Our Five Year Plan
April 7th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
OUR FIVE-YEAR PLAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-7-74 10:50 a.m.
We welcome you who are worshipping with us on radio and on television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the message. It is one that is unlike any that I have prepared ever before. It is not unscriptural that the pastor would be preparing a message on the work of our church for the five years that lie ahead. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect" – telos, not perfect in the sense of sinless perfection, but perfect in the sense of achieving the reason for which God made us.
The word telos is like this. An oak is the telos of an acorn. It is the great purpose for which the acorn was made. A man is a telos of a boy. He is the purpose for which the boy was made. Then he grows into manhood or the acorn grows into the tree. And a grain of corn would grow into a stalk. That’s the word that he uses.
Not that I have attained or that I have already come to that place for which God called me, but I follow after if, that may I get hold of that, that I may apprehend that, which also Christ got hold of me – that for which Christ apprehended me.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended – I haven’t got there 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.
Not looking back, forgetting the things that are behind. However the blessings of God yesterday, we must have other blessings today and tomorrow. The manna that fell upon us to feed your souls yesterday, does not suffice for our feeding and our strengthening today. The manna must fall, fresh each day.
So forgetting those things that are behind, whatever God has done for us, now, we will reach forth unto those things which are before.
Then the text, "I press" – dioko, "I pursue." "I press toward the mark," skopos. Skopos, skopeo is to look at a thing intently, straightly. "I press toward the mark." Skopeo means to look at a thing straightly, intently. Then skopos is a thing that is looked at intently, like a microscope looking at a little thing intently. "I press toward the skopos, the mark for the prize, brabeion."
Paul so many times will use this figure of a runner in an Olympic race, the Greek races. In the ninth chapter of 1 Corinthians he says, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all? But one receiveth the prize. So run that ye may obtain." So using the figure of the Greek games of a runner who is straining, who is agonizing, who is stretching, who is pressing with all of his might. The athlete is running toward a goal, "For the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." So using that, as a text for us, running toward a goal, striving toward a mark, seeking the prize in God’s hands, we outline for us the program for our people for the next five years.
First, we speak of our public media. I place that first because I’m speaking of you who listen on radio and who watch the service on television. For years, there have been interested men who have come to talk to me about taking our televised service and through videotaping it, sending it to other stations all over America. I have had men from Philadelphia come to talk to me about it. There are some dedicated men of the church who are so interested in such a vastly increased ministry. Certainly, our television audience already is one of the greatest in America, listening and receiving by cable from just one station. They say that there can be support gained for it from the listening audience. So we shall see what is the mind of God as we maybe program our noonday service, our eleven o’clock service for a viewing audience that would cover most of America and certainly its great cities.
Then we have an illimitable opportunity through the printed page, through our large print shop, through buying needed presses and expanding the mail room to proclaim the message of Christ by the reading eye. And then there are tapes, cassettes, video cassettes that can be mailed all over this earth, in the darkest jungles, in the most out-of-the-way places. There’s hardly any boundary to the ministry of our public media. And then of course, there are stories of interest that we can place in the hands of newspapers and of magazines. And contrary to what most people think, any story of religion is accepted with interest and appreciation if it has value for a reading public. They’re not our enemies out there. They are our friends. We just need to do better ourselves in channeling to them things of lasting and abiding interest.
I turn now to our retirement center. Over the nation, I see these great projects sponsored and built by the churches of our Lord. There are some of those tremendous retirement centers who are here in Dallas, built by churches. It has been the dream of my heart that here fast by our church, there could be built a great retirement center, a home for people who having come to an age in life where they would like to enter a life care program, could come and live with us. It’s been my dream to have it so close to the church that, as I say, if one of them fell out of the window, he’d fall in the church. I would love that: a life care program for those dear people. Not to go to some kind of a retirement home and then when they got sick or got too old, they would be shoved out to fend for themselves, but a place where they were taken care of all of the days of their lives.
For us, that building would have to be at least fifty stories high. We could not build a small center, there are too many of us. But that dream was shattered by the rising costs as we went up and up, it finally came to coast about $60 a square foot, which was prohibitive. But we are still praying and we’re still waiting. And in the meantime, our men are preparing to build a retirement center someplace away from the church. But always, there is to be in our church, that wonderful heart of loving remembrance in behalf of these who grow older. For us to forget the noble men and women who have given to us our present church – they built these buildings. They paid for them. It is a foundation that they have laid upon which we build today. And to remember in loving care and prayer, those dedicated saintly people, blesses us. And our ministries to them, ought never to be neglected or cast aside.
