Texas Baptist Voices

Jeff Johnson: Faithful economics & the Baptist Foundation of Texas

I majored in business in college and minored in economics. Yep, my university experience was sated with market shares, flow charts, interest rates, stocks and bonds.

Funny, I had a guy in a class who claimed economics was his major because his dad made him take it for therapy. He explained he’d rather juggle chainsaws than balance his checkbook, and with that, his dad declared his major for him.

jeff johnson130Jeff JohnsonTruth is, economics was not one of the sexier subjects at my university. Everyone on campus talked about “the economy” but generally had no idea what that meant other than having to pay more at the gas pump at certain times of the year. A guy told me back then that Sen. Phil Gramm did not know what he was talking about in regard to the economy. Hmmm …

“Do you mean Dr. Phil Gramm, the guy who has a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in economics? The former professor of economics? And you are majoring in what? You must be upset with his Milton Friedman approach, right? That’s what I thought.”

“Well,” he rebutted. “Yeah, but he taught at Texas A&M.”

You guessed it—my alma mater.

Fast forward. A few weeks ago, I was reacquainted with Steven Levitt’s best-selling book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. The paperback book (remember those?) box at a garage sale held some real treasures. It was a best-seller back in the day when my wife and I were busy raising teenage girls and did not read. (I understand over 5.5 million sold.)

The key, he says? Economics is a web of interconnected relationships. His premise? If morality represents how we’d like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. His questions included: What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?

Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?

Actually, not a bad read.

texas baptist voices right120When I became a pastor, I immediately realized the priority of godly economic leadership. Our Texas Baptist convention has many gifted financial leaders. Allow me to introduce you to one of these, Jeff Smith. Jeff is the president and CEO of our Baptist Foundation of Texas. The BFT has been a trusted economic partner with Texas Baptists since 1930 and continues to fulfill its mission to manage endowment funds for Baptist institutions, agencies and churches.

When I think of Jeff and his team, I immediately think of integrity, trust and stability. A great place to find some quick facts about this vital ministry is located on their website

Thankfully, the Apostle Paul’s solution to the economy of Corinth was not Freakonomics. Not that the Corinthians weren’t freaky, and—quite frankly—were freakin’ out Paul.

Jeff and his team approach economic theory much like Paul did: Everything belongs to God in the first place, but God has seen fit to share it with us—even to the point of sharing God’s own person in Jesus Christ. It’s thinking that runs counter to just about every economic theory I’ve studied. Not freaky, but certainly faithful.

Jeff Johnson is president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and pastor of First Baptist Church in Commerce.

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