North Greenville University held its spring commencement ceremony on a cool spring morning in Melvin and Dollie Younts Stadium on Thursday, May 5.
A crowd of over 4,000 spectators watched a graduating class of 331 undergraduates and graduates receive their diplomas. Mark Harris, executive worship pastor and artist in residence at Gateway Church in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, was the keynote speaker.
“Life is in constant motion,” Harris said. “We’re all simultaneously both moving away from something and moving toward something. So today for you graduates, you’re moving away from the familiarity of the college classroom and moving into the big, new unknown.”
Harris referenced Isaiah 43:19-20.
“God speaks through the prophet Isaiah. He talks about the new, big unknown. ‘For I am about to do something new. See I have already begun. Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness and I will create rivers in the dry waste land,’ ” Harris read.
“Figuratively speaking, the pathway God makes through the wilderness and the rivers He creates through the dry wasteland literally could be you and me. If we lead the way God calls us to lead, then we will be the path that guides people who are lost in the wilderness, out of the wilderness. We will be the river that brings living water to the thirsty,” he said.
“I challenge you [graduates] today as you approach this new unknown. It takes people who are willing to dare, students who are willing to dream to be a part of that path that leads people out of the wilderness. I challenge you to be a river that brings life and sustenance to those who are in a dry wasteland. Will you step in with determination and faith? Will you be a difference maker or will you just be a settler and blend into the fabric of society?” said Harris.
Harris told the graduates that they have a choice. He asked if they will choose to be a settler, one who settles for something safe and easy — or will they choose to be a Bannister, referencing Roger Bannister, the man who was not willing to bury his talent and the first to run a sub-four-minute mile in 1954 at Oxford University.
He encouraged the graduates to “think big, dream big, and believe big.”
Harris was a member of the contemporary Christian groups Truth and 4Him, a solo artist since 2006, and worship pastor of the Bay Community Church from 2005 to 2012.
He has a bachelor’s degree from Lee University and is married to Jodie Harris. They have two children: Matthew, who is a member of NGU’s spring 2016 graduating class; and Maddison, who is a sophomore at Grand Canyon University.
In addition, at the conclusion of his address, Harris was presented an honorary doctorate of Christian leadership by NGU interim president Randall J. Pannell and Beverly Hawkins, chairperson of the NGU board of trustees.