Welcome and appreciation
Distinguished guests, friends, national office leaders, district leaders, President
Taylor, Board of Trustees, university cabinet, Seminary Board of Advisors, EU
and AGTS faculty and staff, and my family. Thank you for being here this special
day in the life of the university, seminary, and my life.
I never would have thought that my ministry path would lead me to serve the
seminary in this capacity. It is a great honor to serve the church in a place where
the development of future and current leaders is at the heart of its mission.
Our history at AGTS follows the path of many other distinguished Christian higher
education institutions that educate ministers. Forward-thinking and astute leaders
within the Assemblies of God recognized that the harvest was great and the
laborers too few to meet the needs. These same individuals foresaw the need for
developing the next generation of leaders in the church who would be spiritually
mature, well-educated, and propelled by the Holy Spirit to fulfill their callings as
leaders in the various church vocations. In particular, our priorities of world
evangelism, developing indigenous leadership, and church planting led the General
Council, in 1961, to call for the establishment of a national seminary, The
Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.
As stated in the official history of AGTS (AGTS.edu/history):
“The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS) officially opened its doors
in September 1973 (as the Assemblies of God Graduate School). Prior to this, a
special summer session was held for foreign missionary candidates of the
Assemblies of God during June and July 1973. This opening came after twelve
years of preparation, dating back to a founding resolution approved by the
denomination in its 1961 General Council session.”
AG World Missions and the General Council founded the national seminary of
the Assemblies of God knowing that an uninterrupted pipeline of leaders was
crucial for our future—leaders who are knowledgeable and skilled as expositors of
the Word, able to articulate clearly the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our culture as well
as interculturally; critical thinkers who are at the same time in tune with the Spirit.
Former AGTS President Del Tarr captured this in the phrase “Knowledge on Fire.”
AGTS has remained true to its original mission—to shape servant leaders with
knowledge, skill, and passion to revitalize the church and evangelize the world in
the power of the Spirit. With God’s help we will stay this course and continue to
educate and develop leaders of knowledge, skill, and passion for the Church of
today and the future.
AGTS is now counted in a distinguished list of seminaries known as “the growing
edge of theological education,” notes Daren Stiller, of the In Trust Center for
Theological Schools. My Bachelor of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministries (a preseminary
degree) was earned from a noted embedded seminary. AGTS is an
embedded seminary in Evangel University. This increases the opportunity for
expanded partnerships, collective lift, influence, and greater impact through
collaborative and aligned work. We have integrated undergraduate and graduate
ministry and theological education, so there is a seamless progression from
freshman introductory courses through the highest levels of graduate studies.
During the week of the 100 year Hispanic Celebration this year, I sat in a suburban
Houston church with alumni from EU and AGTS. Around the sharing circle were
oil executives, researchers at the leading medical school, clergy, para-church
leaders, a retiring U.S. diplomatic corps member, a large metropolitan public
education administrator, and other individuals. The common theme I heard from
these leaders was this: “The foundation of my faith, established during my college
years or seminary years, has ‘anchored’ me in my relationship with Jesus Christ,
and in service to the church, throughout my life‘s journey. The skills and
knowledge I received, and my personal development during both undergraduate
and graduate school, is still…the ‘core spiritual DNA of my life,’ vocation,
ministry and witness.”
My personal experience with these graduates affirms the importance of not only
developing leaders for full-time service to the church, but also the importance of
instilling a foundation of biblical, spiritual-life principles within the minds and
hearts of young people called by God into all vocations.
AGTS graduates have permeated the Assemblies of God around the world.
Missionaries, pastors, and other church leaders have been educated here in the last
45 years. While the bulk of our alumni are in the Assemblies of God, we also have
educated and developed ministers from many other church traditions. Today 3,576
alumni of AGTS, CBC, and Evangel serve as AG credentialed ministers, with 142
serving as district officials. The national seminary also has helped lay the
foundation on which several of our sibling AG schools have built their own
graduate schools. Our collective impact reaches around the world many times over.
For that we are truly grateful to the Lord.
While reflecting on where we have been and where we are headed, a passage in
Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth came to mind. Paul set off into a new
direction: to compare the old covenant with the new covenant. His point is that
under the new covenant God is transforming us, little by little, turning the lights
out on our old nature and turning the glorious light up on the image of His Son.
Moses veiled his face; now is the day to take the veil off and be bold in our
witness. In the passage read today (2 Cor. 3:1–6), Paul started by talking about the
people he had influenced in his own ministry, and how Christ had written on their
hearts the apostle’s own letters of recommendation.
