Building A Strong Home Base
November 3rd, 1957 @ 10:50 AM
1 Thessalonians 1:8
BUILDING A STRONG HOME BASE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Thessalonians 1:6-10
11-3-57 10:50 a.m.
You’re sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message, entitled, Building, Supporting a Strong Home Base. This is not an expository message. Almost always, in all three of the services, the message is an exposition of the Scriptures. Once in a while – once in a great while, very few times – but once in a while I turn aside and deliver a message on a topic, on a theme. And I do so this morning because we are in the letters of Paul to Thessalonica.
I read from the sixth through the end of the chapter of the first chapter:
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians . . .
Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.
So that you were ensamples –
to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, –
those were two provinces of the Roman empire –
but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing –
everybody knows it.
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come.
[1 Thessalonians 1:1, 6-10]
Now, you can see the thought that I have:
Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord . . .
Ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
For from you sounded out – the home church, the base, the center – for from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything. Everyone knows it.
So, I say, the message is from this thought. In the lighthouse that was built there in Thessalonica, there shown the light of the Gospel of the Son of God throughout Macedonia, throughout Achaia, throughout all Hellas – all ancient Greece. And everywhere, the light of that witness to Christ blessed and pointed the way to heaven.
Now, we have here a ministry, a supporting cause, that blesses to the ends of the earth. Our way of building it and supporting it is by turning our lives, our time, our hours and days, into coin personality – trading my life for substance and bringing that substance to God’s house. And there, it is divided to support God’s cause in the earth.
In the issue of the Reminder of about two weeks or more ago, there was printed, at great length, the recommended 1958 giving program of our First Baptist Church in Dallas. After careful perusal and study and the summation of many, many different needs and many, many different items and budgets, they recommended – our deacons recommended to the church that this coming year of 1958, we oversubscribe a budget program of $750,000: three-quarters of a million dollars. And that was divided into two parts. There was allocated $376,000 for missions, and there was allocated $374,000 for the building of this home base of which mostly I shall speak this morning.
Now, your pastor took that budget, and the first part of it, he divided according to the Scriptures. In the commission of our Savior in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, our Lord said, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" [Acts 1:8]. Our Lord divided the Great Commission into those four parts: in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, unto the uttermost part of the earth.
So I did that with our recommended 1958 giving program. That first half – that which is dedicated to missions – I divided into our Jerusalem, which is the city of Dallas; our Judea, which is our Texas Baptist General Convention – our Texas; our Samaria, which is our Southern Baptist Convention; and the uttermost parts of the world, which is our foreign mission program.
Now, in the support of our mission endeavor, we are obligated of the Lord for all four of those parts, and the supporting ministry of this church must always be directed into those four channels. It would not do for us to give all of our support to one, or to two, or to three. We are to support all four of them by the Word of the Lord: our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria, and our world.
So our Jerusalem is our support of our mission work in the city of Dallas. There is a sizable gift for our Buckner Home which is located in our midst. There are sizable supportings from us, mostly individually, in our great Baptist Hospital at Baylor. Then we have our fine missions, seven of them here in our midst, in our city, that we support beside much other of the work in our Jerusalem – some of it through our associational mission program.
Then our Judea: our state convention whose executive secretary is a beloved elder in this church and prays for this work and is present this morning. We have in our Texas Convention a vast, vast, God-inspired, God-led program: our Christian healing; our institutions of education; our direct mission work all through this state; helping a little church with a pastor, with a building; sending out a missionary in an area and helping to support him – this great work in the State of Texas.
Then of course, our Samaria – the bounds of our Southern Baptist Convention – we have our seminaries, our Home Mission Board, many other areas in which cooperatively, with our sister churches, we seek to make our nation Christian. Then of course, the last, the uttermost part of the world, which is our foreign mission enterprise. And I outlined it there: in Africa, in Europe, in the Near East, in Latin America, in the Orient.
Now, the last part, the second part, of that budget concerns our own church, our local church – the base here at home. And it is that of which I am to speak this morning.
I have never spoken on it. Many, many times at the Lottie Moon Christmas offering times, at the Annie Armstrong offering time, at the Mary Hill Davis offering time, and many other occasions during the year – at prayer meeting, at our teachers and officers meeting, before our deacons – many times, I speak of our mission program, a vital, vital part of the work and effort, prayerfully so, of this blessed congregation. We are, of all things and of all people, dedicated to this missionary appeal. And a little more than one-half of this work is always dedicated to missions.
Now, by missions, we do not mean just a boy in Africa, or just that lad in Indonesia, or just that little struggling church over there in Spain. Missions, according to Jesus, is this witness in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. It is as precious in God’s sight to win a lost little boy over there in a housing project in West Dallas as it is to try to win a lost little boy over there in Ijuin [Japan], in Kyushu [Japan], as it is over there in Ogbomosho [Nigeria, Africa], or Abeokuta [Nigeria, Africa], as it is over there in Jakarta [Indonesia].
