ST. PETERSBURG —Friends and family packed in to Word of Life Fellowship Church to watch their loved ones graduate from Life Christian University (LCU) Dec. 14. These students weren’t taught English or math, but rather how to prepare for work in God’s kingdom.
Dr. Ellis Hodge, Pastor of Word of Life Fellowship, is also the dean of the Pinellas Extension Campus and presided over the commencement ceremony.
“You are in the presence of some folks who have diligently studied and who have worked hard so that they can serve God in a manner that is befitting Him, as our Lord and Savior,” Hodge said.
LCU educates ministers of tomorrow in campuses situated in churches all over the world. By providing quality ministry education, students can receive undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate degrees.
Hodge had dreamed of one day opening a bible college in south St. Pete after him and his best friend, Pastor John Chance, graduated from one in Largo years ago.
“I ran across a lady I met years ago and she asked me if I would teach in a bible college,” he said. “Little did I know that that was the door that God would open for us to be the Pinellas campus for LCU.”
Later on his friend, who has now passed away, joined him and the south St. Pete campus has been in the business of training and teaching people how to serve God properly for more than 10 years.
Things haven’t always been smooth sailing with the campus located inside the walls of Word of Life Fellowship Church. Hodge revealed that he almost had to shut the campus down, and the 2015 class would not have existed.
“The reason why because there were so many things against me; so many things that have been done that was not my direction and I didn’t think we could survive this year,” he said.
But after speaking with his mentor, he was encouraged to be steadfast, immovable and to always have plenty to do in the work of the Lord.
“I didn’t have instructors; I didn’t have finances; I didn’t have anything I needed to run a campus,” he said.
After heeding his mentor’s advice, he soldiered on even though he didn’t have enough students to make ends meet.
“I heeded his advice and trusted God. He sent me two people that would help me run the campus, and my wife who never lost faith in me and what we were doing. She kept backing me and the money just begun to come. I was assured by the Holy Spirit to keep this campus opened even if I only had one student,” Hodge stated.
There were years when he had to teach two different programs by himself. He credits God for bringing him more teachers, and is looking forward to a very fruitful year to come.
Hodge’s message for the graduating class was one of humility. He told them that they must have a teachable spirit, citing when Jesus told the fishermen to drop what they were doing and follow him to become fishers of men.
“What I hear in that is in order to follow Christ you have to be trained to do it,” he said as he gave examples of activities one must be trained for. “We will sacrifice and endure training for everything on the planet, but when it comes to serving God nobody wants to be properly trained.”
This proper training is so important, he said, because pastors need help. Hodge then warned the graduates not to let the training go to their heads.
“We didn’t train you to disobey your pastor or upstage your pastor; we didn’t train you to try and make you pastor look bad. We trained you to come alongside your pastor. He is still the boss. He is still in charge. Some of you may have a master’s degree, but you aren’t anointed to be master,” Hodge said to thunderous applause.
He told the graduating class that they are to help their pastors locate and train people in the Lord so that the process can be repeated over and over again.
Hodge’s final word to the class was to continue learning. He told them that even though they received their degree, they didn’t know everything.
“Turn on the learning gene inside of you to where you pursue God and pursue education for serving Him even better and higher and longer that He will be glorified calling you His child and that He will be honored when you stand before Him and He’ll say to you: “Servant, well done.”
Hodge thanked his wife, Teralyn Hodge and the Naomi and Titus 2 Covenant Alliance, for helping fund scholarships to the campus. He also thanked Arlene Pugh and Mary Conage for shouldering the responsibility of running a college and his three instructors Pastor Jonathan Anderson, Minister Denoise Sullivan and Jada Rainey.
“They have to grade papers; read research paper. And I’m telling you the research papers we have to grade are kind of rough because people coming back to bible college haven’t been in school in years! They don’t know anything about commas and periods, exclamation points, run-on sentences, fragmented sentences. We have to read and punctuate along the way,” he said to a room full of laughter.
LCU is a theologically accredited, educationally accountable institution of higher learning and is accredited through Accrediting Commission International, which is an internationally known non-profit, church educational organization.
For more information, please contact the admissions office at (727) 327-6081 ext. 3414 or visit www.lcus.edu.