Believing and Building (Building a House for God)
April 29th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
BUILDING A HOUSE FOR GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-29-73 8:50 a.m.
On the radio you’re sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Building a House for God. There is a most legitimate question that has been asked by our people; not once nor twice, but dozens and dozens of times. It is also a matter of discussion among those who belong to this church. And the question is this: we entered a building program some time ago, three years ago, and the building did not materialize; but we’ve been giving to that fund for three years. What has become of that money? What has the church done with it? Because you’re coming back to us and you’re asking us for three million dollars, the cost of this new educational unit. Now what have you done with the money that we’ve been given – that we have given in days passed? So, I went to the business office, and they gave me an itemized report of what we have given and how it has been spent.
First, to our building and expansion fund: in these last three years, our people have contributed $1,017,414.95. Now this is the way it has been spent, that $1,017,000 that we have thus far given to our building fund. First, for the buying of these properties: the lot, for example, upon which this new building is erected, which cost over $300,000. For the buying of these properties: that lot, the Harlan property at the corner of Federal and St. Paul, and for the property over here, that houses now our mission building, the McCollister building. For those properties, in order to secure them, we have made payments of $344,194.07. It was vital for us; it was a matter of life and death for us to buy those lots, without which no building could ever be possible. So, out of that building fund we have spent, for payments on these lots, $344,000.
All right, item number two: we borrowed out of that building fund, for the buying of these cameras to place our service on color in television, we borrowed $173,367.36. Now somebody could say, "Was that a good investment for us, to take our service and place it on color in television?" I cannot exaggerate the gigantic, gargantuan expanded ministry of this church because of our television program. There is no Sunday but that I preach to at least three hundred thousand people who by cable, listen to it across Texas, in New Mexico, in Oklahoma, in Arkansas, and in Louisiana.
At a banquet of one of our great churches, the chairman of the deacons presided over the meeting and they seated me next to the wife of the chairman of the deacons. And while we sat there breaking bread together, the wife of the chairman of the deacons began talking to me and said, "Did you know that I was converted under your ministry?" I said, "Why, my dear, I never saw you before. I never heard of you before." I had no idea of it. She said, "No, you wouldn’t." She said:
My husband was a devout Christian, and a member of this church; but I belonged in another communion, where people were not brought up to accept the Lord as their Savior.
– She said –
One day, listening to you before my television set, I was convicted in my heart, I bowed down on my knees and gave my life and heart to Jesus. And I went down the aisle of the church and confessed my faith in the Lord, and was baptized. And now, I’m with my husband, working in the church that we so dearly love. And I wanted to thank you for bringing Christ into my heart and into my life.
That is one out of multitudes. We have given, for example, thousands and thousands of books in a little invitation that is on that televised program, "If you’d like to have a book," and then it’d be named, written by the pastor, "just write in;" and there’ll be more than one hundred letters a week. Was it right for our church to borrow out of that fund $173,000 for our television program? It is the greatest outreach ministry that the church will ever have.
Now, we cannot wait until the building is completed in order to take care of our people. So, there had to be something done in order to house someway, some place, the people who were coming to Sunday school. And there was a little over $130,000 of that building fund that we used for the remodeling of our present facilities and for the remodeling of the space we rented in the Cotton Exchange Building in order to take care of our Sunday school now.
Fourth, Coleman Hall: there was $341,517.50 that was used out of the building and expansion fund for the making of Coleman Hall. We faced a desperate situation there. Fifty years ago, lacking one year, in 1924, the kitchen was built and the facilities so made for our people who came to church. When I came to this church on a Wednesday night, that kitchen would serve about seventy-five people – maybe a hundred, maybe a hundred five or ten. Our church has so grown until on any Wednesday night there’ll be more than a thousand people down here. And the kitchen came to the place where it was obsolete, and something had to be done. We could face going out of business, just close it up; there’s no opportunity for the care of people who’d come down here to this dear church. Or we could try under God to ask the Lord to see us through. So, we took out of that fund $341,000 for the new kitchen and for the dining hall that has accompanied it, which is so useful under the hands of God and in our hands.
And then last, all of the memorials that have been given, such as the Ralph Baker Memorial Hall, such as a large giving programs in honor of Libby Reynolds by her friends, all of the memorials that have been given are down there in the bank; that money is in the bank. That is where the building fund and expansion fund has been used in these days passed. Every penny of it, every dime of it has been vitally invested and has born and is bearing fruit unto the Lord.
