Our Five Year Achievement Program
April 21st, 1974 @ 8:15 AM
OUR FIVE YEAR ACHIEVEMENT PROGRAM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Nehemiah 2: 18
4-21-74 8:15 a.m.
Welcome, you who have joined us by radio. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled: Our Five Year Achievement Program. And in keeping with the thought and dedication that lies back of such a presentation, I have chosen just a word as a background text from a great layman.
Practically all of the writers of the Holy Scriptures are prophets or apostles, but there are a few books in the Bible that were written by laymen. Daniel was a statesman and then, also, a seer; but, mostly, he was a prime minister. He was a political figure. He was a layman. And Nehemiah was, likewise, a layman. Without the gift of foreseeing that Daniel had, Nehemiah was also a prime minister, a politician.
And out of his work I read:
Then I told the elders, the leaders of the people of Israel, the hand of my Lord, which was put upon me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for the work.
Turning the page he writes, “So we built, for the people had a mind to work,” all of this out of the heart of a consecrated layman.
Sunday before last—Sunday before Easter—I prepared and delivered here a sermon on our five-year plan, the nomenclature that we will now call our Five Year Achievement Program. And in that presentation, in that discussion, there were some obtainable goals for us—not fantastically unrealistic, but achievable, reachable goals—that were hammered out by our staff and some of our committed leadership in the church: among them, for example, in our outreach program, to have an average attendance of 8,300 in Sunday school, to win and to baptize into the kingdom of our Lord, and into His church, at least a thousand two hundred souls each year. And, so, the program of achievement was outlined.
I received a letter from a man who lives in a capital city of another state in the Union. And he wrote me these words. He said:
You cannot know how disappointed I was in attending your church services last Sunday. He said, I brought with me a man who was lost and I, myself, was in dire need of encouragement and uplift. And all I heard was a program of achievement.
Then he closed the letter with this sentence: “Why don’t you preach the gospel and leave the five-year plan to God?” He was not writing bitterly. I don’t mean to give the impression that the man was caustic, particularly. He was just disappointed.
Well, it’s a good question. “Why don’t you preach the gospel and leave the five-year plan to God?” The only thing is I am not real sure that our outreach, and the building up of a house of the faith is not a part of the gospel.
In the first chapter of the Apocalypse, the sainted apostle John says,
I was in an island called Patmos, for the word and testimony of God.
I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumphet,
Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last . . .
And, I turned to hear the voice that spake unto me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lamp stands.
And in the midst of the seven lamp stands one like unto the Son of God, girt about the breast with a golden girdle.
Then he describes the iridescent, and glorious, and living Lord. Where did you find the Lord? Where did John see him? Walking in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands.
Then as I read on down in the first chapter of the Revelation, John writes, the seven lamp stands are the seven churches of Asia. Does a lamp stand give light? No; not that I ever saw—not that I know of. For the light is here, and the lamp stand holds it up but you need that lamp stand. If the light burned on the ground, if it were not held up, I do not know how it would light the world.
The light, of course, is our blessed Savior, and the lamp stand, the Book says, is the church. And the lamp stand holds up the light. And I have to build that lamp stand. I don’t know how to separate the shining of the glory of God from the holding up of the light of Christ. And that is our assignment.
God builds no lamp stand, no churches. By His plan
That labor has been left to man.
No spires miraculously arise.
No little mission from the skies.
Falls on a bleak and barren place
To be a source of strength and grace.
The humblest church demands its price
In human toil and sacrifice.
Men call the church the House of God
Towards which the toil-stained pilgrims plod
In search of strength and rest and hope
As blindly through life’s midst they grope
And there God dwells, but it is man
Who builds that house and draws the plan
Pays for the mortar and the stone
That now need seek God alone.
The humblest spire in mortal ken,
Where God abides, was built by men
And if the church is still to grow,
Is still the light of hope to throw
Across the valleys of despair,
Men still must build God’s House of Prayer.
God sends no churches from the skies
Out of our hearts they must arise.
That lamp stand I must build to hold up the glory that shines from the face of Jesus Christ. And it costs. There’s no need for me to stand in this sacred pulpit and say to you that these things come without toil, and effort, and sacrifice.
There came to the blessed Lord the Sons of Zebedee,
James and John. And they said to him, Grant that we may be seated on your left hand and on your right—one of us on one side and one on the other.
