October 19th, 1969 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 9:16
10-19-69 8:15 a.m.
Now I am going to speak in three parts, like a good homiletician, if I have time—and if I do not, well, when the time comes for me to quit, I will just have to stop. I want to speak first of the program, then I want to speak of why the necessity of our response to it, then last I would like to speak of God’s benedictory reward upon us if we are faithful in it.
Now I first describe our program and what is entailed in it. There are three things that face our church in the year that lies ahead: one is our present stewardship program which is now being presented to our people, second is our building program which will be presented to our people this coming spring, and third is our mission choir tour to the Orient, by these youngsters that you see seated here before you, in the summer of 1970, this coming summer. Now, of those three programs, the foundational one is the one being presented to you now. If we do not gloriously oversubscribe our stewardship program, all of the other programs fall by the way.
You cannot build upon sand; there has to be a foundation under which the superstructure can rest. It is so in our church: the great foundational undergirding of everything we hope to do for God lies first in that stewardship program. We must do that, and we must do it gloriously, triumphantly, victoriously. It is very large, it is very large. It sums up $2,389,000, almost $2,400,000. It is very large, but even then there were hundreds of thousands of dollars that were requested by our staff who help us in God’s work. There were just hundreds of thousands of dollars left out. And then, of course, our mission program; if we had all the money in America, it would hardly be commensurate with the needs of the whole world. This is a minimum, and if we could oversubscribe that foundational stewardship program—do it largely—it would bless God’s work everywhere. I believe we will do that.
The second part is our building program, the expansion of our church. The appeal on the part of our staff for facilities to work with are sometimes almost pitiful; to listen to them beg for a place. Now, all of us are of one heart and one mind in this; if we have leaders in the church who bring together children by the hundreds to teach them the way of Jesus, it is unthinkable and unimaginable on our part that we would not provide a place for them—a house in which they could be sheltered out of the heat of the summer and out of the cold of the winter—that they might be taught the Word of God.
And this need is all through the gamut of that ministry; our teenage work. A liberal spoke to me in Nashville this last week and said, “No longer do we have the ear of these youngsters; they don’t listen, and they don’t respond.” I said, “That’s what you say. They don’t listen to you, and they don’t respond to you, and they don’t come under your ministry.” I said, “All you have to do is to visit the city of Dallas and come to the First Baptist Church, and you will see youngsters there by the acres—hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them—and they are increasing every year. Now, our part is—if we have the heart and the response of these youngsters, the smallest part that we could accept in such a responsibility would be to provide a place for them. If they want to come, we ought to rejoice all over God’s heaven that they’re here. Well, that is our building program.
Now our mission choir tour; we have this year for the first time a double card—we’ve never had that before—and there’s a perforation down the middle of it. The basic response on the part of our people is our stewardship program. But there is also an opportunity for us to support these youngsters in a mission tour to the Orient this coming summer, drawn over there because of the revival the pastor is going to have in Tokyo and because of the meeting of the World Baptist Congress, the Baptist World Alliance, in Japan this coming summer. Now, in this second card, how are we going to do? What shall we do? When the question came up with our deacons and they were discussing it, pro and con, because it is a tremendous involvement, and, of course, to send three hundred youngsters, teenagers, in a program like that is a great responsibility financial and every other wise. After they discussed it at great length, they said, “Now, pastor, we want to know, what do you think? Now, tell us, what do you think?” Well, I said, “I have answered this for myself in prayer to God, and the way I have answered it is this: I am not going to say now they have a responsibility, or others have that responsibility; I’m going to settle it for me before God. What am I willing to do to send these youngsters, these teenagers, these that you look at now? What am I willing to do to send them on this mission tour?
Now, I believe in these; they are the finest witnesses we have. Like the prime minister of Canada wrote us a letter after their tour in Canada and said, “What we need from the United States is not more economic missions, and more ambassadors, and more counsels, and more a thousand things of government.” He said, “What we need is more clean-cut young Americans like those boys and girls to come up here and let our people look at them.” Why, they are an incomparable advertisement for good and for God and for America, just walking down a street in a foreign country.
