Commencement Address at HCU
I was blessed to be the commencement speaker for Heritage Christian University. HCU is a university that offers one major, Bible. It is a wonderful place that specializes in educating and training ministers. I thought I would share my speech.
President Jones, members of the Board, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates.
When I was asked to speak at today’s graduation had two thoughts. The first was that of honor. To be asked by your alma mater to return and address graduates is a privilege. Today I feel like a prophet who has been honored in his own country.
I also felt a since of panic. What do you say at graduation and one to Bible students at that? But then a great sense of calm came over me. I have set through three of my own graduations and probably 20 others and I don’t remember anything anyone said. I have talked to countless people and they too have no recollection of any commencement speech they have heard. Knowing this I have no fear today.
Today I thought I would share with you four things that you need to know, but you probably were not taught in a class room. If you will heed this advice your ministry will be revolutionized and you will be successful. I can make this audacious claim because you will never remember this speech in five years to hold me accountable. So yes these four things can and will change your lives if you apply them.
Never serve red hotdogs at a church event. Yes you may save money as you can buy a hundred of them for a dollar. But if you serve red hot dogs people will see you as cheap. And if people think you are cheap then they will decide you don’t need much money to live on. Because you don’t have much money you will have to live on Vienna sausages, spam, and red hot dogs. Don’t spend the rest of your life having to eat Vienna sausages, spam, and red hot dogs. Serve pizza or fried chicken instead.
Go to preacher luncheons. You do not go to these for the comradery of fellow ministers. No, you do this because you are now a highly educated Bible scholar. Heritage has prepared you well even too well. Imagine your surprise when you begin to teach the documentary hypothesis at church in your bible class. Suddenly you discover your members do not find your theory on P or J interesting.
I have even had members fall asleep during a stimulating discourse on Paul’s use of the genitive. Was it a genitive of material or a genitive of content? They will not care. As you continue to study and learn more you will want to share your vast wealth of scholarship with someone. Thus, the preacher’s luncheon. Not that they want to hear about your latest finding but they will listen as a courtesy so you will listen to their newest discovery.
Communicate Clearly. President Jones would tell you that communication is the process where one person speaks and another has understood the message of the sender. But this is a different world and phrases, people, and words are very complex and have various meanings today. For example you may be teaching a class about Raccoon John Smith. But there is a good chance your audience will think you are talking about Disney and the raccoon and John Smith. You have to communicate clearly lest your church believe that Pocahontas was a leader in the restoration movement.
Finally, I will to leave you with the number one command in the Bible, “Do not fear”. This is a phrase God has told his people since the beginning of time. He normally would tell his people this when fear would be the natural reaction. A nation may be outnumbered or overwhelmed and God would tell them do not fear. Then God would show up and do something incredible. But God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and he is still holds the world in his hands and we have nothing to fear.
Ministry is a hard work and you will be faced with many challenges and rewards. You will have to preach on hard topics that you know will not make you popular, but do not fear, keep on speaking, do not be silent. You may be at a church that doesn’t have the resources that others do, but do not fear or use it as an excuse because the Lord specializes in doing great things with few resources. You may be let go from a church but do not fear, for I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. You will have to deal with situations Heritage could never prepare you for. But do not fear the Lord will guide you help you.
You came to Heritage because you wanted to serve the Lord and work in His kingdom. Satan will do all that he can to paralyze you with fear. He will try to convince you that you need to play things safe, to never think outside the box, your plans are not feasible, you will lose members, and that you are not the person for the job. Satan specializes in insecurities and doubts. But do not give into fear. God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of victory. The message of the Bible is that God is in control and he is all powerful and in the end he is victorious.
So when you are faced with a challenge and doubts and fears begin to creep in, go to God’s word and remember to be strong and courageous and do not fear because the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. I leave you with the words of Isaiah 43, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Do not fear, for God is with you.