The Encounter Crusade in Dayton, Ohio
July 23rd, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
July 23, 1967 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message. I am changing it from the announced subject to something altogether different. I am going to speak this morning upon The Encounter Crusade in Dayton, Ohio. The reason I am doing it is because of the strategic importance of that effort. It was a denominational effort on the part of our Southern Baptist Convention, through the Home Mission Board, and on the part of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, through its Department of Evangelism. It was done as a pilot effort. It was a new departure. It was an attempt to see if we could find some method by which we could reach these vast multitudes of people who live in these crowded and teeming cities in the North and the East.
There were so many people over the denomination who were praying for it. Right now there are about seven hundred of our laymen and lay people who are up there, beginning today, the continuing effort in all of our churches. In the greater Dayton area we have about eighty churches, Southern Baptist churches, and today they are beginning in the churches as last week we gathered in a football stadium for the central encounter appeal. So the message this morning will be a report on that effort. And I have a wonderful biblical example for it. The first missionary journey, described in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Acts goes like this. This is the close of the journey:
And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.
And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:
And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.
And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
And isn’t that a good and expressive and descriptive text for me? "And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles" [Acts 14:27].
Now, not in my life have I seen any city more graciously open its heart to a group of religious people than the city of Dayton did to us. On Monday night, the mayor of the city and his wife came to the revival and sat on the platform. He called Ms. Ethel Waters to come up to the platform, and he gave her a beautiful medallion of the city. And I thought, "Isn’t that so nice?" Then to my great surprise, he called me up to the pulpit, and he gave me likewise a beautiful medallion of the city of Dayton, Ohio. And the box is the most impressive that I’ve ever seen. I’m like a little boy. I’m more impressed with the wrappings and the box than I am with what’s on the inside of it. But it is very beautiful and beautifully done.
The newspaper coverage of the crusade was beyond anything I had ever seen. And to my amazement on Monday night, on Wednesday night, and on Friday night from 8:00 until 9:00 WHIO, channel 11, televised those services. You’ve never seen that here in Dallas. You’ve never seen that anywhere in the South land that I know – prime time on television in the evening. But WHIO discontinued those three nights, their national network programs, and televised those services. It was a remarkable thing!
Now, when I went to Dayton, I left early because my little country church, one of my half-time churches, that I pastored when I was in the seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, was observing its one hundredth anniversary. Isn’t that strange? Last Saturday – they placed it on Saturday so I could be there; how nice of them to do it – and they observed the one hundredth anniversary of the church at Woodburn, Kentucky, ten miles south of Bowling Green. And we had a glorious time. The only thing, it is a sadness; it has been thirty years since I was in Woodburn. And in that length of time, how many of our people have died. Count one, two, three, four. One out of every four will be dead ten years from now. Just go through the audience. One, two, three, four, the fourth one will be dead. You may not want me to point to you.
And of course they had dinner on the ground. They brought it in flat trucks, and parked it there by the side of the church. I ate until I nearly burst wide open. Oh, I enjoyed everything about it! I loved those country churches. I still do. If I had my choice, I would take Dallas and put it way out in the country and our church and set it out there in a rural area. I loved being the pastor of those people. I knew all of them then, ate dinner with them, slept in their houses, knew all about them.
Well, that meant that I reached Dayton, Ohio on Saturday night. About 8:30 in the evening the plane landed in Dayton. So the next morning I got up to go to church, last Sunday morning. I dressed and about a quarter till eleven I went down into the lobby. And I asked the fellow at the counter there, at the clerk’s desk, "I want to go to a Baptist church." I had been told there was a Baptist church there in two blocks of the hotel. So I said, "Where is this First Baptist Church?"
He said, "I do not know. I have no idea."
So I was turned to another fellow. I said, "I want to go to a Baptist church, you know where a Baptist church is?"
"No." He didn’t know.
So I asked another one. He didn’t know. And I asked a girl over here. She didn’t know. So I went through all the porters and bell boys. Not any of them knew. And the church is supposed to be within two blocks of the hotel. And I just wish I knew because I am certain that happens every Sunday here in the city of Dallas. I’ve had people say to me, "I’ve never more disappointed in my life. I went to Dallas to go to the First Baptist Church. Got in a taxi and he took me to every church in the city" and never got to our church. I don’t know how to do that, but if there’s any inspiration that comes to you about how we can let people know – the bell boy, the maid that cleans up the room, the taxi driver, the hotel clerk, everybody – where the First Baptist Church in Dallas is we ought to do it.
