'Don't be lukewarm!' Mathis tells Fruitland gradsby Mike Creswell, BSCNC Staff
Christian ministry got a big boost in late December as 40 men and women graduated from Fruitland Baptist Bible College in winter commencement exercises at the main Hendersonville, North Carolina campus.
Greg Mathis, longtime senior pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, warned graduates against being lukewarm in their ministries in the baccalaureate sermon titled, “Don’t Lock Jesus Out of Your Ministry,” based on Revelation 3.
Mathis has taught at Fruitland for 37 years and now serves as professor of evangelism and church growth. His teaching has been in addition to his main ministry at Mud Creek Baptist Church, where he has served for 38 years. Mud Creek is one the leading Baptist congregations in western North Carolina.
Graduates crossed a stage decorated with poinsettias and twin Christmas trees to receive their degrees in religion/Christian ministries or certificates or certificates/diplomas in Christian leadership. Some graduates had attended classes at Fruitland’s Rocky Mount and Sylva campuses. Family and friends nearly filled the college chapel for the event, held Friday, Dec. 15.
Fruitland President David Horton described the commencement exercises as a time of worship and celebration. He told the gathering that Fruitland has trained men and women to go out and serve in the Lord’s kingdom since 1946. Those graduates have served as pastors, on church staffs, with Christian organizations and as missionaries, adding “They all make a difference in the kingdom of God.”
Mathis said the church at Laodicea described in Revelation 3 was the only one in which Jesus is described as being outside the church, looking in and undecided on whether He will enter. Jesus had only condemnation for that congregation, Mathis said.
“Literally, He was so nauseated, He was about to throw up,” Mathis said. “From the outside the church looked successful, but Jesus said they made Him sick.
“If you leave out of here tonight and become lukewarm in your ministry, Jesus wants no part of that.”
Mathis said the lukewarm reference likely referred to two nearby sources of water, one hot and one cold, but both were lukewarm by the time they reached Laodicea in New Testament times.
Mathis contrasted the screaming and excited fans at football, basketball, golf and auto racing events with the responses of Christians at church.
“Yet we come into church and we are so nonchalant and we are so unmoved and untouched by the preaching of the gospel! How in this world can we explain that in light of who we represent tonight?” Mathis said to loud “amens” from the congregation.
“I think what Jesus was saying is, how in this world did I leave everything in heaven and come down here in the form of human flesh? How could I face what I faced? How could I do what I did? How could I follow those steps to the cross? How could I hang there on the cross for your sins? How could I save you from hell? How could I pay your penalty and purchase a place for you in heaven? How could I defeat death, hell and the grave and the devil? How could I do that? How could I arise from the grave and ascend into heaven and how could I be on my way back one of these days to get you — and that somehow you would grow lukewarm over that message?” Mathis said.
“I beg you tonight to not become lukewarm,” said Mathis, who described being lukewarm as a betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ. “How can we possibly be lukewarm with a message that keeps people out of hell?”
In recent years Fruitland has had record enrollments and has added web-based classes and satellite classes in several places across North Carolina. It is estimated that more than 800 N.C. Baptist churches have Fruitland graduates on staff.
Three Hispanic students graduated, reflecting on Fruitland’s ongoing ministry of offering classes in Spanish to help reach North Carolina’s estimated 1 million Hispanics.
Like many Fruitland students, graduate Noah Matthews of Etowah has been serving a church as he worked toward his associate degree; it has taken him five years.
“Fruitland has probably been the best experience of my life so far. It has made me a better person,” Matthews said. He praised Fruitland’s teachers for the time they invested in him.
Graduate Elijah Hall, 20, of Sylva, has also worked his way through Fruitland, by serving as an assistant manager at a restaurant. He also has been serving as a middle school ministry intern at Webster Baptist Church in Webster. Like many students, he plans to continue his studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary at Wake Forest.
Southeastern is also in the future plans for graduate Abby Lee, who wants to complete her bachelor’s degree in Southeastern’s college. She plans to share the gospel by teaching English, possibly overseas, though she does not know where yet. Lee is the daughter of an U.S. Air Force pilot. She was born in Charleston, South Carolina, but now lives in Hendersonville.
Graduate Les Howard received his diploma with a broad smile and held it up and kissed it as he walked across the stage. A pastor for 18 years, Howard is from Shelby.
“Fruitland has been outstanding for me,” Howard said. “Words cannot express it. It is a blessing to be here and I am elated to be part of the Fruitland family.”
He will continue serving as pastor of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Waco, North Carolina, but said Fruitland has left him better equipped to lead because of the tools he has received.
“I’m just grateful for the education,” Howard said.
Horton reminded the congregation that Fruitland is owned and operated by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and that about half the school’s annual budget comes from the Cooperative Program.
Associate of Religion/Christian Ministries
Caleb Jordan Addison
Noah Jackson James DuPre Alexander
Byron Sloan Allison
Austin Gregory Andes
Jade Marie Harvey
Colton Edward Burse
Kevin Scott Combs
Rodney D. Franklin
Jonathan Casey Haithcock
Elijah Macaulay Hall
Joshua Taylor Hatcher
Blake Michael Herron
Leslie L. Howard
Theh Mar Htoo
Ashley Dale Hudson II
Abby Caroline Lee
Robert Kevin Long
Savannah Lynn Looney
Adam Nicholas Love
Michael Gregory McIntosh
Brandon Trevor McMinn
Edwin Keith Matthews III
Noah Levi Martin Matthews
Megan Nicole Neely
Benjamin Seth Parrish
Lee H. Patrick
Samuel Khu Peh
Omar Alexander Recendiz
Michael Silas Smith
Nathaniel Christian Stevens
Fruitland Christian Leadership Certificate
Hazel P. Blount (Rocky Mount)
Mildred Broadnax (Rocky Mount)
Hispanic Diploma and Certificate
Gerardo Ramirez (Sylva)
Jose Alfredo Sanchez Hernandez (Hendersonville)
Joao De Campos (Hendersonville)