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Stories from Midwestern: A Heart for Oklahoma

Posted August 3, 2022 by Brett Fredenberg

Todd Fisher, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, received Midwestern Seminary’s 2022 Alumnus of the Year Award. Fisher graduated from Midwestern Seminary in 2001, receiving his Doctor of Ministry, and has served in pastoral ministry for 30 years. He has been married to his wife Jamy for 27 years, and they have three children- Zach, Carly, and Anna.

Reflecting on Fisher’s faithful ministry, Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen said, “Todd Fisher is known as a faithful pastor, a bold preacher, and a man of conviction. Demonstrating in the local church what we hope to produce for the church with each passing year at the seminary, we are delighted to honor Todd because he’s led a ministry that we have seen, appreciated, and is worthy of commendation.”

Todd Fisher was born again to preach in Oklahoma.

Growing up near Fort Worth, Texas though, he had never considered the Sooner State, the state he’s now ministered in for over 30 years, as a potential place to call home.

Leaving Texas to pursue pastoral ministry was not an option- or at least, not from a young age.

Fisher did not grow up in the church. Raised primarily by his mother, a hard-working public-school teacher, Fisher’s childhood passion was sports. That is, until he was 14 years old, and a close friend shared the gospel with him. At that point, everything changed.

Fisher believed in Christ, was baptized, and immediately became involved with the youth group at North Fort Worth Baptist Church. Jesus was all Fisher could think about.

Small and Unexpected Confirmations

Two years later, God called Fisher to ministry.

“I had a lot of people in my life saying, ‘I think God is calling you to ministry.’ And the internal desire was just as strong as the external affirmation I was receiving. So, at 16 years old, I surrendered to the call to ministry. And at 18 years old, I knew that God wanted me to pastor.”

With confidence in his call, Fisher knew he needed ministry training.

He did not know the many obstacles and challenges still before him.

While considering how best to prepare for this new calling, Fisher was met with subtle, yet clear opposition.

“There were adults in my life at that time that told me, ‘When you go to college, don’t major in religion. If the ministry doesn’t work out, a different degree will allow you to have something to fall back on.’”

Despite their cautionary pleas, Fisher had made up his mind.

He knew he would pursue theological education. He just didn’t know where.

During his senior year of high school, Fisher had a small, unplanned conversation that changed the trajectory of his life.

While waiting to meet a close friend for their weekly accountability meetings over breakfast, he struck up a conversation with his friend’s father, who served as a music minister in a nearby church.

In the conversation, they talked about calling, school, and Oklahoma Baptist University, as the minister was a second-generation OBU graduate himself.

Fisher had never considered OBU. He’d never even visited the state.

Many of Fisher’s friends had already committed to OBU at this point though, making it easy for Fisher to at least join the group for a campus visit.

“If it hadn’t been for that talk with this music minister, a small conversation I didn’t expect to have, I might have never gone to OBU, or Oklahoma altogether.”

On the visit, with other’s doubts of ministerial training in the back of his mind, Fisher’s calling was confirmed once again.

“Visiting the campus was a moment of clarity for me. It was as if God said to me on that day, ‘Have I called you to ministry or not? You don’t need a fallback. What I want you to do is come to this school and study and prepare for what I’ve told you to do with your life.”

The experience made the decision. OBU was his future.

The challenges didn’t stop there, though.

During his freshman year, Fisher met with a group of around 100 other young men called to pastoral ministry in a ministerial alliance meeting once a month.

He can remember the group’s very first meeting like it was yesterday.

A guest speaker spoke to the young group and said, “By the time you’re a senior, half of you won’t be in this room. You’ll decide you won’t want to go into ministry.”

“To be honest,” Fisher recalled, “I was offended.”

As it turned out, the speaker was right.

“I’ve learned that when God calls you to ministry, He’ll confirm it. If not, He will send you in a different direction.”

The time leading up to his senior year at OBU served as the testing ground for his pastoral call.

While a sophomore, Fisher served as a youth minister at a small church in Oklahoma, First Baptists Church Weleetka.

A month into the role, the pastor left abruptly.

