PHOENIX – A thought-provoking message from a Missouri Baptist Convention pastor, an update of the chapel construction project and the presentation of alumni of the year awards highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s alumni luncheon June 15.
John Marshall, Missouri Baptist Convention president and lead pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, addressed the group with a focus placed on what seminaries can teach their students in order to make them more effective ministers of the Gospel.
Marshall reflected on his seminary experience 36 years ago and offered several things he believes seminaries should do for their students: They should ensure that students are taught that holiness matters most; see to it that students are taught personal discipline; and convince them to love learning.
Seminaries should also work to instruct students to remain current, both spiritually and culturally, Marshall said. Most pastors have become adept at handling high-profile issues such as homosexuality and abortion, but they won’t take a stand for many other issues, he said.
“We have got to raise up a generation of guys who are totally fearless,” Marshall said.
“Somebody needs to go into the pulpit and preach with authority about divorce and re-marriage and about environmentalism. They just need to stand up and put the Word of God on the pulpit and preach. We need to preach about caring for the poor. Something is wrong when we’re known as some of the meanest and unfriendliest people in the country. We should be the most compassionate in the world, and somebody’s got to stand up and preach about it.”
Seminaries must work hard to expand people’s horizons, Marshall stated. Schools often force students to take courses they hate but many times, in exposing people to these new areas, people find their niche, he said.
“One of the greatest things a seminary can do is to continue to force those students to take courses in lots of areas, hoping that someday one of them will really catch in their life,” Marshall said. “In our free educational culture in the U.S., what’s essential is that every student, by taking courses which they dabble in, will catch their field and learn what God has made them to do. They can sense, ‘This is me!’ and because of that they can make a huge impact for the cause of Christ.”
R. Philip Roberts, Midwestern’s president, greeted alumni and guests, reminding them of the seminary’s motto “In the heart of America for the hearts of the world.”
“It’s never been truer than at the moment that it’s where our heart is – to provide quality, first-rate biblical scholarship and teaching – but with the end in mind of impacting the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Roberts said.
Roberts cited C.H. Spurgeon, from his book, The Soul Winner: “That man lives grandly who is as earnest as if the very existence of Christianity depended upon himself, and is determined that to all men within his reach shall be made known the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
“Just think if you were the only person on the earth who knew and understood the Gospel and who had the truth of God. What kind of life would you be living?” Roberts asked. “Well, it shouldn’t be any different from the life you’re living right now – because that’s the way, as Spurgeon so wonderfully put it, that all of us should be living as well.”
Providing an update on the past year’s progress on the Midwestern chapel complex construction, Roberts noted the significant effort by volunteers in the project.
“We’re delighted at the progress of our chapel. It’s a beautiful building, and it’s transformed our campus,” he said. “That seminary chapel, when you look at it, is a labor of love. I can’t say enough how thankful we are for those who have given of themselves so sacrificially for Kingdom work.”
Two people were honored as alumni of the year. Scott Brawner, national director of the International Mission Board’s FUSION experience, which is hosted by Midwestern Baptist College, was recognized for “helping students develop a passion for God and a radical commitment to Kingdom growth.” He also was cited for his work in creating a group that allows faith-based organizations to interface with U.S. government agencies on matters of international security and protection for U.S. missionaries and relief workers around the world.
Craig Kubic, library director at Midwestern since 1988, was honored for his “contributions to the field of library science over the years” by his memberships in library associations, regular writing for the Church and Synagogue Library Association (CSLA)and for his leadership as the CSLA’s president. He also was honored for his “committed love of serving the Midwestern students and faculty members in their quest for learning and discovery for 23 years.”
Two key supporters of Midwestern who have sought to share the message of Christ in creative ways were named honorary alumni of year. Sanford “Sandy” Peterson, regional executive director of IPC, a Hospitalist Company in Overland Park, Kan., received the honor for his faithful efforts as a Midwestern trustee and board of regents member, as well as for his work as a parliamentarian within the Southern Baptist Convention and Kansas/Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists.
“I’m just a sinner saved by grace,” Peterson said upon being recognized. “This is such an honor to have recognition from a seminary I fully respect and love. You don’t know how humbled I can be by receiving such an honor here today, to having been thought of enough to have graduated with you.”
Marshall, the event’s keynote speaker, was honored for his continued dedication to Midwestern and for his “stellar academic achievement and godly commitment to the body of Christ throughout his Christian life.” It was also noted that Marshall has “demonstrated a surrendering to God’s leadership in soul winning, church growth and church planting as a minister of the Gospel.”