The Church and Its Teaching Ministry
September 7th, 1958 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHURCH AND ITS TEACHING MINISTRIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 2:2
9-7-58 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message, which is changed from the one printed in our bulletin. I am speaking this morning on The Church and its Teaching Ministries. And that carries with it also a change in our invitation hymn: we will sing number 207 for our invitation hymn.
Now, coming back like this, I have a flood of things that I would like to speak of; just a little part, a very small part, of which this hour is enabled to encompass. When I go away, I try to make it profitable; I do not like to sit down and do nothing. I just get so miserable and restive I just nearly die. But if I can do something, that’s fine. So, I, I have been away four Sundays preaching in the heart of the city of Boston, in the Tremont Temple Baptist Church. And the reason I accepted the invitation was my heart is in a downtown ministry. And the best way for me to look at our work is to go somewhere and look at it away, from afar, in a distance. You can not see the forest for the trees; you can not see the city for the houses; get away from it and look at it. Then, of course, that gave me an opportunity to know the inside of the church intimately. And these words this morning are from those reflective moments, walking about the city, looking at the church, speaking to the people.
Now, I was especially happy to be where I was in Boston and in New England. That is always an interesting country and an interesting place. This coming Lord’s Day morning, I hope to speak of our Baptist people, whose blood is the seed of the religious liberty that we now enjoy: a fruit of the hands of our Baptist forefathers and of their great sacrifices. It is an interesting country and an interesting city. I was invited, taken by a couple, to a beautiful world famous restaurant. All those fine people there; and on the little plate, your little bread plate over here to your left, why, they pass you some kind of little bread, biscuit, and you put it on there, and then they pass you some preserves, and you put that on there, and then they pass you beans, and I was not looking for that, and I, what do you do with that? Well, you put that over there too; that’s one of the traditions of that historical country:
Boston,the land of the bean and the cod,
Where the Cabots speak only to the Lowells,
Aand the Lowells speak only to God.
[adapted from "Boston Toast" by John Collins Bossidy]
As we went by, why, a beautiful cemetery, and one of the Bostonians said in hushed language and reverential tones, "The Cabots are buried on the top of that hill." And one of the fellows said, "Well, that is really wonderful, isn’t it? I just would like to know if these folks down here at the foot are any deader than those up there on the top of the hill?"
Well, you know you might think, being an outsider and a Texan, you know, you might think, "Well, I look with disdain and supercilious scorn upon these Cabots, and these Lodges, and these Lowells"; but I changed my mind about them. I went to the Widener Library in Harvard College, the largest university library in the world; has over three million volumes. And I went to the card catalog, and I pulled out the "c-r-i-s" – they got a whole tray on just "c-r-i-s" – so I pulled it out, and I looked for a certain designation. And there was "Criswell, Charles" and the book entitled, What the Stork May Bring. Well, I thought that was pertinent, then I looked at the second one: it was "Criswell, Henry, Tales for Little Children. Well, that was interesting; but I went on down the line. I never knew we had such a prolific clan in my life! And finally I came, "Criswell, Wally A." And there are two books in that library from my pen: one, Did Man Just Happen? And the other, These Issues We Must Face. So I walked down the steps of that beautiful library, and I said to myself, "These Cabots, and these Lodges, and these Lowells are people of great intellectual insight." By every standard, they deserve their worldwide intellectual reputation.
Well I – in these weeks watching and thinking – I was able, I hope this morning, to present it in a way that would be logical, so I’m going to speak of the church and its teaching ministries: first, its pulpit; second, its school; and third, its poor; the church and its doctrine, its pulpit, its ministry, its preaching.
New England is the land of the Pilgrim Fathers: it is the land of Roger Williams, it is the land of religious freedom. It is the land of the greatest Protestant contribution to the world and the greatest Baptist contribution to mankind. It is the land of the Great Awakening under Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield; it is the land of the great revivals under Charles G. Finney and Dwight L. Moody. It is the land of the founding of our first great Christian universities: Harvard, and Brown, and Yale, and Dartmouth, and a host of others. It is a land of the great, great preachers of the generations passed: Increase Mather, Cotton Mather, Phillips Brooks, A. J. Garden, George Lorimar, Courtland Myers, and a host of others. It is today the land of evangelical, evangelistic death. It is today the land of modernism, liberalism, universalism, Unitarianism; the land of the sepulcher, the burial of our faith.
