Dr. Truett and World Missions
July 5th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
DR. TRUETT AND WORLD MISSIONS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
7-5-70 10:50 a.m.
This is a great day! Yesterday was a great day. I do believe that America is shaking herself and coming to life. We are being made cognizant of some of the things that we hold dear, for which our forefathers gave their lives, and the sense of appreciation and gratitude to God for our country and for its freedom is becoming increasingly meaningful to us, especially as these left-wingers try to destroy us and lead us into apathy and indifference concerning our destiny. God bless America.
Now, this will be the twenty-sixth year that I have done something in our dear church. On the date of the calendar closest to the anniversary of the death of the great pastor, Dr. George W. Truett, I prepare a sermon on some facet of kingdom interest to which he gave his life. I like to do that for several reasons. One: it is a great high holy privilege for me to contribute to the keeping alive of the memory of that incomparable preacher, the greatest Baptist leader and preacher and pastor that our denomination has ever produced. And to contribute to the glory of the memory of Dr. Truett is a privilege for me.
And second: it gives me an opportunity to speak upon some facet of our great denominational work in which Dr. Truett was so greatly committed. As I say, this is twenty-six consecutive years that I have done this. There are so many things of our association in Christ, our thirty-four thousand churches in the denomination, our something like thirty-five hundred churches in Texas, there are so many common interests that once in awhile I ought to turn aside and speak of them. For example, in these days past I have spoken on Dr. George W. Truett and the Annuity Board. The Annuity Board was organized in this church. I have spoken upon Dr. Truett and Baylor University Hospital. That hospital found its birth here in this church with Dr. Truett the great pastor and with Colonel C. C. Slaughter the rich businessman, God’s layman. I have spoken on Dr. Truett and Texas Baptists, Dr. Truett and evangelism, Dr. Truett and this dear church, that it was the first love of his heart. Many, many subjects during these twenty-five past years have I prepared and discussed at this sacred hour. Today, I have chosen the subject Dr. Truett and World Missions, and I have done that for some reasons.
One is our people this summer have given themselves to a worldwide witnessing beyond anything I have ever heard of in the history of the church. Last Wednesday night I was not here. I was bringing the closing address to a national Baptist convention, the old Swedish Baptist Convention. It’s now called the Baptist General Conference of America. They were meeting in San Diego, California, and last Wednesday night I was speaking there in a civic auditorium. They are a fundamental people; oh, they love God and they love the Word. That’s one denomination [that] there is not a liberal in it. Can you imagine that? There’s not a termite in it. Think of that. Not one. I talked to I don’t know how many preachers. I talked to the leadership of the denomination, not in their college, not in their seminary, not among their pastorates, not in their membership, there is not one—ah! I said to them when I stood up, “Move over, I think I want to join you.” I tell you. Oh, it’s a great thing. You know what I could hope for? I wish all of the churches and all of the pastors that love God, and love the Bible, and believe in Christ, I wish all of us could get together, then just let all of the, oh, I want to call them what I think about them so bad, let all of them get together. That’s what I’d like. Ooh, I’d like that!
Well, anyway that’s why I wasn’t here Wednesday night as I was saying, I was out there preaching at that convention, and while they were having prayer meeting here, Brother Mel Carter, I’m told, took a pencil and added up the people who are out here in these mission fields this summer, and did you know in our one congregation alone, there are almost a thousand people that are out witnessing in the separate nations and countries of this earth this summer. Isn’t that amazing, out of our church alone, a thousand of us? We’re in Old Mexico. We’re in Japan. We’re in the Orient. We’re around the world. Ah, that’s a great spirit among our people.
I have said, and I don’t change my persuasion concerning it, we’ll never win this world to Jesus—not that we ever will anyway—but we’ll never move this world God-ward by paid missionaries. It has to be in the same kind of a way as it was done here in the Bible. The people were witnesses, then they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word [Acts 8:4], and all of our people are to be witnesses for Christ where ever we go. And if you make a journey this summer to anywhere, take the Lord with you in your heart. Speak a good word for Jesus. It’ll bless you. It’ll bless somebody who is a-listening to you.
