Our Five Year Plan
April 7th, 1974 @ 8:15 AM
OUR FIVE-YEAR PLAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-7-74 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are with us in heart and spirit and listening ear, all of us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And we welcome you. And I have prepared the word for us today. It is entitled Our Five-Year Plan. It is a projection of what, under God, we pray the Holy Spirit will enable us to do in this immediate and coming five years.
And it is not a turning aside from the Holy Scriptures in the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi he said, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect," not perfect in the sense of sinless but achieving that for which God called me. And that Greek word teleios, translated perfect. A big oak would be the perfection of an acre or a man would be the perfection of a little boy. The word means achieving the purpose for which God intended. So that’s the use of the word here.
Not as though I had already attained or were already perfect, that I had seized that, reached that for which God called me: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend, I may get hold of that for which also Christ got hold of me.
Brethren, I count not myself to have got hold of it, (I haven’t arrived yet): but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Forgetting those things that are behind, whatever the blessings of God upon us yesterday. It does not suffice for the blessings we need tomorrow. And however we have attained in days passed it is as nothing compared to the achievements we pray for in days future. So, looking not to the past but reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
The whole imagery is one of those Greek Olympian games, diōkō, I pursue, toward the mark, skopos. Skopeō means to look intently, straight at something. A micro, a little skopos, would be to look intently at something very small. Skopeō, to look intently at something. And so skopos, mark, means something toward which one would set his eyes and his heart and his outreach and he pursues it, diōkō
I press toward the skopos, the mark, for the prize, brabeion. Paul uses these imageries of the Greek games so often. In 1 Corinthians he will say, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize, brabeion, prize? So run that ye may obtain." [1 Corinthians 9:24] This is a word that he uses here. The whole imagery is of a runner who is straining with all of the strength of his life and body and might. He is an athlete training for it. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
So using that imagery we are turning toward the five years that lie ahead for us. And I outline and it will be so brief for lack of time, I outline some of these things that we reach out for, toward, pursue the mark of the prize of God’s call to us.
First, our public media and communications. This is addressed to you who listen on radio and to you also who at the 11:00 o’clock hour by the hundreds of thousands listen to the services and watch the services on television. For years, literally years, there have been interested men who have talked to me so prayerfully and earnestly about taking our services and broadcasting them on television stations all over America.
And with the knowledge of a success in that achieved by others, supported by the listening audience, there have been men from Philadelphia who have come here and talked to me, asking me to do that, assuring me that it could be done and done triumphantly and well.
We take our services that we broadcast here on television and send them to stations all over America. That is something that I have hesitated before, but if it is God’s will, it may be something that we could do in the name of our Lord.
Our print shop expanded with new presses and a mailroom can be used in increasing proportions to educate, to enlist, to encourage. There are cassette tapes that can be made, even video cassette tapes, and sent all over the world, mailed all over the world. And there are infinite opportunities in sending out stories to newspapers and magazines. If they are newsworthy, they are welcome.
I turn now to our retirement center. Over the nation, from one side of it to the other, have I seen these great projects sponsored by and built by the churches. There are some built by the churches here in Dallas. It’s been the dream of my heart for the years that we would have a vast retirement center. It would have to be at least fifty stories high, hard by the chruch. As I facetiously say, so close to the church that if one of them fell out of the window, he’d fall into the church.
A life care program, not one where people come and live and then when they get old or ill they are shoved out to fend for themselves. But it would be a life care program where we came to live in age and were taken care of all through the years of our life.
I, as you know, have been disappointed in that because of the astronomically rising costs. It came to pass when we got up high enough, the cost of building such a structure reached the astronomical proportions of sixty dollars a square foot. But we are still praying and asking God to give us an open door. And in the meantime, seeking even now the construction of a like home in another area. But always in the church a sensitivity to people who need us, who grow older.
Yesterday I was so moved visiting an old couple and he almost at the threshold of death. And the dear wife, for her husband could hardly recognize me because of his illness, his dear wife when I came burst into tears and said, "I knew you would come. We’ve been waiting." Oh God, as I left the room I thought I wish I were a thousand men. I’d love to devote all of them, ministering to the people. If I had a thousand lives, I’d love to put them all right here, right here.
I turn now to Christian recreation. The vast extensive use of our recreational center is unbelievable. When I was given by dear Mrs. Beal a million five hundred thousand dollars, I built that building across the street. The church did not know what was going on. She wanted it kept just to herself.
