Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, urged the May 2022 graduates to consider the question that would impact their lives and ministries as they step into a new chapter in life.
“What is essential for you, now?” Dew asked.
NOBTS conferred twenty-four doctoral degrees, including seven Ph.D.s, two doctor of musical arts, one Ed.D. and 15 D.Min. degrees, and 106 master's degrees. Leavell College graduates received 94 undergraduate degrees and certificates.
Dew defined “essential” by saying it refers to something a person cannot do without. After pursuing an education and earning a degree, graduate candidates must remember what is essential and worthy of their full devotion, Dew urged.
Dew continued by pointing to Matthew 22:23 and the question the religious leaders posed to Jesus. Though the religious leaders hoped to entrap Jesus, Dew said he appreciated their question for a different reason.
“I love that question,” Dew said. “I love that question but not for the same reason [the religious leaders] loved that question … I want to know the answer because I don’t want to waste my life.”
Dew pointed out that Jesus’ response drew from Deuteronomy 6:5 and shows believers what is essential in life and ministry. Dew said, “Love God, above all and with all.”
As a teenager, Dew learned a lesson in what is “essential” as he worked toward a pilot’s license, he said. One day, as Dew sat in the pilot’s seat, his seasoned, “salty” flight instructor directed him to complete a routine task. As Dew attempted to do so, he lost focus for an instant on flying the plane and the plane began losing altitude.
“Fly the plane!” the instructor yelled, Dew related. While the small task the instructor had given Dew was important, flying the plane was essential, Dew explained. In the same way, ministry will be filled with important tasks that will be distractions from what is essential, Dew cautioned.
“No matter what else may come, no matter what else you have to do, some things are essential,” Dew said. “The most important thing you can do is love God, above everything else. Love Him with everything that you are. “
When the essential is kept in focus, the reward is great, Dew said.
“It is a task that never runs dry on joy,” Dew said. “It’s a pursuit that will always deliver. It’s a communion that will always satisfy. Graduates, love God above all, and love him with it all.”
The second part of Jesus’ answer to “love others as yourself” draws from Leviticus 19:17-18 and echoes Jesus’ teaching in John 13:34-35, Dew said. Dew also pointed to the rich young ruler in Mark 10 to show that God is concerned with how believers treat other people.
Today’s culture is filled with “constant war and devouring, fighting and consuming,” Dew said, cautioning graduates that they would encounter people in ministry that are hard to love or that will oppose them. Dew warned graduates that if they are not careful, they will allow themselves “to hate.”
“If you let that happen, you are not being who or what Christ has called you to be,” Dew cautioned. “You can call yourself whatever you want, but don’t call yourself a Christ-follower.”
Dew reminded graduates that they came to seminary in answer to God’s call and urged them to stay focused on what is essential as they follow God to new places of ministry.
“Keep your heart and your mind back on the basics of where it all started,” Dew said. “To love God and to know Him, to love Him above all and with all, and to love other people as yourself.”