Allen to graduates: Labor in the Spirit
"This is a special day for us as an institution because it always brings a certain joyful gravity -- a hopeful seriousness -- because we send you forth in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to serve His cause, to advance His Kingdom, to build His church and to bring glory to His name," Allen told the 66 graduates, their families and friends Dec. 13.
"We send you forth knowing that our best efforts and the best efforts of the best theological institution can only do so much," Allen said. "But we are buoyed in hope, knowing that we entrust you to the Lord's sovereign care and in the power of His Holy Spirit."
Allen's address was based on Zechariah 4:1–7 and highlighted the phrase, "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord."
The passage, Allen said, speaks particularly to the paradox of the Christian life -- the paradox of whether the Christian life is lived through the Christian or if God lives it through the Christian. The answer, Allen said, is simply, "Yes."
"You minister -- we minister -- as fully responsible for our lives, our stewardship, our gifts and how we steward those things," he said. "But we do so fully aware that we are entirely and appropriately dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit for the fruitfulness of our ministries."
In light of the historical narrative of Zechariah, where the Israelites fell prey to opposition and apathy as they worked to rebuild the temple after returning from Babylon, Allen said Zechariah's exhortation in particular was a template for faithfulness in ministry.
"Perhaps all of us in the room, or many of us in the room, share the propensity to labor and to serve in our own strength," Allen said. "Zechariah reminds us of the folly of such efforts, and he calls us to higher ground, to give our lives, ministries, churches and efforts to fully serving in the power of the Holy Spirit."
The aim of Midwestern Seminary, Allen said, is not to graduate students with skills and gifts that explain any of their successes. Instead, students should be ministering with a complete reliance upon the Holy Spirit's power.
"We do not want ministries that are entirely explainable by human ability. We do not want that at all," Allen said. "We want to serve in such a way that the end result is inexplicable to human computation and that it points all people, including the lost, to a higher reality that this is a work of God."
Allen told graduates there are ministries entirely based on human judgment and human reasoning, and as the church, believers should be using their best efforts and putting their best foot forward in every way. But that should not be the end of the ministry equation.
"We want there to be a larger, more dominant power that is indeed the power of the Holy Spirit. I say we have enough ministries and churches that are perfectly explainable in human terms," he said. "The world has seen the best we have to offer, and -- listen closely -- they are not that impressed.
"The world has yet to see a generation of men and women serving Christ in a dynamic way that exudes and resonates the power of the Holy Spirit on their lives, their ministries and their churches," Allen said.
He told the graduates he would be interceding on their behalf as they begin their ministries.
"I pray that you will know the intimacy of Christ, the joy of Christ and the protection of Christ, especially keeping you from temptation and the snares of the devil," Allen said. "That is my urgent prayer for you, and my urgent plea to you.
"Be determined to be a man or woman now whose ministry will be marked not by might or power but will be resolved to labor in the fullness of the Holy Spirit."
Tim Sweetman is director of communications and brand strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).