Well, that’s why I have chosen the subject on this anniversary of Dr. Truett’s death—he died the seventh of July in 1944—why, I have chosen the subject this year Dr. Truett and World Missions. Our hearts are focused on it, our lives are dedicated to it, and I wanted to speak of it this twenty-sixth year.
Now I have a good biblical background and textual foundation for what I’m about to do. The first missionary journey closed with these words:
And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia—
those were Roman provinces—
And when they had preached the word in Perga, a city in the south, they went down into Attalia—
on the sea coast 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.
Now, 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.
That’s what they did back there in the Bible, and that’s what we’re going to do today, rehearsing some of the blessings of God upon the great missionary enterprises of our people, and especially under the guiding dedicated hand of the great pastor, Dr. Truett. Aside from missions that Dr. Truett made, many of them, special ones such as in the days of the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson asked Dr. Truett to go to France and to speak to our American boys in uniform in the trenches, and such as the special journeys that he made to Baptist World Congresses and Convocations, such as he was the speaker for the Centennial of the Birth of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a great convocation held in Albert Hall in London in 1934. Such as those special occasions, there were two tremendous missionary journeys that Dr. Truett made in the years of his ministry here.
First one was in 1930 when he was invited to address the first Latin American Baptist Congress held in Rio De Janeiro and in that journey spoke to the cities of South America. He was gone that summer of 1930 for two and a half months. His second great missionary journey was in 1935, the fall, and 1936, the winter, when he was gone six months and that was occasioned by his being elected president of the Baptist World Congress, the Baptist World Alliance, and thereafter he was asked to make a tour of the mission fields of the world. And it is of those two journeys that I shall speak so briefly today.
The journey in 1930 was wondrously, marvelously blessed of God. He spoke to the cities in Brazil, then to Montevideo in Uruguay, then in Buenos Aires in Argentina, then in the cities of Chile. Not going by air, they had no jets in those days, he went by ship, and it took two and a half months for the journey. But I have heard both from Mrs. Truett and from Dr. Truett himself and from witnesses who were there, oh, some of the most indescribably deepening, heightening religious experiences to be recorded in the mission enterprise. Dr. Truett was an unusual man in practically every facet of his life, and this is a typical one.
I was told by several that when Dr. Truett made this missionary journey through South America, he refused to go sightseeing, but he gave himself to prayer and to preparation and to preaching. That’s almost unthinkable to me; down there in Rio, the most beautifully situated city to me by far in the world, in Buenos Aires one of the teeming metropolises of the earth, it looks like a European city, a vast one, and those towering Andes against which Santiago, Chile is pressed, yet with all of the interesting beckons and invitations of South America, he refused to go sightseeing ever, but gave himself to the ministry and the mission for which God had called him. And the fruit of that dedication was seen in the response of the people. I have had it told to me that reporters who went to count the results and the people who were there to publish the statistics forgot what they were there for, as they were caught up in the tremendous response wave upon wave of the people, seemingly all of them dedicating themselves to the Lord or accepting Christ as their Savior.
In 1930, I was still in Baylor University, but that year, the fall of that year, our Baptist General Convention met in Amarillo where my father and mother lived and where I went to school. So I went out to Amarillo and stayed at home with Father and Mother and attended our Baptist General Convention that year. I went to Woman’s Missionary Union Convocation, and I heard Mrs. Truett as she described that journey through South America. Then, of courses, I attended the session of the Baptist General Convention and heard Dr. Truett speak. Oh, I can so well remember, as though I were there this morning, sitting there in the civic auditorium in Amarillo, listening to Dr. Truett and the tears just fall off of my face as I heard him describe God’s hand in moving those great Latin American cities God-ward and Christ-ward.
The second great missionary journey, as I said, made by the far famed pastor was upon the occasion of his election as president of the Baptist World Alliance. He and Mrs. Truett started here in Dallas and went to London where they were joined by Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Rushbrooke. At that time, Dr. Rushbrooke was the executive secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, a paid official. In the years that followed, he was elected president of the Baptist World Alliance, and as president of the Alliance, came here to see me here in Dallas. He made a special journey by plane just to visit us here in this church. And I asked him, “Dr. Rushbrooke, why are you here?” Just specially, this one journey; came here and then went back.