So, also, like Paul, we at AGTS have living letters of recommendation in our
students and alumni. “You are our letters, written in our hearts” (v. 2, NASB).
AGTS fulfills a sacred duty: educate, mentor, and send out individuals whom God
has called. As a faculty and administration, we feel this. The relational bond we
feel with students is forged in the hours of instruction, discussion, mentoring, and
just spending time together with no particular agenda. Additionally, our faculty
reads, evaluates, and grades assignments that are best-effort thoughts, reflections,
struggles, analysis, and insights that our students have produced through prayer
and study. In years beyond graduation we hear of their influence and impact in a
sensitive country, a hard to reach place whose name is hard to pronounce, a smaller
town in rural America, or a neighborhood in an urban center. We read headlines in
Outreach Magazine, AG News, Influence, and Worldview. These are our
students—now our comrades for Christ and his church—and they have been
written on our hearts. We remember when they were here as seminarians, growing
and preparing for the journey to which God had called them. For us, they are not
headlines. They are not story lines. They are not news items. No, not to us. We
carry them in our hearts. We are bonded, uniquely, in this journey of ministry for
Moreover, we are not alone in reading these living letters. People across the earth
(truly, every inhabited continent—except maybe Antarctica, where the only
indigenous inhabitants are penguins) also see the letters of our seminary.
Just as Paul said of the Corinthians, so say we of our seminarians and alumni,
“You yourselves are our letter…known and read by everyone. You show that you
are a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (vv. 2–3, NIV, emphasis
How does a person show that he or she is a letter from Christ? It is revealed by
what others see, what they observe about that person. If our graduates do not
mainstream in the marketplace, if we lead our graduates to isolate themselves from
the world in which God has placed them as His witnesses, then people see nothing
of Christ. Christ has chosen to hitch His wagon to us, to the church. When we go
out into the world, to the uttermost ends of the earth, as His witnesses, then as
Jesus’ image amplifies, people recognize increasingly His image in us. So also the
many letters sent out into the world from AGTS. In the everyday dimensions of
life, in the daily personal conversations, in daily activities, in touching lives of
ordinary people literally across the earth, through what our graduates clearly
articulate and more subtly convey, people see the impact of Christ through the
power of the Spirit in our graduates.
Paul wanted to be identified with the Corinthian believers. He wanted people to see
Christ at work in forming the core of their character and spiritual DNA. And he
also saw the Corinthians as his own letters of recommendation. The Corinthians
are Paul’s letters of recommendation written by Christ, not with ink but with the
Spirit of the living God, not external to the person like the Law that was written on
tablets of stone, but rather by the Spirit‘s transformation of the deepest spaces of
the person, the heart. Paul, at least in part, drew his personal identity from the
investment he made in these first century believers.
We want people to identify AGTS in similar fashion. When people think of AGTS,
we want them to identify us with one primary mission: developing leaders for the
21st century church. Our goal is for people to see the high quality of our graduates
in leading the church in various capacities. In support of this mission the seminary
has the four following emphases:
(1) We educate and develop biblical preachers because preaching is spiritual
leadership. We want our graduates to be known as church leaders who are strongly
grounded in Bible exposition and theology. Matthew quoted Jesus as He exited the
earthly phase of His ministry: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching
them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20, NIV). And with
his final exhortation to Timothy, Paul said, “Preach the word; be prepared in
season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and
careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2, NIV).The expansion of our biblical preaching program will strengthen our churches,
world missions, and U.S. missions, and will align with the central purposes of the
church. “How will they hear without a preacher?” (Rom 10:14–16, NASB).
(2) We educate and develop competent leaders. We teach and encourage
students to internalize sound, proven, and biblical leadership principles, methods,
and skills and to apply these in pastoral ministry, intercultural ministry, and
marketplace missions endeavors in America and around the world. Further, we
prepare our graduates to develop the people that they are influencing to fulfill
God’s call in their own vocations. All vocations are holy callings in Christ. The
people in our churches need a more acute awareness of their own divine and holy
vocatio. A more heightened understanding and sense of their own role as His
temple, His own holy dwelling place. Wherever a believer goes, whatever a
believer does, he or she does as the temple of Christ. Even the marketplace is a
place of holy endeavor for those who are in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(3) We educate and develop eminently qualified missionaries and chaplains.
We educate and develop missionaries through Master of Arts in Intercultural
Studies, Doctor of Applied Intercultural Studies, PhD in Intercultural Studies,
institutes, and other professional development opportunities. We have stepped up
our partnership and collaboration with AGWM, and we will move into flexible
programs and innovative delivery methods in the future to stay on the edge of new
missionary strategies and needs for training.
