Dr. Truett and World Missions
July 5th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
DR. TRUETT AND WORLD MISSIONS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
7-5-70 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 message, which is an anniversary address entitled Dr. Truett and World Missions. There are several reasons for the delivery of the sermon at this particular time. One, the first reason: always on the Sunday that is closest to the anniversary of the death of the great pastor, I prepare an address on some facet of kingdom work to which he gave his life. I like to do that for several reasons in itself. One, I want us to keep alive the memory, and particularly and especially in this church, to keep alive the memory of the great pastor. He was the greatest Baptist preacher and leader that we have ever produced. That is one reason, to keep alive the memory of Dr. Truett. There is a generation that has already grown up that never knew the pastor of this church who was undershepherd of the flock for forty-seven years. How many of you knew Dr. Truett? Hold up your hands. All right, how many of you have never seen him? Hold up your hands. The majority of us have never seen him.
The other reason that I like to do this is sometime during the year, the pastor ought to preach something concerning our great work as an association of churches, as a denomination. We are one out of thirty-four thousand fellow churches, sister churches, and we ought not to forget the great widespread commitment of kingdom interests, and this occasion gives me a marvelous opportunity to speak of those denominational commitments to which our church has given itself, along with our sister churches. For example, this is the twenty-sixth year that I have done this. I have spoken on Dr. George W. Truett and the Annuity Board. The Annuity Board of our Southern Baptist Convention was organized right here in this church. I’ve spoken on Dr. Truett and Baylor University Hospital. Baylor University Hospital found its birth in this church with the great pastor and with Colonel C.C. Slaughter, a rich businessman. I’ve spoken on Dr. Truett and home missions, Dr. Truett and evangelism, Dr. Truett and Texas Baptists. For twenty-six years I have been doing this. So the message this morning is Dr. Truett and World Missions.
Another reason for speaking at this time on this subject is the tremendous, unparalleled involvement of our people in this missionary outreach. I was not here last Wednesday night; I was in San Diego, California bringing the closing address to a national convention of our Baptist people. It used to be called the Old Swedish Convention, the Swedish churches. They’ve changed the name to the Baptist General Conference. So I was not here Wednesday night, but they told me that Brother Mel Carter added up all of the people who are involved in this mission outreach now. We’re in the very heart of it now. And it totaled up almost a thousand, a thousand of our people in some capacity or the other will be out and away in these foreign nations within the next six weeks ministering the Word of God. That’s a fantastic thing! I just can’t imagine such a development like that. But it reflects the vast commitment, and prayerful interest, and zealous support of our church for the evangelization of the world.
Well, those things lie in the background of the address prepared today, Dr. Truett and Foreign Missions:
And after they had passed throughout Pisidia—
this is the conclusion of the first missionary journey—
they came to Pamphylia—
these are Roman provinces—
And when they had preached the word at Perga, a city, they went down into Attalia—
a town on the seacoast of Asia Minor—
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 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.
Beside the special assignments given to Dr. Truett—such as President Woodrow Wilson asked him to go to France to preach to the American boys in uniform in the trenches of the conflict of the First World War, and beside his journeys to World Baptist Congresses and Convocations—there were two tremendous mission tours made by the great pastor. One was in the summer of 1930, two and a half months to the cities of South America. And the other was six months in the fall of 1935 and the winter of 1936 when he made an extensive mission preaching tour around the world.
Now, the first one, which was wonderfully, wondrously, and marvelously blessed; in 1930 Dr. Truett was invited to speak at the First Latin American Convocation Congress in Rio de Janeiro, and going down there he preached through the cities of Brazil, then to Montevideo, Uruguay, then to Buenos Aires in Argentina, and through the cities of Chile and so back to America. Whereas we’ll go in a few hours to one of these places, Dr. Truett went by steamship, which took weeks for the journey.
There’s something unusual about that man in every area of his life, and I don’t know of a more unusual thing than this. On that journey he refused to sightsee, to look at anything. He gave himself to prayer, and to preparation, and to preaching, unless a tour of the city or of the country would interfere with the great prayerful purpose that had sent him down there to South America. He refused to go anywhere. And he gave himself to the ministry of the Word. That’s just one of the little insights into the character and personality of that incomparable preacher. With abandon indescribable, he gave himself to the ministry of the Word. And the effect down there in South America of the preaching of Dr. Truett, even through an interpreter, was phenomenal. Some of those people, who were present to prepare the statistics for the services [and to] give reports of the people who came, lost themselves in the tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit and just forgot their statistics and their reporting altogether.