That’s the reason that I am so grateful to have Brother Peacock here who heads that program of ministry to our older people. And we are expanding it. It will continue to be expanded. And we want it to include everybody who comes to adult age. This is one of the sweetest things our church could ever, ever do. And I think the appreciation from their hearts is beyond anything we could ever experience in life.
I am so much in sympathy with our young people. And every program that reaches them. But the great chances are that when you have worked with a young fellow, he’s just like that, he’s off and away. And for the most part has even forgotten about it. But not these who are older! They are so sensitive and so full of appreciation for any kind, any kind of time or notice or kindness or word that is presented, that is offered their way. O God in heaven, as our church continues in its work and as it continues to grow, the number of people who grow in it will multiply. And this ministry to them is sweet and dear in God’s sight, and I know in our sight. So may the Lord bless us as we place our arms of love and prayer and sympathy and concern and remembrance about our people who grow older.
I speak now of our Christian recreation. We have a marvelous, incomparably blessed ministry of Christian recreation under Dan Beam. When Mrs. Veal gave me that $1,500,000 for the building of this unit across the street, it was to be kept secret from the people. She did not want it known. So I took the money and built that building. Many of the people in the church had no idea what it was. But on top of that parking building, we erected our recreational center. That is one of the finest instruments under God that I know. At the present time, at the present time, there are more than 84,000 people a year who use – go through that recreational program. There are about 1600 a week now, but we are looking forward to reaching 2000 people a week and over 100,000 a year. That can be done and done easily.
In our athletic program from our present eleven basketball teams, we are looking forward to twenty seven. And from our present seven softball teams, we’re looking forward to fifteen, and in the day camp there, from our present 253 enrolled to 325 enrolled. And the decisions for Christ that we now have about 85 – we’re praying it will be 103 at least; and in our Live Long and Like It Club from our present 120 to 250. And in our adult hobby and education classes that is year round, every day, we have at least five or six of those hobby classes offered. And in our adult athletic participation that includes scores of men and women, and for that purpose and for the use of the gymnasium especially, for our schools, we need vastly to increase it. And we believe God will give us the wisdom and the support to do that.
I turn now to our mission program. First, our Jerusalem, our city. I’ve always felt reading the Word of the Lord that we have a responsibility here, just as we would have a responsibility beyond the seas. For the Lord said, beginning in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world, so our Jerusalem is our Dallas. Our Judea would be our state. Our Samaria would be our nation. And then the uttermost parts of the earth: our foreign mission program. We have in the heart of our church, a glorious God-blessed ministry in our Jerusalem. We have seven chapels and in those seven chapels, we minister to thousands of people.
Two of those chapels are here in the church. Our Good Shepherd Chapel is a ministry to the poor people pressed against the heart of the city. And our Deaf Chapel is our ministry here in the church to our unhearing, our Silent Friends. We now have something like maybe – oh, 1800 enrolled in Sunday School. We are looking forward to have 2,200 enrolled in those Sunday Schools. We now have every Sunday about 1000 in Sunday School attendance in those missions. We are looking forward to having about a 1,400 in average attendance in those seven mission chapels.
Then we’re asking God to give us wisdom to seek out and to help young struggling churches who have great potential of becoming strong, solid churches. We’re doing that now. One of our chapels is the Lakeside Church in Duncanville. And the day is coming soon when it will be a self-supporting, self-organized church. We have another one in the South Mesquite Chapel in Mesquite. And it’s growing and some day it will be a strong, fine church. So throughout the city, we shall seek churches that are struggling and just barely able to live. And we will help them and strengthen them until they become strong and able in themselves. And it would be in order if we could sponsor a like mission in the great Pacific Northwest or in other areas of our United States of America.
Then there are other ministries in your Jerusalem in the jails. At Six Flags over Texas, we have scores and scores of college young people who work there all summer. And to have a Sunday School class for them on Sunday would be a blessing. A Sunday School class out at the airport for travelers who are waiting for the plane. And then to increase the number of our Vacation Bible Schools, such as we have in our Trinity River Ministry. We have dozens of those schools. And then our junior board involved in helping us in all of that outreach.
