Contrary to popular belief you are no longer a grasshopper. You have entered the land of the giants. Through your tenacity, focus, and dedication to finish what you started, you sit before us as graduates. Graduates you are on the first rung of the ladder of theological education and you are no longer the same.
You have placed yourself in a position of expectation. Expect more of yourself; the church expects more of you; and the Christ expects more of you.
Expect more of yourself. This vast array of knowledge to which you’ve been exposed makes you uncomfortable, restless, and yearning for more. In some of you, that demon of pride has already tried to claim your soul and render your education worth less. Indeed, I urge you to resist thinking that your education is complete. Well did the Apostle Paul declare in 1 Corinthians 8:1-2….”We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.”
Be proud of this achievement but simultaneously, expect more from your certificate than pride. Doors have now been opened for you because of your graduation, and you should work to enter these doors expecting that you have changed and are ready for more leadership challenges.
The Church expects more of you. Howard Friend says, “Churches need leaders who can rise to a formidable challenge, laced with danger and rich with opportunity, leaders who are self-transcending and self-motivated, inspired and inspiring” (Friend, 1998, p.109).
Rev. Clementa Pinckey was one such leader. He was ordained at 18. He served as a pastor at Youngs Chapel AME Church in Irmo, Jericho and Porter’s Chapel AME Churches in Beaufort, Mount Horr AME Church in Yonges Island and Campbell Chapel AME Church in Bluffton.
He started working at Emanuel AME in 2010.
Pinckney also became a politician at a young age.
He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1996 at age 23 after serving as a page in the State House. After serving two terms, he won a seat in the Senate in 2000 at age 27.
Pinckney said his youth was an advantage. “I’m not set in my ways and not set in old ways,” he told The (Charleston) Post and Courier in 2001. “Just like slavery needed to die out, old ideas need to die out. Being young allows me to be open-minded.”
Pinckney was also one of the lead co-sponsors on a body-camera bill for police officers and was an advocate for economic development in Jasper County. Pinckney also helped lead a prayer vigil after the police-shooting death of Walter Scott.
Pinckney was a member of the Senate’s finance, education, banking, corrections and medical affairs committees.
He told the Charleston paper that he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia’s Allen University in order to be able to better run his churches. He also earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina.
He leaves a wife, Jennifer, and two young daughters, Eliana and Malana.
“I always felt God had called me to serve within the church because of what the church stands for,” Pinckney told The Post and Courier in 2010. “This has always been home.”
We need educated leaders, filled with the Holy Spirit, and Committed to Jesus Christ in order to change the world for the better.
Now that you have been educated the church expects you to be a believer not a doubter. Doubters shut up, hold up, and lay up. Believers speak up, move up, and get up. Believers engage the challenges with faith that the answer lies just beyond the horizon.
Believers are what the church needs if we are to deal with gender issues, racial quagmires, and systemic injustice. The church expects you to roll up your sleeves, do the research, form a team, and confront these issues where you live determined to make a difference.
The church expects that because of your education, the church can speak more relevantly to the issues of our time with more sophistication than merely quoting a scripture and saying a prayer. The church expects you to lead your community through these various challenges as a disciple of Christ.
Your education takes you from an airline mentality to that of an airport mentality. No longer are you merely concerned about your stuff. An airline tries to influence as many passengers as possible to travel to the destinations they have selected. There are only a limited number of seats and a limited number of flights. And if you ain’t down with that…….. try another airline because we aren’t trying to accommodate your needs, we’re recruiting those willing to meet our needs.
Your education has lifted your thinking higher than me, myself, and I; my four and no more; my church, my board, my role. Before you were educated, you could think single mindedly about things but no more. Your altitude has changed.
People expect Delta to be concerned with Delta’s success. Delta determines the way for it to get ahead of its competitors. Delta knows Delta. Delta is not expected to be expert in anything except Delta’s objectives. But your education has stolen your Delta mentality.
Your education has given you the opportunity to think like you exist in an airport. An airport serves as a conduit; it creates an atmosphere for several airlines to operate. It works because air traffic controllers reduce the risks involved in takeoffs and landings. Are you a pilot or an air traffic controller? Additionally, airports organize and supply personnel, logistics, materiel, and resources to accommodate the destinations and needs of the airlines that use the airport.
You are now expected to think of the big picture; the total church not just your church, your vision, your welfare.
You are now challenged to ask how do my actions affect the entire community, the universal church, indeed the entire kingdom of God. You have been taught how to grasp the big picture and make decisions based on the big picture. In other words, you know longer make book decisions based on the chapter you’re reading now.
Graduates, you have just begun the process of transformation; and the church expects more from you. You have placed yourself in position for more responsibility and the church will look to you to model, to lead, and to demonstrate what you have learned.
Finally, Jesus the Christ expects more of you. Christ Jesus needs witnesses who have committed their minds as well as their hearts to Him. Jesus blessed you to finish this course of training because he had a purpose for your life. Jesus said, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12)
Jesus expects more of you. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. And you placed yourself in position of self-denial more by completing this certificate of theology program. You have obeyed the admonition that says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
You did it! You are prepared to be more sensitive to the voice of Jesus because you have learned his language. Your faithfulness to complete this study demonstrates to all present that you are now ready to engage in the work God has prepared for you and Jesus expects more of you. Are you ready to assume your place in the airport? Are you ready to be a servant leader in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Yes, you are prepared but are you willing? Yes, you know the truth, but are you willing to meet these new expectations? Yes, you are a graduate, but for what? Jesus expects more from you than resting in this achievement. And you and the church expect more of you as well.
Graduates more is expected of you. You are expected to go forth and change your world! Can you do that? Hallelujah!