On a clear day from O.S. Hawkins’ office in a North Dallas high-rise, you can see all the way to Fort Worth, his hometown. It may be fewer than 40 miles from 3237 Crenshaw Street on Fort Worth’s East Side, where Hawkins grew up, playing ball on a vacant lot up the street, to GuideStone’s Financial Resources’ offices, but in many ways, it’s a world away and part of a culminating journey the Lord Himself orchestrated.
Raised in a moral, but not church-going, home, Hawkins’ parents were married a long time before he was born. An only child, Hawkins said his parents taught him a tremendous work ethic, respect and responsibility, along with sacrifice and dedication to family.
“They were great, moral people who loved me very much,” Hawkins recalled. “I never played in a ball game from Little League on that my dad wasn’t there.”
It was in high school when Hawkins first was introduced to the Lord.
“What a time to be in high school in the 1960s,” Hawkins recalled. “Those were the days of pep rallies and pom-poms, glass pack mufflers and drag races, Bass weejuns and Levi’s, madras windbreakers and buttoned-down collars, hayrides and sock hops — and the Beatles.”
Coming to know the Lord
“But I was 17 years old and never remember hearing a prayer in my home or seeing the Bible opened,” Hawkins said. “After a basketball game one Saturday night, a young man witnessed to me about Christ and took me the next morning to Sagamore Hill Baptist Church in Fort Worth where I heard the gospel and there trusted Christ as my personal Savior. I’m not what I ought to be today, but I’ve never been the same since.”
Hawkins’ parents subsequently rededicated their lives to Christ and served Him in the church the rest of their lives.
Hawkins had desired to be a lawyer as an adult and worked two jobs after school and on the weekends in high school to save for college. That work ethic became ever-so-important as he pursued his studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
“I worked my way through TCU,” Hawkins said. “As soon as I’d get out of class at noon, I’d go over to Fort Worth Pipe and Supply, drive a forklift and load concrete pipes onto flatbed trucks. When I got off there at 5 p.m., I’d grab a hamburger somewhere and then go over and begin at 6 p.m. working as an orderly in the emergency room at the Osteopathic Hospital.
“They didn’t have much business in there, so in between patients there were long periods where I could study.”
In joining Sagamore Hill, Hawkins sat under the preaching of legendary preacher W. Fred Swank, who pastored the East Fort Worth congregation for 43 years. It was also there that he met his lifelong friend, Jack N. Graham, pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in the Dallas area.
“Bro. Swank gave us a love for Jesus, a heart for the people in the church and a commitment to evangelism,” Graham said. “He gave us opportunities beyond our years and gave us the opportunity to fulfill that calling. We are forever grateful to have had him as our pastor.”
Swank forged the connection between Graham and Hawkins, putting them together in ministry opportunities. One such event was a mission trip to Brownsville after a hurricane had devastated southern Texas and northern Mexico. It was on the bus ride back that Hawkins felt God calling him to the ministry. Hawkins completed his Bachelor’s in Business, but instead of taking the LSATs to go to law school, for which he had been preparing since he was a child, he enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
A ministry of service and partnership
While still in seminary, he joined the staff at Sagamore Hill. Hawkins would earn a Master of Divinity from Southwestern and later a Ph.D. in Preaching from the institution. While on staff at Sagamore Hill, Swank recommended Hawkins to the pastor search committee at First Baptist Church Hobart, Oklahoma.
“I was 24 years old when Susie and I, only married a short while, went to be their pastor,” Hawkins recalled. “It was at Hobart that I learned the pastorate is the people business and that life is about relationships.”
From there, Hawkins was called to the First Baptist Church Ada, Oklahoma, where Hawkins was inspired to become an expository preacher. From there, he was called to the First Baptist Church Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“For 15 years, I had the privilege of being on the cutting edge of church growth, and for that decade and a half, we watched God do what few local churches have been able to see or experience,” Hawkins said.
In 1993, Hawkins was called to the First Baptist Church Dallas, Texas, where he would succeed W.A. Criswell.
Hawkins’ friendship with Graham continued — for most of their ministries, they have served within 30 miles of each other. Graham followed Hawkins at Hobart. Both pastored in South Florida (Graham at First Baptist Church West Palm Beach) and again in North Texas. Hawkins assumed the presidency of what was then the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1997. Graham said Hawkins was uniquely qualified for his role.
“He is a friend of pastors and brought a shepherd’s heart to the role of president,” Graham said. “He’s always writing notes or making calls to encourage pastors even as he has taken GuideStone to the highest levels possible.”
Hawkins, a reserved man, lights up when talking about five tremendous influences on his life aside from his parents: Graham, Swank, Criswell, John R. Jones, his partner in ministry at GuideStone; and his wife and partner in life, Susie Hawkins.
“I have been fortunate to have two remarkable mentors in ministry in Dr. Swank and Dr. Criswell,” Hawkins said. “Bro. Swank consistently modeled the pastor’s heart before me and was my constant source of encouragement, correction and counsel. After his death, Dr. Criswell ‘adopted’ me as his own. He was my biggest asset and greatest encouragement during my Dallas days. In fact, like Abel, they both ‘though dead still speak’ through my own philosophy of ministry.”