In our great mission program, we have a marvelous ministry to boys. We call it our Royal Ambassador Program. The key is the counselor. With a main committee of 16 trained and dedicated men, we’re seeking to build up this work with our boys. At the present time we have about two hundred boys enrolled but we look forward to reaching 750 boys in that program, an increase of at least about eighty five or ninety a year. And to get those boys – and they have a marvelous outdoor program, indoor program and of course, a mission program – it just means the strength of the church of tomorrow.
Then under our mission program is Woman’s Missionary Organizations. First, is our Baptist women. From 650 members now, we reach toward having 775. And from 300 attending our Baptist Women’s Day now, to have 500 in attendance. And other hundreds of our women and families involved in mission action projections and programs throughout the year. And then I’d like to have – I’d like to encourage our women to do this. A continuing mission program of study and training and education every Sunday evening at 6:00 o’clock. Heretofore, all of the work of Woman’s Missionary Organization had been in the weekdays. I’d like to see them do it also on Sunday night at 6:00 o’clock, a training, educational mission program that continues every Sunday evening, through every Sunday of the year.
And then in our church, we have a CIA, Christ International Agent. It is a travel club where our people who travel abroad can be introduced to the missionary or to the native pastor or to the church there. They can bring words of encouragement and their attendance would be a benediction. And then our mission tours. This May we are going to the Texas Big Bend Country. And in October, three teams of our laymen are going to Southeast Asia. There to conduct soul-winning schools. And in 1975, some of our medical personnel here in the church will be going to Africa accompanied by businessmen. These are ways that we can help God’s work in the earth.
And then we have our church international Bible classes. Each Sunday, we have language classes. There’s a Chinese Department in the church where the Word of God is taught in Chinese, in Mandarin and in Cantonese. And then we have Japanese Department in the church. These men that come in their Cotton Exchange Building, not only try to reach them there, but reaching them here. And we do. God blesses us in it. And each week we have Conversational English Classes. These people come to America, they cannot even speak English. We gather them here and we teach them English. And teach them at the time, the Word of God.
Then in our age level organization, such as our Acteens, we now have 287 enrolled with 45 leaders. We are looking forward to the day when we have 437 of these young girls enrolled with 65 leaders. This is the outreach of our great mission ministry.
Now, I speak of our business administration. Our stewardship program is the greatest and the most blessed of heaven of any that I know in the world. I do not know of a church that gives as much as our church does. We are now giving at the rate of over $5,000,000 a year to God’s work through this dear church. But we are still growing and we are looking forward to the time within the next five years we shall give at the rate of $6,000,000 a year.
We have a debt on our properties of something over five million. We’re praying that by the end of the five years, that debt will be paid for. I want to parenthesis here. They said to be debt-free at the end of five years. Well, I said to those sweet leaders that spoke to me, "Now we may be debt-free with what we now owe, but we may $10,000,000 by the end of the five years. You just can’t tell what God may put on our hearts to do." But we certainly uphold a debt now and we are going to pay it and I pray the Lord will give us success in that.
And then in pledging; our present membership, we pray for an increase of ten percent in our members responding. And a five percent increase in our present membership among those who tithe. And then our wills and trusts. It would be a glorious thing if everyone of our people when they made out their will would leave a tenth of the estate to God’s work in our church then if you do not have a family that depends upon you, to will all of it to the work of God in our church. There would be an illimitable source of support for God’s kingdom in the earth if our people would remember our Lord in the will and in the trust.
Now, I turn to our music program. Talking about you, our Chapel Choir that sings at the first service, that they have 350 enrolled and 250 average attendance. The Sanctuary Choir that you look at now, that they have 350 enrolled with 250 average attendance, singing Handel’s music every Sunday. Our Clarion Choir, 350 enrolled, 250 in average attendance. Our Junior Choir, 250 enrolled and 200 in average attendance. Our Primary Choir is 250 enrolled and 200 in average attendance. Our Beginner choir is 225 enrolled and 175 average attendance.
And our orchestra, using you for seed that you grow, that our orchestra have 75 enrolled with 60 in average attendance. And even then, you know in the Bible they had 297 members in the orchestra to play. So you all have got to do better. Got to multiply yourselves. Can you imagine going to church in that time and they had 5,000 Levites to sing and 297 orchestra pieces playing? Oh, can you imagine what that sounded like? Well, we would just say preacher, "Just stand aside, we just don’t need you. We just glorifying God here like the angels." Oh, that would be so great!
