Chris Hodges, Founder and Senior Pastor of the Church of the Highlands, encouraged Troy University graduates on Friday to discover the true meaning and purpose for their lives and then, live to make a difference.
Speaking to more than 900 graduates in two ceremonies held inside Trojan Arena on the Troy Campus, Hodges said while the day marked a milestone for graduates, many more chapters of life lay ahead.
“Today you are marking the completion of a major chapter in your life — a chapter marked by victory and defeat, struggle and joy, and a chapter filled with memories. You guys get to add to the list, enduring a global pandemic,” he said. “You’ve come a long way and so much is behind you, yet most of the book of your life is still filled with blank pages. As you step into the next chapter of your life, you probably have some goals for what’s next. While yours may be different than the person next to you or your best friend or your roommate, we all want to live fulfilled lives and we want to find true happiness. I believe that type of happiness only happens for us when we are grounded by something other than the next big purchase, or new job, or great vacation.”
Recalling his time in college, Hodges told graduates that he followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming an accounting major because he didn’t know what else to do.
“Throughout my junior high, high school and college years, I struggled with inferiority. It was at a level that was so bad that I battled with depression, had panic attacks and struggled with anxiety,” he said. “It wasn’t counseling or medication that got me through it, although for many that is what needs to happen. For me, it was finding real meaning and purpose for my life that pulled me out of the disorienting, dark cave of confusion.”
Hodges challenged graduates to discover what they care about most and to utilize that to make an impact in others.
“Real joy doesn’t come from making lots of money, having lots of pleasure or possessing lots of things, real joy comes when your life has meaning,” he said. “Discover what you care about most and live your life in such a way that it impacts the lives of others for the good. As you make plans, set goals and begin careers, don’t overlook what you can do that no one else can. You have so many chapters ahead of you, but all of them rely on everything you have been given here at TROY, including this incredible education, to make a difference. You were made to make a difference and leave your mark, and today begins that journey to true fulfilment. I’m pulling for you, I believe in you and I’m cheering you on. A hurting world is waiting. Let’s go.”
Known for his relevant teaching style and his passion for raising up global leaders to fulfill the Great Commission, Hodges leads a congregation spanning 23 campuses with some 60,000 people attending more than 70 worship services each weekend. With a focus on helping people realize the spiritual journey that God has for them, Hodges leads people to know God, find freedom, discover purpose, and make a difference.
He co-founded the Association of Related Churches (ARC) in 2001, which trains more than 1,000 church planters every year (arcchurches.com). To date, ARC has planted over 940 churches all across the USA and now averages approximately 100 new churches each year. Hodges also founded a coaching network called Grow (growleader.com) specializing in training and resourcing pastors and churches to help them break barriers and reach their growth potential.
As Chancellor of Highlands College, an accredited two-year ministry training college that gives students a chance to receive hands-on ministry training in a healthy college environment, Hodges is committed to placing leaders of character and competence into the harvest field. Students are currently being developed in areas such as Pastoral Leadership, Student Ministry, Children’s Ministry, Missions, Technical Arts, Worship, and Creative Arts.
Friday’s commencement ceremonies included students from 30 U.S. states and territories and 17 countries.