Believing and Building (Building a House for God)
April 29th, 1973 @ 10:50 AM
THE NEW EDUCATION BUILDING:
BUILDING A HOUSE FOR GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 19:27, 29
4-29-73 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Building a House for God. The message will concern two questions. They are questions asked by our people; not one, not two, not even half a dozen of our people, but scores and scores of our members have asked these questions.
Question number one: three years ago we brought to our people a building fund appeal, and for three years many of our people have been giving to that building fund. We are now asking our people for three million dollars to pay for this new educational building across Patterson Street. So the question is asked, rightfully so, “What have you done with the money that we have already given to the building fund? Some of us have been giving for three years; what has become of that money?”
In answer to the question: I went to the business office, and they gave me a detailed report of what has been done with our building fund, and I make that report to you now. In answer to the appeal three years ago, our people have contributed, through this last month of March, $1,017,414.95. We have given in the last three years to this special fund something over $1,000,000. Now, how has it been used?
This is a detailed report of how our building fund has been used. Number one: there has been spent on payments to buy these lots, without which there is no possibility of building at all—and when the lots came up for sale, it was an urgency for us that we secure them when they were offered to us—there was therefore taken out of the building fund $344,194.07 in order to help secure these properties. One of the properties is the lot upon which our educational building is erected. That lot cost more than $300,000. That much money out of the building fund was taken to secure the purchasing; to make payments on these lots that are so desperately needed.
Number two: there was borrowed out of the building fund for this television program, color television—the buying of these cameras and the arrangement for color television—there was borrowed out of the fund $173,367.33. This, by far, is the greatest outreach that our church has ever known or ever will know. On any Sunday, at any eleven o’clock service, there are more than three hundred thousand people who are listening and worshiping with us in this First Baptist Church in Dallas. Our service is cabled across the state of Texas, into New Mexico, into Oklahoma, into Arkansas, into Louisiana. And the blessing of God upon the preaching of the gospel is beyond imagination.
A little example: I was invited [to] a beautiful dinner given by the deacons of one of our great First Baptist churches. The chairman of the deacons presided over the meeting, and I was seated by his wife. And as we ate together, the chairman of the deacons’ wife turned to me and said, “Did you know that I was converted under your ministry?” I said, “I am surprised. I do not know you, I have never seen you before, and I cannot imagine. How did it come to pass?” She said, “My husband belonged to this church, and he is one of the leading businessmen in the city. My husband belonged to this church, but I was reared in another faith and another communion, and I was not a Christian.” And she said, “Listening to you one Sunday morning, over television, the Lord spoke to my heart, and I knelt down there before that television set and gave my heart and life to Jesus. I was baptized, and now my husband is the chairman of the deacons, and we are serving Christ together.”
You could multiply that instance a thousand times a thousand times. We offer a little book sometimes, just anybody who would like to write in, “Here’s a book we will give you,” and when we do that there will be more than a hundred letters a week asking for the little book. The outreach ministry of our television is beyond compare. It is the greatest open door God has ever given to us, and $173,000 out of the building fund was borrowed in order to make possible this television ministry.
Number three: we could not wait until the building was built, for our Sunday school was growing furiously. Therefore, we had to take some of the money and remodel the facilities that we have, and go over to the Cotton Exchange Building and remodel facilities there to house our Sunday school. And for that purpose, there was taken $130,000, and a little beyond.
Number four: Coleman Hall was remade and remodeled at a cost of $341,515.50. This kitchen and the hall that accompanied it was made, was created, built, in 1924. That’s almost fifty years ago. And when I came here, on Wednesday nights the kitchen and the dining room were serving about seventy-five to a hundred or a hundred five people. As the days and years have passed, on any Wednesday night there will be at least a thousand and more people down here. Our fifty-year-old kitchen broke down in age and in felicity, and something had to be done. So we took out of the building fund and created a new kitchen and one of the most beautiful dining halls—though it is far too small—one of the most beautiful dining halls of any church ever.
Last: the memorials that have been given in these three years to our building fund have been sacredly kept, and all of that money is in the bank downtown awaiting the building of the memorial in our Christian Education building. That means the Ralph Baker Hall, all that’s been given to that memorial, the sums of money given in honor of Libby Reynolds, our Primary director—all of the memorials are in the bank and are going to be dedicated when our new Christian Education building is finished.
That is where the money has gone. It has been blessedly invested, and it has been blessedly used of God. That is where the money has been spent that we have given to the expansion building program of the church these last three years.
Now we come to the time when we desperately need to underwrite and to pay for our beautiful new Christian Education building. The answer to the second question: “If I give, what do I get out of it? What does it mean to me?” In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew:
Then answered Simon 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? . . .