So on top of the parking building that we constructed, we placed our recreational unit. There are literally thousands who, each month, use that recreational center. But there’s hardly any limit to the extent by which it can be used. We are looking forward to our basketball teams from their present number of eleven to twenty-seven and our softball teams from a present number of seven to fifteen and our day camp from a present two hundred fifty-three enrolled to three hundred twenty-five enrolled and decisions from Christ in that day camp from eighty-five to one hundred three every year.
Our live long and like it club from a present one hundred twenty enrolled to two hundred fifty. Our adult hobby and education classes, year round five or six such classes offered. An adult athletic participation program to include scores of men and women. But for this and our church and for our school, which I come to in a moment, we need a vastly expanded facility.
Now, our mission program. In our Jerusalem – you know the Lord said, "You shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem and Judaea and Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth." – our Jerusalem, I have always felt, reading the word of God, that however our mission appeal might be beyond, it ought also to be here. God said beginning in Jerusalem our city, and Judaea our state, and Samaria our nation, and then to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Our Jerusalem, our city mission program. We have seven chapels in that mission program now. And we are praying for an increase in enrollment in the Sunday schools in those chapels of one hundred a year to twenty-two hundred enrolled and an average attendance of fourteen hundred. We now have an average attendance of about a thousand in those chapels. Isn’t that the most glorious thing that you could ever imagine?
These ministries of our church, out, out getting those people together and teaching them the word of God; two of them, as you know, are here in our facilities. The good shepherd chapel is a ministry to the poor people downtown. And our silent friends chapel, also located here in our facilities, is our ministry of love to our silent people. So we are asking God to help us reach more to those chapels.
Then we pray God to give us wisdom in seeking out and helping young struggling churches which have a great potential in becoming solid, strong churches. For example, one of our chapels is the Lakeside Chapel in Duncanville. Soon it will be a strong thriving church. For example our present South Mesquite Chapel will also soon grow to be a fine, strong, solid church. We are seeking out those areas and those little struggling groups in the city to help them and to strengthen them. And it might also be blessed of God if we sponsor a like ministry in the Pacific Northwest or in other areas of our nation.
Then there are other ministries that are open to us in the jails, such as another kind of ministry, a Sunday school class at Six Flags for the young college students who work there all summer, or a Sunday school class at the airport for waiting passengers and travelers. And then of course we have a tremendous already Vacation Bible School ministry in the Trinity Valley here and down there on the Rio Grande, and our junior board involved in so much of that work.
Then in this mission ministry our Royal Ambassadors, the key to it is the counselor, a main committee of sixteen trained dedicated men seeking to build the work with boys. And an increase from the present enrollment from about two hundred boys, an increase of about thirty-five or seventy-five boys each year who are brought into the program.
Then Woman’s Missionary Organization, our Baptist women, a present six hundred fifty members and an attendance of about three hundred, coming on Baptist women’s day and increased to about seven hundred seventy-five members with five hundred attending on our Baptist women’s day, and other hundreds involved in mission action projects throughout the year.
And a continuing mission study and prayer and education program every Sunday evening at 6:00 o’clock. That may be a little different from what is done in the regular course of the building of a Baptist church but I’d like to do it here. I would like to see a mission program every Sunday evening at six o’clock here at this church at our training union time.
And then what we call the CIA, Christ International Agents, is a travel club; our people who travel abroad come in contact with missionaries and native pastors. And we send them words and encouragements and attendance in our people who travel abroad.
And then our mission tours. This May some of our people are going down to the Big Bend country in Texas and in October three teams of laymen from our church are going to southeast Asia to conduct WIN schools, teaching them how to win to Christ. And maybe next year in 1975 the medical personnel from our church will go to Africa, accompanied by some of our dedicated businessmen.
Then also in our mission program, International Bible classes. Each Sunday we have language groups here in our church. There is a Chinese department. There is a Japanese department. And as you know, one of our chapels is Spanish. And each week also we have our conversational English classes, an attempt to reach people who speak in a foreign tongue whom God sends to us here in Dallas.
And then our age level organization, such as our Acteens. We now have two hundred eighty-seven enrolled with forty-five leaders and we are looking forward to four hundred thirty-seven enrolled with sixty-five leaders.