‘Lives woven together’
Graham and Hawkins have each served in ministry for 50 years — they were ordained the same night by Sagamore Hill. Hawkins laughs about their connection.
“God has woven our lives together,” Hawkins said. “We married in the same summer. We have vacationed together with our families. We even were diagnosed with prostate cancer within days of each other. We’re so close we catch each other’s diseases.”
The two have shared ideas, burdens and blessings with each other.
“It’s been my privilege to be his pastor the last quarter-century,” Graham said. “I’ve had a front-row seat to watching O.S. serve the Lord. He passionately pursues God’s call in his life — he is always saying, ‘yes,’ to the Lord. When he heard the call to leave the pastorate to become CEO of the Annuity Board, now GuideStone, he prayed for a long time, but when he was convinced of the call, O.S. said ‘yes’ as he always had.”
Jones, Chief Operating Officer at GuideStone and a lifelong Southern Baptist, was selected to be Hawkins’ right-hand man during Hawkins’ first year as president. The two forged a deep and lasting friendship.
“John epitomizes the truth of what Asaph said of King David, that he leads with the integrity of his heart and the skillfulness of his hands,” Hawkins said. “John emphasizes that GuideStone is a ministry that utilizes best business practices. That is true, and the beneficiaries are the 250,000 men and women we serve every day.”
But among those who know Hawkins best, Susie Hawkins is his closest confidante and partner in life.
“I am blessed and honored that my best and most loyal friend I have in life is Susie,” Hawkins said. An accomplished Bible teacher and author in her own right, she holds a Master of Arts in Christian Leadership and a Master of Arts in Theology from Criswell College in Dallas. Susie Hawkins also writes on the Engage blog at Bible.org, served on the committee that proposed the Baptist Faith & Message, 2000, and currently serves on the board of the Lifesavers Foundation. This pro-life Dallas organization serves families in crisis. She also is co-writer and founder of Passover for Christians ministry, which encourages Christians to observe Passover from a Christian perspective as a part of their Holy Week traditions.
O.S. and Susie Hawkins have two daughters — Wendy (married to Brian) and Holly (married to David) — and six grandchildren, all of whom live in the Dallas area.
The ministry of GuideStone
Hawkins is passionate about several things — his family, God’s word, TCU football, serving pastors in his role as President of GuideStone — but one of his top passions is Mission:Dignity, the GuideStone ministry that provides retirement assistance to Southern Baptist pastors near the poverty line. In 2020, Mission:Dignity served more than 1,800 people and donors raised $10.4 million to undergird this ministry. Additionally, author royalties and proceeds from the Code series of books Hawkins has written since 2012 all benefit Mission:Dignity. More than 2 million copies of the books have been purchased by individuals, businesses, churches and Sunday school classes for Bible studies, outreach efforts and personal devotions.
“We’re on a mission at GuideStone to provide dignity to some forgotten servants, those retired pastors and in most cases their widows who need financial assistance,” Hawkins said. “It is a joy of my life that in our stewardship of GuideStone, we have raised $200 million for these pastors and their widows.”
That fundraising allowed GuideStone to relinquish its Cooperative Program allocation in 2008, returning more than $20 million to SBC mission causes in the last 12 years. 100% of gifts to Mission:Dignity goes to help a pastor or his widow in need; an endowment established many years ago provides for the administrative costs.
When Hawkins arrived at GuideStone in 1997, monthly payouts through what was then called the Adopt An Annuitant ministry were $50 per month. Today, the neediest couples can receive $600 each month in assistance.
In September 2020, Hawkins asked trustees to establish a search committee to identify the leader to whom he would pass the reigns of the ministry. Hawkins plans to remain on for a transition period to ensure a smooth and orderly transfer and then move into the President Emeritus role in 2022, completing a quarter of a century of service to Southern Baptists through GuideStone.
“I’m only retooling, though,” Hawkins said. One of the fittest 73-year-olds in the Southern Baptist Convention, he has no plans to slow down. “I will dedicate my life to raising money for Mission:Dignity, writing, and teaching.”
Hawkins is working to raise an endowment to help provide expense grants to Mission:Dignity recipients who may need dental work, a new refrigerator, tires for their cars or similar expenses that can be prohibitive on the limited incomes of many retired pastors.
“On every desk at GuideStone is a small card that reminds us that the reason we come to work every day is this: ‘We exist to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security,’’ Hawkins said. “As long as the Lord gives me the ability, I’ll continue living out that vision for His glory and the good of those we are so privileged to serve.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Roy Hayhurst, director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources, wrote this article following the late May announcement of Hance Dilbeck being elected president-elect of GuideStone. Dilbeck joined the staff July 1 and is in a time of transition to the president and CEO seat set for early 2022, when O.S. Hawkins becomes president emeritus. To watch the Sept. 27 TAB Media Special Report interview with Hawkins, click here.