FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson challenged graduates of the Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston, Texas, to be ready for whatever God has in store for their lives and ministries. Patterson expressed his fatherly advice during the school’s spring commencement, May 10.

“God is the author of the unthinkable,” Patterson said, adding, “The days are coming very near ahead, and they will occur many times during your ministry, when what God says to do will not make perfect, logical sense in the way men think of things.”

Encouraging students to be servants of light in a dark, hopeless world, Patterson said, “God will take you where you don’t expect; He will do with you what your family will be amazed about; and he will astonish everybody with what He’s going to do.”

Jesse McMillan, a Master of Divinity graduate, has experienced God doing the unthinkable in his own life. McMillan formerly lived in Sulphur, La., where he was a youth pastor until Hurricane Rita destroyed his home in 2005. Shortly after the hurricane, McMillan felt the Lord calling him to attend seminary full time.

Having commuted two hours to class at the Havard campus since 2003, McMillan and his family moved to Houston in obedience to this call. “I loved the Houston campus because of my interaction there and because it’s a smaller, close-knit community, not just of friends but of the professors who teach here,” he says.

Providentially, God provided a ministry opportunity in the community where McMillan had moved, and he currently serves as pastor of student ministry at Bay Area First Baptist Church in League City, Texas. He considers serving in ministry and attending seminary to be mutually beneficial.

“Southwestern has helped me keep my head in the clouds, and my ministry has helped me keep my feet on the ground,” McMillan said. “As I go through ministry, it allows me not to get so overwhelmed with the practicalities in ministry that I forget about the deep, theological truths we’re trying to teach.”

McMillan is grateful for the passion for evangelism he has developed during his studies at Southwestern. “There are a lot of places where you can go and get a theological education, and things like death and hell and judgment are so rationalized away that the impetus for evangelism just isn’t there. That’s definitely not the case here.”

One of three students selected to speak in chapel during the semester, McMillan counted it a privilege to share his heart with other students. He has also been blessed under the mentorships of John Bisagno, pastor emeritus of Houston’s First Baptist Church, and Roy Fish, distinguished professor emeritus of evangelism at Southwestern Seminary and interim pastor at McMillan’s church.

As encouragement to those considering seminary, McMillan says, “If you want to have a theological education that is going to be true and faithful to what God has said through His Word, then Southwestern is great place to be to experience that education.”

“Havard is a place of theological learning that God has allowed to develop in Houston that meets the needs of people around here who feel called into full-time ministry and don’t necessarily feel called to move away. That turmoil that used to exist between ‘Do I go to school or do I spend time in full-time ministry?’ doesn’t exist anymore because you can do both.”

During the commencement ceremony, Southwestern conferred 18 degrees on Havard School students, including McMillan. Administrators and faculty from the seminary’s main campus in Fort Worth were present along with Patterson.

“We value their presence here because it so strongly demonstrates that we are Southwestern,” said Bob Overton, associate dean of the Havard campus. Noting Houston as the location where Texas secured its independence at the battle of San Jacinto, Patterson said, “Right here where the Texas revolution was birthed, we are giving birth to an even more important revolution—the revolution to change the hearts and lives of men and their eternity—and that’s what the Houston campus is all about.”