Now I come to our business administration. Our people are now giving at the rate of about five million dollars a year to our Lord’s work and we are praying that within these next five years that we shall be giving at the rate of about six million dollars a year. We owe about five million dollars. We pray that at the end of this five years that we shall be debt free on what we now possess, the buildings and the properties that we now own.
We are asking God to give us a ten percent increase in the number of our people at present who belong to the church and a five percent increase in the number of tithers. And we are going to do our best in God’s wisdom and blessing to encourage our people to remember our work in wills and in trusts. It’s a wonderful thing, if when a man makes out his will, a tithe of his estate he would leave to our church and then if he has no one dependent upon him we could pray that he would will the entire estate to our Lord to bless his name through our precious church.
I come now to our music ministry. We are hoping within these immediate years to have two thousand enrolled in our music ministry.
Our chapel choir with three hundred fifty enrolled and two hundred fifty in average attendance;
Our sanctuary choir with three hundred fifty enrolled and two hundred fifty in average attendance;
Our clarion choir with three hundred fifty enrolled and two hundred fifty in average attendance;
Our junior choir with two hundred fifty enrolled and two hundred average attendance;
Our primary choir with two hundred fifty enrolled and two hundred in average attendance;
Our beginner’s choir with two hundred twenty-five enrolled and one hundred seventy-five in average attendance;
Our orchestra with seventy-five enrolled and sixty in average attendance.
In the Bible they had two hundred eighty-seven pieces of orchestra to praise God. Wouldn’t that sound marvelous? And our hand bell choir with one hundred enrolled and ninety in average attendance.
And the facilities for these must be provided, greatly enlarged.
And you if somebody really wanted to do something for the Lord; we have never had a new pipe organ in the church since 1890. That’s seventy-four years ago. The little pipe organ that they started off with in the church, we’ve added to it and worked around with it. If somebody would give us a new pipe organ, wouldn’t that be celestial? We just wouldn’t go to heaven. We’d say, "Lord, just not interested and we are going to stay here in the First Baptist Church in Dallas."
I come now to the last and the seventh, our Christian education program. Teaching the Holy Scriptures, teaching the mind and way of Christ. I speak first of our First Baptist Church School. You cannot know with what gratitude to God, with what infinite thanksgiving and delight I look upon our First Baptist Church School.
This last week, three days ago, there came to me a great national leader, and had a friend with him. And he was saying to me, "I want to enlist your help in a national outreach to win back, to get back, to seize back, to take back education for Christ." He pointed out something that is true. All education was born in the church. It wasn’t born out there in the secular world. It was born in the church. The great universities that you know today, all of them were conceived and organized by the church. The public school system began in the church. The whole gamut, all of it, of the education that you know, all of it began in the church. And what has become of it, the secular world has seized it and taken it away. Education today is almost wholly atheistic. It is anti-God and anti-Christ and anti-church.
Not that we do not have great Christian educators. Some of the presidents of our universities, some of the principals and superintendents of our public school systems and schools are great Christians; but their hands are tied by the courts and by the American Civil Liberties League and Union.
What we want to do is to bring back where education started from, where it belongs; in the mind and heart of God. And one of the things we are doing here is to give our people a choice. If you would like to send a child to a Christian school where he is taught the Bible and the Word of God and the mind of our Lord, we invite you to send the child here. We are achieving excellency in teaching and in academic work. We ought to be twice as good as any other school in the world if we are dedicating it to our Lord.
And we ought to use these facilities dually. On Sunday we use them for Sunday school but in the days of the week we use them to teach in the school.
And our enrollments this fall, we are asking for an enrollment of three hundred fifty. And the grade will be from kindergarten to the tenth grade. This year it was kindergarten to the nineth grade. Then in 1975, five hundred enrolled from kindergarten to the eleventh grade, adding a grade. And then in 1976, six hundred enrolled from kindergarten to the twelfth grade, adding a grade each year. We just lack three more until we have the entire school from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. And then in the five-year period, seven hundred fifty enrolled in all of those twelve grades.
Oh God, grant that with increasing blessing. This last week I received a check for two thousand eight hundred seventy-five dollars from a man whom I do not know in Denver, who was encouraged by a businessman in our church to give money to help us make it possible for children who are to poor to pay the tuition to our school, that they might be able to come. And if you know a poor child who is not able to attend this school for lack of funds, you send me word and we will provide for his attendance. God is blessing the school. God is blessing Mel Carter as the principal of it.
