The Mission of the Minister: Q & A, part 2 of 2
March 21st, 1971
1 Timothy 1
School of the Prophets
THE MISSION OF THE MINISTER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Question and Answer Session
Sunday Evening, part 2 of 2
[Audience: Dr. Criswell, this is not a question but a request. Could we, when we’re all through, as a crown for this, could we, as many as possible, close it around that prayer altar?]
Yes, and we’re going to do that.
[Audience: Thank you.]
We’re going to close our school on our knees, all of us on our knees.
[Max Briggs: Dr. Criswell, I’m Max Briggs, from Huntsville, Alabama. All of us are grateful the Lord called us. And some of us have been called some hard places, and you spoke about becoming discouraged. This week has meant more to me because I came here a very discouraged preacher. I’m where God wants me to be, I’m going back a different preacher. But I wanted to ask, what would you suggest when we get to that place when those blue birds with black breasts, and we get down in the very dumps, and we pray and the heavens are brass, and our aisles are not walked, and our baptisteries are dry, we study and we preach and we witness and we plead, but it continues to be hard? And you’re in Texas, and I’m in Huntsville, and these other men who, we are far apart, what do you do? What would you suggest?]
Sweet friend, this is what I would do, and God will bless it, and He will bless you if you’ll do it. When you have a hard, dry place, and the ground is like iron, and the sky, as you say, turns to brass, what you ought to do is you ought to get two or three godly men in the church and you say with them, close the door, we just need an outpouring of God’s Spirit; will you pray with me for it? And get those men down no their knees with you, two or three, and pray. Then with those men, you know, talking to them, ask those men, "Do you think we ought to maybe get other men?"
I’m talking about in a house, maybe start with your house. You bring them to your house, or you go to that man’s house, and just the three of you, you tell them your soul, bear your heart to them, and get down on your knees and talk to God about it. Then let those three men guide you in what you do beyond. And if you keep that up, I don’t know what would happen, I just don’t. If I had the time, I would do that even now in this church. I’d go to some of these homes of our godly people, and have prayer meetings with them, and just keep at it until, I don’t know what God would do. And I believe if you will do that in your church, the Lord will do something with those men, down on their knees. Try it, just see what God does, and write me a letter. Oh, I’d love to have the letter you write me when you do that.
[Audience: I believe that man’s ahead of me, Dr. Criswell.]
[Audience: Dr. Criswell and my question has to do with the matter of pastoral counseling. Earlier in the week you said something about the matter of the danger of allowing women to talk to you about the intimate matters of their life. Now, there’s a problem that arises when sometimes people feel the need for revealing things that have happened in their lives, and in reality, problem I’ve run into in many cases is that I do find out what has happened in more general terms when they go to get a divorce. And I’ve tried to make myself available as much as possible for counseling. I want to avoid what you talked about because I think this is correct, that your philosophy is right in this matter. But could you give us a little bit of help in just how to go at this, so as to help the person without in the meantime destroying a relationship with them?]
Well, I can lay before you some of the things that I’m struggling with right now, struggling with, I mean struggling with them. First of all, let’s take this couple that I have in my mind now. If I were even to ask a question, I could learn all the intimate details of this situation. I will not ask that question. I just know the situation, you know, without any detail, I just, and you do too, you will know it. So it is never said, nor do I ever inquire, nor do I ever probe. It’s always in your heart.
And as long as they live they’re going to feel perfectly free with me. They have not divulged any intimacy with me at all, none at all. Now, here we are with a couple, and you just take it from there, all the problems they have. They don’t love one another. They don’t love one another, and they just don’t care for one another. In fact they get to where they just tell me they despise one another. Well, I am very, very frank with them. If you despise one another, and you are not going to get right with one another, you don’t have to live with anybody, you don’t have to, there’s nothing in God’s Word that says you have to live with anybody.
What God says is, if you marry again, now that is what God says in His Book. Now you can just depart, and you can separate, and you can do anything you want to. But whether you marry again, now that’s a different problem. And if you want to face that, why, just God bless you and help you. Well, I struggle every way that I know how to keep a couple together, every way I humanly can. But there are lots of instances where it is just not going to work. And it is better for them to separate.
[Audience: Let me ask you then, how would you handle a situation, when an individual calls you up for an appointment, or made an appointment through your secretary, and came in broken and immediately revealed to you unfaithfulness had occurred, either on the part of the other person or on their part, how would you handle that situation?]
I do my best to get them to forgive it, and go right on with your home and with your marriage. Every way I know how I pray and plead for them to forgive it.
[Audience: Well now, in this case there, this problem would not likely arise of the, that you were talking about, so long as you didn’t probe into this.]
That’s right. No. I would not probe into it at all,What?
[Audience: I was wondering if we could have our prayer, and those of us who had to go could leave?]
