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GuideStone CEO tells graduates to become people of influence

The keynote speaker at Liberty University’s annual Baccalaureate service on Friday night told the Class of 2015 that if they follow the simple acronym “VIP” (Very Influential Person), they could become people with the “VIP” characteristics of vision, integrity, and purpose.

“Being ‘important’ seems to be the cultural goal of many who seek to climb from rung to rung up the ladder of success,” said O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of the world’s largest Christian-based mutual fund, GuideStone Financial Resources. “However, as you stand this evening turning the page to a new chapter in the book of your life, I want to propose that you set your focus on becoming a VIP in another and more impacting way.”

Hawkins said each one of us has been assigned and appointed to a specific area of influence.

“As you leave this place to enter the world in every field of endeavor and service, this is my prayer for you, that your own area of influence may be greatly enlarged in our increasingly secular and morally declining culture,” he said.

Throughout the service, graduates were encouraged to remain true to their Christian roots as they enter into the job market. Prayers included an invocation from David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for Spiritual Development, and a benediction from senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, the Rev. Jonathan Falwell. Inspirational music from Liberty’s Wind Ensemble, Chamber Singers, and premier singing group the Sounds of Liberty, lifted praises to God for His blessings.

President Jerry Falwell explained the rich history of the baccalaureate, a collegiate tradition predating the foundation of America, and how Liberty has remained true to the values and faith it represents within academia even while the greater academic community — in spite of the biblical mottos etched in stone on their facades — have strayed from it.

He said one of the first things that he and his wife, Becki, noticed when he became president in 2007 was how Liberty students “radiated the love of Christ to everyone they encountered.”

“Our fervent prayer for Liberty University is that it will remain true to its Christian roots in perpetuity and that your children, grandchildren, and generations of their descendants will sit in a service just like this one and thank God for their Liberty University education,” he said.

Falwell introduced Hawkins as an old friend of his father, Dr. Jerry Falwell (Liberty’s founder). He noted that under Hawkins’ leadership, Guidestone manages more than $13 billion in assets and serves more than 250,000 individuals from churches, missionary organizations, colleges and universities, hospitals, and other nonprofit institutions. Hawkins has been named Clergyman of the Year by the Religious Heritage of America and was elected by his peers as president of the National Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference. Hawkins is the author of more than 30 books, including the best-selling “The Joshua Code” and “The Jesus Code.”

Additionally, he holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Christian University, a master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a doctor of ministry from Luther Rice Seminary. He has also served as senior pastor at two of the Southern Baptist Convention’s most prominent churches: First Baptist Church in Dallas and First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Falwell, along with Provost Dr. Ronald Hawkins, conferred upon O.S. Hawkins an honorary Doctor of Literature in recognition of “his work as an author, speaker, and pastor as well as his proven leadership both in the church and in the world of finance.”

Liberty also awarded Dr. Michael Whitson, pastor of First Baptist Indian Trail in North Carolina, an honorary Doctor of Divinity “in recognition of his work as a pastor, educator, and minister of the Gospel and the critical role he has played in training up generations of disciples to further the work of God’s kingdom.” He was introduced by Dr. Ed Hindson, dean of the School of Divinity.

Hawkins began his speech by explaining the importance of vision. He told graduates that if they go through their life without vision, they will have “little direction in their life and influence very few people in the process.” If you have vision, he said, it will bring “definition, design, direction, dynamic, and dependence upon God.”

“The beauty of Liberty University is that this man, President Jerry Falwell, is reproducing the Liberty vision into grander and greater visions that, even in his most optimistic expectations, his father could have never imagined,” he said. “If you want to be a very influential person, then make sure you are a person with vision and that you get your vision from God.”

Hawkins said he has known men and women with incredible intellect; however, people who influence others for good all have the common characteristic of integrity. He told graduates that they live in four worlds of integrity: a private world (where nobody enters), personal world (where very few enter), professional world (wh
ere you connect with dozens of people), and public world (where people form their own perception of others).

“Integrity is rooted in the private world, alone with God. And when we find it there, it will be reflected in our close relationships, reinforced daily in the work world, and ultimately revealed in the public world for God’s own glory,” he said. “VIPs — people of real influence — are people of vision and people of integrity.”

Hawkins added that along with a vision and integrity, students must recognize that there is a purpose in their life.

“Down in the very core of who you are, make sure you are moved and motivated by purpose. And if you do, others will be caught up in your flow, and you can become a VIP.”