While I was there, I went to see the Red Sox of Boston in Fenway Park play the New York Yankees. On a Saturday afternoon, everybody was there. That park was filled. And when the time came to play ball, why, to my surprise, a voice came over the PA system saying, "Will everybody stand at attention?" So we all stood up together. And on the other side from where I was seated, all the Yankee baseball players, lined up on the top step of their dugout, took off their caps, each man placed his cap over his heart. Then down there in front of me, all the Red Sox players came out of their dugout, lined up on the top step, took off their caps, each man placed his cap over his heart. Then the voice came over the loud speaker saying, "Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of the immortal Babe Ruth. You are asked to stand quietly for a minute, after which will be played the national anthem." Now, I would say Babe Ruth deserved the tribute; and I was glad to stand there and share in it. I saw him play one time. Whether you know anything about baseball or not, you know Babe Ruth. He put over seventy records in the baseball books, sixty of them and more of which stand today. But what came to my heart as I stood there in the group and looked upon it was this: had Babe Ruth not had a successor, you’d have never heard about him, even by now; had the game died, he would have died with it. What has kept it alive has been the succession: there is baseball today, and there are great baseball players now. As I stood and looked at the Yankee line up, there’s Mickey Mantle. I saw him knock a home run into the bleachers in center field. There’s Yogi Berra. There’s Don Larsen, who pitched that day; and they knocked him out of the box, incidentally. And there’s Whitey Ford. And there’s Bill Skowron. And there’s Gil McDougald. And there’s all the rest of those wonderful players. And then down there in front of me, there was Ted Williams, one of the most impressive looking baseball players I ever saw in my life. And there’s Runnels, and there’s Jensen, and there’s all of the rest of those fellows. That’s what kept it alive; that’s what keeps it alive, is the succession.
And that brings me to my text. Out of the fire of the earnestness of his soul, the apostle Paul wrote to his son Timothy, "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also," handing down the torch [2 Timothy 2:1-2]. And that is what has failed in New England. I can hardly believe that men of such tremendous spiritual stature and men of such tremendous Christian dedication, who lived, and preached, and wrought in days passed should have come to such an unbelief and faithlessness as mounts the majority of the pulpits of New England today. It hurts your heart. I do not know what shall be our destiny here; all we can do is just pray. God grant to us a succession. Paul, and Timothy, and Polycarp, and Ignatius, and Savonarola, Balthazar Hubmaier, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, George Truett; O God, that we could hand it down; and that in the other generations that are yet to come, there would be the same devotion and loyalty to the Word of God and the preaching of the riches of Christ as these people have heard in their previous generations: it’s the succession that keeps it alive.
Now my word concerning the school: you don’t go up there and not be very conscious of the school. Right over there is Harvard, and right next to it down the Charles River is MIT; and they are both tremendous places of learning. Then you have all of those other institutions: right across the Charles River is Boston University with more than thirty thousand students, a Methodist institution. Well, it’s interesting to go around. Chairman of the deacons there, who reminds me so much of our chairman, he had the – he built the buildings on Harvard University campus – did so over a period of thirty, forty years, and he’s very Harvard; oh, he’s very much for Harvard. So I was riding down the Storrow Drive on the Charles River, and there’s the Harvard Bowl, and he looked with sadness on it and said, "You realize everybody beats Harvard; we don’t have any scholarships for athletes, and we don’t stress athletics, so we don’t have a very good team." But he was not very happy over the fact that Dartmouth has begun to beat them every year. Dartmouth College comes down and just flails Harvard. So he said, "Now I’ll tell you how Dartmouth is," he says. "It’s just like this," he said: The football coach at Dartmouth went to see the professor and said, "Professor, if you will pass this boy so he can play on my team, we’ll beat Harvard. If you don’t pass him, Harvard’s going to beat us. And I’m just counting on you to pass that boy."
And the professor said, "Coach, if he can answer even half of the questions, I’ll pass him, and he can play on the team."
So the boy appeared before the professor. And the professor said, "If you can answer half of the questions, you pass, and you can play." First question: "What’s the color of blue vitriol?"
And the boy said, "Pink."
"Well," said the professor, "that’s wrong." Second question, the professor asks, "What is the chemical formula of sulfuric acid?"
And the boy said, "I don’t know."
And the professor replied, "That’s right, that’s correct. You don’t know; but you answered half of them correct, so you get to play."
That’s the Harvard end of it.
But as I looked and as I thought, it is an oppressive place for somebody like me, somebody like you. That country, in the middle of it, at both ends of it, and all the way between, is under the domination of the Roman church. You can’t believe it! They have what they call "a few dirty Protestants" around. Some of those wonderful families said, "If we could, we would leave; to rear our children here is almost more than we can take." I could stand here for a day and a day, and the things you see and look at you can’t believe. They’ll build a public school right next door to a Roman church. They will elect on that school board, every one of the members of it, a member of that church, and when you say, "But sir, you don’t have a single child in this public school. All of your children are in the parochial school. You don’t belong on this school board," then you’re labeled a religious bigot. And that’s an awful word up there. Then the school board lets the school run down, it is condemned and it is sold to the Roman church for one dollar. And that happens again, and again, and again, and again, and again, all the time, all the time; happening now. Strange thing: men cannot belong to the Rotary Club; and up there, men cannot belong to the YMCA, strange thing. And I never saw such a drive for the presidency of the United States in my life. I asked, "Where did Joe Kennedy, the father, get his fortune?" He got it out of liquor. And if John Kennedy ever becomes president of the United States, the president of the United States is "ABC," that’s what they call him, "Archbishop Cushing." I would do all in my power as a Democrat to block the nomination of John Kennedy, senator from Massachusetts; God help us to block the nomination.