In 1930, the Texas Baptist Convention met in Amarillo where I had gone to school. I was at Baylor University in 1930, and when the convention met in the fall in Amarillo, I went home and stayed at home in order to attend that convention. And Dr. Truett had made this tour through South America that summer. I went to the WMU meeting, the a Woman’s Missionary Union, and I listened to Mrs. Truett as she reported what they had seen and heard and how God had blessed them down there. Then, of course, I attended the sessions of the Texas Baptist Convention and listened to Dr. Truett as he preached.
Well, there was something about that man that as he would stand up and begin to talk I would find myself crying. There was a pathos in his voice. There was a love for Christ in what he said. There was an aura of holiness about his leonine head. When he was a boy they referred to him as the boy with the big face, he had a tremendous head, and one of the handsomest men. Ah, the impressions made upon me were indelible, and the commitment of the man, the dedication of the man in evangelism and in missions would bless anybody who loved Jesus.
The second tremendous mission tour of Dr. Truett was in the fall of 1935 and the winter of 1936. The occasion of that mission tour was this; in Berlin, Germany he had been elected president of the Baptist World Alliance, and immediately the Baptists of the world asked that he make a mission tour of the mission fields of the world as God’s ambassador plenipotentiary. So Dr. Truett and Mrs. Truett left Dallas in the fall of 1935 to go to England, and there they were joined by Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Rushbrooke. Dr. Rushbrooke was the paid executive, the executive secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.
When I was pastor, became pastor here, Dr. Rushbrooke was the president of the Baptist World Alliance. From secretary he had accepted the presidency of the Alliance, and he came here to Dallas and to this church. And I asked him during his visit with us, I said, “Why have you come here?” He had his mission all in the East, in Washington, but he made a special trip to come here to Dallas and went nowhere else. He came down here to Dallas and turned and went back to the East and back to London. I said, “Why have you come here?”
He said, “I have come here just to see how you are faring. Just wanted to see how you were doing.” Oh, I appreciated that so much. It happened to be that that Sunday we observed the Lord’s Supper, and it made a tremendous impression upon Dr. Rushbrooke. He commented on it again and again, and he said, “I never saw the Lord’s Supper presented as you do it here in this church in Dallas.” We’re going to have the Lord’s Supper tonight. I hope all of you will be able to come and to share it with us.
In London, Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Rushbrooke joined Dr. and Mrs. Truett for the tour. They went down into Egypt, and to Palestine, and to Nazareth. It was due to his largess and his friendship with others that bought the ground for our Baptist Church in Nazareth, and the orphan’s home was named for Dr. Truett, the George W. Truett Orphan’s Home in Nazareth, which has been removed now to Petah Tikva. It’s got a first name and I don’t know why it’s gone out of my mind. What? Yeah, Petah Tikva, that’s just north of Tel Aviv. And the impression of Dr. Truett upon those people in Palestine lingers to this day. Then to India, and from India to China, and from China to Japan, and from Japan back to the United States.
Well, in 1936 after this world mission, Dr. Truett came to the Louisville Seminary where I was a student. I was in the midst of my doctoral work there at Louisville, and Dr. Truett came to the seminary and spoke concerning this worldwide round the world mission tour he had just completed. Now I want to show you the kind of a thing that would characterize Dr. Truett, and you’re going to see what I meant when I said there was aura of holiness and dedication about him that was indelible and indescribable. He was describing a convocation in India to which he was to speak, and before he spoke they told him that there would be a great number of students, Hindu students, and that at the end of the address that they were to be given opportunity to ask him questions. “Now,” they said, “Dr. Truett, remember when these students get up and speak to you, they’re going to ask you some very pertinent things. They are well aware of conditions in America, and they’re going to ask you about the gangsters in Chicago. And they’re going to ask you about the lynchings in America. And they’re going to ask you about crime in America. And they’re going to ask you about drunkenness in America.”
It is against the religion of the Hindu to drink. It is against the religion of the Muslim, the Mohammedan, to drink. It is the Christian that demonstrates to the world what drunkenness is. Over there in India, a bishop of one of the Christian denominations drank and got drunk just to show his contempt for the heathen pagan religions in India and to prove the liberties of the Christian faith. That’s a great way to do it, isn’t it, for the bishop to get drunk? But that’s the Christian faith. Wherever the Christian faith goes, there will follow drunkenness; because so many of our Christian denominations believe in drinking liquor, and they demonstrate it to the world. You can always know where the Christian people are by their drunkenness. All you have to do is go out here and look at the priests, and look at the bishops, and look at the pastors, and ninety-nine percent of them in the world believe in drinking liquor. That’s a great commentary, isn’t it, and a great commendation of Christianity to the pagan religions of the world.
