In Pictures of Silver


In Pictures of Silver

October 5th, 1969 @ 10:50 AM

Proverbs 25:11

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Proverbs 25:11

10-05-69      10:50 a.m.

On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And this is the pastor bringing the message on his twenty-fifth anniversary as undershepherd of the flock.  It is entitled In Pictures of Silver, this being the twenty-fifth, the silver anniversary.  It is a text in Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

The attitude of my fellow preachers toward this church and toward me is sometimes very amusing.  Last week I delivered the presidential address to the executive committee and to the heads of our agencies and institutions.  And as I walked into the Baptist building in Nashville, Tennessee, to deliver the address, to my left in the large hallway was a cluster of preachers.  And when I walked in the door, one of them saw me and said, “Look, here comes the most unpopular preacher in the Southern Baptist Convention!”  He paused and then added, “He hasn’t had a pulpit committee to visit him in twenty-five years.”  I suppose the whole denomination looks upon this church like that—that they know where to go, but down.  In their persuasion, this is the greatest pulpit and the most influential congregation in the Baptist world.

In Pictures of Silver—I shall speak of two series of them in the days past and two series of them in the days future.  In the days past: first, pictures of surprise.  And of that: first, preaching surprises; and then, second, people surprises.

Preaching surprises; when I came to be pastor of the church, from the first Sunday and onward, people began to come down these aisles accepting the Lord as Savior and joining the church.  And as it continued for several months, upon a day, the chairman of our board of deacons drew me aside, and he said, “Young pastor, all of us have noticed that since you’ve come, there have been a lot of people who come down these aisles and join the church.  Now” he said, “this will not continue.  We’ve never seen that before.  And when it discontinues, and people don’t respond, why, we don’t want you to be discouraged.  So I’m talking to you now, that when that time comes, and that day arrives, and people don’t respond as they do, why, you don’t be discouraged.”

Well, I have been expecting that diminution for twenty-five years.  And it has never arrived.  It increases.  There are more and more people every year who are coming down these aisles and joining the church and giving their lives to our Lord.  For twenty-five years, there has never been a morning, and there has never been an evening, when I have preached and extended the invitation but that God has given us a harvest.   There has never been an exception, in the morning or in the evening, for twenty-five years.  And this was a godly and heavenly surprise.

A surprise in preaching the 8:15 o’clock service: as the time went on and the years multiplied, the pressure on this hour—the 10:50 hour—became beyond what we were able to know what to do with.  So we tried every experiment possible.  We took out the Good Shepherd Department and they have their own church.  We took out the Silent Friends and they have their own church and chapel.  At that time we took out the Juniors, and we take out the Primaries and we extended the service for the children, but the auditorium still would not hold the people.  Finally, there was nothing to do but to begin a service at 8:30.  And then because of the length of the pastor’s sermon, they moved it back up to 8:15.  Now the purpose of that was to take the pressure off of this hour, and I announced in November that I would conduct that 8:15 service also through the end of the year—November and December—and then I would turn it over to somebody else.

Well, it began to grow and to grow.  So when the first of the year came, I said that I would continue preaching at the 8:15 service until the first of June, then I would turn it over to somebody else.  The service grew, and grew, and grew, and that announcement that I made, that I would cease preaching at 8:15 the first of June, that announcement was made fifteen years ago.  And I have been continuing preaching at both the hours and the evening hour all of these years.  And it is the 8:15 service that is the jammed service in this auditorium, which is an amazing surprise to me.  I’ve preached at many early services in revival meetings.  They will have a hundred there; they will have fifty there, seventy-five; if one of them had three hundred present, it would be a phenomenal thing.  But in this dear church at 8:15 o’clock, this auditorium is packed.  They were trying to find places this morning for the people to be seated, a surprise in a picture.