He said, “I have come here just to see how you are faring.” Ah, I never was more humbled in my life! That morning, at that morning hour we had the Lord’s Supper. We’re going to have the Lord’s Supper, as you know, tonight. And again and again, Dr. Rushbrooke said to me, “I have never seen the Lord’s Supper shared like that. I have never seen it done like that.” It made a great impression upon that marvelous friend.
Well, in London, Dr. and Mrs. Truett were joined by Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Rushbrooke, and then they started around the world on that mission, went to Egypt, went to Palestine. As you know, the ground for our Baptist church in Nazareth was given by Dr. Truett and his friends, and the orphanage in Nazareth was named and still is called the George W. Truett Orphanage. It has since been removed to our Baptist center north of Tel Aviv, Petah Tikva, the door of hope. But the impression that Dr. Truett made upon Palestine was imperishable, and that orphanage carries his name to this present day—then on around the world through India, and Burma, and China, and Japan and so back home here to Dallas.
Now, in 1936, Dr. Truett, as I said, began the journey in the fall of 1935 and then came back after the winter of 1936. He was gone six months. I was in my doctoral work at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky in 1936, and Dr. Truett came and spoke there at the seminary concerning that missionary world tour. Now I want you to see the kind of a man that he was, and you’ll get an idea of it in this incident more than in hours of my preaching.
Dr. Truett said that he was invited in India to speak at a public convocation to which a large number of brilliant Hindu students were attracted. So they said to the great preacher: “Now when you are done, it is our habit that the students have an opportunity to ask you questions. Now we want you to know before hand the kind of a question they will ask you, because they are brilliant, and they are aware, and they know America. And when you get through preaching about Christ, they’re going to ask you about Christian America. They’re going to ask you about the gangsters and the gangster killings in Chicago. And they’re going to ask you about the slush and the scandal in Hollywood. And they’re going to ask you about the drunkenness in Christian America.”
And I ought to parenthesize here; as you know the Hindu religion prohibits drinking liquor, and as you know the Mohammedan religion prohibits drinking liquor. But apparently the sign of the Christian religion is drunkenness! To me that is the greatest curse on the escutcheon of the Christian faith. For example, when our oil men go into Saudi Arabia—by law you cannot import liquor into Saudi Arabia because it is Muslim—but when these Christian oil men go to Saudi, they have special privilege and license to import liquor by the case because they are Christians. And in India when I was there, they told me of a bishop who drank and drank in order to show his contempt for the pagan heathen religions of India and in order to show, to demonstrate his liberties as a Christian. So he drank, and drank, and drank, and got drunk. This, to him, is the sign of Christian liberty, for the bishop to drink until he falls on his face. You know, there is something about that interpretation of the Christian faith on the part of these Christian denominations that I think is a scandal and an offense in the presence of God and of heaven! Well anyway, Dr. Truett was told, “When you get through, these brilliant Hindu students will ask you about drinking in Christian America.”
So Dr. Truett stood up to speak, and here’s the way he began his message as he told all of us at the seminary in Louisville. He said he began his message:
I come from America, and I am a Christian pastor and preacher, but my country is not Christian. America is not a Christian nation. America is a nation,
where there are many Christians. And America is a nation where there are many Christian institutions and many Christian churches, but America is not a Christian nation. We are trying to win America to Christ.
And he said,
To our shame, America is filled with sin, and crime, and violence, and debauchery.
If Dr. Truett said that in 1936, imagine what he’d say today! “I am not,” he says, “a citizen of a Christian nation. I am just a Christian from that nation.”
Then having said that, Dr. Truett launched into a marvelous message exalting Jesus the Christ. Then the great pastor said when he had done his message, he sat down and waited for the students to stand up to ply him with questions. He said there was a long, long, seemingly interminable pause, and eventually a Hindu student stood up and humbly and simply said, “Dr. Truett, we find no fault with the Christ whom you preach,” and sat down.