Now we come to this appeal, which is a right appeal. How are we going to do it? We have asked our Sunday school to be responsible for it. There’s no organization in the earth that is as effective as our Sunday school. We’re asking our Sunday school to lead in this building fund appeal. And we are asking our people to buy the structure. Buy every part of it, buy as much of it as you can, and dedicate it debt-free to Jesus. A cubic yard of concrete poured cost so much, one foot of steel beam cost so much, everything costs just so much – a door, an assembly room, a classroom, a hallway, a hinge, a window – and we’re asking our people to buy it, as much of it as we can, and to dedicate it debt-free to Jesus. And the pledge can be paid in four different tax years. This one and the three tax years that follow.
Now, one other answer: what do I get out of it?
Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Behold, we have forsaken all and followed Thee. What shall we have, therefore? – – What shall I get out of it? What shall we get out of it? –
And Jesus answered and said,Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or fathers, or mothers, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake,
– shall receive a hundred fold and shall inherit everlasting life –
Now, the remainder of this time I’m going to spend answering that question, "What shall we have therefore? What do I get out of it?" We are being asked to respond largely, liberally, generously, sacrificially. "What shall I get out of it if I thus respond?"
One, number one: you will be doing and we shall be doing the will of God. The last building program into which we entered was in 1952; that’s twenty-one years ago. Since that time our Sunday school has tripled. Were it not that God gave us opportunity to secure the Burke Building, I do not know what would have happened. But we’ve been planning for the years and the years, to build a worthy structure for the use of our people and for the blessing of God. As time passed, we entered into a building appeal, and were planning it at the corner of San Jacinto and Saint Paul. And among other things, we were planning to have, in that beautiful building, a dining hall in which our people – all of us – could meet on Wednesday night, in which we could have services such as the pre-Easter services, a hall that would seat 2,500 people; then above that, our educational needs.
Why wasn’t that building built? Because of this: as we worked with it, building costs went up and up and up, astronomically. And we found that before we could get up to where the stories would be constructed for our educational use, just the lower part of that building would cost more than three million dollars. And the staff came to me, and superintendents came to me and said, "Pastor, under God, you cannot lead our church into building a facility that will cost over three million dollars; and there’s nothing in it for us – it cannot be. God would not lead you to do a thing like that." So, we turned aside from that building and sought the mind of the Lord. We asked God’s best wisdom and the Lord’s best judgment. And having prayed and waited on God for months and now for several years, our best judgment and the answer to prayer, the best we can find, the mind of the Lord is to build the educational building alone. And what we’re able to do, we are investing in that educational program. What do I get out of it? In my prayerful searching of the mind of God, we are doing His will – this is what God has led us to do.
"What do I get out of it?" Second: the carrying out of the great commission and heavenly mandate of our Lord. At our last staff meeting here at the church, I talked to our educational directors and our leaders in the church about the kind of a church that I wanted our First Baptist Church to be. And I said, "I would like for our church to be a teaching church, founded upon the Word of God and teaching the people." And I gave illustrations of it.
I know a church, it has no roll, it does not keep up with its people. It baptizes people by the hundreds and hundreds, but reminds me of a cow dip. If anybody was fetched up out there in west Texas, they just run them through the baptistery – they dip them and drop them and that’s all. That is the church. I had a call from the pastor of a church that has a tremendous number of baptisms to report, and he said to me, "I want you to sit down at this telephone if you have the time, and I pray you’ll take it, and tell me what you do in your church. For we baptize many people, but we don’t keep them; they disappear. Now you tell me what you do." Well, when I got through talking to the staff, they greatly misunderstood me and some of them said, as they talked, "You know our pastor has changed, he used to be first winning people to Christ, but now it’s teaching."
All I am doing, and the staff misunderstood, all I am doing is this: having studied the Word of God, I am trying to lay upon our people the kind of soul winning, the kind of evangelism, the kind of outreach that is here in the inspired Holy Scriptures. Now, you look at it:
Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and matheteuo all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, didasko, them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And I’ll be with you until the end of the age.
