In his report to fellow trustees during the fall 2016 trustee meeting this October, Bart Barber, chairman of the academic administration committee, said, “We have determined to unleash another assault on the gates of hell by approving for graduation in the fall 2016 commencement the students approved by the faculty and certified by the registrar.” Two months later, on Dec. 16, this “assault” was finally unleashed as 169 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students graduated from Southwestern Seminary during the fall commencement.

In his commission to the graduates, President of Southwestern Seminary Paige Patterson spoke on the importance of acting with integrity and responding in obedience to God’s call in ministry. “All across America, students are graduating from colleges and universities, and the one thing most of them will not be told is to be men and women of integrity,” Patterson said.

But the position of graduates from Southwestern, he argued, is considerably different. “You have no choice if you receive the blessings of God but to be men and women of absolute and total integrity. Even when it hurts, to be truthful and righteous before God is the only answer for a successful ministry.”

Patterson preached from Luke 1, wherein Zechariah is told that his wife will bear a child who will be named John. Patterson said of the naming of John the Baptist, “When the moment came for their decision to be made, Zechariah gave the name he was instructed to give his son. Zechariah was being obedient.”

“May I say to you students today,” Patterson continued, “that integrity is the first matter in the formula for the blessings of God; the second is obedience to God.” Patterson warned graduates that as they serve in local churches and on the mission field, their ministries will be filled with obstacles and difficulties, so obedience to God is of the utmost importance.

“It is going to be a miserable existence out there unless you discover obedience to God,” Patterson said. “Wherever God calls you to go, whatever He asks you to do, and whatever the scenario that comes from God, be obedient to it. Obedience will make all the difference in the world in the ministry God gives you.”

This challenge to be men and women of integrity and obedience to God was received by graduates who will be sent to all corners of the earth to spread the message of the Gospel. One such student was Cassandra Ellis, who graduated with a Master of Divinity. Her studies specifically focused on missions and biblical counseling.

As she responds to God’s call to serve on the mission field, Ellis says she is eager to utilize her biblical counseling skills to counsel and minister to other missionary families. “My time here at Southwestern has given me invaluable knowledge on how to minister to these families,” Ellis says. “I am excited about where the Lord will take my family and how He will use me to glorify Him. I am thankful for this school and the men and women who make it possible for us students to be equipped and ready to work.”