This past week, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) officially launched the first semester of the Robert Haskins School of Christian Ministry. This new school is designed to develop ministry leaders from BGCO ethnic and bivocational/smaller in attendance churches into more effective servants of Christ and His church.

The students are people who have had little or no training in the fundamental areas of church ministry. Providing this training for these leaders is imperative if Oklahoma Baptists are going to have dynamic and effective local churches that reach all people in every ethnic group in Oklahoma.

The Robert Haskins School of Christian Ministry (RHSCM) is a unique approach. The Haskins School is focused on practical truth that can be applied immediately within the local church ministry context rather than just academic information. The RHSCM professors are seasoned ministry leaders with years of practical experience. These professors teach from the background of day-to-day ministry. What they teach has been hammered out on the anvil of daily ministry for many years. Even more significant is that many of the courses will be specific to the ethnicity of the student. Professors will be of the ethnic background of the student.

The Haskins School will utilize a very prominent format used in education today, which is to provide training online rather than in a classroom. This approach allows students to study at a time convenient for them. The RHSCM will provide mentors who are effective in ministry to meet with students for dialogue and encouragement. Through many years of study, I can unequivocally say that the greatest times of learning have come when I have sat down with effective leaders and had the opportunity to ask questions and interact with them.

God has brought to the BGCO staff seasoned and gifted leaders to lead the Haskins School. Mark McClellan is the dean. McClellan has served as an International Mission Board missionary in Guatemala, pastor, campus director of the Golden Gate Seminary-Phoenix, seminary professor, and dean of the Hobbs College at Oklahoma Baptist University. Emerson Falls is also a part of the RHSCM faculty and leadership, and he is one of the outstanding Native American leaders in Oklahoma and the nation. Falls has served as campus director for Golden Gate Seminary-Denver and as a long-time pastor.  Phil Jones has just joined the BGCO staff as the strategist for smaller in attendance churches. He is a seasoned pastor who understands the smaller in attendance churches very well.

By the time a student completes his study and receives his diploma, BGCO leadership is confident this leader will be effectively equipped to lead the local church. The Haskins School is not only about the student, but also most importantly, about the church. The Haskins School is developing church ministry leaders, not just leaders.

The Robert Haskins School of Christian Ministry is one of the ways you are impacting eternity through the Cooperative Program and the Oklahoma State Missions Offering. Because Oklahoma Baptists give so generously, the BGCO is able to offer this training at a cost that is affordable to all ministry leaders.

I want to urge you to give cheerfully and generously to the Oklahoma State Missions Offering. Your gifts will directly make a difference in Oklahoma Baptist ethnic and smaller in attendance churches through the training of their pastors. Effective, spirit-filled leaders lead effective, evangelistic, and discipleship-focused churches that impact our communities with the Gospel.

Polla and I have given our offering. I challenge you to give your offering this week to the Oklahoma State Missions Offering.