And Dr. Truett said that was the only response made, the only words said. I could understand that. When that glorious man of God finished exalting Christ, I could just sense everybody present feeling as though he were in the presence of an open door into glory. Oh! There’s so much fault with us and so much fault with our human organizations, and there’s so much criticism justly launched against the church, but what could you say against Jesus? As Pontius Pilate avowed when he washed his hands saying, “I find no fault in this Man” [Luke 23:4]. Nothing against Him; ah! to preach Christ, what an incomparably precious privilege. And Dr. Truett did it so gloriously and so marvelously in those heathen lands and among those pagan people.
In the year of 1935, they celebrated the centennial of the going out of our first woman missionary from the Southern Baptist Convention—not organized at that time, from our Southern Baptist people. In 1835, Henrietta Hall Shuck, married to Jay Lewis Shuck, was sent out from Virginia to China, so they observed the centennial of her going in Virginia, and Dr. Truett was present in Virginia and shared that centennial service. Then when he was in China, they were celebrating the one hundredth year of her coming to China, the first woman missionary in China, and he shared in that glorious centennial. Oh, in how many ways and in how many places do our Southern Baptist people find God’s good pleasure upon them! And Dr. Truett shared in it in that mission journey around the earth.
Now, I have two observations to make. One: it is the missionary commitment that binds our Southern Baptist churches together. Without it, we would be as though in a bundle held by a rope of sand. But cables of steel bind our churches together because of our common missionary love and dedication. There’s hardly anything that we agree on in the boundaries of our Southern Convention, divide over everything, but so far as I know, if there is any division or any reluctance to believe in and to support our missionary mandate from heaven, I have never met it, and I do not know it. We are one in that dedication.
I heard one time Dr. Truett say that no man was ever invited to join the First Baptist Church in Dallas who was not missionary in his heart. I can sympathize with that deep feeling. This is God’s will for us, the evangelization of the lost around the earth. It is hard for me to believe that there were times in these years past, these generations gone, when our people were not missionary. I cannot conceive of it.
Back yonder in that date of about 1790, in the little Baptist Association in Nottingham, England, there stood up a young preacher. He made his living cobbling shoes, but he’d given his life to be a preacher. And as he sat at his shoe last, he had a map of the world on one side of him and an open Bible on the other, and he read God’s Great Commission here in the Bible [Matthew 28:19-20], and he looked at his map of the world and its teeming millions who are lost. Well, at that little associational meeting, this shoe cobbler stood up and said, “Mr. Moderator, Mr. Moderator, I want to ask a question. Is it not mandatory upon us, as it was the original apostles, that we evangelize the earth, that we go and preach the gospel to every creature?”
To you, a question like that is rhetorical, it answers itself. But when he asked it, the moderator, Pastor Ryland, the moderator pointed his finger at him and said, “Sit down, young man. Sit down. When God chooses to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine.” But out of that question, there were gathered in Kettering, England—some of us have been there; if ever there is a holy spot in this earth, that’s it–a little band of preachers, a dozen of them, maybe not so many, a little band of preachers gathered together and organized the first modern missionary society for the propagation of the gospel to the heathen. And they took up a collection. They had something toward sixty dollars, not quite sixty dollars. And Andrew Fuller said, “I’ll stay at home and hold the ropes.” And William Carey said, “And I’ll go down into the well.” And that is the beginning of the great modern missionary movement. How that fell, how that mandate, how that commission and commandment fell out of the life of the church, I cannot understand.
The great Dr. George Larimer, wasn’t he pastor at Tremont Temple? The great Dr. Larimer in his argument for Christianity has one of the most eloquent passages I’ve read. He is remarking in his address upon a time when “a little Baptist association deliberately resolved,” now I quote him, “They 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 rationists 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.” Isn’t that amazing, the dedication of that little band for the evangelization of the world, with not as much as sixty dollars and with one man offering to go? But that began the great worldwide foreign mission movement that blessed the earth in its period of greatest enlightenment and advancement in the 1800s. Been waning in that missionary dedication ever since.
