Oklahoma Baptists work together to train pastors.

From our beginning, we have known that we need each other to address this central issue. The advancement of the Gospel depends on the health and strength of our churches, and a church needs an effective pastor in order to be strong and healthy. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) exists to help educate, establish and encourage pastors.

At age 24, I was called to my first church in Marshall County. The search committee counted the votes, informed me I received 38 yes votes, and then asked me one simple question, “What do you want us to call you?” I blush to confess that I did not know how to answer their question. They picked up on my confusion, so they clarified, “Do you want us to call you brother or preacher or reverend?” I finally punted, “Just call me Hance.”

The following week I confessed my ignorance to the associational director of missions, L.M. Cox. He smiled and said without any hesitation, “You tell them to call you ‘Pastor.’” After 29 years, I can say that he was absolutely right.

“Pastor” is a great title. “Pastor” is the one word that best describes all that the Bible teaches us about leadership in the Kingdom of God. The work of the pastor is to shepherd the flock of God—the pastor is the shepherd. The pastor feeds, leads and cares for God’s people. The welfare of the flock reflects the work of the shepherd.

God calls pastors. Pastors are trained by churches and other pastors. The BGCO was formed to help with this training. We want to work together to create multiple pathways for our pastors to find all the instruction and support they need to fulfill the ministry they have received from the Lord.

The Lord calls different men at different ages and stages of life. Some are young and need years of formal theological education. The convention provides that pathway through Oklahoma Baptist University and our Southern Baptist Convention seminaries. Some are not so young. These men are often deep in their faith, experienced in the local church and established in a community. They only need targeted training to be effective in the work. We want to work with our associations to meet this need.

“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Pet. 5:1-4).