An Effective Pulpit Ministry
March 13th, 1974
School Of The Prophets:
AN EFFECTIVE PULPIT MINISTRY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
This second lecture concerns the minister with his message as he stands leading the people in his pulpit. There is a statue of John Bunyan in Bedford, England. There is a city park in Bedford. Bedford’s a town of about thirty-five thousand people. And at the main corner of that city park is a statue of John Bunyan. And on the back side of the statue there is a panel. And on the panel are inscribed the words that he wrote in Pilgrim’s Progress: “In the interpreter’s house, in the interpreter’s house the pilgrim Christian saw the picture of,” now I’m quoting from Pilgrim’s Progress, “a very great person hung against the wall, and this was the fashion: eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back; he stood as if he pleaded with men, a crown of gold did hang above his head.” And that is the picture you have of the preacher John Bunyan: with his eyes lifted up to heaven, with a Bible in his hand, and with a look of pleading in his face as he speaks the law of truth. This is a magnificent portrayal of the true preacher of Christ.
The building of a fine, wonderful church has to be around An Effective Pulpit Ministry. Without that pulpit ministry the church lacks the ignition to make it fire, to make it glow and go.
I can give you a poignant illustration of that here in our city of Dallas. When I came here there were three great churches in Dallas. And they had vast attendance, big Sunday schools, and world famous preachers. This pastor had died, but the other two were still alive, and when I came the other two were very effective ministers. As the days passed, the other two died; all three of the tremendous preachers in the three great churches in Dallas, all three of the pastors died.
So in the providence of God, one of them called a pastor for the purpose, statedly—and I cannot understand this—for the purpose statedly of culture, and refinement, and sublimity, and all of those things that go with the accouterments of aesthetics and intellectual acceptability, that kind of a thing. Or I could say it as the pulpit committee said it: “We want a preacher who is directly opposite of W. A. Criswell down at the First Baptist Church.” Now that’s what they said in the pulpit committee; because I talk loud, and I preach all over the place, and I’m informal, and a whole lot of other things that I won’t mention. So they searched over the Southern Baptist Convention and called him. And he went out to be pastor of the church. Well, what happened to the church?
This is what happened. In our church here we had a very gifted woman, the wife of a denominational leader, who knew how to set up a visitation program in the church, especially using the women in the daytime. It was a very fine program that God blessed here. So the pastor there invited her to come to the church and place in that church the program that had been so effective here, so she went out there and stayed a year. She worked there a year. At the end of the year she came back to this church, and in a conference she had with me, she said, “We placed in the church the exact organization that we had here in our church.” She said, “Our women went out, and then as time permitted, our men went out, the young people went out, the whole organized life of the church was thrown into that visitation program.” She said, “We would go visit these families, we would win them to Christ in their homes, we would have reports from them, we would have promises from them that the following Sunday they would be coming down that aisle, some of them be putting their membership in the church, some of them would be joining by letter.”
And she said, “They would be there in the church, seated in the congregation, and nothing happened. They didn’t respond, they didn’t come, and when we would go back and talk to them, ‘You said you were coming down that aisle. You were going to put your membership in the church. You were going to join the church by baptism. You were there last Sunday. Why didn’t you do it?’ And the inevitable answer was, ‘We don’t know. We don’t know. We just didn’t.’” And she said to me, “I am so discouraged that I am quitting. I’m coming back here to the church. I’m giving up that assignment.”
Well, what was the matter? I can tell you exactly what was the matter. There are no babies born in a refrigerator that I ever heard of. If there are any born in an icehouse and in an icebox, I have never been told of it. A baby is born in a warm matrix, in a womb, bathed with blood. And it has to be that kind of an atmosphere in the church, and the preacher has to create it.
If people are going to be born into the kingdom of God, there has to be a warm feeling and a wondrous appeal. And there has to be such an aura, such an everything in the church, the praying, the reading of the Scripture, the preaching, the singing, the way the appeal is made, the song of invitation, all of it has to be so turned that people can easily respond and want to respond. And without that there will not be a tremendous response. It will be like that church here in the city of Dallas, which by the way was one of the great churches of the world, and now is just another little, ordinary church in this great city.