Well, I started out. From my hotel window I had seen three churches. So I just started out. And I got to the first one and went inside. They were having a liturgical ending to their services. They closed with the collection. So I got in time for the rigmarole – all of that genuflecting and "amen-ing" and back and forth. I got in time for the collection and the conclusion of that service.
Well, fine. I was out by about five minutes until eleven. So I went to the second church, these are big downtown churches. They were having punch on the premises. They had a little lawn of a thing by the side of the church and they were having punch. So I was greatly rebuked because when I referred to it and asked the people about it they said, "Oh no, no! This is lemonade under the linden tree." They have a linden tree there on the lawn and they were serving lemonade. I said, "You mean to tell me that you not going to have church?" Oh no, they had that some time before. But they were now having lemonade under the linden tree, they call it. This is at eleven o’clock Sunday morning.
Well, I went to the third one, and I sat down in the third church and he was preaching on "Appropriate Words," speaking appropriate words. He said our words should be timely, should be truthful, should be helpful. Those were the three points of his sermon. Well, when he got to the end of his message I wrote down here on the program, "He has never mentioned the name of Jesus or the name of God." And no sooner had I written that, that I wrote, "Oops! He mentioned God." He said in his conclusion, "Pray for these gifts, that God may give them to you." That we have our words timely and truthful and helpful – that was the service there in that great church.
Then, I got in on the thing again; I got in on the collection. But brother, have I learned to beat that! Yes sir, and it’s a slick deal and it’ll work. Instead of putting something in the collection plate when you go to those churches. Don’t do it, take a visitor’s card, fill it out, and drop the visitor’s card in the collection plate and the usher will just smile at you so graciously. Instead of looking at you, "You skinflint, stick something in the plate!" All of you visitor’s who put the visitor’s card in instead of a collection this morning hold up your hand. It’ll work. It’ll work.
Now, the effort itself; I had been warned of the physical situation there, but oh, when I went out my heart just died within me. They would not allow them to use the grassy field, the football field. They would not allow them to use that. You could not place the pulpit or the stand or the choir or anything out on the field. So what was done had to be done on either side. There was a large stadium on the west side. A large stadium on the east side. A large bank on the west. A large bank on the east. What they did was, they built the pulpit on the east side. And I had to preach across the football field to the people in the stands on the west side. Then, of course the choir was back of me and the people who sat in the stands on the east side. And as though that were not enough, to preach across a football field, they placed in front of me two big towers and on them they mounted those cameras, those TV cameras. So I not only had to preach across the football field, but there in front of me about fifty feet or thirty feet beyond me – here and here – were those big platforms built up like those iron rods by which they build a building, big things on which those men stood and sat and had those cameras. I thought, "O Lord in heaven, how could anything be used of God in a context like this?"
Well, you don’t know anything until you experience it. You have to live through it. You cannot philosophize about it. You can’t make pre-conclusions and suppositions. You have to live through a thing. To my amazement and astonishment – nobody was more surprised than I – to my amazement, you would have thought that God had chosen that place, and that situation, and that context in which to bare His mighty arm to save. I’ve never been so moved in my life. It was an astonishing thing!
As I went through those services, I could not help but be greatly impressed with the fact that they were holding First Baptist Church in Dallas services – all of it. From beginning to ending, the preacher is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The singer, Lee Roy Till, is the minister of the First Church in Dallas. The three marvelous soloists – and I’ve never heard singing like that – -the three marvelous soloists, our daughter Ann, Martha Branham, Dan Beam. Those three incomparable soloists are in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The Lively ones – and I want you to know I never saw kids storm a town in my life like those Lively ones. They are four of our teenagers, David Baker, Dick’s brother, and David Bolin, and Swanee Hunt, and Carol Edgar, and June Hunt is the manager.
I never saw anything like it. They sang with the hippies, they sang in the supper clubs, they sang for three hundred Catholic nuns. They sang for one hundred fifty Catholic priests. I’m not saying the hippies and the nuns and the priests are all the same kind. They just did everything – everything. One night there was a couple who took me to one of those clubs where you eat late at night. I never go to them. You have to feel your way through the gloom, you know. Find a chair, a place, and finally when your eyes get accustomed to the gloom of the night, and I used my bifocals, why, I could find the menu and I nearly fainted. It’s just against my religion to pay ten, twelve dollars for a meal! I just don’t think soup ought to cost that much.
Well, anyway, I had to order. So I ordered the dinner and was seated there in that supper club, enjoying the meal and the fellowship, and I heard something familiar; somebody singing. I turned around in my chair and there were the Lively ones. I could not believe my eyes. They were everywhere, singing. Up and down the streets, everywhere. It was glorious. And those teenagers are so ebullient and so overflowing. They are abounding. They smile and sing and make it wonderful to love Jesus.