I tell you in my goings around, my visiting the mission fields, one of the curses of the Christian religion, as it is expressed by most of the denominations of the world, is its liquor. When the men go to Saudi Arabia, when the Christians go to Saudi Arabia, the first thing that happens is they try to make arrangements for the Christians to bring in cases of liquor, because it is against the Saudi Arabian government, and it is against the Muslim religion to drink liquor. But that is a part of Christianity, drinking.
So they were going to ask Dr. Truett about drinking in America. The Hindu doesn’t drink, and the Muslim does not drink. Well, Dr. Truett was prepared for that august occasion, and when he stood up to speak he said:
My young gentlemen, I come from America, and I am a preacher in America. But I do not come from a Christian nation. America is not a Christian nation. America is a nation where there are many Christians, and many churches, and many Christian institutions, but America is filled with crime and sin to our shame.
And then he said, “We are trying to win America to Christ.” And having begun like that, he preached Christ, as only Dr. Truett could preach the Lord Jesus. And when the address was finished, the great pastor sat down, and there was a long silence, a long silence, and finally a Hindu student stood up and said, “Dr. Truett, we find no fault with the Christ that you preach,” and sat down, and that was the only word that was said.
That is the power of God speaking in the soul of His great ambassador. It is hard to find fault with Jesus. Oh, the fault we can find with one another, and the weaknesses we can discover in human organizations, and the things that lay themselves open for criticism in the churches, but when a man preaches Christ and mediates the mind of God in the blessed Savior, it’s difficult for a man to stand up and criticize. There is a glory in Jesus and a blessedness in the Savior that is precious even to the soul of a pagan.
Well, we must hasten. I have two comments to make regarding the great missionary enterprise to which Dr. Truett gave himself and which this church has supported, oh, so faithfully and prayerfully through the years. I heard Dr. Truett one time say at a convention, he said, “If anyone in the First Baptist Church is not missionary, he belongs to an organization from which he ought to disassociate himself. He has no place in the First Baptist Church in Dallas if he is not missionary.” Well, I think that, too. I don’t think we ought to be here unless we have given ourselves in our hearts to the great missionary purposes of our Lord in the earth. I don’t think we’re, I don’t think we’ve been born again, not our people today, I don’t think we’ve been born again if we do not give ourselves for the evangelization of the world. That was so much the spirit of Dr. Truett.
All right, the two comments: the first one, it is the missionary enterprise that holds our denomination together. Nothing else will. Ah, the things that are rife among our pastors and among our association of churches. There are differences over—and then just name it, and you’ll have another cause for discussion. The thing that cements our pastors, and our churches, and our laypeople together, this bond of steel, the cable of steel that binds us together is the great missionary commitment for the evangelization of the world. It is hard for me to realize that in these centuries gone by our pastors and our people did not give themselves to missions. When William Carey stood up in the little Baptist Association in Nottingham and asked the question, addressing the moderator, he said, “I would like to ask whether or not the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20] the Lord gave the apostles is not incumbent, mandatory for us today?” And when he asked that simple question, when Jesus said, “Go ye therefore into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” [Mark 16:15]—when William Carey asked that question, the moderator, Pastor Ryland, pointed his finger at him and said, “Sit down, young man. Sit down. When God proposes to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine.” You can hardly believe that there was a time when our people were like that.
I copied from Dr. George Lorimer; in his Argument for Christianity; he was describing that occasion, and he did it in an eloquent way. He refers to the time when a little Baptist Association—now, that’s that little Nottingham Association in England—
deliberately resolved upon the reduction of heathenism and determined on sending out an army of occupation. The stupendous audaciousness of the purpose excited the ridicule of not a few worldly-wise individuals, and indeed was without a parallel except in the earliest aggressions of the church. And what rendered the movement more entertaining to the scoffers and what imparted to it more and more of the spirit of desperate rashness and presumption was the fact that the enterprise was entrusted to the generalship of a consecrated cobbler, who himself constituted nearly all that there was of the expedition.
I just—ah, those men! A little band, a little handful, a dozen met together, took up a collection; it amounted to almost sixty dollars for the evangelization of the world. There were no missions at that time. The churches had died in their hearts and had forgotten the great mandate from heaven. And that little band met together, and “Andrew Fuller was left to hold the ropes,” and, as they said, “William Carey went down into the well.” It is hard for me to believe that our churches in America were like that. Adoniram Judson went out under a Pedo-Baptist mission board; Ann Hasseltine, his wife, Luther Rice, they went to India, but between their leaving Boston and their arrival in Calcutta, Adoniram Judson and Ann Hasseltine had been studying on shipboard on that long journey the Greek New Testament, and they came to the conclusion that they were Baptists, and they were baptized by the William Carey mission in Calcutta.