“Well,” I said to the men, “I have settled it in my heart, and I think each one ought to settle it in his own heart. And there is no coercive pressure in this at all, none at all; but settle it in your own heart, and vote that way.” Now, I said, “This is how I’ve settled it in my own heart: my part to send one of these youngsters on that mission tour would be seven hundred ninety-four dollars.” Now, I said, “I have settled it in my heart, I will send, I will be responsible for one of those boys and girls; and I will give to the church for this purpose, after I have filled out my pledge card, after I have done that foundational work of supporting our stewardship program, over and above and beyond, I will send one of these youngsters on that mission tour.” And that’s a great responsibility on his part, because he has to raise a like amount for his own part in it, because it’s a large and extensive tour. But I’ve settled it; I will send one of them. And that card is filled out like that: “I’ll be responsible for two,” some of you can. “I’ll be responsible for one,” I’m going to fill that one out. “I’ll be responsible for one-half of a young person,” somebody going to get a piece of you! “I’ll be responsible for one-fourth of a young person,” somebody’s going to have just a lesser piece of you. “I’ll be responsible for one-fourth, $198.50.” Then, the last: “I will pray for them, and I’ll give this amount,” and some of us might not be able to give but ten dollars or fifteen or fifty cents. It’s just in prayer, that’s all. Now, that’s the program for this coming year. The great stewardship foundational appeal now, and then, this coming spring, our appeal for the building fund, and then this support of these teenagers in their mission tour. That’s the first part of the sermon.
Now the second part of the sermon is looking at some of the things that open our hearts to what God is doing. In his writing to the Corinthian letter, Paul used an expression that is so descriptive of how we feel about this: “Necessity is laid upon me” [1 Corinthians 9:16]. That phrase, “Necessity is laid upon me,” “For necessity is laid upon me”: I must.
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When the Lord whispers low, “Thou must!”
The church replies, “I can!”
[adapted from “Duty,” Ralph Waldo Emerson]
We must; of a multitude of reasons, I pick two. One: by law, by law you cannot teach religious faith in the school system. I’m in favor of that law; I would not want a Unitarian teaching my child. To me a Unitarian is an infidel, that plain, and that’s how I feel about it. I don’t want an infidel teaching my child. So by law religion is interdicted from the public school system, all the way through, and I’m in favor of that interdiction.
But at the same time that I know that religious faith ought not to be taught in public schools, at the same time and in the same breath and separated but by a comma, we must accept the responsibility of teaching religious faith, the blessed Jesus, we must, this Bible and all that is entailed in a response to Jesus our Lord. That means a response in accepting the responsibility of teaching that is almost illimitable. However great, you see, and vast and extensive and penetrating the public school system is in teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, just so zealously committed ought we to be in teaching the Word of God.
Now there’s another responsibility incumbent upon us in that, and that is this: less and less and less will you find religion being taught in the home. The family altar has almost disappeared. Time for the family to meet together for prayer and Bible study is almost nonexistent, which means that, more and more and more, the responsibility of teaching “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” [Jude 1:3] is our responsibility; we must, we must! And that accounts for this great Sunday school, and its teaching ministries, and our Training Union, and our Royal Ambassadors, and our Girls Auxiliaries, and all of these efforts by which we seek to respond to God’s assignment to teach the faith, to preach Jesus, to make known this Word of God, to mediate the truth of the Lord.
It is my hope—I could say incidentally here—it is my hope that we could establish in our church a Bible Institute. I haven’t time to enter into that; if God will bless us in it, we shall speak of it later. But these great facilities that we use on Sunday, I’d like to see them used seven days a week if it is possible. And I’d like for us to build and to organize in this church a Bible Institute, teaching the Word of God on an adult level, even a college and a seminary level. And people come from our own congregation, from the city, and our preachers from all over being taught the Word of God. Teaching is a necessity laid upon us because of the fabric, the color of the law of our land.
Now again, necessity is laid upon us because of what is happening to America. Wednesday night of last week I sat at the television at night looking at the review of what had happened that day, October 15, last Wednesday night. And as I looked at that, every part of it was strangely familiar to me. The marching demonstrators, their words and their slogans, their signs and their symbols, and even the doves that were turned loose, all of it was strangely familiar to me. And as I listened to it, increasing and deepening fear and foreboding seized upon my heart, for I recognized every one of those speeches. I recognized every one of those symbols. I recognized every one of those slogans. Where had I seen them before? And where had I heard them before? I had seen them and I had heard them and I had watched them in Communist Russia and Czechoslovakia and East Germany; identical, word for word, symbol for symbol, dove for dove. I thought, “What has happened to the soul of America?”