It is astonishing to me how a church can fall and fail, can go down, and do it almost immediately. There has to be in the pulpit that ignition, that fire, that start, that sets the explosion off like a combustion engine. And that is my responsibility! I must create that feeling in the church. The choir must sense it, and the congregation must sense it, and the whole organization of the church must sense it, that when we come to church we are getting ready for a marvelous appeal. This is an assignment of the pastor that, if he does not do, his church will never really prosper, nor will it ever be a useful instrument in the hands of God for soulwinning.
Don’t be abashed or intimidated by others who say some of these things I’m going to quote from them, about centering your church in its worship services around the pulpit. As you know, practically all the churches, I have been in one last week, and the pulpit is to the side. I’m talking about a Baptist church, and the pulpit is to the side. It is up there kind of like a buzzard’s roost. It’s up and to the side—well, what is the purpose of that? The purpose of it, of course, is very ostensibly seen. What they’re doing is, is taking the preacher and his message out from the center of the public worship. They want to push him to the side. They want to get him away from the center where the people see. And what they say is that we have come for to worship.
And by “for to worship” they mean genuflection, they mean the lighting of candles, they mean all the litanies that they can lay their hands on with any acceptability at all, and all of the other accouterments that you go to see and watch in liturgical churches. Well, what do you think about that? The candles, and tables, and crosses, and draperies, and altars, and all the rest of it, are you persuaded that that is worship in its highest order and its greatest usefulness in the hands of God? Well, all we have to do is to go back into the Bible and see what was central there.
For example, I remember in the tenth chapter of Acts, in the thirty-third verse, that Cornelius said to Simon Peter, “Now are we all here gathered before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” [Acts 10:33]. What was central then ought always to be central: “Now are we gathered here in the presence of the Lord, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” That is the great end and purpose of worship—not genuflection, bowing down, burning candles, reciting litanies, looking at crosses and altars, and all of the rest of the stuff that they say.
What was central in the Bible was the people gathered in the presence of the Lord to hear all the things commanded of the minister of God. And that is God’s own definition by inspiration of what a worship service ought to be. And when people say, “We don’t worship,” listen, there is no such thing as a higher worship than for the faculties of the people who are listening, their hearts, their souls, their minds, lifted up by the Word of God to their highest sensitivity and usefulness. There is no worship higher, nobler, mightier, more meaningful than that!
All of the bowing down, and all the genuflections, and all the recitatives, and all of the looking at altars in the earth do not begin to compare with the height and the glory of the worship of God when people are lifted up in mind and heart under the spell of the delivery of the message of God. And when people say, “We do not worship,” they don’t know what true worship is.
You remember the verse in Romans 10:17? “Faith cometh by,” what? Genuflection? Lighting candles? Incense burning? Liturgy repeating? “Faith cometh by hearing,” hearing what? “Hearing the word of God.” That is why we come to church. And when you build your church around a pulpit ministry, preaching the word of the everlasting God, you are on the way to building a great church.
Now we’ve already said—and I’ll not do anything but just mention it because we have a group of things this morning that I want to show and to demonstrate if I can—there are many things that might interestingly occupy an hour. We can discuss book reviews, travelogues, current events, speculations, all kinds of economic, political, social currents of the day. You don’t have to worry about all that. As I said yesterday, you can hear it rehashed on every radio, every television, you can go to the book store or the magazine rack, buy it for twenty cents, and lie down on the sofa after dinner, and if you don’t go to sleep you can read about every one of those things world without end. Don’t worry about them.
But the preacher ought to stand up and deliver his soul. What can save us from hell? And what can save us to God? How can a man be born to eternal life? And having been born, how can we know and serve God here and hereafter? Now when a man delivers himself of that, you won’t hear that on the discussion of a radio, or on a television commentary, or in an editorial in the newspapers. They’re occupied about all these current events.
What you have a unique possession of is the Word of God; how our souls can be saved. And when you stand up and say, “Thus saith the Lord,” and deliver the message out of that Book, you are unique. It is you and you alone!