This work is all precious in God’s sight, and by that word "mission," we mean the taking of the Word of the Lord to the lost everywhere – to people who need us and without our support would not know the Savior or have opportunity to find the way to heaven. Now our church is committed to that, but we are also committed – and of this, I say, I speak this morning – we are also committed to the building up of this home base. Whatever weakens us weakens our ableness to support the whole world cause. And when we die, our support dies.
It is the same thing as the proverbial golden goose, as the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs. When we feed it, and nurture it, and minister to it, we help support the whole cause. But when we kill the goose, we lose the golden eggs. So if I have in my heart a real dedication for the support of this cause of our Savior in the earth, the way for me to do it is not spasmodically as of this year or as of another year then beyond that fail, and falter, and die, but the way for me wisely to do it is to build a supporting base that this year, and next year, and the following year, and the generations to come will be able to give, and to pray, and to undergird an increasingly, vastly effective missionary ministry.
So in the building of our church, in the winning of our people, in the baptizing of our converts, in the teaching of our fellowship, as we bring to God’s house and teach God’s people and we grow and our people grow in numbers, in stewardship, in dedication and love for the Lord and His cause in the earth – as we build the lighthouse and the flame mounts higher and it shines brighter, we become more able and more able to support these many godly ministries in the earth. But if we weaken, if we begin to die, if we decline, then our ableness to support this tremendous program also weakens and also declines, all of which led me to some earnest consideration of things that I have seen and witnessed in this earth. I’ve never spoken of them – never. But this morning, I’m going to share them with you.
Palestine is called the Holy Land. It is the land of the Old Testament and the New. It is the land of Moses; it is the Land of Promise. It is the land of Jerusalem; it is the land of the temple. It is the land of our Lord. It is the land of His crucifixion and ascension; it is the land of His coming back to earth. It is the Holy Land. You wouldn’t think it was holy now. Never in this earth will you go into any corner of it and find such bitterness, such deep-seated hatred. Never will you find such irreligion and such blasphemy. Never will you find such heathenism and such paganism. Never will you find such infidelity and such turning away. The Holy Land is not holy anymore. It used to be the land of the fathers – used to be the land of the patriarchs, the land of the apostles, the land of Christ, the land of the birth of the Christian faith. It isn’t anymore.
There was a great city named Jerash. In the Roman days, it had over 200,000 population. It became a great Christian city. You could look upon its ruins now: there the beautiful arches, the baths, the palaces of the glory of the Roman empire. They’re all gone. There in the ruins of that ancient city in Palestine, you can see also the foundations and the ruins of thirteen great Byzantine Christian churches. They’re all gone. A little, mean, squalid village of about 20,000 people is the modern city of Jerash, and on the skyline you can see the minarets of two Islamic mosques. There’s not a Christian that walks in the city – lost, gone.
And it’s that way through all of the Holy Land and through all of Palestine. The land of the birth of the Christian faith is now in infidelity. It’s in heathenism; it’s in paganism, or it is in the faith of those who do not receive the Lord our Savior. You could hardly believe that a place where the Holy Spirit came in power at Pentecost, where the Lord taught by the Sea of Galilee, now with unanimity spurns His message and His ministry, denies His deity and His mission in the earth. But the home base died, and it’s dead today, and the Holy Land is holy no more. We’re just one generation from paganism in any day, in any hour. Lose our children, and you have lost this cause in just one generation.
All right, again: at Kettering, England is a famous and precious place to all of the people who are called Baptists. At Kettering, William Carey [1761-1834] and Andrew Fuller [1754-1815] met with a little handful of Baptist preachers, and there they organized the first modern missionary movement. They subscribed about sixty dollars – all that they had. And Andrew Fuller said to William Carey, "You go down into the well, and we’ll hold the ropes." And that little band of Baptist preachers sent out William Carey to India. He stayed there over forty years. He died there in India. He never returned. I have stood by his grave there at Serampore, on the banks of the Ganges, about eighteen miles north of Calcutta. With a hushed heart and a humble spirit, that man of God, William Carey, he was the vanguard – the first – of all of these missionaries that have gone out: Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian – all of them. He was the first.
There in that sacred place, you can stand, and this is the home of the Widow Wallace, and this is the room in which the little band met and organized that first foreign mission society. And those people gave themselves to missions. Andrew Fuller went around, and, by his eloquent preaching, he turned those churches into great missionary supporting bases at home.
When you say, "Now, take me to the church of William Carey," nobody could take you there except the historian. He could point it out to you, and there you can stand and look at it. The stained glass windows are there. The brick tower is there. You go on the inside, and the pews are gone, and the pulpit is gone. It’s a warehouse. It’s a shipping shed. And when you stand in the church, you hear the noise of hammers nailing on tops of boxes and crates being filled everywhere.