And Luther Rice, also studying his Greek New Testament, came to the conclusion that he was a Baptist, and he was baptized by the William Carey mission in Calcutta in the same place. I have stood there at that baptistery and read the inscription on a marble plaque on the wall beyond. That’s where our Baptist denomination came from. We had no organization. We had no missions. We had no institutions. We had nothing. And it was agreed that Adoniram Judson and Ann Hasseltine, his wife, should stay there in India, then later in Burma, and Luther Rice would come back to the United States. And he went up and down the seaboard on the Atlantic side and then crossed over the Alleghenies into Kentucky and Tennessee, in those pioneer areas. And he spoke to those Baptist people about God’s missionary mandate and our obligation to share the gospel of Christ with the world. And he organized the Baptist denomination for the support of world missions. That’s where we came from. And without that great commitment of evangelization, there’s no such thing as to hold our churches and our people together. We are held together by our missionary outreach, and that is the outreach of the whole Bible.
When the Lord God said to Israel, before He gave them the Ten Commandments—the nineteenth chapter of Exodus, that would go before the twentieth chapter of Exodus. Isn’t that reasonable to believe? Chapter 19 goes before chapter 20. In chapter 20 you have the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17], but in chapter 19, the Lord God said to Moses and through Moses to the people, that the people, the nation is to be to Me a kingdom of priests [Exodus 19:6]. What did God mean when He said that to Israel? What God meant when He said that to Israel was this: that Israel was to represent men to God and God to men. They were to be the great teachers and missionaries to the world. God intended and purposed to reveal the oracles of heaven to Israel, and Israel was to teach the oracles of God to the world.
Well, did Israel do it? No. What they did, they divided up into quarreling sects, each fine with the other on calling everybody else a Gentile dog. But the purpose of the great revelation of God’s will and law was for Israel to teach it to the world. They were to be the missionaries to the world. Remember how Isaiah starts off, “Hear, hear, O heavens; and hear, give ear, O earth” [Isaiah 1:2]. The message is universal, and that’s God mandate for us. As long as there’s one somebody that doesn’t know, we still have a task to do. And there are more people who don’t know the name of Jesus today than in the days when He walked by the shores of Galilee.
I must close. My second observation; my second observation is this, it is hard for me to realize that so many of the doors that were opened when Dr. Truett preached the gospel are closed today. I have been all around China, all around it, east, west, and south. I haven’t been in the Arctic Ocean above it. I’ve been all around it. I’m going around it again this summer. But I can’t go in. Dr. Truett preached the gospel in China, and I would listen to those reports, oh, dear me! As he would describe those throngs in Peking, and Nanking, and Shanghai, and Canton, oh, dear, and I would listen to the foreign missionary, the secretary of our board, as he’d stand up and say, “The greatest era of missions in the earth immediately lies ahead of us!” And they would describe the open door we had in China. Ah! In China, it’s closed. In India it is practically closed. In so many areas of the world today, it is closed. Ah, Lord, that means that where the door is yet open such as in East Africa, such as in South America, such as in Indonesia, such as in the Philippines, such as in Japan, O Lord, how our people ought to rise up and respond!
The setting sun burns across the sky
Upon the air [the] warning cry
[of] curfew tolls from [hour] to [hour]
O children, ‘tis the last, last hour!
The work that centuries should have done
Must crowd the hour of the setting sun.
[adapted from “The Last Hour,” Clara Thwaites, 1885]
God bless, the Lord sanctify the testimony of our people wherever they go this summer. Either as a component integral part of our church or an individual you traveling abroad. God bless our testimony, and the Lord sanctify and hallow the great missionary support of our church as we pray for the evangelization of the world, and as we give ourselves to it.
Now we must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a couple you, a family you, a one somebody you, as God shall lay the appeal upon your heart, would you come and stand by me? “Today, pastor, I’m giving my heart in faith to the Lord.” Or, “Today, pastor, I’m putting my life in the fellowship of the church.” As God shall make the appeal, as the Lord shall say the word, come, do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, make it this morning, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. In this balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I come, pastor. I make it now.” Make the decision now. Give your life and heart to God now. Then when you stand, stand up coming. God bless you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.