A surprise in preaching; my preaching through the Bible.  A long time ago, I announced I was going to preach through the Bible.  And you never heard such lugubrious prognostications as were emitted all through the congregation.  “Oh, dear,” they said, “the church will surely die.  It cannot sustain such a method of exposition.  Why we never heard of these old prophets over here, and we’ve never read these books back here in the Bible, and he’s going to preach through the Bible.  The church will surely die.”  I preached through the Bible for seventeen years and eight months.  Where I left off Sunday morning, I started Sunday night.  Where I left off Sunday night, I started Sunday morning.  And the people began to come, and to come, and to come, and to listen.  It was one of the most magnificent of all the preaching experiences of life.  And in it, I had the greatest personal preaching experience I think any man could ever know.

Upon a day, when New Years Eve fell on Sunday evening, I announced that I was going to start at the first of Genesis and preach to the last verse in the Revelation.  And I entitled the message The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible.  A trail of blood beginning in the garden of Eden when God slew those innocent animals, spilled the blood on the ground, to make coats of skin to cover the nakedness of our first and sinning parents [Genesis 3:21]; all the way through until John said, “These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14].  I announced the service beginning at 7:30 and I was going to preach it to midnight—until after midnight—one time, maybe, have time enough to deliver the sermon.

Well, bless your heart, the people came and they jammed this auditorium and stood all the way around on the lower floor.  They jammed the balcony and stood all the way around on the top balcony floor.  I thought as the hours wore on that the congregation would somehow gradually melt away.  When I got through preaching after midnight, they were still standing all the way around the balcony and standing all the way around the lower floor.   The greatest preaching experience I have ever known in my life; pictures in silver, pictures of surprise.

People surprises; oh, dear, if I just had the hours and the hours.  For a long, long time after I came here, there was a little maiden woman named Mariah Dunn who sat right there; just as faithful as she could be.  Every time the door was open, there she was.  She grew very old and very sick, and I took care of her.  And I asked Orville Groner, one of our deacons, to see all of this through.  So we paid her hospital bills and her doctor bills, and when she got old, why, we took her to a convalescent home and there she died and I buried her; little Mariah Dunn.  Then I called Orville Groner and I said, “Orville, you know we have been keeping that little kind of an attic room upstairs on Bryan Street.  We have been paying the rent on it just so she would have a little place she would call home.”  And I said, “Now that she is been buried, why, you go see the landlady and tell them you won’t rent the room any longer.  And you take all the things of little Miss Mariah and you give them to the mission, what they might be able to use, and then we’ll just close the book.”

So he went to the landlady and told her, and he went to the room to gather everything she had that was any value to give to the mission.  And while he was looking, he called me on the telephone and said, “Pastor, oh, you cannot imagine.”  He said, “Pastor, in the closet, I have found a shoe box and on the inside of that shoe box there is more than $34,000 of government bonds.  And in the box there are two wills and both of them are willing everything she has to the First Baptist Church.”  Surprise!  And that’s how we built our lodge out at Mount Lebanon, with the money left by little Miss Mariah Dunn.  What an amazing come to pass!

And the surprise of people in this ministry: after I had been here a little while, there was a woman, Mrs. Minnie Slaughter Veal, and she came to me and she said, “The church is doing so much, and God blesses it so wonderfully.  I want you to help me to write out in my will; I want to leave one third of everything I have to our First Baptist Church.”  Well, I had no idea what that meant at that time—no idea.  Now as the days passed, we began building this building over here.  The deacons borrowed more than a million dollars.  And at that time, that was a lot of money—about three million now—borrowed a million dollars to build the building, the activities building, what you call the Criswell Building across the street.

And while that building was in progress, the property on the Patterson Street side came up for sale.  And oh, it was just right there.  So I went to our deacons, and I said, “This property is for sale.  If it is humanly possible, we ought to buy it because someone else will get it and put a sixty story building on it.  And we will never be able to secure it.”  And the deacons said, “Pastor, we have already gone in debt more than a million dollars for this building here, and we just ought not to add to the burden of that indebtedness.”  Well, I said, “That’s correct.  I understand.”  Oh, it was so discouraging!