And the Lord answered and said: Everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
[Matthew 19:27, 29]
“What shall I get out of it? What does it mean to me if I respond and give to this building fund for the payment of our Christian Education building?” Answer number one: we shall be doing the will of God. I shall be doing the will of God when I give to make possible the erection of this Christian Education building.
The last time that our church entered into a building program was in 1952. Since that time our Sunday school has tripled, and had it not been for the Burt Building that was bought and paid for, there would have been nothing but catastrophic disaster to overwhelm our church. But the Burt Building has not been the beginning of the answer to our vital pedagogical needs. So, as time and the years multiplied, we planned a great building at the corner of San Jacinto and St. Paul. And in that building we were planning a tremendous dining hall to seat twenty-five hundred people, where we could bring our friends and the whole church gather together, say, on a Wednesday night, and we have our mid-week service around the tables. It was a dream of my heart, but the reason that building never materialized was this: the contractors came to me and said it would take three million dollars to build that hall before, above it, you begin your educational units.
Then the staff and the superintendents of the Sunday school came to me and said, “Pastor, surely God would not lead you into building a structure that would cost three million dollars before there was aught done for us. We so desperately need a place for Sunday school ministries.” I said, “That is so correct. We cannot take all of our money to build a hall and then nothing left for the educational program of our church.” So, the building never materialized.
We prayed. We prayed for years. We sought the mind of God for years. And after the passing of the years, it came to us, to me as pastor, to our men, and to our Sunday school leadership that what we must do is to take all of the money that is possible for us to give and to build a Christian Education building. And that, under God, is what we have done and are doing. If I know the mind of Christ, and if God answers prayer, and if the Lord can reveal to us His will, and if we can know it, this is God’s will for us, that we build this education building.
Answer number two: What shall I get out of it? First: we shall be doing the will of God. Answer number two, second: we shall be carrying out the mandate of God, the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20].
We had a staff meeting recently, a few days ago, and in that staff meeting I spoke to our educational leadership and said what I dreamed in my heart, and prayed for in behalf of our church is to have a great teaching ministry, that our outreach be centered around a teaching program. Some of the staff, maybe all of them, misunderstood, for after the service was over, our meeting was over, as they talked they said, “You know, our pastor has changed, for no longer is it first that we win people to Christ, but he’s changed it now to a teaching program and a teaching ministry.”
That is a misunderstanding and a misconstruction. What I am doing in the work of the teaching ministries of this church is an earnest attempt to carry out the mandate of Christ and the mind of God. It is perfectly revealed to us in the Great Commission:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and mathetēuō all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them—didaskō—teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
Look at that: “Go ye therefore, and” [Matthew 28:19]—the Lord could have used the word euangelizō. When you take the Greek word euangelizō and spell it out in English, it comes out “evangelize”—E-U: “E-V” in English—euangelizō, “evangelize.” The Lord could have said, “Go ye therefore and “eu-angelize all the people.” Evangelize; win them to Christ, which is in the mind and the will of God. But He never said that. He never used that word. What He used was: “Go ye therefore, and mathēteuō”—mathētēs is a disciple, a pupil, a learner, and mathēteuō means to make disciples, to make learners, to enroll in Christ’s school [Matthew 28:19].
For example, our blessed Lord, in the sweetest invitation in the Bible, said this: “Come unto Me, all ye who 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 old, ancient, Talmudic expression meaning “enroll in My school and sit at My feet.” Take My yoke upon you: “Enroll in My school, and learn of Me, sit at My feet.” This is the great mandate of our Lord: “Go ye therefore, and mathēteuō,” enroll in the school of Christ all of the people.
Now how does that differ from just euangelizō? It is this: I visited a tremendous church, a tremendous church. In the center of it where the pulpit is here, was a gigantic baptistry, and they baptize unbelievable numbers of people. The church has no roll. The church keeps no record. They have no idea the people that they win and baptize.
It reminded me, where I grew up in West Texas, of a cattle dip. The cattle are run through the dip in order to get off all the ticks and mites and fleas and all the other things. They are run through the dip, and then out into the pasture they go. The church reminded me of that, just dipping the people and forgetting them.
All right, let’s take another instance. One of the pastors of our tremendous churches called me on the telephone and said, “Are you seated? I want to talk to you a long time.” He said, “We baptize many, many people in our church, but we don’t grow and we don’t have them. We lose them. I want you to tell me, what do you do in Dallas in building your Sunday school and in building your church?” And I sat down in the chair and told him how we build this ministry. We do it trying to get our people and to teach them the mind and heart of Christ: “Go ye therefore, and mathēteuō, enroll in My school [Matthew 11:28-29]. Make disciples of Me, followers of Me, pupils of Mine, all the people” [Matthew 28:19]. Didaskō, this is the Greek word for actual teaching; “teaching them the things that I have given unto you” [Matthew 28:20], and to have a ministry like that is a ministry that is pleasing to the mind of God. Not just to win people and forget them, but to win them using our great teaching ministry as its outreach appeal; winning these people, and then teaching them to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord [Matthew 28:19-20].
