Hawkins to Southwestern Seminary students: Fulfill your purpose


FORTH WORTH, Texas -- Be a servant, remember your calling, be relevant, and keep an eternal perspective, preached O.S. Hawkins, senior advisor, ambassador-at-large, and senior professor of pastoral ministry and evangelism, at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Texas Baptist College chapel on Thursday. 

In his welcome during the second chapel of the spring academic semester, David S. Dockery, interim president, said, “It is a joy to have you as we begin our new semester together and give thanks to God for this wonderful start we have enjoyed and trust Him for the days to come.”

In addition to faculty, students, and staff, Dockery welcomed associational mission strategists from the North Texas region who were special guests in chapel. 

Hawkins “was a model of what leadership should be in terms of serving, shepherding, leading guiding, in that work there, not only for Guidestone, but for the entire Southern Baptist Convention,” Dockery said of Hawkins’s 25-year tenure as the president and CEO of Guidestone Financial Resources. Hawkins retired from the role in March 2022.

Hawkins said Acts 13:36 is a Bible verse he has “stayed tethered to” during his ministry and life, beginning as a Master of Divinity student at Southwestern in the early 1970s. He said from the verse, which is Paul’s description of King David’s life and death, there are four questions to ask. 

Hawkins said Paul described many qualities that David had and said, “of all the qualities Paul could have said about David,” the fact that “David served” is important to note. Hawkins urged the assembly to ask themselves, “Am I a servant?”

“We’re never more like Jesus than when we’re serving,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins reminisced on several ways that life was different for him as a seminary student 50 years ago, primarily with the advancement in technology. As a new seminary student, he said he noticed how several of his classmates had places to preach, but there were no opportunities for him. Hawkins went to speak with the pastor of his home church in east Fort Worth, the late Fred Swank who pastored Sagamore Hill Baptist Church.  Swank had been instrumental in Hawkins’s salvation and the young seminary student expressed his situation to Swank. His pastor said, “Be faithful in the little things and God will make you ruler over greater things.” Hawkins said he was not happy to hear that advice.

Soon thereafter, preaching opportunities arose for Hawkins. He began preaching on Sunday afternoons at a local nursing home and on Tuesday evenings at the Union Gospel Mission when it was located in downtown Fort Worth. Since then, he said he has had “numerous opportunities to preach the Gospel.”

Secondly, Hawkins said the passage from Acts begs the question, “Do I have a sense of calling?” Hawkins emphasized the importance of maintaining the sense of calling and said it “begins with desire” and is coupled with “opportunity.” Hawkins noted the call of God in people’s lives is laid out in Acts 13. 

“There is a purpose on God’s call on your life,” Hawkins said. “It’s practical and providential.” 

Thirdly, Hawkins said ministers must ask, “Do I recognize the difference in a first-century message and a 21st-century methodology that always must be changing to reach new people for Christ?” Hawkins noted that while the Gospel message never changes, the way people are reached with the Gospel can change. 

“We can’t reach people today the same way we did in the ‘50s,” Hawkins said. 

Lastly, in asking the last question from Acts 13:26, “Do I have an eternal purpose?” Hawkins encouraged the assembly to reflect on if they are keeping an eternal purpose with what they are doing. He described how so much of Jesus’s ministry took place outside, from the moment He was born until His death. “He was always outside where the people were” and “that is where He told us to take the Gospel,” Hawkins concluded.

Hawkins reminded the assembly that “you are never more like Jesus than when you are washing someone’s feet. Be contemporary in your approach to the Gospel without changing the message and keep that eternal purpose. Somewhere there is a job for you to do that no one can do quite like you.”