So I was standing on the Patterson Street side upon a day, looking at that property for sale, and my education director was standing by my side, and I turned to him, and I said this: “This is one of the most despairing moments of life.  This property is for sale.  It will never come up again.  Somebody will buy it and put a skyscraper on it, and we so desperately need it. And I am just so discouraged and blue.  I have asked the deacons and they said.  ‘No we just ought not to go that much more in debt.’”  He turned to me and said, “Pastor, why don’t you ask God for it?”  Well, it just had never occurred to me.  I said, “Ask God for it?  I thought you were supposed to ask the deacons for it.”  I thought for a moment, and I said, “I’m going to try it.  I just believe I’ll try it.”

So I took it to the Lord.  And a dear woman called me on the telephone and said, “Pastor, I hear you are down on your knees praying before God.  What are you praying for?”  I said, “I am asking God to give me that property across Patterson Street.”  She said, “How much is it?”  I said, “I don’t know but I tell you real quick.”  So we got one of our deacons to make contact with the owners and he said, “You can buy it for $255,500.”  I called Mrs. Veal, and she said, ‘I’ll give you the $255,500.  Go buy it.’”  So we bought it.

And after we bought it, I got a telephone call from Mrs. Veal, and she said, “Pastor, what did you want that property for?  What are you going to do with it?”  I said, “Mrs. Veal, I want to build a parking building there and on top of it put a great recreational program for our youngsters.  It is not on Sunday that a downtown church is choked by the city.  It is in the days of the week.  You couldn’t come down here for a committee meeting but that it cost you fifty cents or more to park your car, if you could find a place to park it.”  I said, “We need a parking building, and then a great recreational facility for our youngsters.”

“Well,” she said, “What will that cost?”  I said, “I don’t know but I will tell you real quick.”  I called her back and I said, “The building complete will cost approximately a million five hundred thousand dollars.”  Well, she said, “Pastor, build it, and I will give you the $1,500,000.”  And we built that facility over there, the Veal Parking Recreational Building, and the church knew nothing about it at all.  She did not want the people to know anything about it.  And that building went up under the loving prayerful surveillance and kindness of dear Mrs. Minnie Slaughter Veal.  Surprise!  Surprise!

Fred Florence, the president of the Republic National Bank, a Jew, was one of the dearest, sweetest friends I have ever had had in my life.  Every year, he would give us, oh, a great deal of money.  And he would give it to us for things that we wanted to do on a vacation or going on a trip to buy something.  Well, we took that money that Mr. Fred Florence gave us and, in order to have it and something to show for it, we bought the beautiful things out there in our home.  One day, while he was still alive, I sat down and figured up how much Fred Florence had given us, and at that time it was more than $20,000.  And he kept on giving.  I just—I just was overwhelmed by the friendship of Fred Florence.  And upon a day, he called me to his office in the bank and I sat down by his side.  And he said, “Young pastor, let’s do something.”  And he called me “pastor.”  He said, “Let’s do something.”  He said, “Let’s build the most beautiful Baptist church in the world.  Let’s do it.”  And he said, “I’ll help you get the money, and we’ll do it.”

Well, Fred Florence, as you know, was a very, very wealthy man in his own right; and he had access to many, many foundations; and he had access, in friendship, to many rich men.  He said, “Let’s astonish the world with the beauty and the glory of that cathedral.  Let’s build the most beautiful Baptist church in the world.”  He said, “Now, of course, I’m interested in the church and I’m interested in you.  But,” he said, “I’m also interested in Dallas; and to have a church house like that in the city of Dallas, would be a glory to our city.  Let’s do it.”  And what Mr. Florence wanted to do was to go out somewhere in a large acreage where we could have lawns, and swards, and all kinds of shrubbery, and landscaping, and there in the center of it, build this glorious and spacious cathedral, the greatest Baptist church in the world.

