Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) launched the next generation of pastors, ministers and missionaries into service during its 58th commencement exercises on Dec. 18. The event was highlighted by the keynote address and the dedication of a commons area named after O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources.
Speaking to 88 graduates, their families and friends, Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen opened the service with a gospel presentation, and then added that the day was one of “hopeful seriousness” and yet “great celebration” as the next generation of graduates were being sent forth in the name of Christ to serve His cause, advance His Kingdom, strengthen His church and bring glory to His name.
Hawkins brought the commencement address from 2 Corinthians 10:13-18. He urged graduates to become “VIPs” or “Very Influential People.”
Acronyms, Hawkins said, are obsessively used in today’s communication culture, with one of the most commonly used being “VIP” or “Very Important Person.”
Luz C. Quiroz marches in the recessional after receiving her master of arts in counseling degree during Midwestern Seminary’s December graduation exercises on Dec. 18.
“Perhaps no other acronym has muscled and maneuvered its way into our modern culture as much as the one, ‘VIP,’” Hawkins said. “There are people who are consumed with being important.”
Hawkins noted that from the earliest points in life, people crave being important and the center of attention. However, Hawkins proposed to graduates a new definition for the acronym “VIP.”
“It is a consuming factor, but I want to redefine the acronym for us today,” he said. “I do not think VIP should mean ‘very important person.’
“I think it should stand for ‘very influential person’ because people have a way of forgetting those who are perceiving themselves to be important, but they have a long memory when it comes to those who have influenced their lives.”
From 2 Corinthians 10:13, Paul speaks of an “area of influence God has assigned” to each believer. With increased faith, this area of influence is enlarged as well, Hawkins noted.
“This sets us free,” he said. “It does not matter whether you go from here to pastor in a rural area somewhere, a metropolitan area, to plant a church somewhere, go to some county seat town, God has assigned an area of influence for you.”
To obtain “Very Influential Person” status, Hawkins said, there are three traits that a person must possess: vision, integrity and purpose. Vision is vital to Christian ministry, he said. It is imperative to know where you are going, and how you are going to get there.
“Do you want to be a person of influence? Have a vision and make sure you get that vision from God. It will bring definition to your task,” Hawkins said. “It will define your task. It will bring design to what you are doing. It will bring direction. In ministry, if you have a vision from God you never have to wonder which way to turn when you get to the intersection.”
Secondly, Hawkins suggested that integrity is the most important aspect of ministry and of influencing people. He noted that a person lives in four worlds: private, personal, professional and public. It is in the private world – the place where only a person and God know his or her innermost thoughts – that integrity is rooted.
When one has a hidden life, which finds its foundation and growth in his or her relationship with God, then it will be reflected in the professional world and ultimately revealed for all to see, he said.
Thirdly, being a person of purpose is key for influencing others. People follow those who are driven by a passion of a purpose, Hawkins said.
“The Westminster Catechism says that our primary purpose in life ‘is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.’ There is a purpose in you,” Hawkins said. “That is why no one else has DNA like you. God made you that way – indescribably valuable to Him because somewhere there is something for you to do that no one else can do.”
Hawkins said the greatest epitaph he had ever read was Acts 13:36, where Paul said of King David, “David served God’s purpose in his own generation and fell asleep.”
“As you go forward from this place,” Hawkins said, “what better thing could ever be said of you when all is said and done, than you went out and you served God’s purpose and fell asleep? You can become a VIP – a Very Influential Person.
The Hawkins Courtyard
Prior to the address, Allen honored Hawkins and his wife Susie by dedicating a newly renovated commons area as “The Hawkins Courtyard.” In recognizing the Hawkins’, Allen said, the courtyard’s naming was made with “gratitude for your steady example, faithfulness and lifelong service to Jesus Christ in pastoring local churches, in authoring resources useful to ministers, and in serving the men and women of the Southern Baptist Convention through your efforts at GuideStone Financial Resources. You truly exemplify what it means to be ‘for the Church.’”
Additionally, Allen presented Wayne and Berna Dean Lee, of Southlake, Texas, with a plaque to thank them for their role in funding the Hawkins Courtyard. Wayne Lee has served on Midwestern Seminary’s Board of Trustees since 2006, including being chairman from 2010-2011.
Of Lee’s service, friendship and partnership with Midwestern Seminary, Allen noted, “We wish to express our heartfelt gratitude for the deep level of commitment and generosity you exhibited toward this institution and the completion of the seminary’s Hawkins Courtyard.
“Your generous personal support, your visionary leadership as a trustee, and your great encouragement – both privately and publicly – within the greater Southern Baptist and Christian community has been truly a providential blessing from God. It is with our most sincere thanks that we honor you for your passion, generosity and efforts toward enabling this courtyard project to move from a dream to a reality.”
The Hawkins Courtyard is surrounded by the newly completed Spurgeon Library, the newly renovated administrative wing, and the Midwestern Seminary library. It has a water fountain as its focal point, seating areas and table for use by the campus community.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)