And the men on the platform; Dr. Freeman is from the First Church at Dallas; Ralph Neighbors is from the First Church at Dallas; Charles McLaughlin, First Church at Dallas. Dr. Ray Roberts, Executive Secretary up there, sort of belongs to us, his daughter is the WMU leader here in our church. The whole meeting, all of it, was the First Baptist Church in Dallas.
Now, the blessing of listening to what God has done and seeing what the Lord can do, oh, it just lifted my spirit to glory! We were visiting with Ethel Waters. She is a TV star, a movie star, and a Negro spiritual singer. She sings Negro spiritual songs, great big woman. Oh, she has to be helped up and helped down! She told me that she weighed three hundred eighty-five pounds and had dieted down and had lost a hundred fifty pounds. She is the most unusual person. So talking to her I said, "I presume that you were reared in a Christian home, your people were godly people?"
"No," she said, "they were never Christians. They never went to church. They were not Christian people."
"Well," I said, "that is amazing and astonishing. How is you became a Christian?" She said when she was twelve years old she was saved at a mourners bench in a Nazarene church. And she said, "A great experience came into my life. And my parents and my people had nothing to do with it, nothing at all. I was saved when I was twelve and Jesus came into my heart."
They had there one of the great athletes of our American generation. They had him come to give his testimony. He lives in Cincinnati. Well, when he hit town, of course, the television station was after him immediately. And at 6:15 one evening they had him on television for an interview. Well, of course, they introduced him; he was All-American in college. He is All-Pro today, and was given a gold medal in the world Olympics, and on and on and on.
So the man at the television station interviewing him said, "Now why are you here in Dayton?"
And that athlete said, "They’re having an Encounter Crusade in Welcome football stadium here in Dayton, and I have come to have a part in it."
And the man said, "Well, don’t we have churches to go to, why out in a football stadium?"
And athlete said, "Well, there are people who’ll go to a football stadium who won’t go inside of a church. So we’re having this out there in a football stadium."
"Well," said the man, "I guess I could understand why preachers and church people go out there, but what are you doing here?"
And that star said, "I have come to give my testimony."
And that really got this interviewer off of his bead. He had never heard of a testimony. He said, "You have come here to give your what?"
And the athlete said, "I’ve come to give my testimony."
"Well," said this interviewer, "I never heard of somebody coming to give his testimony. What do you mean by giving your testimony?"
"Well," said the man, he said, "I have had a glorious experience with God and I’m going to tell about it."
"Well," the interviewer said, "when’d you have this?"
He said, "I had it four years ago."
And the interviewer said, "Four years ago? Weren’t you in a church before that?"
"Oh," said the athlete, "I’ve been in the church all my life. I was taken to church and I go to church. But," he said, "four years ago I had an experience in my heart. Four years ago I was saved, I was converted, and I have come to tell the people about the experience that I have had in my heart when Jesus saved me." Well, those things going on over television, they are just amazing, just overwhelming.
And, of course, we could be here all morning and night long telling of the things that happened in those glorious responses. Things like this: across the field, on the other side, there was a woman who had been praying for her husband. And when he stepped out to come down she burst into tears and said, "I have been praying for my husband twenty-five years, and he’s saved, he’s saved!" Well, when she burst into tears and said that, just almost unconsciously, why, the whole stand around kind of melted into tears of rejoicing with her. Well, there was a woman on that west stand, and on the east stand, on the other side, was her husband. They had been separated three months. She went down the stands, walked across the field, up to the east stand where her husband was. And there they gave themselves anew to the Lord, and put their home back together, and came down to stand in front of me.
Things like that happened every night, over and over and over and over again. The young man that stopped me as I went into the stadium Thursday night looked so British-like and he shook my hand warmly. And when he spoke to me I said, "You must be from England." He said, "Yes, I’m from London." Dayton is an industrial city, and he had been sent over there by his corporation in one of those technological situations like IBM. He’d been sent over there to Dayton. And he shook my hand warmly, and he said, "I was saved last night." He said to me, "It was wonderful for me to come over here to get this technical training, but," he said, "the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me in my life was last night when Jesus came into my heart."
The television, of course, carried the message all over that part of Ohio. And they had telephones. I do not know how many were converted listening and telephoning in. There was a woman who telephoned in and asked if she could come. She came to the counseling room. Got in her car and drove furiously before the counseling service was over. And when she came in she was dressed in shorts, but sobbing, weeping. She’d been convicted and had opened her heart to the Lord and was gloriously saved that night.