And the Lord said, Can you be baptized with the baptism that I’m baptized with? And can you drink the cup that I drink?
And they said, We can.
And Jesus looked at those two brothers long and earnestly and said, Ye shall indeed be baptized with the baptism that I’m baptized with, and ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink.
For the Lord, when he looked long and earnestly at those two brothers, He saw the martyrdom of James, beheaded by Herod Agrippa the First, and He saw the exile of John, on the Isle of Patmos. It’s a cost. It’s a sacrifice. It’s a dedication unto death. And this church shall not rise, the lamp stand hold up the light of Christ, without that cost and that sacrifice.
Driving through Pennsylvania upon a Lord’s Day, we stopped at a church, Sunday morning. I was delighted because I had never been one of the churches before—just heard about it, read of it, all my life—the kind of a church that it was.
At 11 o’clock all of the people were assembled and sat down. And as the Spirit might move anyone to speak, or to pray, or to quote a scripture, the service continued for an hour. And, then, on the dot at 11 o’clock, they stood up, and shook hands, and separated.
One of the rich Pennsylvania farmers invited us to eat dinner with him so we accepted the invitation. And I talked to him about the church: no minister, no anything—just a church—and the service at eleven and then promptly at twelve, to shake hands.
And he said to me a sentence I never forgot. He said, “You see, we have no ministry. Our church costs us nothing. Our church costs us nothing.” And as I looked, saw—and as I read and see—the church is dying, and the denomination is dying, and it has no outreach. It is a decadent witness. And I remember that word of the rich farmer. “You see,” he says, “our church costs us nothing.”
I live in the Word of God in a different world from that affluent agriculturalist. For what I read in the Book calls from us our strength, and our life and our utmost. And I, myself, am strengthened by its demand, it costs. I’m not unblessed by what I’ve poured into this church. I am of all people in it most blessed. I give. I work. I plan.
And as you well know, it is a constant appeal. It never ceases. No sooner are we through with one that we enter another. It is a constant appeal. What am I to think of that?
I think of it exactly as a father who one time was complaining about his boy.
The boy’s expensive,” he said. “He’s a costly adjunct to have around. He’s always needing something. There’s always something to buy for him. He needs shoes and that costs. He needs clothes and that costs. And he needs a bicycle and that costs. And he asks for skates and that costs. And he asks for a ball, and a bat, and a mitt, and they cost. It just costs all the time.
The father was complaining about the expense of the boy.
The man he was talking to happened to reply. He said,
Sir, I understand. I know all about that. For I also had a boy and he cost. He was always wanting a bicycle, or skates, or a mitt or a bat. I had to buy him shoes and clothes. But you know,
he said, “He doesn’t cost me anything anymore. He doesn’t cost me anything. About three weeks ago,” he said, “we buried the boy; doesn’t cost us anything, maybe a little something to keep the grass growing above his grave.”
I am grateful we have the problem. They say, “What shall we do with these babies? We need room.” They say,
What shall we do with these children? We need room. What shall we do in these areas that are cramped? We need room. What shall we do with these programs to which God has called us? We need help.
To stand by their side and to see God so bless that we bow in prayer for help from heaven to do it is of all things, God’s superlative, open door for us.
Now I am going to speak of things that are optional and some that are of necessity. There are things that I wish that we had and I dream of having. I wish someone would give us a gloriously beautiful organ. As you know, this organ was placed here in 1890 and has been added to and worked on ever since. I wish someone would give us a glorious organ.
I wish someone would give us a retreat, acres of land where we could have a program all summer long with our children and with the whole membership of the church. Some of these things we are working on, like a retirement center. I hope we can bring that to glorious fruition. I could pray that our television outreach and radio outreach might be vastly extended. We need right now, four mission homes for furloughing missionaries who want to come and live with us.
I wish we had a place for an expansive and expanding library and sometime it must come. Our school must have a library and our Bible institute cannot be accredited without it. Dr. Adleman is going to give his library to our Bible institute. I shall give mine and you’re talking about between twelve thousand and fifteen thousand books.
I dream of the day when we have a beautiful dining hall that will seat at least two thousand, and we invite our friends, and we invite our prospects, and we invite our guests to come, say, on a Wednesday night. And we break bread together and the pastor speaks to us out of God’s word around the tables. Those are dreams that I have.