Well, I said, “Mr. Florence, I don’t know how to reply because we’ve been downtown, and we’ve committed ourselves to this ministry downtown, and I don’t know whether it would please God or not, because God put this downtown, and God has His work for us to do in the heart of this city.  Let me think about it and pray about it.”  So as I turned it over in my mind, and tried to ask and search the mind the God, I came to a very definite conclusion.  I went back to Mr. Florence, and I said, “Mr. Florence, there hasn’t been anything that could have been more thoughtful or gracious than your offer to help us build the most beautiful Baptist church house in the world.  But,” I said, “we need to stay downtown.  We ought to stay downtown.  God has called us to stay in the heart of this city.  And I don’t think under God we can do it.  We just can’t.  God has called us and it is a matter of our faithfulness to Him to stay down here.”

So we turned it down.  I turned it down.  And I want to say to the children and the young people who will be here fifty years from now.  You remember the commitment of this church and its pastoral leadership through seventy-two years already.  Dr. Truett placed in the hearts of his people to stay in the heart of the city.  Don’t move out.  Stay down where Satan has his throne, where a great throng of men go by.  And I have done that for a quarter of a century.  And in your day, and in your generation, young people, keep true to that trust.  Build a lighthouse for our Lord in the heart of this city; keep it here, and let it shine for God throughout all of this vast metropolitan area and beyond Dallas to the ends of the earth.

Now pictures, memorials, in pictures of silver; and I don’t mean to make this sad as I speak of this part of the message.  One of the providences that I have found so poignantly is that as you pastor a church a long time, through many years, the people that you have known and loved pass away.  And it is a grief and a sadness to your heart to see them die.

Of the seven pulpit committee members here in our church there is only one that’s left, and that’s Ralph Baker.  And Ralph, we pray God will give you strength and health and length of days for another generation.  He represented the young people on the pulpit committee.

And the days have passed, memories in silver: Bob Coleman.  It was Bob Coleman that called me when we were called as pastor of the church.  He’d been with Dr. Truett for over forty years, and he was a Sunday school superintendent.  He called me Wednesday night, September 27, 1944.  Betty and I had been out that night being entertained in a home.  We didn’t get in until after eleven o’clock and he called us late that night and said that the church, the First Baptist Church, in Dallas had unanimously called us to be pastor of the church; and for me to be sure as possible to come that Sunday—which would be the first Sunday in October.  So we came down and I preached at that morning hour, the first Sunday in October, twenty-five years ago.  I preached on Make It A Matter of Prayer. 

Oh, that service!  There are some of you people that were here that day and can remember it; one of the most moving, moving hours that you could imagine.  And after the service was over, before the choir was rebuilt, you went out to the study, Dr. Truett’s study, through that door there.  And as the service was over and we walked out, Bob Coleman and I, he put his arms around me, and he said, “Young pastor, this day is your anniversary.”  He said, “I have never lived through such as hour, or such a day as this, and today is your anniversary.”  And that’s why the anniversary of the pastor is on the first Sunday in October.

Sweet Bob Coleman wore a red flower, a rose, in his lapel there, said he loved any color just so it was red.  And he was always at the Patterson Street entrance, greeting the people who came to Sunday school.  God left him here with me to help me for a year and a half.  And we buried him from this place.  And I shared in the service from this sacred pulpit.  And in my memorial address for dear, sweet Bob Coleman, I said, “I notice that the Texas Special on the Katy railway track, the Texas Special goes from Union Station out to the Highland Park Station and there it stops.  And then there’s a booster engine because the grade beyond Highland Park is high.  There is a booster engine that pushes it over the hill.”  I said, “That’s what Bob Coleman has been to me.”

God was good to me.  He let Bob Coleman stay here for a year and a half to help me get started and to encourage me in the work; the booster engine that helped push the church over the hill.

