NEW ORLEANS -- Jamie Dew, presiding over his first graduation ceremony as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, congratulated graduate candidates at a packed house at Leavell Chapel and then asked a probing question.
“To what end?” Dew asked. “Why has God blessed you? What is this for?”
Dew, elected president by NOBTS trustees on June 3 of this year, explained that God had blessed and sustained graduate candidates through countless hours of study and sacrifices to pursue the degree.
Graduation is a reason to celebrate, Dew explained, but he pressed candidates further to consider if they now hoped the degree would bring opportunity, a new platform and a name for themselves.
God will bring new opportunities, Dew assured listeners, but each will be temporary.
“A day is coming when your name will be forgotten,” Dew reminded them. “So why labor for something that doesn’t matter or count for all eternity? With that in mind, we now send you out as graduates of this institution into the harvest of our Lord. We send you now to go, in His name, to build His kingdom.”
Drawing from Acts 1:4-11, Dew gave his “final instructions” to the graduates.
“As you go, go in the power of God’s Spirit,” Dew said.
The studies, textbooks and class notes will be valuable tools that will serve graduates well, but only God’s power can accomplish the mission, Dew said. Without God’s Spirit, ministry will be in vain, Dew explained, adding that God’s presence is a believer’s “life, power, and strength.”
“Ministry is hard. The sheep will bite you,” Dew said. “You’re going to want to quit. You’re going to get discouraged. You’re going to be broken, sometimes. But as you go, nurture your walk with God more than you ever have … your power is in your communion with Christ.”
Secondly, Dew drew from Acts 1:8 to challenge candidates to go forward as witnesses of Christ’s redeeming power and to testify that God’s “life-giving power and mercy” had changed their lives.
“You don’t go forward to build your own platform or build your own name, or to build a great legacy. You do none of those things,” Dew said. “You go forward to preach Christ and to make Him known where He is not.”
Third, Dew charged candidates to take the Gospel to the broken near and far, both in homes and businesses nearby and in countries far away.
“They need Christ,” Dew said. “Only Christ can heal the brokenness.”
Finally, Dew charged graduates to “go,” always remembering to stay focused on the return of Christ.
“View your present through a lens to the future,” Dew said. “Either Christ will return, or life will end, but there is an end. Our lives must be spent day by day in light of that end.”
Dew told of holding his youngest son as a newborn while holding his three-year-old son on his lap. Dew and his wife Tara are the parents of two sets of fraternal twins, each a son and a daughter.
As he held his sons, Dew said he thought of important life milestones to come and recognized that a day would come when he would not be with them. Dew said a question came to mind—“When every opportunity I have to invest in them, to shape them and disciple them and make them godly men [is over], what kind of men will they be?”
Making every moment count was a lesson that stayed with him, Dew explained, and he urged graduate candidates to remember the same.
“The day is coming when you will lay this down,” Dew said. “Live now for that day. Go forward with an eye for the very end, to Christ’s return.”
Dew closed with the Gospel message and, drawing from John 3:16, urged attendees unfamiliar with its meaning to consider God’s love. Dew said, “This day as we celebrate Christ and we celebrate our graduates, I urge you if you do not know Jesus Christ, make today the day that you meet Him.”
Before the conferral of degrees, Provost Norris Grubbs pointed to 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 to remind candidates that God is faithful and will be with them.
“You must always keep learning,” Grubbs told the candidates. “Our prayer is that you will serve God’s people as you walk with Christ, proclaim His truth, and fulfill His mission.”
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary conferred 121 masters degrees and 37 doctoral degrees including 14 Ph.Ds., one Ed.D, one D.M.A., 19 D.Min., and two D.Ed.Min. Forty-eight M.Div. degrees, 15 with specializations, were conferred.
Leavell College conferred 29 bachelor of arts in Christian Ministry degrees and four associate of arts in Christian Ministry degrees.
The Lockman Foundation presented each graduate with a copy of the New American Standard Bible.
Marilyn Stewart is the assistant director of communications at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College.