Yes, yes. Lee Roy, you want,
[Lee Roy: I had several of you ask me, and I said I’d make this available if you want, about securing records of the choir. And we have some of Dr. Criswell and the others, if you want, some of you still didn’t get them, and you want them, we’ll stay and you can come through the music area afterwards, we’ll be up there if you want to get them.]
[Audience: Inaudible question]
[Lee Roy: Cheap. Oh, we have made a special, really, we were selling six records, five records for six dollars up there.]
[Audience: Inaudible question]
[Lee Roy: He’s the only one, you’ll have to talk to him about that, we’re selling his at the regular price.]
[Audience: Dr. Criswell,]
What record do I have? Christ in the City? I don’t even know what it is, it’s not worth anything, don’t get it. No.
[Audience: Dr. Criswell, a point of personal privilege, I think the brethren would be interested in a question I’m going to ask, because I’ve a little experience in this area, and I’m sure they have to. You told us the other day that it’s not good to probe or allow a lady to reveal any intimacies to us, mistakes. But how about a man? Now a man that comes up and confess all of his shenanigans and all of us said he’s a leader, and later he looks at you preaching in the pulpit, and you may hit this particular area, and he thinks you’re preaching at him. How do you feel towards a man that will reveal?]
I feel the same way. I would not let a man tell me either. I would not let him. You don’t, it’s no purpose and no good. I would not let him. A man will not be as inclined to do that as a woman will. But I sure wouldn’t let him do it, it’s just better.
[Audience: Inaudible question]
Oh, he’s asking, how many of our staff started out here as volunteers? I don’t know of any of them. June? June did. All right, we got one. Huh? Jane May did. All right, Jane May is in the music department, she did. Volunteers in the church? Yes, Jack Byrd did, he started out as a volunteer helper; and Jack has just come on the staff of the church. And he did this for years. There are about three of them, let’s say, out of twenty-five like that.
[Audience: Dr. Criswell, some of them are leaving, and we’re from all over, as you know, the states; and this has meant a lot to us this week. Now how are you in position to comment, what can we do in the states that we’re from to help you implement this school next year? Maybe you would like to think about it? Make a comment before they leave, and I want to talk to you about your staff later, see how you get rid of them.]
Now here’s what I was going to ask you to do. I want you, when you go back, I want you to do your best to tell others of the blessing of God upon this new departure. Then I want you to write me a letter about the financial end of this thing. We have money in this church. Now I don’t mean everybody’s rich, but any church that can give $3,400,000 in a year to its work is an affluent congregation. And we can help in this work. And we ought to. And I want you to write me a note about the financial end of this thing and what you think we ought to do to help preachers and their staffs come here, who might not be able to.
[Audience: Now I’ve talked to Dr. Bryant about this, and we, as you know, our attitude toward you in Missouri, and I’m the chairman of the program committee again this year, as we were last year and had you with us, and it’s going to be in Springfield, would it be possible for some of your staff to come, if space was made ready, and set up a booth, some way we could implement this thing, or would we be pushing it too far?]
No, now you heard his suggestion. When you go back, as he says in Missouri, if you think such a thing is possible, you write us a note, and let’s see if we can send a staff member to say, the convention in Missouri and let them present this with a little booth there, and hand out literature, and invite the men, and answer questions about it. And by that time, if you will write me a note about the financial end of this thing, let’s see if we can’t help the men to come, to help pay part of their expenses.
[Audience: Dr. Criswell, inaudible]
Is that right? Oh, well, that’s good. So they come back.
[Audience: Dr. Criswell, bless your heart, you’ve been so generous with your time,]
This is Spearman from Shreveport.
[Spearman: Being from Shreveport, and knowing Lee Roy Till before he went into the Lord’s work, I want to repeat something he said in his conference this afternoon. Now he works morning, afternoon, and night at this church. Now, that leads me to this question. I know that many church staff workers are so devoted to their work they neglect their physical bodies and physical condition. We have a lot of preachers, I think, dying prematurely. Could you give us some advice from your experience concerning taking care of this physical body?]
Well, don’t do what I do, that’s one thing. Yeah. There are two things that I can say about my own personal life. One is, I have no interest in anything, and that’s bad. I don’t like to hunt. I don’t like to fish. I don’t like to play a game. I don’t like anything. So, in order to live and stay well, the Y is right over there. Every day I bathe at the Y, I don’t take a bath anywhere else. In that way, I have to go to the Y. I bathe at the Y, if I didn’t I’d stink. Bryant says it saves soap. I go to the Y and take a bath. If I have five minutes I’ll exercise five minutes, take a bath. If I have ten minutes, I’ll exercise ten minutes, take a bath. If I have thirty minutes I’ll exercise thirty minutes and take a bath. And what I do by exercise is, I bend, you know, those calisthenics, that’s all I do. But that’s enough for me. What?