Memories in silver: Orville Groner.  Orville Groner was the secretary of the pulpit committee and most active in its invitation to me.  He was the treasurer of the Annuity Board; and one of the dearest, sweetest, most precious of all the friends any pastor could ever have.  He died suddenly of a heart attack.  Oh, it just grieved my soul!  I would talk to Orville about the church, and the problems in it, and I had lots of them, and oh sometimes, I would get so discouraged; lack of vision, and lack of faith, and lack of commitment.

And upon a day, I was over there in Orville Groner’s office and I was discouraged, and I was having a hard time.  And Orville turned to me and said, “Pastor, now you get out of that.  You get up out of that.”  He said, “Pastor, every dog has to have some fleas, if for no other reason than just to remind him that he’s still a dog.”

Oh, that stayed with me!  No matter who we are, or what we do, we have our trials and our discouragements.  But they just remind us that we must lean on God.  We’re human and mortal.

Judge Ryburn; Frank Ryburn was the chairman of the deacons in the church here for thirty-five years.  Sweet, wonderful friend, the most ideal chairman you could imagine; and a great, incomparable help to me.  Whenever the chips were down as you would say, Ryburn always stood by me; oh, that wonderful man; Judge Ryburn.  His wife was hard-of-hearing.  He had a sweet wonderful wife named Ann and because she was hard of hearing, she always sat down there—not that you all are hard of hearing, but he sat there with Ann because she was hard-of hearing.  Well, this pulpit is higher than you think for  because of the gradations up here.  You don’t realize how high this pulpit is above your head a good deal.  You don’t realize how high this pulpit is, so when you sit there, well, you have to lean your head back.  And upon a day, I spoke to Judge Ryburn about his being seated down at the front all the time and holding his head back and listening to me.  And I said, “Judge Ryburn, you’re always sitting down there with Ann right in the front, holding your head back.”  I said, “doesn’t that hurt your neck?”  He said, “No, only my ears.”

In pictures of silver; and I must hasten, but even hastening, you stay and hear me for just a little bit longer.  In pictures of silver, dream pictures; oh, there’s so many things that I look forward to our church doing!  And they’re all involved in ministering to people, all of them.  Winning people, helping people, wherever there are people and they need God, there our church ought to be, and in His grace will be.

One of the things that I want us to do—and I haven’t time to speak of it—I want us to have a Bible Institute in our church.  I’ve tried unsuccessfully to have a day school here, a high school, elementary school.  I cannot succeed in it.  And as I think, and as others have talked to me, I believe we can have a Bible Institute here because of our facilities, and they’re vacant and open at night.  It would be something that we could do, and we have the fine, dedicated theological professors and Bible teachers to do it.  We’d start small, of course, but I believe it would grow.  And I believe we can build, here in this church, using these facilities; just as they are, one of the great Bible Institutes teaching God’s Word, one of the great Bible Institutes of the nation; one of the most effective of ministries.

And then the outreach, the outreach; winning people to the Lord, involving everybody in that outreach.  That, of course, means a vast and intricate organization.  Some people fastidiously, and sometimes contemptuously, call it machinery.  But what about the organization and the church, the involvement of people in the church, and working, all of us?  Well, if you have that organization, that machinery, it all depends on the power to run it, whether it is effective or not, and whether it’s good or not.  The organization and method in itself can be empty and sterile and barren, but if it has power, it is the use of people, ranking us, marking us, assigning us great ministries by thousands of us working together.  But it depends on the power.

When I was in a little church, there was a dear woman who played an organ, and she had a foot pedal, and she pedaled it with her foot, and played the organ.  And then as time went on, a bigger organ, and there was a young man who had a big bellows, and he pulled and pushed on that bellows as the organ played.  Then in a great organ, great organ, pipes and ranks, a great organ, an echo organ, it all depends upon the power in the turbine out there at the plant.  If there’s no limit to the power of the turbine in the plant, there’s no limit to how big you can make that organ.

So it is with the involvement of people in organizations, in work, in machinery in the church.  If we will look to God, if we will look to heaven, God will bless us, and the Lord will honor us, and His Spirit will empower us.  It is not by genius, it is not by method, it is not by organization, but it is by the power of God.  But if we look to God, there’s no limit to what we can do in the involving of our people in this work.

