Calling the Fall Convocation service a time of “consecrating ourselves anew for the task of ministry preparation,” President Jason Allen formally opened the new academic year at Midwestern Seminary on Aug. 21.
In addition to Allen’s convocation message from James 1:19-25, the Midwestern Seminary community celebrated the signing of the Articles of Faith by the school’s newest faculty member, Andreas Köstenberger, and honored the institution’s first president, Millard Berquist, by dedicating the administrative wing in his name.
During his convocation message, Allen warned all in attendance that being a minister of the gospel is to “Play with Dangerous Things.”
Allen noted that any minister who does not receive God’s Word with careful reflection or does not receive God’s Word with intentional obedience is in danger of “snoozing through their grand assignment.” He further cautioned those in attendance against becoming too familiar or lackadaisical in these matters.
“Inasmuch as there is discontinuity in what we teach and what we live, there is danger in that,” Allen exhorted. “Inasmuch as there is discontinuity between what we hear and how we obey, there is danger in that as well.”
In explaining that each gospel minister must receive God’s Word with careful reflection, Allen explained how this is typified in James’ words in v. 21.
“To live the Christian life is to be involved in a collision of interests,” he said. “The Word, the Spirit, the ministry, and the forces of light all come at us in one way, and the other would be things of darkness, filthiness, and the vestiges of wickedness that unfortunately remain.
“Of this collision, James would say, ‘You engage this collision by humbling yourselves – receiving, digesting the Word implanted.’ The picture we get here is that spiritual growth and the preaching and teaching of God’s Word is a deep work.”
Once the Word is received, Allen said, one must act upon it with intentional obedience.
He suggested that a minister’s obedience shouldn’t come from an understanding that it earns salvation, keeps one’s salvation, or gains a favorable standing in the sight of our Lord, Jesus.
Instead, we should “pursue faithfulness as those who have been immersed in the goodness of God; those who have been lavished in the grace of God; those whose standing in Christ is certain and unshakable.”
Allen said there is a danger ministers or Christians face in being self-deluded about hearing or preaching the Word of God but having no interest, desire, or pursuit in applying it. This can be avoided, however, by having a willingness to reflect protractedly, thoroughly, and by intentionally obeying God’s Word.
“As we begin a new academic year and all of the possibility it portends,” Allen said, “we dare not be the type of people who could hear, teach, or preach the Word without any intent to sincerely reflect upon or to intentionally obey it.”
Another celebratory moment during the service occurred when the seminary’s newest faculty member, Köstenberger, signed the school’s Articles of Faith – promising adherence to the school’s confessional statements: the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, and the Chicago Statement on the Inerrancy of Scripture. Kostenberger is the 114th faculty member in the school’s history to sign the book.
Köstenberger, who came to Midwestern Seminary after serving for 20 years at Southeastern Seminary, will serve as research professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology and as director of a forthcoming Center for Biblical Studies. His election to the faculty took place during April’s Board of Trustees meeting.
Rounding out the day’s festivities was the dedication of the school’s administrative wing to Millard Berquist. Before a crowd that included a number of Berquist’s family members, Allen unveiled a plaque commemorating the service and efforts of the school’s first leader.
Allen reflected on stories he’d read and heard about Berquist’s election as president as well as his vital role in property negotiation, assembling of the original faculty, initial building projects, and early school life at Midwestern Seminary.
Of Berquist, Allen said, “To found anything, whether it is a business, church or what would prove to be a major institution, is no small task. Dr. Berquist, and his wife, Gladys, gave their lives to leading this institution, and that is a remarkable thing. We are grateful for their tremendous service to the seminary community and the Southern Baptist Convention in the earliest years of our school’s existence.
“In honoring Dr. Berquist’s extraordinary contribution toward these foundational elements of Midwestern Seminary – now 61 years after the institution was established – it is only fitting and right that on this August day, we dedicate this building – to now be known as Berquist Hall – after him.”
Berquist was elected by the trustees as president of Midwestern Seminary on Oct. 8, 1957. He presided for 15 years, retiring on July 31, 1972. However, he continued administrative duties until February of 1973, when his successor, Milton Ferguson, took office.
During his ministry, Berquist served as pastor of several churches, including Price Hill Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Riverside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and First Baptist Church in Tampa.
In Southern Baptist denominational life, Berquist served as president of the Florida Baptist Convention and two terms as a trustee at Southern Seminary. After retirement from Midwestern Seminary, trustees elected him as President Emeritus, and he served as interim pastor for churches in Missouri and Florida.
Berquist was married to his wife, Gladys, for 62 years, and the couple had one daughter, Barbara.