Our Bible Institute, we are praying that God will bless it from a thousand to a thousand every night session and three hundred attending in its day sessions. The facilities that we have here in the church, we just need to expand our library, and we are asking God to bless us with the endowment of that school and scholarships for it.
Some of our men are working in a foundation and we already have about eight hundred fifty thousand dollars in that foundation, supporting the work here and especially in our institute. And we will have maybe two million dollars in that foundation by the end of next year. And so we pray that it will grow through the years to support the school. And my understanding is that the first day of May we are going to have an FM radio station for our institute, broadcasting all day long good things about Jesus.
Now, our Sunday school, our educational ministry here, and as I speak of the Sunday school the emphasis would also carry with it our Training Union. We have a present enrollment in our Sunday school of about ten thousand. We are asking God to help us to bring it to thirteen thousand two hundred ninety-four. Our groups really worked on that, what they think they could do. We have an average attendance now in studying God’s word at 9:30 Sunday morning of about fifty eight hundred and we are asking God to help us make that average attendance of people who register, who are actually here, not guessing, eight thousand two hundred every Sunday.
You know, I remember when we passed the three thousand mark in Sunday school. I never dreamed that we could do that when I first came here. But we passed it and nobody can even remember when we did it. And we passed the four thousand mark.
I remember going to Dr. Souther, who was our educational leader for so many years, who is now a professor at New Orleans Seminary. And I said to him, "I have striven and worked, our people have worked and we can’t get this Sunday school up to that four thousand mark. Do you think it is possible?"
And Mr. Souther said to me, he said, "Pastor, don’t let that burden your heart. If you will just keep working you will have four thousand in Sunday school." And the day came and we passed it and hardly recognized the milepost. Then we passed four thousand, and now we are going over six thousand with that same blessedness of God. We are praying that God will give us souls, baptisms, numbering over one thousand every year
Friday, the home mission board in which is located in the evangelistic section of our Southern Baptist Convention, one of the men there wrote me a personal letter and pointed out to me that our church is seventh in baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention. We ought to be first. We are first in every other way. Why aren’t we first in winning people to Jesus?
Now, to implement that, this coming June, the first day of June there is coming a young man by the name of Herschel Crissman to work with brother Jimmy Draper. This boy Hershel Crissman is a man, I just met him one time, but brother Jimmy Draper tells me that he is an organizational genius. He knows how to take people to work. His brother is one of the heads of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith the great brokerage firm in New York. And his brother offered this boy here, Herschel Crissman, seventy-five thousand a year to start off with if he’d come up there and work with Merrill Lynch.
But the boy said, "No, I have given my life to God. God called me and I am going to stay with the calling of the Lord." So, from Dell City from where Jimmy Draper came to us, and by the way that is one of the churches that has far more baptisms than we do, where Jimmy was last year. This boy, Herschel Crissman, went to Walnut Street Church, which is the First Baptist Church of Louisville Kentucky, the largest church in Kentucky. And he felt led of God to come here and work with his friend, Jimmy Draper.
And I believe with those two men, with Jimmy Draper and Herschel Crissman, every one of these goals is going to be attainable, reachable, seizable. They are marks toward which our church can triumphantly and confidently move.
Now, in this there have been many figures but don’t forget each one of those figures represents somebody. It’s a boy, maybe yours. It’s a girl, maybe she belongs to you. It’s a family, maybe it’s your family. It’s a household where people live. Maybe it’s your neighbor. And when we ask God to help us reach people we are pleasing the Lord. He came to die for them. He was raised to justify them, to declare them righteous before God’s throne in heaven. And He laid upon us, not upon angels, but upon us the ministry of reconciliation to wit that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.
And our assignment and mandate from heaven is to mediate to these who do not know our Lord the goodness and the glory and the blessing of what it is to give heart and life to the blessed Jesus.
Why, we have all heaven working with us. We have the very stars in their courses warring for us. We have God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit on our side when we give ourselves to this work.
I don’t deny that the powers of darkness are strong and that the kingdom of Satan is regnant and powerful and regal. But he is no match for Christ. And the world is no match for the church of our Lord. We just need to offer our hearts and hands and lives to Him and then just see what God does for this.
Our time is much spent. We are standing now in a moment to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, in the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, you; a family, a couple, the whole family, "Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children; we are all coming today. God has put it on our hearts to come. God has called us here and we are coming." If the Holy Spirit whispers the invitation, the appeal, answer with your life, come now while we stand and while we sing.