Now, that’s why we need facilities.  Facility buildings are to a pastor and educational ministries, facilities are what tools are to a mason and to a carpenter.  They are what arms are to a soldier.  These are facilities that we use.

For example, one of our divisional directors, Libby Reynolds, said to me last week, “We had a goal this year; we had a goal this year of adding a hundred primaries.  And God blessed us,” she said, “we have added a hundred forty, a hundred and forty.”  Now, she said, “Pastor, this coming year, we have a goal of two hundred above what we now have, two hundred more of those primaries.”  They’re jammed up there on one of those floors in the Truett Building.  Why, my brethren, every one of us, if  you have a dedicated director like that, and dedicated personnel as she has, and teachers and leaders and they get the children, everyone of us ought to stand up and say, “Why, by God’s grace, if they’re willing to get the children and to teach them the Word of God, we’ll provide a place for you to put them.”  And for us not to provide the place is unthinkable and unspeakable.  We have other divisions like that.

Well, how do you build these buildings when men go down to the bank and they say there is no money available?  There is none at all.  Wonderful!  That’s the best news I have ever heard since I have been here.  There is no money available for us to borrow to build these buildings.  Great!  That’s the best news I have ever heard.  I don’t want to go to a bank or to an institution and ask for money to build these buildings.  I don’t want to mortgage my soul to the company store.  Why, we can do it ourselves, and in two ways.  One; we can give.  That’s one way.  Second: we can take our investments and put them in the church, and we’ll pay for them whatever the bank will pay you, that’s what we will pay.  And we can build it.  We owe the money to ourselves, to our congregation, and we’ll pay ourselves, and then we’ll give the money and see these buildings rise to the glory of God.

“Yeah, but pastor, you don’t understand.  I can take that money for which you’d give me maybe five and half or six percent, and I can go out here in the mortgage world, and in that mortgage market, I might get nine percent.”  Well, I don’t deny that; but I am saying that anything you do in the church, there ought to be in it an element of sacrifice, always.  Always!  And you take out of the church that element of sacrifice, and the church becomes nothing.

My brethren, we don’t realize the days in which we live.  When we turn back to the story of the Roman Empire, in those first Christian centuries, we read about the great martyrs.  There’s Polycarp the pastor.  There’s Origen the great scholar.  There’s Ignatius the mighty champion.  There’s Justin who’s called the Justin Martyr.  All of those marvelous stories of those first Christian centuries under the Roman Caesars; my brother, they were as nothing compared to the martyrs of God’s people today.  This last week, I had a minister come and see me who works with the underground, trying to get the gospel message beyond the iron and the bamboo curtain.  And I said to him, “I’ve been told that there are twenty million Christians who have been martyred in China alone.”   He said, “Twenty million!  By our best information, he said, there are more than thirty million!  This is in the last two years; there have been more than thirty millions of Christian people who have been slain and slaughtered in Red China alone.”  And this minister said to me, “From what we can find out, there are many of those Christians who have been nailed against the church wall, suffered and died.”

Why, bless you:

Am I a soldier of the cross,

A follower of the Lamb,

And shall I blush to speak His cause,

Or pause to own His name?

Must I be carried through the skies

On flowery beds of ease,

While others fought to win the prize,

And sailed through bloody seas?

No, no, I must fight if I would reign

Increase my courage, Lord.

I’ll bear the cross, endure the pain,

Supported by Thy word.

[from “Am I A Soldier of the Cross?”  Isaac Watts]


We have an assignment and we have a work.  And there ought to be in this work an element of sacrifice.  As David said to Araunah, “Neither will I offer unto the Lord that which cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24].   When I come to God, and bring an offering to Him, or make an investment in His name, I expect it to have some measure of sacrifice, and blood, and prayers, and tears, and devotion, and consecration in it.  And, without that, I don’t think God will bless our church; I don’t think we’ll have a real church.  We wouldn’t have one with great power.  We can do it.  We can do it easily.  And that’s the dream in silver.