Now you look at that, look at it carefully, prayerfully. "Go ye therefore, and," He could have used euaggelizo. When you take euaggelizo and put it in English, spell it out in English, in our language it comes out "evangelize". Euaggelizo, e-u, e-v, it comes out in the English language. "Go ye therefore," He could have said, euaggelizo, "evangelize all the nations." He did not say that. He used a word that is far more inclusive, "Go ye therefore, and matheteuo". A mathet?s is a learner, is a disciple. "Go ye therefore, and matheteuo all the people, make learners out of them, make disciples out of them, make followers out of them." There’s no idea in the mind of Christ to win people to the faith of the Lord and then forget them, drop them. "Go ye therefore and make pupils, learners, followers, out of all the people." Then to emphasize it again, Didasko, and that’s the Greek word for "teaching, didasko, "
"First, enroll them in your school," the Lord said that in language that we don’t quite see. "Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me" [Matthew 11:28-29]. That is an ancient rabbinical term. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me." We would say, "Enroll in my school, and sit at my feet." I’m saying to you that the type of evangelism and outreach in the Word of God is not just a revival meeting – walking down a sawdust trail – but the type of outreach and soulwinning that is in the mind of Christ is that our people be brought together and taught the Word of God, that they enroll in the school of Christ. And that’s the kind of a church I’d love to see our church be.
I don’t deny that to be born into the Kingdom is all important. Without the birth, without the life, we don’t exist. If there are no converts, there’s no being, I know that. But what I am saying is that in the mind of Christ there is something beyond the being. You remember Sunday a week ago, I referred to one of the most dramatic imageries to be found in the Bible? It’s in the sixteenth chapter of the prophet Ezekiel. The Lord speaking to His people said:
Oh Israel, Oh Israel, I was passing by, and I saw thee cast out in a field. Your navel was not cut. You were lying polluted in your own blood. And you had not been washed. And as I passed by and saw thee cast out in a field, a newborn baby, mine eye took pity upon thee,and I took thee, and I washed thee, and bathed thee, and anointed thee with oil.
That is exactly what God is saying here. To be born is all vital; I don’t deny that nor would God. But having been born, the child must be washed, and bathed, and fed, and nurtured, and anointed. And as the chapter continues in the sixteenth of Ezekiel, that’s what happened with Israel: the Lord nurtured them, and cared for them, and taught them, and gave Israel the oracles of heaven. That’s what we need to do.
Look. I was saved fifty-three years ago, fifty-three years ago. I went down the aisle and gave the pastor my hand, and accepted Christ as my Savior. What thereafter? What then? The years and the years and the years that followed after, and those years need to be filled with the training and the teaching and the searching of the mind of God. When I was in Baylor, our president was a layman, Dr. Samuel Palmer Brooks, one of the greatest men I ever knew. I went to chapel four years and listened to that layman. Oh the impression he made upon me! One time he said, and I quote, "I do not say that education is everything; but I do say this, that whether a child becomes a goose-stepping Nazi or a militant Communist, or an atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Mohammedan, or a Roman Catholic, or a Baptist, will be according to his teaching and his training."
We cannot emphasize too much carrying out this great mandate of Christ: Matheteuo, in the outreach, "enroll in My school, that they might learn of Me."
Number three, "What do I get out of it?" A blessing that we share with everyone else. You see, the nursery comes to me and they say, "Pastor, you must do something. There are not beds enough for the babies. You must do something." The beginner director comes to me and says, "We have a hundred children in an area where there ought not to be but twenty or twenty-five." So, we move out the young adults on the top of the Truett Building in order to give room for the expansion of these babies and the beginners and the primaries. Then the junior director comes to me, and the junior high, and they say, "We desperately need room. Do something for us." So we take the upper part, we move out the adults and the teenagers in order to give room to them. And the adult, the older adult director comes to me, and he says, my superintendent Mendals Nelson says to me, that if we do not find a place for his oldest adult department, that the department is going to disappear, it’s going to waste away. They are gradually eroding, "Find some place for me."
So, what we do is, we take these, and we put them over there in that building, in order for these that are in these present facilities to expand, to have room to breathe and to grow – and that includes every member of the Sunday school, all of us are blessed.