But these are things that we think about. Some of them, we’re working for but there are other things that are not optional. There are some things that are necessities. And these we must seek to bring to pass now. “What are you talking about, Pastor?”
This; you look. There will come to me the leadership of the nursery division in the church and they will say to me,
We desperately need more room. We’re here on the second floor and the third floor of the Truett Building and we must expand. We need more room for the babies. As our Sunday school grows, they bring their babies here, and we desperately need room. And if we are to grow at all, you must provide for us room.
And no sooner have they spoken that appeal then there comes to see me the Minister of Music. And he represents the leadership of the music division of the church, and he says,
Pastor, if we are to continue to do good, and to praise God, and if we are to grow as we pray God shall help us to grow, Pastor, we must have a place to meet. We must have a room big enough for the choir. And we must have quarters in which we can work, and prepare, and to robe, and to come before the congregation and praise the Lord. So the only place they say to meet that we can expand our choir—and it has to be close to the sanctuary—is to take over the nurseries.
And the nurseries have just been to me saying, “We must expand the nursery.” And the choir comes and says, “The only way we can do is to take over the nursery area.”
What do you do? What about the choir? I haven’t time—and I wish I did—I haven’t time to expound in this Book here on chapters 25, and 26, and 27, in the Book of 1 Chronicles. But there you have David’s word as he described what the good hand of God upon him led him to do. And out of the 38 thousand Levites, thirty years of age and older, he chose four thousand to sing in the choir and two hundred eighty-eight, who were skilled musicians, to lead in the orchestra, and for a time that they might prophesy with the psaltery, and with the harp and with the psalm.
“Pastor, are you reading correctly? They prophesied? They prophesied with the Levites singing and the orchestra playing? They prophesied?” You see, that’s God. For in the Bible, prophecy is not just foretelling. That’s a lay use of the word. But prophecy is the praise of the glory of God, and in the Bible the praise of God was not only by word of mouth, but it was by the moving Spirit of the Lord in the song that was sung and played.
And when our people gather together and we stand here before the Lord in prayer, in Scripture reading, in expounding the Word and in song, we are prophesying, praising God. Oh! My heart is in that. What do I do? “Pastor, we need, we must have the space occupied by the nursery.” And the nursery says, “Pastor, we must expand the nurseries. What will you do?”
May I take just one other instance, for lack of time—just one other. There comes to me the principal of our First Baptist Church School, and he says to me,
Pastor, we must have the use of the gymnasium. You cannot have a school program without a physical ed program. We must have the use of the gymnasium, and we must have it for the spirit of the youngsters that come, for children love to play, and they love competitive sports, and we must have it, Pastor. We must.
No sooner does the Principal of the school get through telling me that when our Minister of Missions says to me,
Pastor, the gymnasium is the very heart—the recreational program—is the very heart of our mission appeal to boys and girls. That’s the way we get the mission children to attend Sunday school. We promise them, If you attend Sunday school, we will take you to the gymnasium—the recreational area of the church—and there we shall play together. And to a poor boy and to a poor girl that lives in a drab and dreary world, it’s a light to that little fellow and to that little girl to get to come to a church and share in the playing of our recreational building. So they take three nights a week, the mission children do.
What do I do? The Minister of Music says, “Pastor, we desperately need it. We cannot carry on our work without it.” And the Principal of the school says, “Pastor, we must have it. We cannot have a school program without it and you’ll have to decide.” Why, it’s an agony. I decide? What shall I say about these poor little boys and girls in the mission that look forward to this? And what shall I say to our school that God is beginning gloriously to bless; and God’s going to continue to bless that school.
Education belongs to the church. It was born in the church. Somebody took it away from us. It belongs here. It was born here. It belongs here. To teach these children God and the Word of God is the very heart of our discipleship. What do I do?
Just briefly, to continue for saying two more; last week they came to me and said, “These buildings were built in 1890. They must be brought up. They have to be brought up to the city codes of today, and that involves a vast outlay.”
And then this last week I was briefed on the fact that there are areas in the church that must be remodeled. We have no other choice if they are to be used. For example, when our Christian Education building was built, adults were taken out and those areas given to older children. But for their use, they must
re-modeled. It has to be. What do you do with these things?
I’ll tell you what we do. We rise up and build. We thank God and praise God that he matched our souls against this present hour.