All the rest of the world doesn’t do that. Justice of the peace is not doing that. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is not doing that. The legislature is not doing that. The president of the United States, the governor of the state, these people are not doing that. The head of the insurance company is not doing that; the banker is not doing that.
You are the one that is doing that, “Thus saith the Lord.” And that is repeated more than two thousand times in the Bible, “Thus saith the Lord.” And that is our great rock on which to stand.
Paul preached and he did it with a burning heart. I have a passage here that I don’t want to take time to discuss, but in Amos chapter 7 [Amos 7:14-15], and chapter 3 [Amos 3:8], you have his word about how he felt in his soul. I’ll take time just to describe it, to bring it to your memory. God sent him from Tekoa, a little old town in Judea close to the Dead Sea, up there to Bethel, which was the capital of the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam. And as you remember, Jeroboam I built golden calves for the people to worship [1 Kings 12:28-30]. And God sent Amos up there to speak in Bethel, the capital of Samaria. Well, while he was speaking he was a fire, he was a thundering. Now he was an uneducated man. He was a man of the plow. He was a man of the field. When you read Amos you can smell the soil of a fresh turned furrow. Isaiah was a court preacher, using exalted language, city language. But Amos was a country preacher.
Well, his message was earthshaking as he denounced the idolatry of the northern ten tribes. So, the prelate, the minister before Jeroboam, came to Amos and said, “You ignoramus, you go back where you came from, and you preach there; for this is the king’s court, and this is the king’s palace” [Amos 7:12-13]. And remember what Amos replied?
He said, “It is true that I am no prophet.” He didn’t belong to the seminary. He was not in one of those schools of the prophets.
It is true that I am no prophet; neither am I the son of the prophet…
But the Lord God took me from following the sheep, and the Lord God said unto me, Go prophesy unto My people Israel.
The Lord God hath spoken: who can but prophesy?
Now that ought to be in the heart of a pastor! “I have a word to say. I have a message to deliver. It’s in my heart. I’ve got it in my soul!” Jeremiah, when he was persecuted, said, “I am not going to speak in His name, and I am not going to preach His message”; so he contained himself, he shut his mouth. But Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord was in my soul like fire burning in my bones, and I could not but speak” [Jeremiah 20:9].
That’s a glorious thing for a man to feel. I want to speak God’s message. He has called me, and it burns in my soul to deliver it. Paul said, “Though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: because necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is [unto] me, if I preach not the gospel of the grace of the Son of God!” [1 Corinthians 9:16].
John Wesley chanted, loved to chant, “Spirit of burning come, refining fire go through my heart. O that in me the sacred fire might now begin to glow.” That is the way for a minister of God to feel. I have prepared the message. I have prayed before the Lord. God has placed this upon my heart. “Now hear,” as Isaiah would say, “ye isles of the sea, and ye ends of the earth” [Isaiah 49:1], and then deliver it in the most burning way that you can.
Jonathan Edwards believed profoundly that the sermon was an agency and a vehicle for conversion. He restored the sermon to its central place and primacy in worship. He made the sermon the focal point of worship and not the sacraments. Isn’t it an amazing thing that the entire system of Roman Catholic religion is built around observing the Lord’s Supper? The whole mass, that’s what it is. Jonathan Edwards said and did, and his example has been gloriously followed, “The center of worship ought to be the sermon. And the one great principle aim of the sermon,” Jonathan Edwards said, “is to win others to Christ.” He didn’t want to be clever, only clear.
Charles G. Finney believed exactly as Edwards. He believed in the centrality of the sermon as an agency for conversion. Of his own preaching he wrote, quote, “Conviction occurred under every sermon that I preached.” Every time he stood up to deliver the message conviction for sin fell upon the congregation.
I incidentally came across one time, a businessman talking about a trip that he made from the east to the west; I think from Boston—it was to St. Louis. And he stopped in Rochester, New York. And because the town was awakened by a preacher, he went to hear him preach, just out of curiosity. And he said he sat on the back row, on the outside practically of the tabernacle, town place where the meeting was held. And he said, “As I sat there and listened to that preacher, I thought the hair of my head was standing straight up.” It was a powerful use of God, the message that brought conviction to his heart; isn’t it wonderful that such a thing could be?