When I have gone to the Baptist World Alliance and those Russian Baptists are there, they speak those identical things, for no Russian Baptist is allowed outside of the country unless the government can trust him and unless he speaks the government line—and word for word, “Peace, peace,” and the signs and the symbols and the doves. Go through a great park, such as in the city of Kiev, and there will be the most impressive piece of statuary you ever saw: a family carved in dark marble, and then a beautiful white dove, snow white, carved out of pure white marble, there in the center. Would to God that when they slogan for peace, and march for peace, and demonstrate for peace, and preach peace, would God that they meant what they were saying. But at that time and at that moment—as I watched the marchers and as I listened to the speeches in Russia and in the communist world—at that moment those armies are preparing and training for the rape and the ravishment of Berlin and East Germany. At that time they are carrying on that cruel war in North Korea, and now in Vietnam; and at that time those armies are posed with their tanks for the rape and the violation of Czechoslovakia; and at that very moment they are stoking the fires of the Middle East, trying to dominate the entire oil-producing East, in the name of peace! And our America—I could not believe it—something has happened to the soul of America, and our enemies were grossly elated. From the premier of North Vietnam, his address to his “dear American friends,” whom he calls “our heroic comrades in arms”—while our men are dying, trying to stop the aggressive expansion of communism, these in America are demonstrating! And the premier of communist North Vietnam addresses his “dear American friends, our heroic comrades in arms.”
An American Seabee in Vietnam summed up how they felt over there in this eloquent sentence: “I think these people in the United States are going to be extremely sorry later on if there ever comes a time when there’s a battle on American soil, and their children have to fight it on our home grounds.” Somewhere, sometime there has to be a line drawn: thus far and no further! You can draw it in Vietnam and Thailand, or you can draw it at the Philippines, or you can draw it at Hawaii, or you can draw it at the coast of California, or you can draw it at the western coast and line of Texas, or you can draw it at the Mississippi River, but somewhere there has to be a standing up; the armies of communist aggression can go no further! But the point of my sermon is, when you draw that line, there has to be moral stability to stand, and where does moral strength come from? It comes from God. And that is what has happened to America; our people have got rid of God.
We don’t believe the Bible any longer. If you don’t believe something, you’ll fall for anything. In the second chapter of the Book of Thessalonians, God says, “Because they rejected the truth God sent them a strong delusion, that they might believe a lie” [2 Thessalonians 2:11]. And what Jesus said in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, in the great apocalyptic discourse: “Where the carcass is, there will the vultures be gathered together” [Matthew 24:28]; that is, these great principles of judgment fall again, and again, and again, and again, and when the judgments fall upon ancient nations, and we see it, those same principles of judgment control America also! And when America departs from God, the vultures gather together; judgment falls.
If ever in God’s story of the human race there was a time for the Lord’s people to shine, for God’s Word to be proclaimed and faithfully taught, for the church to be true to her mission, that time has come to pass in our time; that generation is our generation; this day is our day. And that’s why I say, when I think of this work, that word of the apostle Paul presses upon my soul: “Necessity is laid upon me” [1 Corinthians 9:16]; we have no other choice. And how do I grapple with it? I can’t do it in the abstract—the world is so vast, even our country is so great—but I can start right here where I am. I can be faithful to God in my part right here, and maybe God, looking down upon it, will bless and spare because of us. And that’s scripturally right; God said to Abraham, “If I can find in Sodom ten righteous men, just ten, I will spare the city for ten righteous men” [Genesis 18:32], and I think God, who doesn’t change [Malachi 3:10; Hebrews 13:8], will do the same thing today. For our children and for our people and for our nation, I think, for the sake of the righteous remnant in it, God will protect and spare our people.
I haven’t time to mention my third and sweet and precious part of this message: God doesn’t forget, and God is not blind; but He looks upon His people, and when He sees us faithful, God answers from heaven, both in this life, in this heart, in this house, in this family, both here and then, how preciously so, how wonderfully so, in the world that is to come, in glory, in heaven, in our eternal home [John 14:3].
We’re going to sing our song now, and while we sing our appeal, somebody you, give himself to Jesus. A couple you, coming to pray with us, and work with us, and walk with us, and serve with us in this ministry, or one somebody you, walking with the Lord and with us, on the first note of the first stanza, come. In the balcony round, and there’s time and to spare, on the lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Do it now, make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming, and may angels attend you and may God bless you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.