Now I am not saying that to win a convert is not first and above all important. It is. There is no existence without birth. Except a baby be born, there is no life. It means death without the birth. But having been born, it is no less vital that the child be cared for and nurtured and taught!
Some time ago, a week or so ago, I referred to one of the most dramatic passages in the Bible. The imagery of it is unbelievably powerful and dynamic! It is the sixteenth chapter of the prophet Ezekiel. In that, the prophet says the Lord passed by and saw, in an open field, Israel cast out. It was a little baby; the navel cord had not been cut. It was lying in its own blood, and it had not been washed [Ezekiel 16:3-6]. And God says:
As I passed by, I saw in the field that child, and I had pity upon it, and Mine eye was moved in sympathy with it. And I took the child, and I bathed it, and I washed it of its blood, and I anointed it, and I brought it up to be beautiful and strong.
[Ezekiel 16:8-9, 13]
That is what God wills for His people: not that we alone be born and lie in our own blood, but to be cared for, to be washed, to be nurtured, to be anointed, and to be brought up to be strong in the Lord. That is the mind of God for us; this is the great mandate of Christ! [Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 4:13-15].
In my own life, I was converted fifty-three years ago; down an aisle, gave my hand to the pastor, took Jesus as my Savior, was baptized into the fellowship of the church, fifty-three years ago. What of these years since, and since, and since, and since, and since? I need to grow in knowledge and in the grace and in the admonition of the Lord [2 Peter 3:18]. This is the will and mind of Christ for us.
In Baylor, where I went to school, for the four years I was there, I listened to a great layman who was the president of our school. His name was Samuel Palmer Brooks. That man made an everlasting and indelible impression upon my soul. Every day at chapel, I listened to that great layman. One of the things he said one time was this, and I quote him, he said, “Young gentlemen,” he said, “I do not say that education is everything, but I do say whether a child becomes a goose-stepping Nazi, or a militant communist, or an atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Mohammedan, or a Catholic, or a Baptist depends upon how he is taught and trained.”
That is so everlastingly true. When the child is born, what becomes of him? What he is to be is a matter of our pedagogical molding and training and shaping. That is why in our church, under God, having studied the Bible and seeking to implement the will of Christ, I am seeking to turn our church into a great outreaching, teaching ministry—getting people, winning people, and then teaching them the mind and way and will of God. Our Sunday school, our Training Union, our First Baptist School, our weekday school, our Bible Institute, our Wednesday night meetings, the whole thing, trying to get people into the kingdom and then teaching them the mind that is in Christ Jesus [1 Corinthians 2:16].
What do I get out of it? Not only doing the will of God [Matthew 11:29], not only carrying out and being true to the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20]; what do I get out of it? I get out of it a blessing for me and for all of our people in this dear church. You see, the director of the nursery comes to me and says, “Pastor, we desperately need more rooms. We don’t have beds enough for the children. Can’t you help us?” The director of the Beginner division comes to me and says, “Pastor, we have a hundred children in a space where we ought not to have more than twenty or twenty-five. Cannot you not help us?” The only way to do is to take out of the Truett Building, the children’s building—is to take out of it our Young Marrieds and put them somewhere in order that our Nursery and Beginner and Primary divisions can expand upward.
The Junior director comes to me and says, “Pastor, we so desperately need a place.” The Junior High director comes and says, “We so desperately need room.” And the Senior High comes and says to me, “Pastor, you wouldn’t believe how we are cramped and crowded into so small an area.” So there is no other thing to do but take out of that Burt Building, our junior and teenage building—to take out the adults that are in it, and the older teenagers that are in it, in order for these to expand.
So the director of our Older Adult division comes to me, and he says, “Pastor”—Nettles Nelson is the superintendent of our oldest adult department—and he says that if we do not find a place for our older adults, that we are going to lose the entire department. They are beginning to erode because we do not have a place for them that is felicitous in their meeting. There’s not anything else to do but to take the Median Adults and place them somewhere in order that our older adults may have a felicitous place in which to meet. Now what we have done is, we have built this new building in order to take these groups and place them there, in order that these other groups can expand and have room to breathe.
