FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- "This is a graduation ceremony. These are commencement exercises. But first and foremost, this is a service of Christian worship," said President Adam W. Greenway during Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s spring commencement service Friday.
He explained, "We have gathered together to sing hymns of praise, to hear an address from God's Word, and to do something that is exceptionally significant: to commission nearly 300 graduates from undergraduate degrees through Ph.D.'s -- people who will go forth and touch the world and impact eternity."
The commencement service saw 208 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral students walk across the stage in the seminary's MacGorman Chapel to receive their diplomas -- with additional students from around the world graduating in absentia. Before doing so, they listened as Greenway delivered his first-ever commencement address as president of Southwestern Seminary.
"It is an awesome thing to have been entrusted with the giftings, with the calling, and now with the theological training to be used in Kingdom service. That is a weighty responsibility; it is a sacred obligation," Greenway said.
Delivering an exhortation from 2 Timothy 2:1-13, Greenway provided three specific reminders for the graduates as they go forth from the Fort Worth campus. He reminded them of the importance of faithful teaching and sound doctrine; the fact that trials, suffering, and pain will come; and the importance of keeping their eyes, their hearts, and their minds on Jesus.
"In the day-to-day grind of the ministry and on mission, it can be so easy to become distracted and diverted with all of the busyness and the stuff and the meetings and the schedules and the problems and the calendar and everything else, that you neglect that rich personal communion in your relationship and your walk with Christ," Greenway said. "May I just remind that you will never be before the people of God what you are not alone in the private prayer closet with God."
Greenway concluded by exhorting the graduates to prioritize "the two things that transcend the grave -- the Word of God, and people."
"Everything else is of secondary or tertiary importance," Greenway said. "What matters most is doing everything we can to get the Word of God into the hearts and minds and lives of people, that their lives might be changed, not just for here but for eternity."
Among the recipients of this presidential charge was Katie Frugé, who graduated with her Ph.D. in systematic theology. Looking back at her time at Southwestern Seminary, she says the most impactful moments happened when she least expected them.
"It's grabbing coffee after class because you're not done discussing the issue," she says. "It's having a professor see a spark inside you that you never knew was there and helping it grow. It's sharing some of the realities of day-to-day life with others and having a spontaneous prayer session break out. Moments like this have been so impactful in my life and have made me more attentive and intentional to continue them after my time at seminary."
Frugé will begin teaching at Southwestern Seminary this fall. She encourages those considering seminary or currently studying in seminary to not underestimate the importance of theological education.
"One of the things I love the most about theology is helping others find out how and where the theological rubber meets the road," she says. "My theological education has helped me put into clear and specific words the convictions that drive me. I believe theology steers actions, so having biblically solid and well-thought-out theology is essential to our Kingdom work on earth."
Alex Sibley is associate director for news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.