And then when the preacher preaches, he ought to preach for a verdict. And we discussed that and mentioned that. Haven’t you heard that famous story? A young fellow went up to Spurgeon and said, “There seems to be nobody converted under my preaching.” And Spurgeon said, “Well, you don’t expect people to be converted every time you stand up and preach, do you?” And the young fellow said, “No.” And Spurgeon said, “Well, that’s the reason it doesn’t happen. You don’t expect it. You don’t expect it.”
Now I’d like to say a word about extending an invitation. I one time invited the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church to hold a revival meeting here in the city of Dallas in our church, in this pulpit. And some of our people asked me, “Why do you invite that man to come and hold a meeting here in the church?” And I replied, “One simple thing he can do. He can give an invitation.” And he had a most effective and God-blessed meeting here in our church. He knows how to give an invitation.
That is one of the pristine strengths of Jimmy Draper. He knows how to give an invitation, and God honors it. There would be nothing in this earth that would bless you more than to learn how to give an invitation. To turn the service toward that appeal, whatever you’re preaching on, it doesn’t matter. It’s like somebody said to Spurgeon, “All of your sermons sound exactly alike.” And Spurgeon said, “That is right, wherever I take my text I make a beeline to the cross, and then make an appeal for Jesus.” There’s nothing wrong with preaching like that. Wherever you’re preaching in the Bible, so turn it that you come to an invitation. And to learn to be at home with that appeal is the best thing you could ever learn to do in the message that you deliver.
Now sometimes—and because I have back of me here in the church a great organization that helps me, and because of the lack of time and because of the length of the sermon that I preach, why, I don’t always follow any format like this. But here’s a little simple thing, when you do have time and you’re trying to get people to the Lord, here’s a simple thing to do to make an appeal: to make an appeal and then to sing that invitation. Then after whatever God has done in that first appeal, then have all of the people who have given their hearts to the Lord and who have been baptized according to the Word of God, “If you’re unashamed of Christ and without hesitancy for the one in front the one behind and for the one on either side to see, if you’re grateful to God that He saved your soul, unashamed with me, would you raise your hand?” And then all the people who have been converted and have been baptized and belong to the church where they live, they raise their hands.
Then I say, “Now let’s bow our heads and I pray for those who have not raised their hands.” And then with our heads bowed, ask the choir to sing a hymn of appeal, “Just as I Am,” or “Wherever He Leads Me, I Will Go,” whatever appealing song of invitation is meaningful to you. And then I have a third one after that. Many, many times a man who is lost is hesitant to step out in the aisle. The third appeal is for God’s people to reconsecrate themselves to the Lord. “Is there a couple who would rededicate their selves to Jesus? Is there somebody that would start out afresh with the Lord? If you will consecrate your life, right behind you, always, there will be somebody who will come who will take Jesus as his Savior.” And in that response, many, many times you have a great host of people who are saved. However it is, learn to give that invitation. Use it. Play with it if I could say a word like that. Deal with it. Keep at it. Try it. Learn it. Stay with it. It’ll be your personality; it’ll be your words.
For example, I heard Jimmy Draper say the other day that he had no particular thing that he had in mind to say, words that he’d memorized beforehand when he came to the invitation, but that he gives the invitation as the Spirit of the Lord would be upon him and put words in his mouth. If you will give the invitation, and work with it, and play with it —and I hate to use that word “play with it,” but I use the word “play with it” in the sense of “experimenting with it,” staying with it, using it—if you’ll keep doing that, it will be second nature to you, and words will come to you that you never thought of. Approaches and appeals will come to your heart that you never dreamed of if you’ll just stay with it, stay with it, stay with it. You’re preaching to that man. You’re going to get that man down that aisle by the grace of God, and if you will do that it will be a marvelous thing that will happen to you in your ministry.
Now this is why I love the church. I have the church back of me in that appeal. I’ve been preaching here, as you know, just about thirty years. I have never had a service here in the church, in the morning, in the evening, but that God has given us a harvest. For thirty years it has never failed; for thirty years, no matter what the weather—and the weather sometimes, this world has been covered in ice, and you would have a small group of people here, at Christmas time, on the fourth of July, when it was pouring down rain—I have never failed, every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, to have a harvest here in this church for thirty years. It has never failed.