Well, going around, just looking, just looking, I asked the leaders of those evangelical people, "I don’t understand this, I can’t get it in my head: here is Harvard College, and right next to it, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and across the river, Boston University, and everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, these colleges, conservatories of art and music, everywhere." I said, "I cannot understand the entire absolute dominance of the Roman church, when all of these great institutions are here." And without exception, every one of those leaders of whom I asked that question gave me the same answer: they said, "The Roman church has the children. The Roman church has the families. And whoever has the children and whoever has the families, eventually has the state, and the courts, and the police, and the commissioners, and the whole processes of life and of government."
And as I walked around and looked at it, I tell you truly and honestly, that country is as though Harvard College, and MIT, and Boston University weren’t in it. You wouldn’t know they were present! You wouldn’t know they were around! And I learned this lesson: Brother, it isn’t who has the college! Their colleges, like Boston College is a Roman college, is small. It isn’t who has the colleges. You can build a college in every town and on every square; it isn’t who has the college. It’s who has the kids! Whose got the children? Whose teaching these boys and these girls? The college doesn’t matter.
For example, when I went down to the church, right across the street was an enormous bank, and it had the funniest sign on it I ever saw, "Boston Five Cents Savings Bank." So I asked the good deacon, "Isn’t that a strange looking thing to be so big? Five Cents Savings Bank?" Well, he says, "Well, I bank there." Then I saw branches of it all over the city; it’s the biggest bank in the city, Boston Five Cents Savings Bank. Well I said, "I don’t see how in the world a five cents savings bank ever got to be that big."
Why, he said, "Preacher, that’s obvious. You get these children to put a nickel in the bank, and then another nickel in the bank, and another nickel in the bank, and that’s their bank. And some of these days, those children are the executives and the financiers; and that’s still their bank!"
Whoever gets the child gets the family, and the state, and the government, and the destiny of the nation! When you wait till college, you had might as well be done waiting! It’s too late then; every die is cast, every great decision is made. A college is just a finishing school to what has been prepared, and turned, and made, and shaped in the days of the boyhood and girlhood of that child.
So, I began to think: God bless the college, and God bless the finishing school, and God bless the university, and God bless all of these institutions of higher learning that are supported by our Baptist people. A part of everything you bring here to this church goes for the support of those "higher institutions." But my brother, my people, my prayer partners in this ministry, what we had better try to learn is that we must take, and shape, and teach these children! And I haven’t got an ultimate answer – I don’t know quite yet what to say, but I’m praying God will show us how. Oh, oh, oh! These teaching ministries of our church ought to be vastly augmented and earnestly, deeply increased.
There’s one thing that I learned: man, you can have any kind of a school right down in the middle of town; that’s where theirs are. Why, I was going along that little boat on the East River looking at the skyline of Manhattan, and they’ve got a Roosevelt Drive on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, skirting the river, and built over that drive, over that drive was the playground of a girls school. Some of those schools are stacked up downtown. And I learned another thing: I went into, went all through MIT, and there were some old ramshackle buildings over there, some of the barbed wire still entangled around it. And they said, "That used to be off limits during the war, for that is where radar was discovered." And radar is the instrument under God by which our people won the war. Radar enabled Britain to find those fighters that came at night and destroy them before Britain was destroyed. And radar was the instrument that enabled us to destroy the submarine wolf pack that was annihilating our navies on the majestic seas; discovered in those ramshackle buildings there at MIT. I found out you don’t have to have the doorknobs plated with gold, and you don’t have to have the finest facilities to teach! All you need is a dedicated teacher and a pliable mind in a little fellow to put in his soul the Word of God.
I must hasten. A last reflective observation: this concerns the poor of the city. I walked around; I went down there to the Haymarket and beyond and toward the Old North Church, oh, and speaking every language! I could not understand anything anybody said; the strangest food, strangest shops. When I got back, why, some of the people wanted to know where I’d been, and I told them, and they were aghast. "Oh, that’s dangerous!" They said, "You mustn’t walk down there and through those little old places by yourself in the evening." Well, I give you my word of honor I never saw such a conglomerate of crooked little old winding going nowhere streets in my life as is in Boston.