The leaders in the church were caught off guard by the resignation. They asked Fisher to fill the pulpit for the upcoming Sunday.

Fisher agreed, and preached for the first time. He took Ephesians 4:1 for his text, focusing on the Christian’s task of walking worthy of the call.

The following Tuesday night, the leaders called.

“That wasn’t half-bad,” they said. “Why don’t you preach again next Sunday?”

Fisher preached again.

Every Tuesday night for the next six months, he received the same call. And every Sunday for the next six months, Fisher preached.

“In a sense, I became the interim pastor and youth pastor, and whatever else the church needed.”

After six months, the church called a pastor and he preached in view of a call. For the first time in six months, Fisher didn’t preach.

Some might enjoy the break. Not Fisher.

“That Sunday, the Sunday I didn’t preach, is when I knew that preaching was a fire in my bones. I had to preach.”

Not long after that day, Fisher told the new pastor he had to step down. As he said, he was supposed to be preaching. 

A Growing Heart for Oklahoma

Fisher quickly began preaching more often, serving as an OBU representative throughout the state.

During his senior year, as predicted, half of his classmates decided not to pursue vocational ministry altogether.

Fisher on the other hand was called to his first pastorate, Hopewell Baptist Church in Bethel Acres, where he would serve for the next three years.

The Lord led Fisher to pastor different Oklahoma churches over the next 30 years including Wellston Baptist Church in Wellston, Highland Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee.

“Having the opportunity to pastor a wide-variety of churches was formative for me. I’ve pastored a church of 50 and a church of 1500, churches that were rural and churches that were urban.”

Pastoring a variety of churches equipped Fisher with a range of experiences, such as caring for different people, leading a staff, launching new ministries, and much more.

“Through it all, I’ve learned that every church is important- big church, small church, urban church, rural church- they all play unique roles in their communities.”

His longest tenure was pastoring Immanuel Baptist Church, where he served for two decades.

“When you’re at a church for 20 years, you see a family have a child and the child graduate. You do the funeral for a gentleman and 10 years later you do the funeral for his widow. You get to go back and look at the notes from the original funeral service and use some of the material. Those moments are special.”

As he reflected, long tenures give pastors the opportunity to build trust with a congregation for the good of the church and for the kingdom.

The Benefits of Pastoring in Seminary

In addition to his experience in Oklahoma churches, Fisher received ministry degrees from three Southern Baptist institutions, including a Doctor of Ministry degree from Midwestern Seminary in 2001.

He earned his MDiv., D.Min., Th.M., and Ph.D., all while serving in full-time ministry.

In the D.Min. program at Midwestern Seminary, Fisher joined 5 other Oklahoma pastors for monthly meetings with their faculty supervisor, where they would discuss ministry, studies, and encourage one another.

“In my time in ministry, I’ve seen that there are a lot of pastors who are tired and lonely. They may be the only staff member at their church, multi-vocational, or completely isolated due to their rural location.”

“Pastors need good friendships with other pastors who know the hardships of ministry. I think I learned that when I did my D.Min. at Midwestern Seminary. I’m grateful for the life-long friendships it formed.”

A Future for Oklahoma

Fisher’s passion is pastors. Having served as a pastor for 30 years, Fisher understands the unique challenges and opportunities that arise from different local church contexts.

“Pastoring is really difficult. And pastors are really tired, discouraged, and lonely. I want to serve these men and serve their churches.”

“Ultimately, we’re not going to be a healthy state convention without healthy churches. And we’re not going to have healthy churches without healthy pastors.”

Fisher knows this very well.

In his current role as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, he travels to churches throughout the state to preach, encourage pastors, and hear how the convention can come alongside of their ministries.

“I love speaking with these pastors. Whether we’re discussing ministry or simply connecting for encouragement, I’m grateful for the opportunity to unite with and support them in ministry.”

As Fisher looks to the future for Oklahoma Baptists, he sees the state as a leader for the broader Southern Baptist Convention.

“I’m excited about our state convention. Coming behind churches to serve, support, and resource them is why we exist. As Oklahoma Baptists work together, we can help lead the way to a bright future.”

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