Receiving a charge to serve God with dedication as they step into their vocations, 42 OBU graduates received their diplomas during OBU's 2011 Winter Commencement on Friday, Dec. 16.
During the ceremony in OBU's John Wesley Raley Chapel, the graduates heard from Dr. Todd Fisher, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee. He based his address on Acts 28:30-31, which sums up the ministry of the Apostle Paul with these words: "Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance" (HCSB).
Fisher said the Scripture conveys Paul was focused on three areas in his life: to share the Gospel, love people and teach God's Word. He said the charge to serve God and others applies to all graduates, whether they will be working in churches, hospitals, businesses, classrooms or any other venue.
"As followers of Christ, God has called you to the mission of reaching the world and piercing the darkness with the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Fisher said. "My admonition to all of you today, graduates, is to employ your lives, your gifts and your resources in serving the Lord Jesus and your fellow man."
He said his prayer is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will permeate everything the graduates do, everything they say, every thought they have and every place they go. He encouraged the graduates to consider how they can focus on the Gospel and fulfill Christ's mission as they teach, heal, counsel, advise, manage and complete other jobs.
"Remember this as you embark on a new chapter in your lives: Do not live for yourself, live for your King," Fisher said, referring to an allegiance to Jesus Christ. "If you do this, yours will be a life not of being served, but serving him who has redeemed you. … When the world sees you living genuinely, passionately for your King -- and not as some tertiary addendum to your life -- then you will reach the world with the Gospel, and you find your greatest fulfillment in life."
Fisher told the graduates that amidst the accolades of their Commencement celebration, each person should remember that Christians are meant to serve others, not focus on self. Through humble servant-hood, and by investing in others all they have learned at OBU, he said God can use them to change the world.
"Investing your life in others is no easy task," he said. "People can be frustrating. They can be disappointing. People can hurt you. There can be things about people that challenge our comfort zones. … (However), people are worth the effort. They are worth your time. They are worth your commitment. They are worth your sacrifice. Always remember that is what God thinks about people. Be patient with people, love them and share with them."
He also reminded the graduates to adhere to the Bible, continuing to grow in their love, appreciation and admiration of Scripture throughout their lives. He said to boldly proclaim God's Word and live in the truth of the God's promises.
"The Bible is God's revelation of Himself to us and is precious truth," Fisher said. "Take every opportunity to teach, share and exhort others in the teachings of Scripture."
Rather than choosing a life of selfish pursuit, Fisher urged the graduates to go out into the world seeking to serve Jesus Christ and others.
In his charge to the graduates, Dr. David W. Whitlock, OBU president, challenged them to remember they carry the distinction of being graduates of OBU, having studied at an institution that has sought to stand for Christian distinctiveness and academic excellence since its founding in 1910.
"You are recipients of a rich heritage here at OBU, and I charge you to move forward with hope and courage," Whitlock said. "I challenge you to use what you have learned here on Bison Hill as the foundation blocks upon which you will build for the rest of your life, determined to serve your fellow man with an informed caring. Dare to walk with faith, believing that God will use you to make a difference in the world. Strive for excellence in every area of your life."
The program included recognition from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which founded the university in 1910. Randall Adams, church outreach team leader, brought greetings on behalf of the BGCO. The graduates were inducted into the OBU Alumni Association by Lori Hagans, executive director of the association.
Dr. Stan Norman, OBU provost and executive vice president for campus life, presented four graduating seniors who earned the academic predicate "summa cum laude" for maintaining at least a 3.95 grade point average on all work completed for their bachelor's degrees. Those honored -- Kathryn Erin McVey, Ashley Erin Neel, Katelyn Rose Roberts and Bonnie Ann Whitehead -- received academic hoods during the ceremony.