[Audience: Inaudible question]
Yeah, well, when I go to a hospital and visit, I go up and down the steps; I don’t ride an elevator unless it’s an exigency. I always walk up and down the steps. Everywhere I can I move, I walk, I move; because I lead a sedentary life. But my advice to you is what the Lord said to the disciples: "Come aside into a desert place, and rest a while" [Mark 6:31]; you ought not to work all the time. You ought not to do it. Nor should Lee Roy, nor should Dr. Bryant, or Mel, or any of these blessed staff members. You ought to take time off, you ought to do it.
All right, son.
Oh, no, and you don’t anymore.
[Answer from stage: We’re going to do that as a part of this School of the Prophets. Everybody who is enrolled, we’re going to give them a subscription.]
All right, everybody who is enrolled in the School of the Prophets will get this Reminder from our church. I’m glad you thought about that.
[Answer from the stage: Free the first year.]
Free, and free from then on. He said free the first year. It’s free forever. You get it forever.
[Audience: Dr. Criswell,]
Ned King’s going to pay for it, so don’t worry about it at all. Don’t even review it.
[Audience: I noticed that in most all of your departments, you prepare most of your material. At any time in the future will it be possible to share this curriculum with those of us that like the great emphasis on Scripture?]
My sweet friend that precipitated a decision that I made this last week that was the hardest decision I ever made in my life. I have, the Lord only knows how many requests to create a literature that teaches the Bible and let them have it. If I do that, it’d be just like taking a big dam and cracking it right down the middle. It would be that. So, I made the decision this last week, it is better for us not to do it. Now if we have anything that you would like, why, just tell us, we’ll send it to you and you duplicate it. But the duplication, the printing of it does not come from us. It’s just something that you wanted from us that we’re doing, and you’d like to have it. Now anything we have, or anything we do, you ask us for it and we’ll send it to you. And you take it and use it. But we ought not to go into a publishing business or a literature distribution business. We just ought not to do it. Bless you, son.
[Audience: Dr. Criswell, could you share with us, please, some of your personal study and prayer habits?]
Study and what?
[Audience: Prayer habits.]
[Audience: Prayer habits.]
[Audience: Yes, sir.]
What I do is, as I told you before, every morning I go to that study; I could not do this work without it. You know I have looked at me in that: if I am kept out of that study, inside I kind of go to pieces. I just do. If I don’t get quiet and to myself, I cannot describe to you the psychological reverberation and repercussion in my life; I just can’t do it. I can’t preach. Oh, the people might say, "He can holler as loud as he ever did, and he’s just carrying on"; but I can’t do it. I have to be quiet. I have to get to myself. I have to stay there, and study, and meditate, and read the Bible, and prepare. I do that by the hours, by the hours. I cannot go on without it. So, I just say that to myself and to the people: when the morning comes, I’m in that study, I’m by myself. Telephone doesn’t ring in there, it rings in the other part of the house, and there’s a buzzer on the phone in my study. You know, that’s one thing that I wish I knew how to do. I wish you men could look at the study that I have. It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s apart and quiet, and I spend the morning of my life in that study, every morning of the world.
[Audience: Dr. Criswell, there have been several references to your staff, paid staff, you know, this word "paid." I just wanted to say that, this is not a question, but I just wanted to say that I have just been astounded at the sweet love and disposition of the people in your church. In the whole, I believe they’d all work for nothing, I don’t know. But I have just been amazed at the love that they display.]
[Comment from staff]
[Audience: And I appreciate it, it’s been a great blessing.]
My sweet friend, our staff has had a hard time. Ooh, the cleavages in them, and the clicks in them, and the differences in them, and the dislikes among them; but here’s what I’m beginning to learn. I am just learning that if you give them time, if they are right with God, give them time, and they’ll get right with one another. Now you couldn’t get twenty-five or thirty people, whatever number that is, and they all be vigorously dedicated and then not bump into one another. They just will. Their personalities clash, and their interests clash, and a lot of things clash.
Now when I first started looking at that you cannot know how it killed my soul. Some of the bitternesses in that clashing staff just slay me. Ooh, I can’t describe how it cut my heart to the quick! But here’s what I’m beginning to learn. Give them time, give them time, and if they’re right with God they’ll get right with one another. Now that means they sure have to humble themselves lots of times. They have to give up lots of things. And, as I said to our men on the staff, what you have to do is to just sink yourself and be a member of a team. Nobody’s trying to shine or anything, we’re just doing something good for God, and we’re working together. Well the staff more and more and more in this church is pulling together, and I feel it. And, of course, when the staff is right together the whole church is right together. Did you know ninety-nine percent of the trouble in your church will rise from the leaders in it? Preacher, or singer, or something like that.
