CSBS&C GRADUATION: MAY 2018
By Elaine Phillips
COCHRANE, AB—Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary & College conferred eleven degrees and four certificates at its twenty-ninth graduation ceremony on May 5. The commencement address was given by Jeff Christopherson, alumnus of the school and member of the first graduating class of 1990. Christopherson serves as Vice President of the Send Network for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Christopherson began his address by sharing memories of the seminary’s earliest days when the current guest housing units were the maintenance building, and preaching class took place behind a garage door with a garbage can turned upside down serving as a pulpit for young preachers in training.
On this day of commencement, he expressed his fervent desire for the graduates to remain faithful to the very end. Using as introduction his dying father’s last word on earth—“heaven”—Christopherson focused on what a ministry faithful to the end could look like, along with potential pitfalls along the way. He began with a few verses highlighting the life of Demas, friend to both Dr. Luke and the Apostle Paul (Col 4:14). Although Demas is mentioned only three times in Scripture, there is much we can learn from him.
First, stay connected. “This is a key to experiencing victory in the Christian life,” said Christopherson, adding that Demas gave us a good example by surrounding himself with unselfish believers. We first find Demas paired up with two famous figures in Scripture: Luke, physician and historian, and Paul, also an accomplished man. Both gave up much to follow Christ. Early on we see Demas surrounding himself with unselfish believers. According to 1 Cor 15:33, we are not to be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” In Phil 3:17 Paul exhorts believers to “Join with others” in following his example … and to “take note of those who live according to the pattern” given of a God-centred life. Demas was to observe them, learn from them and imitate them. This was his great strength: he built strong relationships with unselfish believers.
Second, stay serving. In the second reference to Demas, Paul describes his Kingdom colleagues as co-labourers, teammates, fellow servants: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers” (Philemon 23-24, NIV). For Paul to call Demas his “fellow labourer”, he must have been busy serving. Christopherson exhorted listeners to “Serve wholeheartedly because God has personally called you to it” and “You will never accomplish anything significant apart from it.”
Next, Christopherson encouraged the graduating class to stay focused. Using the third reference to Demas as an important warning to all, he said, “You never get over the temptation of the world; you never become immune…” Paul writes to Timothy: “Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world…” (2 Tim 4:9–10). Paul’s friend and fellow labourer had lost his zeal, his joy, his wholehearted willingness to serve his Saviour. Perhaps it was the rumblings of persecution, or maybe he was tired of fighting, of sacrificing… but his life was no longer focused on being a servant of his King.
“Above all else, guard your affections. For they influence everything else in your life” (Prov 4:23, TLB). For Demas, his affections were unguarded, and it influenced everything. “What happened to Demas?” asks Christopherson. “How did it happen?” The same way it can with us. Somehow, our comforts became more important than Christ… until “the fire in his belly was gone, and he was simply going through the motions.”
In conclusion, Christopherson urges listeners to stay at it, and not to quit. He imagines Paul saying to Demas upon learning of his desertion to the cause: “After being with Christ as you have these past years, learning to walk in His light, the very radiance of eternity, nothing on earth is ever going to satisfy you again.” But Demas left. “Paul that night, his eyes dimmed with tears, took up his pen and wrote: ‘Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me…’ Demas looked back, not forward.”
At the end of our lives, how will we answer this question: “Did you spend a lifetime investing what I have given you?” If so, we will hear our Lord’s reply: “Well done.”
Christopherson concluded his address by quoting Paul: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me…” (Phil 3:13–14).
In addition to four certificates—two Samuel program certificates and two seminary certificates of Christian studies—the CSBS&C conferred eleven degrees this year, namely two Bachelor of Christian Ministry (BCM), one Master of Biblical Studies (MBS), four Master of Christian Studies (MCS), two Master of Christian Ministry, and two Master of Divinity degrees (MDiv).