Lord Jesus, and to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
While the graduates may not face the same trials that Paul did, they will encounter betrayals and misunderstanding within their congregation as well as personal and family trials, he said.
Stressing the importance of entering the ministry through the door of divine vocation, Vasconcelos quoted Baptist theologian and author Jack MacGorman, who said that “Whoever enters the ministry through a door other than the divine call, will have to leave the ministry through the same door.”
Paul testified to the gospel of the grace of God by focusing on the centrality of preaching and emphasizing the gospel, said Vasconcelos, who began pastoring congregations in his home country of Brazil in 1973. Prior to joining the BWA, he was senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rio de Janeiro from 1985 to 2006.
“Preaching cannot be regarded as an appendix to our ministry nor as a burden,” said Vasconcelos, relating a story of a young pastor who asked him to help prepare a series of sermons, but without referencing the cross. Vasconcelos said he objected. “If you remove the cross from your preaching, you have no preaching at all,” he said.
Samford president Andrew Westmoreland congratulated the graduates for continuing a Samford tradition of preparing students for the ministry that began when it was founded as Howard College in 1841. “We share in your joy this day,” Westmoreland said. “As you have been blessed, please be a blessing to others as you take your ministry into the world.”
Beeson dean Timothy George noted that incorporating a service of consecration with the commencement program underscores the divinity school’s commitment as a center for academic study of religion as well as a community of prayer and faith.
During the consecration service, Beeson faculty members prayed individually for each student in a special time of blessing.
Beeson’s 27-member fall graduating class included 21 Master of Divinity degree recipients and six Doctor of Ministry degree recipients.
Along with their diplomas, each graduate received a copy of the Holy Scriptures. In keeping with its mission to share the gospel, Beeson will send 27 solar powered digital audio players in honor of the graduates to a village in Indonesia. The audio players will provide the story of salvation in the Yetfa language.