Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s academic year concluded in celebratory fashion on May 12 as graduates, families, and friends gathered together in the Daniel Lee Chapel to observe the school’s 61st commencement exercises–launching theologically-trained gospel ministers into service.

In comprising the school’s largest graduating class, 135 students graduated including three diplomas from the Midwestern Women’s Institute, 31 undergraduate, 82 graduate, and 19 doctoral degrees being conferred.

Key moments in the ceremony included President Jason Allen’s challenge to students in his commencement address to, “embrace the foolishness of gospel ministry,” as well as a presentation of the institution’s Professor of the Year award.

During his expository message from 1 Cor. 1:18-31, Allen noted significant contrasts in the text. There is a stark difference between God’s wisdom and man’s wisdom; between God’s glory and the glory of man; between the ways of God and the ways of the world; and a contrast between two paths and two destinies – two end results that every man and woman on earth will know. As such, there is a need for ministers of the gospel, which will seem as foolishness to those who do not know Christ as Savior.

Allen offered seven exhortations about what it means to embrace the foolishness of gospel ministry.

First, he encouraged graduates to value their degrees. In a world that sees the earning of a degree as self-validation, Allen told graduates to see it differently.

“We value the degree, and I challenge you to value the degree, not for the credentials that it gives you, but value the degree for what it represents – that is a season of ministry preparation and training….See your time here as preparation for ministry, but not a validation of it.”

In his second point, Allen said graduates should celebrate their accomplishments but should never forget their weaknesses. He noted that many may have come to seminary without the blessings of family and friends. He said that type of opposition will likely be ever-present throughout their ministries. In spite of this, Allen stated, “But it is a glorious reality to be in the defined minority that is guaranteed to be victorious.”

Thirdly, Allen exhorted graduates to embrace the collision of worldviews. He said not to back away from the battle, and that the quicker one is able to do that, the more comfortable he or she would be in ministry.

“The quicker we are willing to stand on these truths (the simple message of the Word), embrace them and own them, and realize that doing so puts us in direct conflict with the world, the quicker we will be secure and satisfied in your life in ministry.”

Allen’s fourth and fifth points were for graduates to be committed to the foolishness of preaching and, more specifically, to making the cross central to their ministries.

“Be committed to a cross-centered ministry; a cross-centered pulpit, and a cross-centered life….The message we preach is 1,000 times true regardless of what the vast masses of humanity think of it in any generation.
“We take our calling seriously because we believe with all that we are that the gospel is true, that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and that these graduates are giving their lives to serving the church because there is no grander or more glorious thing to give their lives to.”

Allen’s final points to graduates were to remain tenderized to the plight of the lost, and to minister for God’s opinion, not man’s.

He concluded the message saying, “Have a life and ministry and family in which you aim to please the One who matters, the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when your time is up and your service is over, and some boasting is done, you and those affected by your ministry are boasting in the Lord.”

Following his address, Allen announced Midwestern Seminary’s Professor of the Year. This year’s recipient, Morlee Maynard—director of the D.Ed.Min. program and professor of Christian Education —has ministered at Midwestern Seminary since 2010.

Maynard came to Midwestern Seminary from LifeWay Christian Resources, where she served for 30 years. Through those years, she worked in various areas including preschool Sunday school, family ministry, Christian Growth Study Plan, SBC ministry program, adult ministry, discipleship and evangelism and as a church library ministry specialist. Maynard holds a Doctor of Educational Ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, a Master of Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Science from Oklahoma State University. She has written numerous articles and three books including Understanding Today’s Preschoolers, Understanding Young Adults, and Happy Times with People (younger preschoolers). She and her husband, Ken, have one adult son, Jonathan.

To view the 2017 commencement service in its entirety, visit the MBTS resources page