Now I have the church back of me in that. Sometimes they telephone. Sometimes they make personal appointments. Sometimes they’re out there in the home. Sometimes it’s in the Sunday school. About two Sundays ago, I think, Brother Jimmy held a service in one of our departments. And last Sunday morning there was a family that came down the aisle whose child had been moved in that service. To get your church back of you in that appeal is a marvelous thing.
You see, it does two things. It blesses you because you’ve got the people working for you, but most of all it blesses them. They’re out there doing what they ought to do. They’re witnessing. They’re trying to get people to Jesus. They’re inviting people to the Lord. They’re saying a good word for our Lord.
It’s a wonderful thing for the minister to take his church and to turn it into a soul-winning appeal. And we’re increasingly dedicated to do that here in the church. As much as we’ve done in these days passed, it is nothing compared to what we’re preparing to do in this immediate future. It’s just God’s work for us.
Now I want to talk to you about receiving children and what we do with children. And out of all of the things that I’ll ever speak of here in our School of the Prophets, to me, this is the most meaningful, this little old thing that I’m going to talk to you about.
I have the children come twice. I have them come forward to accept the Lord as their Savior, that’s first. And then later I have them come forward to be received for baptism. And the reason for that grew out of the experience that I had as a pastor through these many years. I found out that it is easy for a child to get the idea that he is saved by being baptized; he becomes a Christian by joining the church. So I don’t have one hand, I have two hands. And if this hand could represent what it is to be saved and this hand could represent what it is to join the church, that’s what I try to build into the heart of the child.
This is one hand, that’s what it is to be saved [Acts 16:31], and that’s altogether different from this hand, which is what it is to be baptized and to belong to the church [Hebrews 10:25]. For you can be baptized and belong to the church and not be saved. Oh, there are so many people who have joined the church and been baptized, but they’re not saved.
Now we’ve got to do those two things, and they are separate things. I have to work on this side. I have to work on this hand. This I must do before God, for I can’t save anybody. The church can’t save anybody. I can’t baptize anybody and they be saved. God has to do that. That’s something between you and God [1 Timothy 2:5]. Even your father and mother can’t save you. God has to do that. Now that’s something in your heart. Now this is what it is to be saved [Acts 16:31].
Now I can make a member of the church out of you. I can baptize you and we can receive you and all that, but those are two different things; so in order to get that in the heart of the child, where he knows it, I have them come forward the first time to confess the Lord as their Savior. That is one thing. That’s between you and God. That is something that only God can do for you, because nobody can save you, the church, the ordinances, father and mother, the pastor, the Sunday school teacher, friend, nobody can save you. That’s between you and God. So first you come forward to be a Christian, to accept the Lord as your Savior, publicly to confess your faith in Jesus [Romans 10:9]. Then after they are carefully taught, then they come back and are presented to the church for baptism [Matthew 28:19-20].
Now let’s look at what we’re doing about these children. Last year I read there were about four thousand, five thousand children who were baptized at the age of four and five years of age. What do you think about that in the Southern Baptist Convention? What do you think about that? I say you had might as well be a Pedobaptist, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, and sprinkle them, christen them when they’re little babies; you just might as well, practically as well. There were thousands of children baptized in the Southern Baptist churches last year who were four and five years of age.
Now a child grows in his wrinkles in his head, in his cerebellum, in his cognitive faculties, in his cerebral hemispheres. A child grows in his head, in his brain, just as he grows in his thumb, or his big toe, or his nose, or his ears. He has to grow into an understanding.
Don’t you forget—and there’s no exception to this—the message of the New Testament is addressed to adults, always, there’s no exception to that. It is addressed to a mature mind. It is addressed to a cognitive faculty. There’s no exception to it.
Now, before that child comes into the church, is baptized, he ought to have the mind and the understanding of exactly what he is doing, and why, and what it means. So when the child comes forward and I say to the parents, “Don’t ever interdict the child, never.” When the child says, “I want to give my heart to Jesus, I want to be saved,” or “I want to tell the pastor that I love Jesus,” don’t say, “You’re too young,” or “no.” Bring the child down here, and we have what we call in the church a little place for them to check, “a step toward God.”
