My Charge to the Asbury Theological Seminary Graduating Class of 2014
by President Timothy C. Tennent
In 1904 William Borden graduated from high school. He was the heir to the great Borden milk fortune. For his graduation gift, his parents sent him on a trip around the world, hoping it would stimulate his global business interests. Instead, for the first time he realized how many had never heard the good news of Jesus Christ, and he committed himself to becoming a missionary. When one of his closest friends heard this news he was outraged and confronted William Borden telling him that he was throwing his life away. Borden made a note of the date and wrote these two words in his bible: No Reserves.
He then went to Yale University and was a top student, the President of the honor society, Phi Beta Kappa. Upon graduation he was offered several high paying, influential jobs. He turned them all down, saying he was committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He made a note of the date in his Bible and wrote the two words: No Retreat.
He eventually set off for China to work with Muslims there. He decided it would be best to learn Arabic before he arrived, so he stopped in Cairo, Egypt, to do language study. It was while he was in Egypt that he contracted spinal meningitis and within a month he was dead, still in his twenties, never having even arrived in China. The news of his tragic death was carried by newspapers across the country. Eventually his belongings were shipped back to the US and his parents opened his Bible to find a date written just weeks before he died with two words: No Regrets.
2014 Graduating class of Asbury Theological Seminary…This is my charge to you: Go forth as William Borden did: No Reserves, No Retreat, No Regrets. That is your posture. Don’t waste your time trying to build a professional ecclesiastical career… that’s building political reserves. Don’t waste your time second guessing the truth or power of the Word of God, or the centrality of Jesus Christ, that’s creating a retreat in case the winds of popular culture turn against the church. Don’t end your ministry on any other note but faithfulness, for that will create regrets. As God’s Word says and the presence of our Golden Grads testify: It is not the one who starts the race who will win the prize, it is the one who finishes it.
William Borden had no reserves and no regrets because he was not seeking the praise of men, but was consumed with the only words which will finally matter: Well done, thou good and faithful servant! The cultural wind is already blowing against you. You might as well get used to it. The church itself has become so compromised that it is becoming rare to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly proclaimed from the pulpits of many of our churches around the world. Pastors falling into sin, disgracing the gospel, and embarrassing the faithful has become tragically commonplace. You must chart a different course. You must be captivated by holiness. There is nothing more revolutionary than that, because the skeptic believes only in themselves, but you believe in the gospel. You must hold fast to that which is good. You must be a faithful minister of the gospel, whether you are going forth as a pastor, a teacher, a counselor or a missionary.
This is why the Apostle Paul gives the advice to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” As G. K. Chesterton said over 100 years ago about the same time that William Borden was graduating from high school, “The orthodox church never took the (safe) tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable… It is always easier to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own.”
Borden kept his head, even as he lost his life. Never allow your God given, gospel inspired love for people slip into cheap sentimentality and not be guided by clear headed thinking. Brothers and sisters, a lost world will not be saved by pastors who play it safe. Don’t confuse church growth techniques or balanced budgets, or strategic plans, (however helpful they all may be) with the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit can do more in five minutes than you can do in five years. So my charge: Live a life of No Reserves, No Retreat, no Regrets. Amen.