And our hand bell choirs, 100 enrolled with 90 in average attendance. And facilities prepared for them. Right now I understand everybody is trying to get in everybody else’s robe back there. They don’t even have a little place where they can put on their own robes. They’re all at each other’s hair. From the time they come out here, they are so mad they don’t feel like praising God at all. That’s what I hear. Ah, we need to do something gracious for you to make it possible for you to shine for Jesus.
And maybe sometime, someday, somebody will give us a real pipe organ. Did you know that pipe organ was placed here in the church in 1890? This is the same pipe organ. We’ve just added to it and reworked it and done all kinds of things that I don’t understand. But ah, if somebody would come along and say, "For the sake of Jesus, we are going to give the First Baptist Church in Dallas a new pipe organ." It would have to cost a half million dollars to be commensurate with what we’ve got in our heads and trying to do with Jesus. But half a million dollars for some of you would be chicken feed, just be a tip, just be a gesture. So think about it. Maybe one of you will come along here and do it someday.
Now, I come to the last, the last of our five-year projections. It concerns Christian education, teaching the Holy Scriptures and teaching the mind and the way of our blessed Lord. I mentioned first our First Baptist Church school. I am inordinately grateful to God and proud before heaven itself for our First Baptist Church School. Last week, I had a great educator and his friend, came to see me, to talk to me, asking me to be a part of an effort in America to get back education in to the hands of the church and into the hands of our Lord. He made a remark to me and it is so true, "All education was born in the church." These great universities without exception, everyone of them here and abroad, were born in the church. You just name it. It is a church school. Cambridge, Oxford, the Sorbonne, all of them. Name them in America, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the University of Chicago. There’s no exception to it. Everyone of the great old universities in modern civilization is a child of the church.
The public school is a child of the church. It was born in the church. That’s where it came from. All education was a child of the church. But the secularists have taken it away by coercion and by seizure, they have taken it and they have destroyed its spiritual content. Not that there are not great Christian educators. There are. But their hands are tied. The American Civil Liberties Union and a thousand other such have taken away the right to make it Christian.
Now, it is our hope to bring back education into the mind of our Lord. And one of the things we’re doing here is offering to our people a choice. If you would like to send your child to a Christian school, where he is taught the Word of God, where he is taught to pray, where he is introduced to the Lord Jesus, we’re trying to make it a way that you can send the child. We’re trying to give you a choice that you can send the boy or the girl here. God is blessing our school.
This last week, I received from Denver from a man, whom I do not know, I received a check for $2,875 to help a poor boy, a poor girl to go to our school who otherwise could not afford to pay the tuition. And if you know a child who would like to come to this Christian school and who’s not able, you tell us and we will invite the child and make it possible for the boy or the girl to attend. God is blessing Mel Carter, the principal of our school in his effort to achieve excellence in teaching and academic goodness. And it ought to be that. If it is a Christian school, I think it ought to be twice as good as any other school in the world just because we dedicate it to Jesus.
And our facilities, all of our church ought to be looked upon as dual purpose facilities. In the weekday, we use them for the teaching program. And on Sunday, we use them for Sunday School and all of the other ministries of the church.
And our enrollment in our First Baptist Church School, this fall, we are asking God to give us 350 enrolled. We now have from kindergarten to the ninth grade. This fall we will have kindergarten to the tenth grade. And the next year, 1975, we’re asking God to give us 500 students from kindergarten to the eleventh grade – one step up. And then in 1976, 600 enrolled from kindergarten to the twelfth grade. And we’ll have the entire school. We’re adding a grade a year for the next two years. And then we’ll have it all. And in five years, we are asking God for 750 students and maybe sometime at least 1000.
Now, our Bible Institute; we are believing that in our Bible Institute we will have a thousand attending at night. And we’ll have three hundred daytime students. And under Dr. Leo Eddleman, that God will bless it inwardly, outwardly, upwardly, every way. The facilities, we have ample here in this great complex. We need to expand the library. And then in endowments and scholarships for young ministers and church leaders who would love to come. In our foundations supporting it, we now have about $850,000. And we are believing that in a year or two, we will have two or three million dollars at least in that supporting foundation. And it is my understanding that by the time of May, which is just next month now, we’ll have an FM radio station on which our Bible Institute will be broadcasting every hour of the day.
