By Randy C. Davis
President & Exec. Dir., TBMB

William Lunsford watched soldiers returning from World War I to a hero’s welcome and cared for by a grateful nation. Lunsford, pastor of Edgefield Baptist Church in Nashville, believed Southern Baptists should have the same heart for pastors who had given their lives to ministry but had reached old age and found themselves in a state of financial insecurity.

“We’ve made this promise to our ministers,” he said to those gathered in 1918 for the annual Southern Baptist Convention. “‘Give yourself wholeheartedly to the work. We will stand back of you; if you die, we will not permit your family to suffer. If you grow old in the ministry; we will comfort you in your declining years!’”

That burden and vision were first shared in 1916 at the Nashville Baptist Association Pastors’ Conference. Soon after, the Baptist Sunday School Board (now Lifeway Christian Resources) invested $100,000 to help make Lunsford’s dream a reality. That dream combined with the investment birthed the Board of Ministerial Relief and Annuities in 1918. In its first decade, oil barons John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and John D Rockefeller, Jr. donated close to $1 million to assist the fledgling ministry.

Lunsford moved from Tennessee to Texas to become the first president of what is now GuideStone Financial Resources of the SBC. Today, this financial services institution serves about 50,000 Southern Baptist pastors with approximately $21.5 billion in assets under management. In addition to managing these retirement accounts, GuideStone serves approximately 2,500 retired pastors and their widows each year whose churches did not make adequate provisions for their retirement years. This ministry, called Mission: Dignity, is funded by donations from churches and individuals whose hearts have been stirred to care for these faithful soldiers of the cross.

I believe if Lunsford stood before our convention today, he’d challenge Southern Baptists with the question behind the heart of his vision: “Do you have your pastor’s back?”

Providing for these servants is biblical, and we are called to be responsible. Paul writes, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (I Timothy 5:17-18).

Every church should do the best it possibly can for those who serve as pastors and other staff positions. When we honor those who serve the local church, we honor the Lord, and He honors the caring church.

Examine closely how your church compensates its staff. There may be ways you can better maximize every dollar by properly organizing and accounting for the pastor’s compensation package. GuideStone provides a clear and concise step-by-step guide that is helpful to church leaders when evaluating how pastors and staff members are cared for with excellence, compassion, and generosity. You can find a compensation planning guide here.

If you have questions and would like assistance, contact Steve Holt, TBMB director of church services or Sing Oldham, TBMB director of minister engagement.

Let’s carry the torch Lunsford set ablaze to make sure we’ve got our pastors’ backs.

It is a joy to be with you on this journey.

© Tennessee Baptist Mission Board

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