If you ask them, they’ll show you the baptistery. They’ll pull up the boards, and there’s the baptistery where William Carey baptized. And your heart is sick. And you look around, and you ask the historian, "What has happened here?" He has a very simple reply: "They had their eyes on the ends of the earth, and they forgot about the lost at home." And in an area of 500,000 people, you have five little weak, struggling Baptist churches today.
Interested in the lost in India, in Calcutta, in Serampore, in Burma, absolutely oblivious to the lost around them. There’s no support today. There’s no praying there today. There’s no sending out missionaries today. They are a mission field themselves today, and because of it – I was in India, they were in the process of closing down the very missions founded by William Carey up and down the Ganges River. Makes your heart ache; makes your heart sick. Makes you want to cry. Makes you want to lament. When the home base dies, all of it dies!
Baltimore, Maryland, had some of the most illustrious pulpits in America. It was a center of Baptist work. It was a great association of Baptist people. And, I say, they had some of the great pulpiteers of the earth. Richard Fuller [1804-1876] was one of the greatest preachers America has ever produced: a Baptist – eloquent, flaming preacher in Baltimore, Maryland.
I repeat that at that time, these years ago, it was a great Baptist center. They were given to missions. They had it in their hearts. They had it in their souls. And they lifted up their eyes, and the romance of appealing to tribes of different language and different tongues swept them away! And because the denomination seemed to tarry and to be slow, they organized their own mission society in Baltimore, Maryland, the churches, the Baptist churches of Baltimore.
Their eyes were afar. Their eyes never saw the lost around them, and the consequence has been that Baltimore, Maryland, today is a mission field itself. The churches died. The churches weakened. They never thought to minister to those around them. They were looking abroad and afar. And Maryland today, Baltimore today, is a mission field itself. It makes you want to cry; it makes you want to weep. It makes you want to lament.
As all of you know, I went to the Southern Baptist seminary in Louisville [Louisville, Kentucky] for six years. In the heart of the city of Louisville was a great Baptist church. It was the church of the seminary. It was the church of the seminary presidents. Every seminary president belonged to that church. It is the Broadway Baptist Church in downtown Louisville, located just a little ways from the seminary when it was first established. It was a great church, a tremendous church. It had an illustrious and wealthy membership, and it had a magnificent influence in the earth. And they were mission-minded too, and they gave largely for the support of the cause of Jesus on the other side of the sea.
Then the day came when the church was old, and their children were jammed and crowded in a little dark room, and their young people were allocated another little dark place. And when the thing was brought to mind, "We must do something," this church, "No," they said. "We must not cut down on the great support we have to the ends of the earth."
Finally, they said, "To save this church, we must call the greatest pulpiteer in the land," and they called Carter Helm Jones [1861-1946]. Carter Helms Jones’ father was chaplain to Robert E. Lee [1807-1870] in the War Between the States [Civil War, 1861-1865]. Carter Helms Jones was one of the silver-tongued pulpit orators of the South. One of the most effective things I ever heard in my life is his description when his father sent him to Robert E. Lee with a message. And the great Southern General took the boy and put him on old Traveller in front of him and made the journey for which the boy had been sent by his chaplain father. An illustrious, silver-tongued orator, he couldn’t save the church.
Finally, they turned to the most brilliant young fellow in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who was doing his graduate work at the time. They called Duke K. McCall [1914-2013], who was a young fellow, seeing if they could save the church. And all of us who were there saw the church die. And today, it’s an empty, vacant parking lot in the downtown city of Louisville, Kentucky – tore it down stone by stone. There’s no prayers there for foreign missions. There’s no gifts there for the ends of the earth. It is silent, and dark, and vacant. And when you drive on it, the fellow will ask you thirty-five cents to park your car on the vacant lot. It makes you want to cry. Makes you want to weep. It makes you want to lament the death of a great, great church.
In our day, I am watching a denomination die: the Christian and Missionary Alliance. If ever were people committed to God and committed to missions, the Christian and Missionary Alliance is that denomination. They are organized for that. They are given to that. It is their prayerful intercession to God by day and night. They do not build the base at home. It is not any of their interest, particularly. The people around them, their eyes are afar, and the denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, is a dying denomination.
There is something here, I say, that our deacons, and our preachers, and our people must always be cognizant of. We never improve upon the missionary strategy of this Book, and we can never improve upon this keen, spiritual perception of Jesus Christ, our God and our Savior. He said: "And ye shall be witnesses unto Me first in Jerusalem, then in Judaea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth" [from Acts 1:8].