And now, in our educational program, I come to our Sunday School. And as I emphasize it, it carries with it our emphasis on the Training Union. We have a present enrollment in our Sunday School of something like 10,000. We’re reaching forward in the next five years to an enrollment of 13,294. That figure was meticulously worked out, divided among the groups, the divisional areas that they thought they could reach. And an average attendance from the present, we now average in our Sunday School of 5,884. And we are looking forward to an average attendance of 8,300. This is not guess. This is registered attendance.
I remember when we passed the 3,000 mark; I never dreamed our church would ever see 3,000. No church ever had. But our church did and just went right on. And I remember when we were struggling, trying to reach 4,000. I went to Mr. Souther, Dr. Souther who was our educational leader for twelve years here, he’s now Professor of Education in New Orleans Seminary; I went to him and I said, "I just despair. I don’t think we can reach 4,000."
He said, "Pastor, that’s not true. You just stay with the work and press it, and work and it will come." Well, we passed the 4,000 mark. We passed the 5,000 mark. And now, we’re passing the 6,000 mark almost every Sunday. Last Sunday for example, we had 6,238 in Sunday School. We’re reaching more people for God. And that means our baptisms will grow in number. We are now seventh. Last week, the Evangelism Department of the Southern Baptist Convention sent me a list of the churches that had large numbers for baptism, and we’re seventh. We’re seventh. One church that was ahead of us was the church that Jimmy Draper pastored in Del City, Oklahoma. I think the church ought to be first. We are first every other way. Why can’t we be first in winning people to Christ? We will be first in baptism and that means we ought to baptize at least a thousand people a year.
Now, in all of this effort, there is coming to our church, beginning the first of June, a young man named Herschel Chrestman. He worked with Jimmy Draper as his educational director at Del City, Oklahoma. He left there and went to the First Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky, where he now is. It is called the Walnut Street Church, in Louisville, Kentucky, doing a marvelous work there. This coming June, the first of June, this young man whom I have just met one time, this young man is coming to be with us and he and Jimmy Draper are going to be a team with the rest of our staff to carry this church to the spiritual heights and soul-winning and baptisms and outreach and Sunday School and every other way beyond what any church has ever done in the history of Christendom.
This, your man Herschel Chrestman, has a brother who worked for Merrill Lynch, Spinner and Smith, the brokerage firm in New York City. He has a brother who works for him, I mean works for Merrill Lynch. And he has a large section of that work. He offered his brother, Herschel Chrestman who is coming here, he offered him $75,000 a year to start off with if he would come and help direct the work of Merrill Lynch. But Herschel replied he had been called of God and that this is his work.
The young man, I’ve been made to understand is a genius at organization, and in taking our people and using them in the work of the Lord. So he is coming here to work with Brother Jimmy Draper. And under their direction, with the rest of us, and we are just believing that with God’s help and in God’s gracious Spirit and blessing that we are going to see things come to pass here that are like a visitation from heaven.
I close for our time is far spent. Remember that when we talk about figures, you’re talking about souls. You’re talking about people. You’re talking about your boy and he’s one. You’re talking about your girl, she’s one. You’re talking about your family. They are three or two or five. We’re talking about you. We’re talking about us. And when our church dedicates itself to an outreach of ministry, what we’re talking about is bringing heaven down to our souls. We’re trying to get people to Jesus. We’re trying to introduce them to the Lord.
What we’re preaching is that out there, there is not anything but despair. It’s dark. It’s full of frustration and defeat and finally, the blackness of hopeless death. That’s what it is out there. But here, with us, it is light. It may be dark in all of the houses of the Egyptians, but the light burns in the house of the family of God. There is victory. There is triumph. There is hope. There is heaven if we can just get these people to Jesus. And that’s the dedication of our church and the spirit of the service this morning.
Does God speak to you? Does He say something to you? If He does, would you answer today with your life? "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." In all of that balcony round, down one of these stairwells, here to the front. On this lower floor, this press of people from side to side, into one of these aisles and down here to the pastor. "We’ve made up our hearts for God, for Christ. We are putting our lives here with you in the church." As God should say the appeal beyond what my stammering tongue could ever say it, would you answer, "Here I am, and here I come." On the first note of the first stanza, make it now. Make it this morning. Come, now. While we stand and while we sing.