The response in the services were like this:
· On Sunday night there were 71 who came; of them were saved and 22 were giving their lives in other ways to the Lord.
· On Monday night there were 137 who came; 62 were saved and 75 were giving their lives in other ways to the Lord.
· On Tuesday night; 148 came and 66 were saved and 82 were in other ways giving themselves to the Lord.
· On Wednesday night 138 came, 83 were saved and 55 were giving themselves to the Lord.
· On Thursday night we had 153; 64 were saved, 89 were giving themselves to the Lord. That was one of the most miraculous things I ever looked at because on Thursday night, at 5:00, a storm hit Dayton like a hurricane with wind and rain and hail. I thought we wouldn’t have a service that night, when I went out to the football field – my head count, there were over 6,100 there, come through that storm – and we had 153 to respond with 64 saved and 89 coming otherwise.
· On Friday night we had 245 to respond, 76 were saved and 169 coming otherwise.
· And last night, under Ralph Neighbors, there were 279 who came, 122 saved and 157 other.
In that crusade and in that appeal I don’t know how many came forward. This is the number who filled out decisions, who went to the counsel room, who prayed and sought God’s face. We had 1,179 who went to the counseling room and made a definite decision for Christ. We had 522 who were saved – think of it! And we had 657 who otherwise gave their hearts and lives to the Lord.
This is in a Baptist effort, in a pioneer land where our Southern Baptist people are just beginning the work. When I would have the choir to wait and I would press the appeal, I could hear the sobbing of the people down there. There’s no sound in the world like that; people quietly sobbing. God moving; God saving; God doing it – He isn’t dead, is He? He still lives, mighty to save.
Now, sometimes I refer to us as "celestial beggars." We ask of God and ask of God and ask of God and beg of the Lord. But we never thank Him. We never return gratitude. So we had a public appeal here asking our people to pray for that encounter. We’re going to have a public thanksgiving right now. And as our men kneel in gratitude before God on this platform, and as our deacons kneel to thank God, if you would like to come and share in this prayer of gratitude with us, do so now. While our men kneel; while our deacons kneel; and if you’d like to come and to thank God with us, do so. And we will offer to the great God our Savior our sacrifice and praise of thanksgiving this morning.
Our Lord in heaven, we are told in Thy Book "with thanksgiving to make our requests known unto the Thee" [Philippians 4:6]. Our Lord, with deepest gratitude we thank Thee for every soul saved and for every heart moved in this recent day of the outpouring of God’s saving grace. Now Lord, we make our request that God will be with those churches as today they begin the appeal in their congregations. And may these who were introduced to Jesus over radio, over television, in that football stadium, may they find their way to the house of God and there associate themselves in baptism and in commitment of life with God’s people.
O Lord, bless this effort, as we seek to turn our nation heavenward and God-ward and Christ-ward. Master, how we thank Thee for our own wonderful church; for these dedicated and talented people who sing and direct and work. Ah, Master it is like a little piece of glory! It is like a colony of heaven to be here in our dear church. With thanksgiving, Lord, for every remembrance, for answered prayer, for Thy saving Spirit and for what God shall do with us here today, with thanksgiving, Lord, we praise Thy name through Jesus Christ our Savior, amen.
Now we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, somebody you, give himself to Jesus; a family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; a couple, or one somebody you, on the first note of the first stanza come, come. Make it this morning, "Here I am, preacher, I’m coming now." Decide now and when you stand up, stand up coming. And the Spirit of our blessed Lord guide you, walk with you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
WHAT GOD HAS DONE IN DAYTON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The cordial reception
A. MayorHall; the medallion
B. Newspaper and radio coverage
C. Largest television station televised crusade services
II. Sunday morning church services
A. Woodburn, Kentucky 100th anniversary
B. Arriving in Dayton Saturday night, asked for a Baptist church
1. First Lutheran – liturgical service and collection
2. First Baptist – "lemonade under the linden tree"
3. Westminster Presbyterian – sermon "Appropriate Words" mentioned God once
a. Went back to visit with pastor regarding no Sunday night service, no mid-week service and no invitation
III. Welcome Stadium
A. Never thought moving service could be held there
B. Effort by our First Baptist Church in Dallas
1. The supper club
C. The miracle of conversion
1. Ethel Waters – saved as a 12-year-old
2. Adrian Smith interview – reporter didn’t know why he was there
3. Deaf that were saved
4. West side – wife prayed for husband 25 years
5. Woman watching on TV rushed to counseling center
D. The total results