Mohler to SBTS grads: You won’t finish what you start

Communications Staff — May 14, 2010

Christian ministers are not professionals who take their degrees into the world seeking success as it is typically defined, but instead are deployed for a task of Gospel proclamation which they will not finish, R. Albert Mohler told the 205th graduating class at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Friday.

Preaching from 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 and Revelation 5:6-10, Mohler told the 231 graduates that they have completed advanced degrees, but they will never receive applause from the world.

“Those who graduate from this school today, though rightly congratulated, and being sent out to put everything they have, everything they are, everything they have learned, and everything they hope for, on the line for mission and ministry in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Mohler said.

“They are not starting careers. Indeed, this may end their careers. They are not newly-minted professionals. In fact, they may be largely useless in the eyes of the secular world. They are now deployed for a life of ministry that runs counter to the wisdom of the world.

“The call to the Christian ministry is a profoundly counter-cultural reality. The conventional wisdom just does not fit. As children, we are taught the adage that we are not to start what we cannot finish. But these ministers of the Gospel will never really finish anything, and they are not very qualified to start anything.”

Southern’s graduates will join a long line of faithful Gospel ministers who gave preached the Word across the globe and have served the Kingdom of Christ in anonymity. All ministers are building on a foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, a project that will not be finished until Christ returns, Mohler pointed out.

“They will toil and serve and witness and teach and preach and lead and build, but they will die with more undone than done. Some will serve long, some may serve only a short time in this earthly life, but they will serve a cause they cannot complete; they will tell a story they cannot conclude.

“The American dream does not fit this calling. That dream calls for years of preparation to be followed by formal qualification, decades of professional accomplishment, and a happy retirement. Our hope today must be that these ministers of the Gospel will never retire, for the ministry is never accomplished. They may in due time be redeployed, but never really retired – never ready to rest and merely collect a pension or cash in their retirement accounts and live a life of leisure. They are to serve to the end, learn to the end, teach to the end, and be faithful to the end.

Some will be called to minister in difficult places, some will suffer on behalf of the Gospel and some may be martyred for their faith, Mohler said, but for this they will receive a profound reward in the next life.

“This vision transforms the Christian ministry from a profession into a calling that makes no sense according to the wisdom of the world,” he said. “The vast majority of Christian ministers and pastors have served without the slightest attention of the world, completely lacking in its accolades and attention. They preached the Word, in season and out of season, evangelized, baptized, taught, tended, wept, and cared – and they were laid in humble boxes and lowered into to the waiting earth. And all is well.”

Mohler’s entire address is available in audio and video format at and a complete manuscript may be accessed at

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