Oh. We have a little boy. We’ve been rearing the little boy ever since he was a few months old. And my wife, we’ve reared him, my wife, he’s our grandson, our little grandson. We gave him our name. We legally changed his name to Criswell. His name is Donald Criswell; everybody calls him Chris Criswell. So my wife hovers over that little boy, just like an old hen with one chick. So what happens is, when the benediction is said here at the church, she immediately takes him home, puts him to bed, to get him up early in the morning to go to school. What?
My writing? In the morning, you know, at that time of study and meditation and preparation. That’s when I write these books.
Well, many of these books, for example, the book on why I preach that the Bible is literally true, I wrote that out, I wrote it out. Several books I have written out. What I’m trying to do now is, see I’ve been publishing two books a year for several years now, and it is just about to kill me, so what we’re doing, unless it’s a subject book like Look Up, Brother, I wrote that out; if it’s not a subject book, you know I mean a book where you’re just writing on something like they said, "Tell us how you came out with this presidency of the convention." So I wrote that book Look Up, Brother. If it is not a book like that, but a book of sermons, what we do now is we take it off of the tape, and Dr. Bryant, in his office, his secretary will write it off the tape.
Dr. Bryant will wrestle with it the best that he can, because when I’m preaching there’s just no telling what in the world the construction of those sentences are. So he does the best he can with it, gives it to me, and then I finish it. And then it’s ready to be typed for publication. I would not do that if I were not publishing two books a year. But when you’re carrying on all this work and publishing two a year, you nearly have a brainstorm; so I do anything I can to find some way to help me.
[From the stage: Let me make an announcement. This gentleman right here is going to Phoenix, and somebody’s supposed to ride with him, and he doesn’t know who it is and whether you’re going or not? Are you? That’s what he wants to know. If you are they need to come see you right now, is that right? He is getting ready to leave now. And pastor, do you want them to come across this prayer rail here?]
Now here is what I want us to do: I want us all to kneel in prayer. All of you who can, come and kneel at the prayer rail, all of you who can. And then the rest of us who cannot kneel at the prayer rail, just find you a place to kneel; kneel at a bench, or kneel in the aisle, or just anywhere that you can find a place to kneel. Just get down on your knees. Now this is what I would like for us to do. I’d like for all of you to pray something with your lips, not just in your heart. Now this means, maybe all of us be praying at the same time, that’s all right. God can hear us. But just say something out loud; you don’t have to, I mean holler, you can pray it very softly if you want to, or pray in any tone of voice you’d like. But I want all of us to pray something out loud. Pray it, form it with words with your lips, all of us, to pray out loud. And then, after just a few minutes of our praying out loud, then I want to lead a closing prayer service.
Now, sing quietly with me, softly with me, all of us singing together:
My faith looks up to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary, Spirit Divine
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
Oh, let me from this day be wholly Thine.
["My Faith Looks Up to Thee"; Ray Palmer]
Our Lord, at the end of the week, we come asking God’s benedictory remembrance upon us as we turn our faces homeward. Bless the dear people who look to us like a sheep looks to the shepherd. And may we feed the flock. And may God give us the love and the support that we so desperately need if we are to be successful and effective ministers of Christ. And give us wisdom to know how to involve the people, how to work with our deacons, how to live walking in and out before the people, the problems they have, O Lord, we need the wisdom of heaven itself to know how to guide, and direct, and encourage, and bless, and win, and save, and teach, and direct these sweet families God has given into our care. And our Master, bless our brethren as they look forward to another week next year, and give us wisdom to know how to plan it. And our Lord, may the encouragement that will come to us as we share those days together be sweet and precious. Remember this staff as they also work hard to get ready for that week. And now, Master, may no mishap overtake us; some of us driving, some going in planes, some in buses, O Lord, however we go, may Thy Holy Spirit watch over us, the guardian angel attend our way, and bring us safely home. And our Lord, as we pray for one another, and as we look to heaven for blessings, riches that only God can bestow, Lord, answer prayer, hear us as we ask of Thee, and may it be our delight, O Lord, our heavenly joy, to see the Lord win souls through us, and see our people grow in grace, and all of us together, pastoring people, loving Thee more every day of our lives. And one last thing, Lord, some of the pastors here have told me they work so hard, and they’re so discouraged, Lord, be Thou to that pastor what the angel was to Elijah, feed him and encourage him, and in that strength may he run a glorious race for Thee. Thank Thee, Master, for hearing us. Don’t weary our much coming before Thee. The importunity of our constant knocking at the door, Lord, look down and bow Thine ear to hear, and answer from heaven. We shall love Thee, praise Thee, thank Thee forever, now, in the world to come. In Thy dear name, amen.
God love you.