If the child is real young, and they come down here to the front, and we put the mother on one side and the father on the other side, and I pray with the child, or Brother Jimmy, or one of our ministers prays with the child; and then the child is introduced: “a step toward God”. Not conversion, because the child is young, very young.
You can’t be converted until you have a consciousness of sin. If Jesus is the Savior, he has to save us from something. Well, what does he save us from? He saves us from our sin [Matthew 1:21]. And a very small child is hardly cognizant, and conscious, and sensitive to sin, to being lost. But the child loves Jesus, so we call it “a step toward God” when the child’s real young.
As the child grows older, he’ll come into a consciousness of sin, and then he can look to Jesus in faith and be saved, and have a conversion experience, an experience of consciously giving his heart in faith to Jesus [Acts 3:19]. Then the child comes forward on a confession of faith [Romans 10:9].
Then after the child comes forward on a confession of faith, I give the child this little booklet. And the books are right here in this drawer. The drawer is full of these little books. And I give the child the little book. And the child goes to a class in the Primary department, in the Junior department. The child goes to a class. The class is held Sunday school hour and Training Union hour; Sunday morning and Sunday night. And then when the child goes through the class and he passes an examination, a written examination, one that they prepared on the little book, then an appointment is made for the father and the mother to bring the child to me. And I talk to the little child, and I will ask him questions out of the little book. I’ll ask him questions about it. The little book has four chapters in it.
You wouldn’t believe that you could sum up the doctrines of the Bible in so small a page, but you can. Just get the book and look at it. Chapter one is, “What It Means to be Saved.” And this is the summary of all the biblical teaching on what it is to be saved, what it means to be saved; and then a little catechism that follows it. Questions and answers, I call it. Chapter two is on “What it Means to be Baptized.” And there’s a summation of the entire doctrine on baptism. And then it is followed by questions and answers, a little catechism.
And then chapter three, “What it Means to Take the Lord’s Supper.” And there’s a summation of the whole doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. And then the questions and answers on the Lord’s Supper. And then fourth, “What it Means to be a Good Church Member.” And I summed up in that little paragraph right there the entire message of the Bible on what it means to be a good church member, and followed by these questions and answers. Now the little child is taught that.
Now where did that come from? Well, it came out of my own heart. When I was ten years old I accepted the Lord as my Savior, and I was baptized. Nobody said anything to me. The pastor, the Sunday school teacher, my father or mother, nobody said anything to me about the meaning of baptism. I wasn’t taught anything!
And then when I was baptized, the preacher took me by the nape of the neck and sauced me in the water. I remember it just flew all over everywhere. And it was only in years after that I knew anything of the meaning of the ordinance. So I said when I was a pastor, “I’m going to take these children, and I’m going to teach them. And then when they’re baptized they’re going to know what it means. It’s going to be a blessing to them and a great meaningful significant ordinance for them.”
Now can’t you see a thousand repercussions from that? For one thing, the dad and mother don’t know anything about it. They’re just as ignorant of it as the child because where they were saved and baptized, nobody taught them. And it’s a rare father and mother that could even know even a part of what’s in that little book. So when the child is taught, the father and mother also have to teach the child and they learn it. Then when the father and mother bring the child to me, I visit with the family. I talk to the father, I talk to the mother, sometimes at great length. And I get acquainted with them. And it is a meaningful experience as much so for the father or the mother as it is for the child.
There’s not anything that you could do that would bless these families that you are undershepherd of than to do this, than to do this. And if you want to take this little book and mimeograph it yourself, why, you do it. If you want us to do it for you, why, we will do it at the cost of what it takes to print it.
Now I only have one thing that I would advise you. It used to be printed like that, just with those substantive paragraphs that I described. Now in these new ones they print, why, they have pictures of me all the way through doing these things. Here I am, talking to a little boy; got an open Bible, talking to a boy. And here I am, receiving him in the church. And here I am, baptizing the little fellow. And here I am, administering the Lord’s Supper; and all these pictures. They are printing a new edition of this, and in the new one, why, they have adults that I am talking to. They’ve changed it from the little boy to the adult people, because adult people need the little book just as much as children do. So they’ve kind of evolved in the use of it. But this is a marvelous instrument. And what I do is a marvelous way under God.