Hurricane Daisy was blowing about fifty or sixty miles off the coast over there, and it was raining in Boston. And I was getting drenched upon a day, and so I wanted to go from Lowell Street to Hawkins Street. I had a little foreign car, driving around – pastor left it for me – and I parked it there in a parking building. And so it was raining and I was getting wet, so I thought, "Now this street goes right up there to Hawkins, and I’m going to take this one, and go right to my car." Well, I landed, I did not know where. And so I asked a fellow, and he said, "Now this is the way." And I took his way and I landed, I didn’t know where. And I started out again, and again; I never saw any such place in my life!
I’m exactly like that fellow that moved to Boston with his cat: and he wasn’t blessed with a cat in Boston, so he attempted to get rid of it. And to drown it was cruel, he couldn’t persuade himself to do that, so he tried to give it away. And nobody else in Boston wanted a cat, so he asked a friend, "How shall I dispose of this animal?" And the friend said, "I’ll tell you what you do: you take Beacon Street down to School Street, and you take School Street down to Washington Street, and you take Washington Street down to Winter Street, and you take Winter Street over to Milk Street, and you let the cat out there, and you’ll never see him again." So he did that, and about two weeks after that, why, his friend saw him. And the friend said, "Well, how’d you get along with your cat?" "Oh," he said, "I did just like you said. I took Beacon Street down to School Street, and I took School Street over to Washington Street, and I took Washington Street over to Winter Street, and I took Winter Street over to Milk Street, and I let that cat out. But bless God for that animal: if I hadn’t followed him home, I’d have never found the way back!" Well, that’s just the truth of that place.
But, as I looked at it, I thought of our city, tomorrow. Boston is an old town; Dallas is a new town. Some of these days, some of these days, you’re going to have crowded into the heart of this city those same thousands, and thousands, and thousands, of working poor people that are crowded in the heart of the city of Boston. Even by 1965, these statisticians say, the hearts of our downtown cities shall have gained more than seventeen million people.
What happened in Boston was this: those immigrants came, those poor people came; and they congregated in ghettos, and they congregated in slums, and the evangelical church passed them by. They never sought them, they never won them; they lived in fine homes to the east, to the west, to the north, to the south, drove down there to their fine churches and let those poor people corrupt! There was a church that ministered to them; and the day came when the poor Irish and the illiterate Italian came to be governor of the state, president of the insurance company and the bank, leader in the commonwealth. And I thought, as Dallas gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger, you’re going to have in the heart of this city, pressed against it, more and more and more of a congestion of population. And your church is out there, basking in the salubrious clime of an easy life, waiting for the ripe plums to fall in their laps. And the church out there loses the destiny of the people who are down here! And thank God, we have an answer to that ministry, and we’re on the way. As the time goes on and as God shall raise us up helpers, we are going to build in this downtown church a great ministry to the people who are pressed against its skyline.
How I wish there was the spirit in all of us of Deacon Chipman, who lived a long time ago in the Tremont Temple Church in Boston. He found a boy sleeping in a dry goods box, took him to church, taught him the Word of the Lord; and the man telling me about it said, "I think that’s the man that gave that great lecture entitled ‘Acres of Diamonds,’ and became a great preacher in Philadelphia." I said, "Do you mean that was Russell H. Conwell?" He said, "I, I cannot recall the name exactly. I tried to find it, run it down before I came here to deliver this message. I tried, but I failed. I couldn’t find that little detail. But whether it was Conwell or some other, out of a dry goods box, this deacon picked up a boy, brought him to the house of the Lord, taught him the Word, and he became a great preacher of the faith!" I did get me a book on the life of Chipman, and I found he was a poor country boy, too big a family to stay there and be supported; left as a youngster, landed in the city of Boston, poor and friendless. Found the Lord, became a great merchantman, and he turned the heart and energy of that church to seeking out the poor, and the unsaved, and the lost.
Oh, how we need his kind today! The spirit of compassion, the spirit of seeking, the shepherd heart; O Lord, what an open door God hath placed before us! Our church is in the heart of this city; there’s no area of it that is not our prayer responsibility. We are to encompass every section and part and parcel, east and west, north and south, up the river and down the river, this side of the tracks and the other side, wherever people are who are lost, unchurched, untaught, without Christ; we are interested in them, their children, their families, their people. God help us as we gird ourselves as an example, if for no other reason, to what a church can do in the heart of a city ministering to the needs of that city.
Now I must close. And while we sing our song, number 207, somebody you, put his hand in the hand of Christ, would you come and stand by me? Somebody to put his life in the church this morning, a family or just you, would you come while we sing this song? If the invitation is of a man, forget it; let it go, pass it by. If the invitation is of God, won’t you listen to the voice of the Spirit of Jesus, and come? Come, come, while we stand and while we sing.