We educate and develop chaplains for the military through a military chaplainspecific
Master of Divinity track that has been designed by seasoned, veteran
chaplains. AGTS places more chaplains on active duty across all branches, in the
Reserves, and in the National Guard, than any other seminary among ATS schools
in America. We intend to sustain this course, and seek ways to expand our reach
and lead academic innovation in other fields of chaplaincy education.
(4) We educate and develop leaders known for their biblical expertise. We
teach and develop in students a solid foundation of Bible exposition and theology
so that they carry this biblical expertise into whatever field of ministry they enter.
We want our graduates to be known as ministers who are biblically and
This is our intended institutional persona for the seminary, so that when people
think AGTS, they identify us with these four emphases—excellent biblical
expositors, competent leaders, eminently qualified missionaries and chaplains, and
well-versed biblical and theological graduates.
We want the public perception of AGTS students to mirror what the Apostle
Paul wrote with regard to the Corinthian believers: that they are Christ’s letter, His
ambassadors, and that they reflect the humble confidence that God develops within
them through the Spirit of Christ (2 Cor. 3:4–6). Later in chapter 3, Paul reminded
the Corinthians that Moses had to put a veil over his face because of the glory of
God. But under the new covenant, we are not to shield the effects of the revelation
of God: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being
transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this
comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (v. 18, ESV). Seminary education at its
heart, puts us in a place of “beholding the glory of the Lord,” and thus, AGTS
students will graduate having moved from one degree of glory to another,
transformed more fully into the image of Christ. The greatest compliment to the
seminary will be when people walk up to our new graduates and say, “You have
been with Jesus.”
How will we do this? Verse 5 states that “our sufficiency is from God (ESV). Our
sufficiency for this calling, then, comes from God. We might, as Paul, bemoan our
ongoing deficiencies and struggles as Christian believer and minister, yet the Lord
Jesus’ words to Paul comfort and encourage us – “My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (12:9). Christ is Paul’s sufficiency, the
Corinthian church’s sufficiency, and our sufficiency.
We do not neglect preparation and professional development, but neither do we
ignore our spiritual need for utter surrender to Christ and His grace. The
surrendered soul seeks the empowerment of the Spirit, not the wisdom of the world
(1 Cor. 2:6–16). The Spirit infuses us with every good gift. The Spirit transforms
us in our deepest spaces. And the Spirit empowers us, maximizing our impact as
witnesses of Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Springfield, America, and the uttermost
ends of the earth.
Forgetting or ignoring where our sufficiency comes from leads to all manner of
toxic and dishonorable behavior. The Apostle Paul addressed this later in
2 Corinthians (chap. 10–12). He also addressed these issues throughout
1 Corinthians and in his earlier letter to the Galatians. Specifically, he wrote about
leaders who were masquerading as ministers of the gospel, even masquerading as
apostles; adding conditions to salvation; engaging in shameless self-promotion,
self-aggrandizement, self-exaltation; hitch-hiking on the popularity of some early
church leaders for their own gain…and instigators of divisions within the church.
Paul stayed informed about and analyzed the spiritual and social realities of his
day, both in culture and in the church (2 Tim. 3–4). He commanded Timothy to
keep the faith in the face of an exponentially expanding evil in the world, and in
the face of a church that was watering down the truth of Scripture, even turning
away from the truth of Scripture, and embracing the nonsense of an ungodly
culture. This “last days” church would seek to hire spiritually weak leadership,
those who would only preach what this apostate church, under the pressure of an
evil culture and society, wanted to hear—a false gospel that would unswervingly
affirm them in their sinful imbibing of culture over the truth of Christ. Whereas
Paul, in 2 Cor. 4, states of himself, “We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded
methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth
before God, and all who are honest know this. … You see, we don’t go around
preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves
are your servants for Jesus’ sake (vv. 2, 5, NLT, emphasis added).
May AGTS—those of us in this community committed to the call of God in our
own lives, as well as in the lives of those we mentor—stand up and walk in the
confidence that only comes through faith in God’s sufficiency through Christ and
May we be known as a community of Gospel comrades known for developing
exceptional 21st century leaders for the church. Leaders that are known as servants
of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel: Leaders known for their skill in biblical
exposition and preaching; Leaders broadly regarded as highly effective developers
of churches and other church-related organizations; Leaders recognized as
eminently qualified missionaries and chaplains; and Leaders trusted for their
biblical expertise applied to any field of ministry.
For these things I will give my best to the Lord, His church, and the seminary.
Now God, through the infinite and eternal authority and power of your Son, our
Lord, Jesus Christ, I ask you to make it so. Amen.