All right, another thing that comes to my mind as I think of these churches that is hard for me to believe. Not only the churches in continental Europe but the churches in America, nobody thought of the evangelization of the world, and there wasn’t a missionary from America in the earth. And upon a day, and we haven’t time to repeat that marvelous epic, upon a day Adoniram Judson and Anne Hasseltine, his wife, sailed from Boston to go to India. And on the way they read their Greek New Testament. They were sent out by a pedobaptist board, but when they landed in Calcutta, they said, “We are not these. We are Baptists.” And Adoniram Judson and Anne Hasseltine, his wife, were baptized by the William Carey mission there in a baptistery in Calcutta.
And a few months later, Luther Rice said, “I’ve studied my Bible, and I’m a Baptist.” And Luther Rice was baptized in the same baptistery. I have stood at that baptistery and read the inscription on the marble plaque on the other side, and I felt, as I looked at it, that I was standing in the presence of the birthplace of our Baptist mission work and organized life in America. There was no denomination then, when Luther Rice was baptized. There were no mission boards. There were no Baptist institutions. There was no anything, and it was agreed that Luther Rice would return to America and organize support for our two missionaries, Adoniram Judson and Anne Hasseltine in India. So he came back, and up and down the Atlantic seaboard, and across the Alleghenies into Tennessee and Kentucky, Luther Rice brought the message of missions to the hearts of the people, and our people heard.
They listened, and listening, they dedicated their lives to a worldwide missionary movement. And in that movement, our church has had and will continue to have a worthy part. There’s nobody in this church but that believes in missions, in evangelization of the world. And we’re at it. We’re at it here. We’re at it there. We’re at it yonder. We’re going everywhere. God bless our testimony as we support it by our mission gifts, and as we support it by word of mouth and mediation of the truth of God.
Now one other observation: the first observation was it is hard for me to believe that there was a time when our people were not missionary, and that missionary avowal and commitment today is what binds our sister churches together, all thirty-four thousand of our churches. Now my second observation; one of the tragedies that I have seen in my lifetime, the door has been closed on so great a part of this earth to which Dr. Truett brought the message of Christ. I have been all around China, east, south, and west; been all around it except on the Arctic, not above it, not north of it, but I have been all around it on all sides of it. I have never been able to enter in. No Christian witness can enter in, and I have been told that the church of Christ in China has been destroyed. Outside of clandestine furtive groups that are unknown, they have slain all the Christians in China. In Dr. Truett’s day, China was an open door. I can remember some of the most eloquent moving passages of his messages as he would describe the response in China. And I can remember the secretary of our foreign mission board standing up to say that the greatest era of evangelization and missions in the history of Christendom just lies before us in the great teeming nation of China. The door is closed. The door in India is being closed. The door in Burma is closed. Oh, in how many areas of the world is the door closed!
Dear Lord, bless our people as we turn our faces and lift up by name and nation in prayer our opportunity in East Africa and South Africa and West Africa, our opportunity in Central and South America, our opportunity in Indonesia where today one of the great revivals of all time is going on, our opportunity in Taiwan, our glorious open door in Japan and Korea. Oh, Lord, bless it. Bless it.
The setting sun burns across the sky
Upon the air a warning cry
The curfew tolls from tower to tower
Oh, little children, it’s the last, last hour.
The work that centuries might have done
Must crowd the hour of the setting sun.
[from “The Last Hour,” Clara Thwaites, 1901]
Whatever we do, we must do now. In our prayers, in our gifts, in our personal witnessing, may the dear Lord bless and sanctify our witness to His saving grace in the earth. Would you like to share a ministry like that? Then come and be with us. Walk by our side, pray with us. To give your heart to Jesus or to put your life in the fellowship of this dear church, come this morning. Do it now. In a moment we shall stand to sing our appeal, and while we sing that song of invitation, a family you, come. A couple you, come, a one somebody you, come. Make the decision now, do it in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. In the balcony round, there’s a stairwell at the front and at the back and on either side, and there’s time and to spare, come. On this lower floor, a family, a couple, or just you, make that decision now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, into that aisle and down here to the front, “Here I come, pastor. I make it now. I choose Jesus. I’ve decided for God, and here I come.” Do it. As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come now. On the first note of this first stanza, having made the decision, “Here I come, and here I am,” God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.