GuideStone Looks to Enter Its Second Century of Aiding Churches and Ministries in Finance

Two unidentified employees of the Relief and Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now GuideStone Financial Resources) are shown in this 1930s-era photo, likely taken in the board’s offices on the 20th floor of the Tower Petroleum Building in downtown Dallas.
GuideStone photo

In early August of 1918, William Lunsford, the founding chief executive of what today is GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, received a letter from trustee Cullen F. Thomas. In it, Lunsford was advised that the state of Texas on July 31 had granted the charter for what was named the Board of Ministerial Relief and Annuities.

The closing line of the letter simply said, “You are now a ‘going concern.’ May you continue to grow and go.”

Growing and going has been part of the GuideStone story now for 100 years in providing products and services that churches and ministries need.

“On every desk at GuideStone is a small sign that reminds us daily that we exist to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “That connects us to William Lunsford’s early charge to the Southern Baptist Convention, and it carries us forward to continue to serve our participants with excellence.”

Today, GuideStone is a $15-billion financial services organization serving nearly a quarter-million pastors, professors, ministers, missionaries, hospital workers and other ministry workers. Through its affiliate GuideStone Funds, an award-winning family of 24 mutual funds and risk profiles, church and ministry staff are able to invest with the nation’s largest Christian-screened mutual fund family.

Through Mission:Dignity, GuideStone also serves nearly 1,800 retired Southern Baptist pastors and their widows living near the poverty line.

“When William Lunsford first offered the vision for what has become GuideStone, he was concerned for the plight of old, retired pastors who could no longer serve and had no money for retirement,” Hawkins said. “He raised the consciousness of the Southern Baptist Convention, and he set out to raise funds for the effort. Mission:Dignity is the contemporary embodiment of that charge.”

Through Mission:Dignity, 100 percent of donations from churches, Sunday School classes and individuals go to support retired Baptist workers and their widows in need.

“Thanks to an endowment set up many years ago, all of our operational expenses are provided for,” Hawkins said. “I don’t know of any other ministry that is able to guarantee that 100 percent of gifts go to help people in need.”

GuideStone’s trustees celebrated the ministry’s centennial during their July 30-31 meeting, held in New York City. Messengers to the 2004 SBC annual meeting approved its current name and expanded its products and services to evangelical churches and ministries. It previously had been known as the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention for several decades.

In May 1918, Lunsford stood before the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Hot Springs, Ark., and voiced a clarion call:

“Give yourself wholeheartedly to the work. We’ll stand back of you. If you fall in the work, we’ll care for you; if you die, we will not allow your family to suffer. If you grow old in the work, we’ll comfort you in your declining years.”

That charge has never strayed far from the hearts of GuideStone’s subsequent leaders, said Hawkins, the entity’s president since 1997.

“I am a firm believer that as we care for this ministry, we should never stray far from Lunsford’s original vision — and that’s true for any leader of any organization,” Hawkins said. “We are stewards for a small snapshot in time until we pass it on.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press, Roy Hayhurst