One other, bear with me: what about my own assignment in this task?  Well, dear people, it is amazing what has come to pass, beyond anything I ever dreamed of.  All over this world, there are invitations, the most marvelous that you could imagine.  I haven’t time even to go through them.  Here’s an invitation from a colonel, a commanding officer in Brussels, that’s where SHEAF is, that’s where NATO is.  There are four hundred American enterprises whose headquarters, European headquarters, are in Brussels.  And in that city is the European Common market headquarters.  There are more than eleven thousand Americans there; and here is an urgent appeal, “Come, in the city of Brussels, we have a church already, and we have an organized group already.  Come and let’s have a nationwide crusade in Belgium.  Come.”

Then, this invitation, a long series of correspondence from Yugoslavia.  Behind the iron curtain, there’s a great city in Yugoslavia named Zagreb.  And in the city of Zagreb, they have an open door and they are writing and pleading with me to come to Zagreb in Yugoslavia, behind the ron curtain; and there hold a city-wide crusade; preach the gospel in Zagreb.

I have communications here from the Baptist Union of Australia, from Mexico, from Brazil.  These are just one little piece that I’m trying to answer now.  What do you do?  And they say, “Can’t come next year?  Come the next year.  If you can’t come that year, come the following year.”

Beside a flood of them that come from every side in this nation, what do you do?  All right, this is what we shall do.  Dr. Truett was—and I don’t compare with him; I don’t even think of it in those terms.  Dr. Truett was a world citizen; he was Mr. Baptist plenipotentiary; and Dr. Truett was gone, and he was gone, and he was gone.  And this church began to go down and to go down and to go down; precipitously so—precipitously so in its Sunday school attendance.  Now, I have to make a choice.  I cannot be gone, and gone, and gone, and gone, and this church grow and grow and grow.  You cannot do both.  You have to make a choice.  It is this, or it is this.

I have taken it to the Lord as earnestly and as prayerfully as I know how; and I have come to a very firm, and final, and definite conclusion.  I shall stay by the stock.  I shall stay in this church.  I shall stay at home, and work, and build by the side of my brethren, who under God are getting ready to put their shoulders under the greatest burden and the biggest program that any church has ever attempted in Christendom.  I have decided that in prayer: I have this year to finish my presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention; I have to go to Africa five weeks, down through those cities in east Africa, holding evangelistic rallies, they’re going to have a continental-wide crusade in 1970.  And I have some things like that, that while I’m president of the convention this year, I will have to do.  But, when I get through with that assignment, I am coming back here to this church in Dallas.

Some of my going, of course, you would direct me to share in.  But for the most part, and for the main part, and for almost all the part, I’m going to stay here in this church.  I’ll be right here.  And when you get sick, I want to hold your hand.  And if there’s a death in your family, I want to have a prayer.  We’ll conduct the service if you invite me to do so.  I will be here by the side of my people.  And will, until God says, “It is enough.  The task is finished, your work is done.”  And we will see what God does in these days and what every year will unfold in His goodness, in His grace, and in His wisdom.

Now as we sing our song of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come.  Make the decision now and come [Romans 10:8-13].  In the balcony round, and on the lower floor, today is God’s day.  Let’s give the whole day to God.  And give Him this hour.  And if the Holy Spirit knocks at the door of your heart, down one of these stairwells in the aisle and here to the front, come, make it now. “Pastor, my wife and these are my children, we all coming”; or a couple, or just you.  When we stand in a moment to sing, on the first note of the first stanza, into an aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, preacher, I am making it now.”  Do it, while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Proverbs 25:11


Picturing surprise

1.    Preaching

2.    People

Memorial pictures

Dream pictures

1.    Outreach,
ministering, winning

2.    New buildings

Consecration pictures

1.    Invitation to be

2.    Dr. Truett

3.    My commitment