Mohler to Boyce graduates: Ministry preparation has eternal implications

Communications Staff — May 10, 2019

A degree from Boyce College represents an eternal investment, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, during the 21st commencement ceremony of Boyce College, May 10. During the ceremony in Alumni Memorial Chapel, 140 students were present to receive degrees as part of a 177-person graduating class, one of the largest in the school’s history.

While other colleges distribute mass-produced degrees designed to optimize a school’s investment in each student, Boyce has a higher goal than influencing the lifetime of one person or one institution, he said. The 177 degrees awarded to Boyce graduates are not intended just to prepare those students for the next 50 years. They are meant to prepare the students for an eternity of kingdom impact.

“We are not sending you out today in to the world for a few decades of impact and influence. We are sending you out into eternity in the name of the Christ whose glory in the church will be demonstrated throughout all generations forever and ever,” Mohler said.

Under many education models throughout the United States, degrees are given away in something like an assembly line — similar to how cars or tanks were produced in the United States during the 1930s, Mohler said. These degrees are packaged, copied, and distributed widely. Boyce College, though, is different.

“One of the oddest ironies of our gathering this morning is that picture doesn’t work for us,” Mohler said. “We don’t see education as something that can be done in a factory. We don’t see commencement day as the opening of the doors of the factory and the sending of the product out. We don’t look at these graduates and think that we know exactly what God is going to do with every one them for the rest of their lives because, in honesty, we haven’t a clue.”

While other schools send out their students with well-wishes to “make yourself famous and always remember your alma mater,” Mohler said, Boyce students have a broader and more long-term goal.

“Nothing you do for Christ will die with you. That’s a promise that doesn’t come from me, but God himself. Thus, there can be nothing but gain, and for you there can be nothing but joy.”

As a Christian institution, Boyce cannot look at education as a vast machine designed to churn out products ready to contribute to the social good, according to Mohler. Rather, Boyce College graduates are prepared for the lifelong service of Christ, and they need unique training for that mission. That training involves both mind and heart. So the spiritual growth of students, Mohler said, is just as important to the faculty of the college as intellectual growth. The goal of education, then, is not just knowledge, but wisdom.  

“Your experience at Boyce College, graduates, has not been an experience in mass education,” he said. “The educational purpose here is directed not merely at the head, but the heart. … Given the way God made us, we understand the two are linked. But the average college or university wouldn’t dare get close to the heart; we don’t want ever to get far from it.”

Using Ephesians 3:20 as his text, Mohler said that his desire for the graduates of Boyce College is that God would use their education and careers to do “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine,” he said.

“Our hope, prayer, and commitment is that the years spent here at this college have prepared every one of these young people for service beyond their and our imaginations, in the name of Christ,” Mohler said.  

Decades from now, most of the people gathered in Alumni Memorial Chapel that Friday afternoon will be amazed at what God has accomplished through these graduates, Mohler said. Some will be in ministries, businesses, and mission fields they would never have imagined on the day of their graduation. But that mission and ministry will not be surprising to the Lord, who does more than anyone can ask or think, Mohler said.

“We are boldly, graciously, and with great excitement sending you out to do more than we can imagine, because of what this God — the true and living God — will do through you.”

Commencement is an opportunity to celebrate a truly great accomplishment, but that accomplishment should never be the truest thing about graduates of Boyce College, said Matthew J. Hall, dean of the school. Hall, who gave his final commencement address as dean of Boyce College before officially transitioning to his new role as provost of Southern Seminary, exhorted the graduates to remember that no academic achievement should form their identity.

Hall said the administration and faculty of Boyce College hopes that each graduate would accomplish great things with their degrees. But just as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3 that “whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ,” so should Boyce graduates understand that their true meaning and identity is in Christ himself.

“You go from here with our highest hopes. We long to hear reports of your success and achievement in every facet of your family and career,” Hall said. “But make no mistake about it: None of this has ultimate value. Our greatest ambition for you, and our continued prayer, is that you would know Christ more deeply with each passing day.

“Class of 2019: Resolve this day to leverage every breath and every moment for that which has ultimate and supreme value. May you, as you leave this place and go wherever the king sends you, know the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

During the ceremony, Melissa R. Tucker, associate professor of teacher education, was awarded the Charles W. Draper Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, which was given for the second time after being created last year.

Established and named in honor of Draper, professor of Boyce College for two decades and chair of the school’s department of biblical studies, the award annually recognizes a member of the faculty who continues Draper’s legacy of excellence in teaching. Nominations for the award come from graduating students, and the selection comes from a committee of students, faculty, and alumni.

Audio and video of the day’s events will soon be available at equip.sbts.edu.

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