Mr. and Mrs. Souther, Dr. and Mrs. Souther, were here for twelve years. And Mrs. Souther is a professor. She’s a doctor in her own right at the New Orleans Seminary. So she was telling me the other day when she was up here, that she was teaching the class, and she was telling them that they ought to do that, they ought to do that. And the boy there in the class replied, “Well, I am pastor of the church and I have a great deal to do. And I am too busy to have these children and their parents come to see me.” And she said, “Is that so?” She said, “That’s an amazing thing for me to discover, because my pastor was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, which is the largest church we have in the world. And he has plenty of time for these fathers and mothers of these children to come to see him.” You’ve got plenty of time to do this, plenty of time to do it. And to do it is a marvelous thing.
Now, we’re going to have a little gossip here in the church. When I—you know you have to be yourself—when I receive people, I receive them as though they were the only ones in the world. And I just take time to do it, take time to do it. I come down there on that platform, and when they are presented to the church, after we pray with them, why, they are seated there, and then a man stands up here and presents them to the church.
And then I stand down there and shake hands with them, and talk to them, and receive them, and tell the church about them. It’s just a great event for me. And if I have started doing that at twelve-thirty or twelve-forty, why, I still take time as though we had all afternoon long. Sunday a week ago, we got out of here at one o’clock. I looked at the [clock], it was just about one o’clock. We had a tremendous response and it was a blessed, blessed hour.
All right, now, here’s a little gossip. Judge Frank Rayburn—and some of you older men here knew Frank Rayburn—Judge Frank Rayburn was the chairman of the deacons here for thirty-five years. So he asked me to come to his law office up there one day, after I’d been pastor here about a year. And he had a list there, it was about, oh I’d say, six, seven, eight, or nine things that the people objected to in me. So he wanted to talk to me about them. So he had it all listed there, what the people had come to him as chairman of the deacons, what they didn’t like about in me. Well, one of the things they didn’t like was the way I received people into the church. Dr. Truett, after they were received, Dr. Truett would say, “God bless you, God bless you, God bless you, God bless you.”
So they said to me, through Judge Frank Rayburn, rather than go on with all of that stuff that I was doing, telling them who they were and how happy we were they’d found the Lord, and who their fathers and mothers were, and getting them up there and stand with them, and just making a big hullabaloo about it, “Why, how much better,” they said, with great dignity and sobriety just to say, “God bless you, God bless you, God bless you, God bless you.”
So Judge Rayburn said “That’s what some of the people think you ought to do.” Well, I said, “Judge, I’m sure that was just fine for Dr. Truett, ‘God bless you, God bless you, God bless you.’ But I’m not Dr. Truett, and I’m not made that way, and I’m not turned that way, and I can’t do it that way, and I’m not a’gonna do it! I am myself. I am myself.”
And from the day I came here until this present minute, when I receive people in the church, to me it’s a great event. This man’s given his heart to Jesus, or this dear wife has prayed for her husband thirty years, and there he stands. He has accepted the Lord as Savior, and I just carry on about it. And I just think it is the greatest event to ever happen in the history of creation. I think it is something to rejoice over.
God said even the angels do it, and those in the presence of the angels [Luke 15:10], and I think it is great to receive people like that into the church as though it were really something. And if they have got a father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or grandparents, or whatever it is, have them come up there and stand with them.
Here’s a little girl that’s given her heart to Jesus. Put the father on one side and the mother on the other side. Here’s a teenager, and he has three friends that came down the aisle with him. Have all three of his friends stand with him. And they’re all up there rejoicing in the Lord together. It is the most marvelous thing that you could do; when they do come, is to make it a marvelous, marvelous event.
Well, I had a whole bunch of other things here to talk about, but we will just, we will just pick it up later. Start again where we left off.
Now about these little books; I want you to take one of them home with you. By all means, by all means, every one of them.