FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – At Southwestern’s spring commencement service, May 9, Southwestern President Paige Patterson joked that as the 200 graduating college, master’s and doctoral students walked across the platform to receive their diplomas, they were taking a vow of poverty.
He explained that while graduates from other institutions go forth in pursuit of a career to make money and a better life for themselves, Southwestern graduates have a different aim—going forth instead to make life better for everybody else, even if that means experiencing financial discomfort.
“That is a unique assignment,” Patterson said, “and it merits a unique charge today from God's Word.”
Patterson derived this charge from Mark 2:1-12, which tells the story of Jesus healing a paralytic lowered through the roof of the house in which Jesus was teaching. Before he healed the man, however, Jesus first forgave the man’s sins.
Patterson challenged graduates to model their ministries after this example—first pointing people to Jesus’ saving grace and then striving to make their worlds better.
“Your first assignment is not to heal those who are sick, feed those who are hungry, [or] clothe those who need clothing,” Patterson clarified. “For all of that that you do today is gone tomorrow when mortality overtakes that individual. Your challenge as you go out, students, whatever it is you do, is to point men and women to faith in Jesus Christ who alone can forgive their sins.”
Explaining the second assignment, Patterson summoned graduates to go forth every day looking for someone whose life they can make better.
“You are looking for someone who needs an encouraging word,” Patterson said. “Someone who needs to be lifted up. Someone who is hurting and needs a word of comfort. You are there for no other reason than to make a better world for him.”
Kyoung-Shin Joseph Park, a graduating Ph.D. student, will follow this ministry model at Cornerstone Community Church, a Korean-American church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he has served as senior pastor since January 2013. Park, whose father is also a Southwestern graduate as well as professor at Korea Baptist Theological Seminary in Daejon, Korea, says he first came to Southwestern because of a desire to learn to preach with a high view of God’s Word.
“Looking back,” Park says, “God has used Southwestern Seminary to equip me to be the text-driven Gospel preacher and teacher that this generation and culture so desperately needs. … The education at Southwestern has given me the confidence of knowing that I am preaching from God’s very own words and not out of my creativity or invention.”
Park says that God is bringing to his church many non-believers and new believers who are thirsty for the Word of God, which will allow Park to minister to them by first pointing them to faith in Jesus, and second, by making for them a better world.