Every spring, on the first Saturday of May, The Master’s Seminary celebrates its graduating class during a banquet the night before these men receive their diplomas. This year, our chancellor, John MacArthur, addressed the 2022 class. Below is a transcript of his stirring charge.
Congratulations for your accomplishments, your achievements, and what you were able to endure. Seminary is a marathon. It demands maximum effort. All of you have had different hurdles during the seminary years and they have no doubt come in different forms, but you have accomplished a great deal. Whatever devotion, whatever self-discipline, whatever skills, whatever attention to detail you developed in seminary, you now have the opportunity to apply.
Your history will now be written. Permanent notation in people’s minds will not be what you did in seminary. In fact, not long from now, people will stop asking where you went to seminary. Early in your ministry, you're defined by a faculty, or by the head of the seminary, the history of the seminary, the theology of the seminary, or people’s perception of the seminary. For now, you're a Master's man, but as you minister effectively, that fades.
In the end, your association with TMS is not how people will define you. Down the road you will have to stand on your own merit, on your own accomplishment. The Master’s Seminary is thrilled to give you the tools and we're thrilled to let you borrow the title, a Master's man, for a while. But in time, hopefully sooner rather than later, people will not care what seminary you studied under because they're so caught up in the impact of your ministry that your alma mater becomes something buried in the background.
I hope you want that for your ministry. You don't want to be known by the school you went to. You want the school you attended to be known because of you. You want people who ask you where you went to school to validate that school by your ministry. It should flip at some point from you being somewhat validated because you've come from The Master's Seminary to The Master's Seminary being validated by the impact and the effectiveness of your ministry.
That takes time. This is the long run. This is a marathon. You're going to find that the anticipation you have for a flourishing ministry and all the good things that you hope for and pray will come to pass in the blink of an eye could lead you to a measure of disappointment. You're in this for the long haul, whether the Lord gives you a congregation of 300 in three months or 30 in ten years.
A long-term ministry requires an Expositor. I don't think 50+ years, or anything close to that, is even possible unless you're an expositor of Scripture. There just aren't enough subjects, themes, or ideas to captivate you or your people through the years. As an expositor, you never exhaust the resource. It's astonishing how eventually people grow deeper and deeper into the understanding of the Word of God, and they want more, and more, and more.
The accumulated impact of the Word of God on people's lives doesn’t run dry.
Our graduates soon find that there is no shortage of churches in search of a Bible teacher. We also know well here that our graduates unashamedly proclaim the Word, and many churches want to throw them out after a short time because they don’t like what they are saying from Scripture. Often, the truth of God’s Word can run contrary to somebody else in leadership, another teacher, or staff member.
Training people to love the Word of God over the long haul takes a very strong sense of commitment. I have been blessed to run this race for the duration of my life. In order to do that and survive, two things are required. First, your life must support everything you preach. Second, people must believe you love them. They must see that sacrifice in the continual effort you make to teach them and invest in their lives.
Graduate, your ministry will reflect well on our Lord and this place, The Master’s Seminary, when you fully commit to the Word of God and trust that it will build the deepest, most lasting, and loving relationships imaginable. That requires faithfulness in the Word, but it must be supported by your life. If you exhibit the love of Christ in kindness and patience over the long haul, you will be loved by the people who know you best.
In the fourth act of Julius Caesar, Brutus and Cassius are having a conversation. Brutus says this, "There is a tide in the affairs of men, when taken at its ebb leads on to triumph. Neglected, these shores and strands of time are strewn with the wreckage." Then Shakespeare wrote, "On such a sea are we all." We're on a sea in ministry just as we are in life, with all kinds of tides of ebb and flow. I've watched that in other lives, and other ministries, and other churches, and other seminaries. Shakespeare understood; You must be able to match your ministry to the challenge. You face those waves, you ride that tide, and you ride to triumph.
You're going to have times like that, coming in unexpected moments. There'll be tests about your convictions and courage, challenging your faith and strength, your steadfastness. It's the ability to be wise and understand the moment and catch that wave. I'd like to think of God’s providence when those high tides come to sweep you away.
Embrace God’s providence over all situations; It's your divine friend. You can ride the providence of God if you recognize His hand in things.
I would say, as I look back over my life, I can't imagine that any life, even if it was filled with miracles, could have more of a demonstration of the power and presence of God than I've seen, not by some interruption of natural law in a supernatural act, but by God controlling every minute thing. In any comment, service, or relationship, you can all of a sudden find yourself on a wave of providence; you make one small move towards someone to help them, to care for them, or to love them, and you will see all kinds of evidences of God in its wake.
I don't know that you can always anticipate it, but you need to be able to recognize when the providence of God is moving. It's most blessed when it's in the middle of something that you cannot solve by your own strength or wisdom. That's my favorite place to be because whatever comes out of that is obviously of God. That is the most fulfilling and joyful of all ministry experiences. “Look what the Lord did!” I can do right, I can conduct myself correctly, I can love the people and proclaim the truth, and sleep at night because the outcome is with the Lord.
This coming generation may face the most challenges yet. If you fight all the battles with grace, love, and humility, and if you're ready when the wave comes, your ministry can triumph. There are going to be those times when everybody else is bailing out, everybody else is going the other direction and you're going to be the faithful one, who sees the tide of God's providence, sees the battle that needs to be fought, and you're going to stand and be faithful.
We're proud of our graduates who have a Master's Seminary degree after your name. We believe in you, we want to see the best from you, we want you to stay connected with us, we want to be a part of your life any way we can be, and we want to see the day come when your ministry transcends this place and stands on its own merit and the evidence of the power of God working through you by His Word is known by everyone to the degree that we as The Master’s Seminary are known for proclaiming Christ faithfully and truthfully.