Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, John R. Jones was at First Baptist Church whenever the doors were open.
“I’ve been a Southern Baptist since I was in the womb,” Jones said. “Sunday mornings were for Sunday school, Sword drills, Scripture memory, and worship. Then we’d go home for a big lunch of pot roast or ham. A Sunday afternoon nap followed, and then we returned to church for the youth choir, Training Union, and the worship service.
Wednesday nights were for Royal Ambassadors and prayer meeting after dinner.
“Other times I was up at church, spending time at our Activities Center, bowling, skating, shooting hoops or just hanging out with other youth,” Jones recalled. “Through RAs, I learned about our mission boards, the seminaries, the Sunday School Board and the Annuity Board. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that God was already preparing me to serve at GuideStone.”
Jones credits his godly parents — Bob and Nancy Jones, who both went home to be with the Lord in the Spring of 2022 — with an upbringing centered on the church and serving the Lord.
GuideStone® trustees, staff and special guests, including Jones’ wife of 45 years Ann, their three adult children and their spouses, celebrated Jones during a two-hour dinner Monday, February 27. Jones will serve as Special Assistant to the Executive Office through the end of the year. He will be succeeded as chief operating officer by Chu Soh.
Jones marveled at how the Lord prepared him for 35 years of service at GuideStone — the past quarter of a century as chief operating officer. After graduating from high school, Jones moved to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University, where he majored in finance. Upon graduation, Jones joined an insurance company, working in its employee benefits area, becoming its youngest Chartered Life Underwriter. He later joined a bank in its trust department trusteeing employee benefit plans. A former boss, Gordon Hobgood, then serving as the chief operating officer at the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, invited Jones to lead the Investments Division beginning in 1989.
“It was remarkable to see how God prepared me for the role He had for me,” Jones said.
In 1997, when trustees elected O.S. Hawkins president of the Annuity Board, Hawkins set out to choose his chief operating officer.
“When I arrived at GuideStone, we faced many opportunities to ‘take something great and make it greater,’” said Hawkins, now GuideStone President Emeritus. “We needed a trustworthy partner to help guide the day-to-day operation of this ministry. We would need a steady and keen business mind who could keep focused on the important work of ministry. It was clear from our earliest meetings that John Jones was the man we needed to work alongside me as we led GuideStone.”
Hawkins said that major accomplishments of the last quarter century, including the name change from the Annuity Board, the launching of GuideStone’s registered mutual funds and expanding the eligibility of who GuideStone can serve, all had Jones’ imprint on them.
“He is one of the most important men in Southern Baptist life, but few people know his name,” Hawkins said. “He is highly relational. Every employee feels seen and heard by John; he cares deeply for people inside GuideStone, and those that GuideStone is privileged to serve. His heart for Mission:Dignity is contagious. He cares about the ‘pastor at the crossroads,’ who labors in often forgotten places, faithfully laboring out of the spotlight for the Lord. John wants to see these servants finish well and have the financial security they need to serve the Lord however the Lord leads.”
GuideStone President Hance Dilbeck echoed his predecessor’s comments.
“When I first came to GuideStone, I asked the Lord to give me a great working relationship with John Jones, and He did that and so much more,” Dilbeck said. “John is a Christian gentleman, has an agile business mind and has become a tremendous friend these past 20 months.”
Jones has a passion for his calling to GuideStone.
“I wasn’t called to be a preacher, and I wasn’t called to be a foreign missionary, but I know without a doubt that God called me to GuideStone for such a time as this,” Jones said.
Dilbeck expressed his appreciation for Jones’ tenure.
“In an era where too many in Christian service don’t finish well, John has exemplified what it means to finish well,” Dilbeck said. “He is an example to all our employees what it means to serve — and finish — with integrity, heart and skill, the values we seek to demonstrate in our work and witness.”
In giving thanks for the opportunity to serve, Jones also expressed confidence in the future.
“I have had the opportunity to serve under four of GuideStone’s eight presidents,” Jones noted. “I believe that O.S. Hawkins was God’s man for the past 25 years, but I am just as confident that God has placed Hance Dilbeck and Chu Soh in their roles for this next era in GuideStone’s history, and it is in good hands.”
Hawkins expressed his thanks to the Lord for Jones’ service.
“John is far more to me than a partner in ministry,” Hawkins said. “He is a true and faithful brother in every sense of the word. Like King David, he led ‘with the integrity of heart and skillfulness of his hand.’ His reputation is spotless, and his character is beyond reproach.”
Roy Hayhurst is the director of denominational and public relations at GuideStone.
Director of Denominational and Public Relations
GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention
Roy.Hayhurst@GuideStone.org | (214) 720-2141