"What do I get out of it?" Fourth, "I get a blessing just looking upon the sweet usefulness of that building." Donald Bowles referred to just one of them. When some of our men went over there to that beautiful structure – and that’s one of the finest buildings, and most beautiful in the city of Dallas, I just wish it could be on the corner instead of in between. Some of our men went over there and saw that beautiful little theater, the world would call it. It’s one of the most effective auditoriums, with a steep incline. Well, the chairman of missions came to me and he said, "Pastor, that is absolutely one of the most ideal places for our deaf people to go to church; it is ideal." And then the pastor of the Silent Friends Church – our deaf people – Joe Johnson, one of the godliest men ever , the pastor came to me and said, "I looked at that, I was just walked into the building and saw that. Oh, Pastor, give that to us. Let us have that. That would be ideal for us." Right now, they meet in their church in Slaughter Memorial Chapel, and they build up the platform where the pulpit stand is, way high, in order for the people to see because they can’t hear; they worship God by looking with their eyes, manually preaching. But the pastor said to me, "It is so unhappy an arrangement for us, because they still can’t see well" But he said, "Over there in that steep incline, every one of our deaf people would be just as though I were talking to them personally." And he said, "Please Pastor, give us that, please." I said to the mission chairman, and I said to the pastor of the Silent Friends, "I have no idea what the use of that will be at eleven o’clock; but I can tell you this, you’re going to have it. It is yours as of this assigned minute." For you see, twenty-eight years, twenty-eight years have I promised those silent people that they would have a place to meet. And for twenty-eight years I have never been able to fulfill that covenant promise. But we’re going to do it now. And to look at it, the entire Silent Friends Church will be placed over there where our elementary grade school classrooms are, they’re going to have their Sunday school; and their church will be that beautiful little auditorium with the steep incline. Why you couldn’t help but thank God.
Just like going through Africa, watching one of those missionary doctors ministering to all of those people under a banyan tree: as I watched him, and those wretched, wretched, wretches that he was trying to help, I was just standing there watching him, and I thought, "Who sent out that missionary?" We did. And who bought that medicine? We did. And who provided all of these things, these instruments? We did. And I was glad. "What do I get out of it?" A sweet, sweet and heavenly thanksgiving that I had some little part in making it possible.
One other, "What do I get out of it?" Number five, number five: "this is the way that I can express my gratitude to God for all that the Lord has done for me. I want to do it. I’ve got it in my heart to thank God, to show an expression of thanksgiving." It’s like this: the church was gathered at its 11:00 o’clock Sunday morning hour. They were taking up pledges for a new building, and a man stood up and said, "Pastor, as you know, and as all of our people know, our boy was killed in the war and he didn’t come home. And in memory of our boy, my wife and I are giving ten thousand dollars." And the father sat down and when he did, there was a couple, a man and his wife, right back of them. And she touched her husband and said, "Husband, stand up. Stand up. Get up. You tell the pastor that we will give ten thousand dollars for our son." And the husband turned to his wife and said, "Why wife, our boy was not killed! He came home safe and sound. We never lost our boy. He wasn’t killed." And the mother said, "Husband, stand up. Get up. Tell them you’ll give ten thousand dollars out of gratitude to God that our boy did come home." Let that feeling of infinite gratitude to the Lord move us in our response.
Lord, I thank Thee for mine eyes. Lord, I thank Thee for my hearing. Lord, I thank Thee for the breath that I breathe. Lord, I thank Thee for these who love me and pray for me, stand by me. Lord, I thank Thee for Jesus, and for saving my soul. And Lord, I thank Thee for my church and the sweet communion and fellowship that I feel when I gather with God’s people. And out of gratitude, Master, I dedicate this gift unto Thee.
Tell me, not out of coercion, out of necessity, but out of the love and out of gratitude and out of appreciation and thanksgiving to God, "I want to have a part, and I shall." If that’s your heart with mine, with the pastor, would you raise your hand? Would you raise your hand? God bless and lead and guide us to this victory.
We now sing our hymn of appeal. And a family, you, a couple, you, a one somebody, you, to give your heart to Christ, to come into the fellowship of the church, as the Spirit of God will press the appeal to your soul, answer with your life. Come now. out of the balcony round, on this lower floor, down a stairway, into an aisle, here to the front, "I will make it now, pastor, I’m coming this morning. I’ve decided and here I am." Do it, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Building fund
A. What has been given,
and how have we used it?
B. Plan of appeal
II. If I give, what do I get out of it?(Matthew 19:27-29)
A. Doing the will of
building construction since 1952
B. Carrying out the Great
disciples, learners(Matthew 11:28-29)
first, then necessity for training and teaching(Ezekiel
C. Blessing for me and
all of our people
Older adult appeal
D. Looking upon the
blessedness of its use
E. Expression of
appreciation to God