We are filled with joy as we stand together, offering our most sincere congratulations to the graduating students.

Congratulations!! For the past 4 years we have seen and appreciated your hard work.

Some may wonder about the importance of studying theology, the Bible and ministry with our College.  In answer to that, I have two points:

My first point is that God is holding all things by the word of his power.  He is all mighty; His greatness no one can fathom.  Our God is our creator and our redeemer; forever He isGod over all.

Doesn’t He deserve to be known better?  Shouldn’t the ones who serve Him seek to serve Him more effectively?

Even one who chooses to work as an assistant to a barber must be trained for the position. At the university, you need 4 years for a Bachelor’s degree, 2 or 3 years for a Master’s, and another additional 2 or 3 years for PhD.

And yet, why do some people believe they can serve the Lord without study and preparation?

The Lord Himself trained His disciples for three and a half years.

The leading Universities of the USA began as Christian institutions.  “Harvard” is the name of a pastor, Yale started as a college to train Bible students, and Princeton’s founding motto is: “With God we prosper.”

It’s also the same in the UK: Oxford and Cambridge, and even the oldest university in the world, St. Andrews in Scotland, were all formed for the purpose of training ministers.

My second point is that we need good Bible teachers and ministers.  The world is raising difficult questions. People have opened up to many things and life has gotten complicated.  Atheism is growing and temptations and distractions are arriving from every direction.  The gospel must be delivered honestly and with simplicity.  Its relevance must be demonstrated.  We must address the issues that are driving people away from the Lord and meet them where they are, in the busy rush of their lives.  We need equipped Christian leaders in this world!

Why in this college and why we should support it?

Nazareth Theology College is one of the initiatives of the Baptist Churches Association.  We were formed from the merger of two colleges that came out from our local Evangelical core: The Galilee Bible College was formerly a branch of the Bethlehem Bible College.

In a time when we see a lot of division within the church, the Lord performed a miracle when He brought these two colleges together, desiring that the two should be made one.   Unity is so pleasing to the heart of the Lord. The Lord gave me the privilege to contribute in the integration of these two colleges while I was in the administration board of one of them.

This college is not only the core of our Evangelical lives, but it plays an important role in our society, because it is centered in a local context and is a part of the community.

The Lord has created us as Palestinian Arabs, and has put us in the State of Israel. We have our own language, customs, history and heritage. We rejoice for the joy of our people and we mourn for their grief. How can we serve our people and minister to them, if we don’t love them? And how can we love our people if we do not love their language, customs, traditions and heritage?

We mourn for the killing of the young man Yusuf Abdul Khaliq and we are angry for the demolition of homes in the unrecognized villages. At the same time we rejoice with Hussam Hayek for his scientific discoveries.  We celebrate with Marie Atrash, the swimmer from Beit Sahour and with Haitham Khalayleh the son of Majd al-Krum in Arab Idol.

This college teaches us how to be effective as disciples of the Lord in our own unique context.  We learn how to represent Him as Christian citizens of Israel, seeking to live our faith openly with the Jewish and Muslim majority.

To this end, the college organizes lectures for Christian clergy of all denominations.  We sponsor Jewish-Arab meetings and studies on reconciliation, marriage counseling, and how to become peacemakers in this Arab-Israeli conflict. Every year, we host a peace conference and a leadership conference.

As a leader in the church and a secular servant with full-time officers, let me share three words of advice with our graduates:

1. Keep the vision before you. The fact that you joined the college and studied theology was not a coincidence, but a part of God’s plan for your life. Now go, and find your own calling. It may not necessarily be in the auspices of a Church, but perhaps in a school, an organization or some other place. The Lord may open doors for you to work in one of the usual fields of services or production and you will use what you have learned here in your professional lives. The Lord wants heroes of faith who know Him and will live out their faith in all areas of life.

2. Don’t only share your teaching and your information with your colleagues or students but share your whole life with them.

Pour out your life and share it with your students, just as the Lord Jesus did. He was not only a teacher, but a friend and companion who He shared with His disciples the sweet and difficult times of their lives.

Servants of the Gospel should not work as machines or robots, but as real human beings of flesh and blood who can share their lives with their students. The Christian message should always be at the core of our lives.

3. Do not make this title the last thing you learn. Don’t settle for what you have already reached, but work hard to continue learning and to join other tracks. Hear the call of God for your life and continue to refine it, whether you are called to be a preacher or Bible teacher, or whether you are called for Christian Education, the science of ancient manuscripts, Christian counseling or some other field.

The expansion and growth of the Body of Christ will fill the region of Nazareth and Galilee, as pleasing to the heart of the Lord. Let our local culture (inside and outside the church) be filled with the values of evangelical Christianity, so that the pure aroma of Christ is diffused to everyone around us. Let there be lawyers, engineers, teachers, construction workers, accountants, doctors and nurses who know the Lord and who have received theological training.

Personally, if the Lord is willing, I would like to take a course in the college now, since my wife has just finished her education here.

In closing, I want to mention that we are from Nazareth—the city of Jesus—and that Galilee was His home region. These particular places should honor Him because Jesus chose them precisely among other villages and cities of the earth. The Lord did not choose New York or Moscow, nor Beijing, nor even Rome, Delhi or London, but He chose Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.  From this very place, let our lives be a living testimony to His honor. With the training you have received, may God make you into His true and faithful witnesses.

Again— congratulations and keep pressing on!