Rev. Prof. Niyi Okunlola

As part of the events that make up the 125th Graduation Ceremony of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary (NBTS), Ogbomoso, a Graduation Lecture was held on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, at 10:00 a.m. in the Multipurpose Hall. The event commenced with responsive reading of scripture led by Rev. Dr Ezekiel Ajibade, followed by a hymn of worship conducted by Rev. Dr Mary Niyi-Ojo, the song leader for the day, while Rev. Ogochukwu Nwobi played the piano. An opening prayer was led by Rev. Prof. Simon Kolawole after which the president of the Seminary, Rev. Prof. S. Ola Ayankeye gave fraternal greetings and the Church Music Faculty choir sang an angelic rendition of “Glory be to God.” Following this, the Registrar, celebrating his 10th year of involvement in matters relating to NBTS Graduation as NBTS Registrar, introduced the Guest Lecturer.

The climax of the programme was the Graduation Lecture delivered by Professor Olaniyi Okunlola, an accomplished consultant, teacher, scholar, and mentor. Among his many roles, he is the current Chairman of the Central Promotions and Appointment Committee (CEPAC) of the Nigerian Baptist Convention and a professor at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA). Professor Okunlola’s lecture, titled “The Servant of the Master in the 21st Century Church,” focused on the role of pastors in navigating the complexities of contemporary society. He argued that while the world is constantly changing, God’s principles remain constant.

Professor Okunlola highlighted several contemporary issues, describing them as the “new normal.” He addressed the “ravaging wave” of secular trends impacting the church including technological addiction, internet-related issues like fraud, influences of online services on practices in physical in-person worship experiences; moral issues such as sexual immorality and same-sex relationships; relational issues such as superficial mentor-mentee relationships, watered down spirituality, prevailing questionable doctrines and political involvement where pastors are used for political gain. He also touched on the misinterpretation of “money answereth all things” (Proverbs 10:15), which has led to questionable practices within some churches. His presentation included references to scripture passages like Jeremiah 17:19; and Matthew 24: 3 – 14 among others.

While discussing interfaith relationships, the speaker urged pastors to uphold God’s standards without compromising their faith, stressing the importance of understanding and adhering to divine principles. The guest lecturer outlined essential qualities that define the ideal pastor for the 21st century: a strong spiritual foundation, a commitment to prayer and scripture, and a willingness to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Perseverance, diligence, humility, and an understanding of contemporary trends were also emphasized. He emphasised that the Master’s position is still as found in Matthew 6:33. The servant of God must seek God’s Kingdom first and all other things will be added.  Additionally, the graduating pastors were encouraged to maintain a stable home life, prioritize evangelism, and actively teach.

The lecture sparked lively discussions, with the audience responding positively to the lecture and contributing further comments and questions. Some responses emphasized the necessity of informal training to complement formal education, ensuring that ministers remain relevant amidst the evolving “new normal.” Suggestions included incorporating contemporary issues into the Seminary curriculum, particularly for youth ministry programmes. The Seminary President, Rev. Prof. S. Ola Ayankeye, lent his voice to the lecture, encouraging a balanced and healthy perspective in dealing with contemporary issues. In response to one of the issues raised from the floor; he highlighted that what some may consider ‘godfatherism’ might well be healthy stewardship of one’s influence. He encouraged pastors to manage relationships and continue to improve themselves. The programme concluded with a closing prayer by the president.

The 2024 Graduation Lecture at NBTS by Prof. Niyi Okunlola provided a worthwhile platform for addressing dynamic challenges faced by the church in contemporary times. The speaker’s call for a balanced approach to ministry – embracing contemporary relevance while maintaining spiritual integrity – was an encouragement and charge to all present, especially the graduating pastors.

Debo Odunlami

for NBTS Advancement Office

June 11, 2024

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