Although the day outside was wet and gray, the mood inside Park Place Baptist Church in Houston was celebratory as 28 graduates of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies were commissioned for service.

More than 300 guests filled the sanctuary, including Houston-area seminary trustees Gary Loveless and Paul Redmon; retired judge Paul Pressler was also in attendance.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Seminary, began his commissioning message by asking the graduates, “What will you be after graduation?”

In a world of secularism and “me first” attitudes, seminary graduates are moving on to become slaves, he said.

“This is a voluntary slavery, but by virtue of following God’s call on your life it sets you apart from all others,” Patterson said.

Basing his sermon on John 13, Patterson said account of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples gives the biblical answer to the question, “What does it mean to be a servant?”

“A servant does not see himself as a king; he sees himself as a servant,” Patterson said. “You know that you are going to lead and show others the way but you do so from the humble posture of a servant. I want to challenge each of you graduates to act as our Savior did, with great humility even as you lead decisively.”

Secondly, a servant will believe and teach exactly what Jesus believed and taught.

“Your obligation, above all else, is to teach the whole counsel of God,” Patterson said. “You teach them until they can say ‘Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.’”

Patterson’s final challenge to the graduates was to “graduate as a slave, happy to serve our Lord in life or in death, wherever it may be.”

Southwestern Seminary’s Houston extension program has been in existence for more than 25 years, mostly on the campus of Houston Baptist University. In 2002, Park Place Baptist Church deeded its facilities to the seminary to establish a permanent home for the school. The site was accredited as a degree-granting institution in 2004.