Shall we say to a young couple, coming here, bringing a baby in their arms, “There’s no place for you?” Shall we say to a mission, “You’re not wanted, the door’s closed?” Shall we say to our school, “You can’t have it, it’s pre-empted?” Shall we say to the city, “We defy the laws of Dallas?” We’re the first ones not to obey them. What do we do?
This is what we do. We ask God for a way and I have one to suggest. It is pastor’s suggestion. It’s a consideration. It is humbly, simply, plainly this. From our Veal building, our parking building—on top of which is our recreational building—to the Truett Building, across Patterson Street, let’s build across it. Let’s take our gymnasium and build it across. Let’s take those lower floors for our children and build them across. And let’s take the lowest floors for the choir, and build them across.
Then our people can drive up into the parking building with a little child and walk straight into the department. And it’ll be right there where the choir can meet, and practice, and robe, and come right out here into the auditorium to praise the Lord. That’s a suggestion.
Let’s build across Patterson Street, from the Veal Building to the Truett Building—just build those floors across—and the children are already there. They just extend across. And the choir’s already there. It just extends across. And the gymnasium is already there. It just extends across. That is a suggestion.
I must close. “Pastor, what you’re doing is almost unbelievable.” I’m speaking now of the future, having mentioned our present necessity of the future. We owe already on our Christian Education Building; we owe two million dollars. On the lot next to the Veal Building, we owe a hundred and eighty-six thousand dollars. On the lot and property at St. Paul and Santos Center, we owe five hundred fifty-four thousand eight hundred seven dollars. And, then, as though that were not enough, we bought—no money to pay for it—by faith, we bought the rest of the block, facing Ross Avenue, at a cost—at a debt—of one million, seven hundred twenty-six thousand dollars.
“Pastor, will you ever use that property facing Ross Avenue?”
“I don’t think so, in my lifetime.”
“Well, Pastor, why do you lead our men into the purchasing of a property like that t so great a cost adding to the debt?”
Here is the answer. An old man, going along a highway came at the evening, cold and gray, to a chasm vast, and deep, and wide, through which was flowing a sullen tide. The old man crossed in the twilight dim the sullen stream. He had no fear for him but he turned when safe on the other side and built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near, “you’re wasting your strength with building here. Your journey will end with the ending day. You never again must pass this way. You have crossed the chasm deep and wide. Why build you a bridge at the eventide?”
The builder lifted his old, gray head, “Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “there followeth after me today a youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm that has been as naught to me, to that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be. He, too, must cross in the twilight dim. Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”
The work doesn’t stop with me, nor does God’s kingdom cease its outreach with me. There is a tomorrow. There is a future. Every generation must be won to Christ. Every generation must be taught the Word of God, and I’m looking to that tomorrow.
I—and I pray a multitude of you—I have willed everything I have to the church. The will is in the Baptist foundation, all of it. And, increasingly, there are our devout people, who in trusts, and in wills, are remembering God’s tomorrow. And in the meantime, now—now—I am praying God to make me able to give, and He’s answering that prayer.
And we’re praying that God will place upon our people a marvelous response. That means I may not be able to support some things out there in the world. If it’s God’s will that what I do, I do here. Then may the Lord be pleased. I shall concentrate what I do, and what I give in this dear place, building this ministry for our children, building these schools that they might be taught the Word of God, building the outreach of the church, winning people to Christ, and asking God’s benedictory, heavenly remembrance to abide with us until He shall says, “It’s enough. Well done, good and faithful servant.”
O! May God crown the appeal we make to our people now with the prayerful surrendered yieldedness of a heart that is sensitive, and open, and responsive to the will and call of our Lord.
In a moment now, we shall stand and sing our hymn of invitation. And while we sing it you, a family, a couple, or just you putting your life in the Lord, joining hands with us in this sweet congregation, giving your heart in faith to Jesus maybe, as the Spirit shall press the appeal, would you answer with your life? Would you come now, on the first note, of the first stanza, “Here I am, Pastor,” and, “Here I come. The whole family is coming. My wife and I are coming,” or just you. Make it now. Do it now while we stand and while we sing.
OUR FIVE YEAR ACHIEVEMENT PROGRAM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Nehemiah 2: 18
Letter of Protest from non-member
Answering with our lives and what we have