A Sunday school is like a boy growing. He doesn’t grow just in his big toe and just in his big thumb, or in the lobe of his ear, or in his nose, he grows all over. So it is in a pedagogical ministry. You can’t just add something here and then forget all of the rest of it, everything has to conform. So what is done there must be in keeping with the whole framework of what is being done [with] everything else. And it has all to be beautifully, pulchritudinous, felicitously, gloriously, and that’s what we are doing. We bless ourselves, every one of us in the church.
Number four: what do I get out of it? Not only doing the will of God, not only carrying out the Great Commission, and not only blessing myself and all of the others in our dear church; number four, what do I get out of it? I get out of it the sweet blessedness of seeing the precious usefulness of the building.
For example, just one: the chairman of our missions committee went over there and looked at the new building, and he saw that what you’d call a little theater, the Ralph Baker Hall, a little auditorium, that has a precipitous incline, and he came to me and said, “Pastor, that would be the most wonderful place in the world for our deaf people, our Silent church. Oh, could you give that to them?” Just soon after, the pastor of our Silent church, the pastor of our deaf people, happened to be over there looking at the new building, and he came to me, and he said, “Oh, pastor, I saw that little auditorium. It will seat about two hundred. And the incline! Oh,” he said, “if we could have that for our church, it would be the most heavenly thing in the earth. Pastor, could we have it? Would you give that to us?”
I said, “I am not the whole church, but I’ll tell you this, under God: when that building is complete, you will have that little chapel for your church. It will be yours.” And why did I say that? For one reason; listen, for twenty-eight years, for twenty-eight years, I have promised those dear Silent Friends—those deaf people—that they would have a place to meet. For twenty-eight years, I have never been able to fulfill that promise. Right now they meet in Slaughter Chapel, and they take a high platform and put it where the pulpit is in order for the silent people to see the sermon, because they can’t hear; they have to see. But they say to me, “It is so unhappy an arrangement. We don’t like it and we can’t see well.” There in that little auditorium with the steep incline, the pastor, Brother Joe Johnson of the Silent church, said to me, “I can look [at] every one of them, just like personally talking to them, and they can hear the gospel with my fingers.” Oh, I’m so glad! What do I get out of it? I can hear—at the time I am preaching here, Joe Johnson is preaching with his hands, manually, to those people—but somehow the blessedness of it comes to me, that they have such a sweet place.
Just like going through Africa one time, I saw a doctor under a banyan tree ministering to those miserable and wretched people. And as I stood and watched him, I thought, who sent out that missionary? We did. And who bought that medicine? We did. And who made it possible for him to be here? We did. And I was so glad. I feel the same way about the blessedness of the use of that Christian Education building. I’m glad. I’m glad. I’m so glad.
Last, number five: what do I get out of it? One: I’m doing the will of God. Second: I’m carrying out the Great Commission. Third: I’m being blessed along with all of our people. Four: my heart is raised in thanksgiving that I can see it used for so precious a purpose. Last: what do I get out of it? It gives me a sublime, celestial, heavenly opportunity to show my thanksgiving and appreciation to God for His infinite goodnesses to me.
It’s like this. The church was called together at the eleven o’clock hour, their worship service, and they were raising money for a new building. And the pastor was there, asking the people to stand, to give their pledges to the new building. And a man stood up and his wife seated by his side, and he said, “My brethren, as you know, our son was killed across the seas, in the war. And out of memory of our boy, my wife and I pledge $10,000 to the building fund in memory of our boy who lost his life across the seas in the war.” And he sat down. And when he did, right back of him sat a wife next to her husband, and she touched him and said, “Husband, stand up! Stand up, get up husband and tell the pastor that we will give $10,000 for our son!” And the husband turned to the wife and said, “But, wife, our boy was not killed. He came back home safe and sound, and he’s with us now. He was not killed.” And the wife said, “Husband, that’s why! Stand up, get up! Tell the pastor we give $10,000 because our boy came back home! Out of love, and gratitude, and appreciation to the Lord, we pledge $10,000.”
That’s what I mean. Out of a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us: “My eyes, I thank Thee for them. My ears, I thank Thee for them. The breaths that I breathe, I thank Thee for them. These who love and remember to pray and stand by, I thank Thee for them. For Jesus, who saved me, I thank Thee, O God! For the church and the sweet communion, I thank Thee, Lord. And this is just a way of expressing to Thee my gratitude, and my appreciation, and my thanksgiving for what the Lord hath done for me.”
Tell me, not out of necessity and not out of coercion, if you feel like that: “I would like to do something for God, special. I will love doing it, and I am going to do it like that.” If that’s the way you feel in your heart, with the pastor, would you raise your hand? Would you raise your hand? Would you raise your hand? God see it and bless us and reward us a thousandfold.
Now in a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. A family you, a couple you or just one somebody you, answering the call of God with your life, come now, do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.