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.
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.
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.”
William Lunsford, in establishing Southern Baptists' entity to aid retired pastors and widows in need, told messengers to the 1918 SBC annual meeting, "Give yourself wholeheartedly to the work. … If you grow old in the work, we'll comfort you in your declining years."
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.”
The work was initially funded by a $100,000 gift from the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources). During its first decade, the fledgling board found favor with industrialists John D. Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller Jr., who donated nearly $1 million to its efforts.
Hawkins, a prolific writer as a pastor before becoming president of GuideStone, donates all of his author’s royalties and proceeds to benefit Mission:Dignity from his best-selling Code series of devotionals – The Joshua Code, The Jesus Code, The James Code, The Daniel Code, The Christmas Code, The Believer’s Code and The Nehemiah Code as well as VIP: How to Influence with Vision, Integrity, and Purpose.
“We’re on a mission to provide dignity to some men and women who have not been forgotten by the Lord who called them to serve,” Hawkins said. “It’s our joy and humble duty to serve them in their sunset years.”
At the start of a new century, Hawkins looks forward to new opportunities. On Aug. 20, GuideStone will move from its headquarters of 29 years in Dallas’ Uptown neighborhood to new leased space 10 miles north of the city center. The new location will help foster collaboration, innovation and efficiency to help GuideStone’s 425 workers better serve participants today and into the future.
The vision and mission of GuideStone Financial Resources is displayed on each employee's desk at the Southern Baptist entity based in Dallas.
“We are indeed a ministry that adopts best business practices for the benefit of those we serve,” said John R. Jones, chief operating officer of GuideStone. “Every day, we challenge our people to look for new opportunities to serve our participants, to anticipate their needs and to exceed their expectations. This new office space will help us have the physical facilities to better accomplish how we work today and into the future.”
Another part of that future is continuing to work to ensure that pastors have best-in-class options for investing their retirement savings and that pastors and churches have access to health care options that meet their unique needs.
Meeting the needs of churches with health care coverage for their staff has been part of GuideStone’s commitment since the mid-1960s and continues today. Recognizing that health care costs continue to grow nationwide, GuideStone created Secure Health 3000, a new lower-cost alternative health plan that offers a unique benefit structure to provide peace of mind while costing significantly less than a comprehensive plan.
Ensuring churches have adequate property and casualty insurance is another key component of GuideStone’s ministry. Through an alliance with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, GuideStone works to help churches protect their people and property.
GuideStone, Hawkins emphasized, is committed to the local church and its people.
“All of our sister entities in Southern Baptist life are focused on the message of the gospel, and we are thankful for each of them,” Hawkins said. “We are the only entity, though, that is focused on the messenger of the gospel. It is our sincere hope and heart that as we close out our first century and embark on our second that we do so with a fleeting glance to honor the past and learn from it but [also with] a focused gaze to the future and what the Lord will do through us for those whom He has called to serve Him.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations at GuideStone. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)