Our way to support this work forever is building here a place where, when we are dead and buried, these boys and girls have been taught, and won, and trained, and they’re carrying on. If the church dies, your witness dies. Your support dies. Everything dies. But if the church can be kept alive, can be quickened, immortalized, transfigured – if the church can be built and built right, then it has a great witness today. It has a great witness tomorrow. It has a great support until Jesus comes again.
So, I say, in our budget, we have a large proportion dedicated to these mission ministries: $376,000. In this giving program, we have for the building up of our home base $374,000, just a little less, and it takes it both. If we were to spend it all here on ourselves, what about the Great Commission of our Lord to Judea, to Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the earth? [Acts 1:8] If we dedicated it all to the uttermost parts of the earth, what of our Samaria and Judea, and what of our Jerusalem?
What we must do, dear people, is this. Always, we must try to dedicate to God our sense, our brains, our acumen as well as our energy and our zeal. It is no glory to God for a man to be ignorant, and silly, and fanatical, and off-beat, and on a tangent. What we want to do before God is to be straight up, normal people, and let the Holy Spirit lead us.
"Now, Lord, we are here in this work, and we want to do God’s will. Master, give us wisdom to know how to do it." Then sit down with the best wisdom you know how, and I think it’ll come out just like this. There’ll be a part of it for the uttermost parts of the earth. There’ll be a part of it for Samaria. There’ll be a part of it for Judea. There’ll be a part of it for our Jerusalem.
Now, may I say a little word? The day, the hour passes. I want to say a word about the spirit of our support of these ministries. God looks upon us as we dedicate our offerings, our gifts, our tithes to Him. He sat over against the treasury, and He beheld how the people gave [Mark 12:41].
My beloved fellow members, don’t look upon this support grudgingly, of necessity: "this is a duty." Ah! As I look upon that budget, these, these are our babies here; these are our children here. There are our young people here. This is the preaching of the Gospel here. Here is our beloved seminaries, and schools, and hospitals, and orphans’ homes. These are our missionaries abroad. All of it is dear, and this is just an opportunity God hath given me to share with Him in His work in the earth. Why, it’s a gladness. It’s a joy. It’s a glory. It’s a triumph. It’s a victory that God should have looked upon us and committed to us such care, such tasks, such illimitable God-blessed programs. God hath honored us in choosing us to help Him in His work in the earth, and we’re to face it with a marvelous spirit and a wonderful heart.
One of these pastors said he visited, in the cold wintertime, a well-to-do home; was invited in. And all they did in the home was complain – complain about everything, about everything, complaining about everything. In that home so beautiful, so nice, just complaining – complaining about everything. The second home he went to, he said, he went to call on a widow who had a group of little children, and he wanted to see if she had enough coal for the wintertime. He walked up the sidewalk, and the little children saw him and called their mother. He was invited in.
There she was at a sewing machine with a whole lot of sewing work around her. And he asked her if she needed any coal. He’d called to inquire. "No," she said, "God’s so good to me." She said, "Look, I have more sewing than I can do. God’s so good to me."
And he said after reading the Scripture and praying, he walked down the sidewalk. And as he did, he said, above the noise of the machine, that little woman, sewing, sewing – above the hum of the machine, he heard her voice singing a song:
Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.
["Be Not Dismayed Whate’er Be Tide," by Civilla Durfee Martin, 1904]
That’s the spirit. God, forgive me when I complain. The Lord give us the spirit of that poor woman who thanked God for more sewing than she could do, who sang above the hum of the machine, "Through every day, through all the way, God will take care of you." God, help us in that spirit of trust and commitment to give to the Lord this worthy support which represents His kingdom in the earth.
Now, we’re going to sing our song, and while we sing it, somebody you, to give His heart to the Lord, somebody you, put His life in the church – as the Lord shall lead the way, you come. Down these stairwells, from side to side, "Pastor, today I give my heart to the Lord. Today, we put our lives here in the church." A family or just you, while we make appeal, while we sing this song, you come and stand by me while we stand and sing.
A GREAT HOME BASE
budget for 1958 – divided into two parts
for building our home base
II. Mission program follows the will of
the Lord in Acts 1:8 commission
Jerusalem – city of Dallas
Judea – Texas Baptist General Convention
Samaria – Southern Baptist Convention
Uttermost parts of the world – our foreign mission program
III. The local church
weakens us, weakens our ableness to support the whole world cause – when we
die, our support dies
1. In Roman days had
over 200,000 population; solidly Christian
2. Now not a Christian
in the city
of modern missionary movement
Church of William Carey now a warehouse
a. Had eyes on the ends
of the earth; forgot about the lost at home
Baptist work, given to missions
eyes were afar – never saw the lost around them
Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky
great need to minister to children, youth
Church nowa vacant parking lot
Christian and Missionary Alliance
never improve upon missionary strategy of the Book
from the heart, gladly