NEW ORLEANS (BP) – GuideStone Financial Resources President Hance Dilbeck spoke to messengers about the calling he and the Southern Baptist ministry have to see pastors finish well.
“We believe that enhancing the financial security and resilience of the message of the Gospel is our part in helping to advance the message of the Gospel,” Dilbeck told messengers meeting in regular session June 14, 2023, in New Orleans.
In his second report as president, Dilbeck noted that the Crescent City holds a key place in GuideStone history: At the 1917 Southern Baptist Convention, SBC President J.D. Gambrell appointed a committee to study a commission that would help pastors with relief and retirement.
The following year, the Convention created the board that would become GuideStone.
“We’re still driven by our founder’s burden for pastors, missionaries and others who are serving Christ,” Dilbeck said.
Quoting GuideStone’s founder and first president, William Lunsford, Dilbeck noted that Lunsford said, “Back of all our talk of dollars and cents is the recognition on the part of our churches of their responsibility to the ministers of the Gospel.”
“GuideStone exists today because our Southern Baptist Convention churches over 100 years ago recognized their responsibility to honor and provide for those who pour out their lives in the ministry of the Gospel,” Dilbeck said. “I am grateful to God for their foresight.”
Dilbeck noted this past year had been one of important milestones as long-time chief operating officer John R. Jones passed the baton earlier this year to Chu Soh, a Korean-born retired U.S. Air Force officer and Air Force Academy graduate with extensive operational skills and leadership in health care.
“John Jones served with four of the eight presidents in the history of GuideStone during his 35-year career,” Dilbeck said. “For 25 years, John has served as chief operating officer of GuideStone. This man set a high standard as a faithful steward for Southern Baptists. I thank God for the honor of learning from him and the privilege of calling him a friend.”
Dilbeck indicated that GuideStone’s focus is to ensure that every servant of Christ finishes well.
“We’re working to enhance financial security and resilience for those who serve the Lord,” he said. “We provide insurance, retirement, and investment solutions. We advocate for you; we help you advocate for yourself. We’re a guide for our members toward financial security.
“Resilience is our Kingdom ‘why.’ Resilience is that margin that allows a minister and his family to bounce back from unexpected loss, to persevere under trial.”
Dilbeck shared of serving as pastor of a retired International Mission Board missionary, James Crawford, who had served in Venezuela.
“In his retirement years, he lived with a passion to serve Jesus,” Dilbeck said. “Because of the faithful provision of the International Mission Board, through GuideStone, he had the financial freedom to serve Jesus as the Lord left him.”
Dilbeck recalled that Crawford challenged him and the church to establish a Spanish-language ministry in Oklahoma City.
“Before James Crawford went to heaven, the church that he led in planting became the mother church of over 30 other Hispanic congregations, and they’re still planting churches today,” Dilbeck said. “His retirement years had as much Kingdom impact as all of his years on the field for IMB. One small part of his resilience in ministry was the fact that he could serve with financial security in those latter years.”
Dilbeck said he would like to see all members finish well and continue to have Kingdom impact in their post-vocational years.
One way GuideStone helps members finish well is through Mission:Dignity, the ministry that provides retirement-aged pastors and their wives or widows near the poverty line with financial assistance.
“Mission:Dignity remains the heartbeat of what we do at GuideStone,” Dilbeck said. “We’ve had historic years at Mission:Dignity, serving more people than ever before. Those faithful servants receive that monthly deposit in their account; they’re not receiving charity, they’re receiving an honorarium.”
Last year, Mission:Dignity served more than 2,800 people. Mission:Dignity Sunday is June 25 this year. Materials for Mission:Dignity Sunday can be ordered online at MDSunday.org. Materials are undated if churches want to have a focus on a different date.
Mission:Dignity does not receive Cooperative Program gifts. Thanks to a long-ago established grant, 100 percent of contributions to Mission:Dignity by churches, individuals, Sunday school classes and foundations go to assist Mission:Dignity recipients.
Dilbeck also cited the establishment by trustees of the O.S. and Susie Hawkins Emergency Grant Fund that would provide for the emergency needs of the poorest Mission:Dignity recipients. Those needs might include new eyeglasses, dentures, home repairs and other necessities. The average income of those helped by the emergency grants is around $1,000 per month.
“The Bible calls us to give honor where honor is due,” Dilbeck said. “Southern Baptists, you honor the office of pastor, you honor these dear servants of Christ, you honor our Lord Jesus through your abounding generosity of Mission:Dignity.”
Dilbeck received one question from the floor. Messenger Richard Brantley from Highland Baptist Church in Laurel, Miss., encouraged GuideStone to find more affordable insurance options, especially for pastors of smaller churches.
“This is very important to us,” Dilbeck said, noting that the GuideStone leadership on the platform with him is working diligently on that issue. “We all know that the medical system in general and insurance is a challenge. This team behind me, under the leadership of Chu Soh and Nadeena Kersey, is working hard to be as creative and as flexible as possible. In fact, over the last three or four years, the number of lives that we insure has grown. We are offering more and more affordable, flexible plans.”
Dilbeck also encouraged churches to stop using the lump sum pay package, putting the burden of paying for insurance on pastors and increasing the tax burden for Gospel ministers.
“One of the things we’ve got to communicate to our churches is don’t force your pastor to choose between his salary and his insurance,” Dilbeck said. “We’ve got to take better care of our pastors in churches and understand that part of our responsibility in the Kingdom of God, brothers and sisters, is to provide for those ministers of the Gospel in our congregation.”
Dilbeck noted that GuideStone has ongoing conversations with state convention leaders to help educate congregations on that issue.
For more information on GuideStone’s medical options with varying costs and coverage options, visit the GuideStone website, GuideStone.org.