Griffin Jones survives tough timesCrossRoads Fellowship pastor ponders future after death of his wife

As a former history professor, the Rev. Griffin Jones looks to Christianity to keep changing the world as it has done for two millennia, but he says Christians must work to make it happen.
“The church is the hope of the world when it’s done right and Biblically functioning,” said Jones, lead pastor of CrossRoads Fellowship at 6901 E. Highway 191.
Noting that 80 percent of the Permian Basin doesn’t go to church, he said, “Our student pastor talks to kids who don’t understand who Jesus is.
“The problem is not with the Good News, it’s with the Good News bearers, people calling themselves Christians and not being on the growth path.”
Jones is a San Antonio native educated at Arlington Baptist College, the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Christian University, where he earned a Ph.D. in early European history. He became an associate pastor at Temple Baptist Church here in 1988 and was an adjunct professor at UTPB for 23 years. He has two daughters and a grandchild, having lost his wife Donna to breast cancer last September.
“In this world of seven billion people, two billion are Christians,” he said. “If we could get 10 percent of those committed, we could change the world.”
As an example, Jones said, Emperor Constantine signed the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D., decreeing that Christianity would finally be tolerated in the Roman Empire, which until then had been “polytheistic and hedonistic.”
He joined the Rev. Jerry Thorpe at Temple Baptist as singles pastor, and as Thorpe neared retirement in 2000 he encouraged Jones to lead the independent Baptist congregation in a new direction attuned to non-denominationalism and the new generation.
Jones visited megachurches like Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., and Frazier United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala., and in 2006 the CrossRoads property had been acquired when he asked his members for their support
“I kneeled down with my back to the audience and said, ‘If God prompts your hearts to embrace this vision, come down here and pray with me,’” Jones said. “I thought, I hope somebody comes. The first movement was a hand on my shoulder. It was Donna. She got down beside me and said, ‘I believe in you.’ CrossRoads Fellowship became what it was going to be on that day.”
Its attendance averages 2,500 at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday, including 400 in Andrews and 145 in Monahans.
“When you’ve been married for 41 years and your life is built around Jesus and the Scriptures, your conversations revolve around that and how to navigate the cancer together and with your church,” said Jones, who has taped a number of his wife’s index cards on his desk, citing Scriptures to encourage him.
“I have a stack of Donna’s journals at home. Her priority was letting the Scriptures speak to her and us. She was quiet and introverted, low-key. She was a graceful lady, a meek spirit, but she had a quiet strength. Like it says in Proverbs 31, ‘Her price is beyond rubies,’ immeasurable.”
Jones has a staff of 35, bolstered by more than 300 volunteers who provide guest services, assist in the parking lot, play instruments and sing. He preaches 35-40 times per year, assisted by the Revs. Kenny Comstock and Chris Hurst.
Jones’ father Griffin L. was a chemical engineer in the civil service at Kelly Air Force Base. His maternal great-grandfather was a Methodist circuit-rider in Kansas and Oklahoma. His mom, Melvis Leona, taught Sunday school and counseled single mothers. His sister Cathy retired as a school principal.
Jones said CrossRoads’ organizing principle “is our vision to connect people to Jesus Christ and help them to become fully devoted followers of Him as we grow in our faith.”
He is as resolved as ever to continue but is struggling to overcome his wife’s illness and death. “As believers, we have spiritual, physical and emotional gauges on life,” he said.
“Spiritually, my faith has deepened. You know more about Christ through the dark times. That tank is pretty full.”
Having played power forward on basketball teams at O.W. Holmes High School in San Antonio and Arlington Baptist College, he needed a hip replacement in December and is recovering; however, his emotional gauge “is bouncing around right now,” he said.
“I’m at a loss without my helpmeet. Grief is like waves in the ocean. I’m standing at the beach with my back to the ocean, and I feel little rises of waves to my calves or knees. Then this wave hits you hard and knocks you down and you know if you don’t get up, you’ll drown.”
The Rev. Thorpe, who retired to Granbury but is an active preacher at age 80, hired Jones on his third attempt. “I just wanted to get him on staff because it was obvious that he had talent and might do something special,” said Thorpe.
“Griff has leadership skills and a great heart for people. We did a lot of dreaming and planning about where we wanted to go, and he sat in on everything as my retirement neared.”
The Rev. Dr. Charles Lowery of Frisco, a motivational speaker whose Ph.D. is in psychology, said Jones is in a tough position. “I knew Griff was going to do great things, but it is amazing what he has done,” Lowery said.
“You only see that done a small percentage of the time. You have to connect with the community before you can convince it. Jesus didn’t just sit there and wait for people to come in, He went out.
“I told Griff, ‘You’ve got to go with the ones who will go with you and not worry about the ones who won’t.’ Church is for the people who are not there yet. Being a pastor is a lonely job in many ways, but he has a support group that encourages him.”
The Rev. Mark Hoover, pastor of NewSpring Church in Wichita, Kan., was on Arlington Baptist’s board of directors when Jones was a history professor. “Some people are great but don’t seem to know it,” Hoover said.
“That would be Griff. It takes a special person to be able to look at the future and inspire people for it by making program changes. People are held at CrossRoads because they want to be there. He is coming out of an extraordinary season, putting his wife first and taking care of her needs and still doing an excellent job at the church.”
At 62, Jones knows the day will come when CrossRoads needs a change at the top. “At some point down the road I won’t be the lead pastor, but I’m going to be obedient to what is best for the church,” he said.
In the meantime, he will keep doing what he has always done. “The New Testament is clear that the enemy is real, the Evil One, or Satan,” he said.
“Satan is the god, little ‘g,’ of this world, and there is a battle going on between good and evil, light and dark. The gods of our culture are money, sex and power, the selfishness of human desires; but sometimes human desires lead to poor decisions.”