OUR GOLDEN TOMORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-4-87 10:50 a.m.
Once again, welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing the message. The first Sunday of each new year I prepare so carefully and prayerfully a sermon on the state of the church. And this hour has come—this day, this Sunday—a message on our work, and the Golden Tomorrow God has prepared for those of us who labor in this vineyard. As a text, the passage that we read from Philippians 3:14: “I press toward the prize for the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
This year, we shall pass as a church the ninetieth year of the two pastors of our congregation. This year, we shall mark ninety years, the church has had two pastors. Dr. Truett was pastor of the congregation for forty-seven years. This year, I shall have been pastor of the congregation for forty-three years. For ninety years, the church has had two pastors.
Facetiously, and sort of comically, people say to me, “Preacher, if you’ll just stick it out for ten more years, it will be one hundred years—a century—that the church has had two pastors.” Wouldn’t that be something?
For the last two and a half years, I have brought to the church the finest and most gifted and most capable of the young men that I know, and hear, and hear of, in our Southern Baptist Zion. I have brought to the church in that two-and-a-half year period something like twenty of those young men. Wherever I have heard of a gifted young preacher, I have brought him here to our congregation.
I have done that, of course, in the hope and in the prayer that there would be a rise, a response, out of our people when they look at him, and when they hear him that they would say, “That is God’s man for us.” I’ve done that in the hope that maybe for a while he could stay with me, and then gradually take over the responsibilities of the care of the congregation. After these two and a half years, we are back where we started from. Nothing has developed. Nothing has happened.
One of them I would rather hear preach than anyone I have ever heard in this generation, but, there has been a mixed response from the people. Some say, “He’s just so fine.” Others, “I don’t know whether I would like to hear him any longer or not.” And the response has been anything but what I have prayed for, just waiting for the congregation to say, “This is God’s man.”
When I speak to our people—and I have done it almost endlessly, talking to our deacons, talking to our women, talking to our congregation, talking to our leaders—they will always reply to me, “Pastor, remember, God has His man, and when the time comes, God will choose him; maybe someone you never heard of, maybe someone you don’t know.”
These things are very difficult for me to understand. If there is a gifted young preacher in our Southern Baptist Zion, with our publications, our radios, our televisions, immediately the whole world knows him. But that is a universal reply from the people, “Pastor, when God’s time comes, God will choose that man and we will know him. It may be someone we never heard of.”
I have come to acquiesce in that judgment. I do not know anything else to do. We shall wait for God to show us that man in God’s time, in God’s way, in God’s will, the man the Lord hath chosen to be our undershepherd. I say, I have bowed my head in acquiescence before that judgment. There is nothing else to do. We are shut up to God. We are waiting upon His choice and His revelation.
I think, in the 1 Samuel, I think of God’s word to the prophet Samuel: “I have chosen Me,” said the Lord to the prophet, “I have chosen Me a man to be king over Israel. And I am sending you to the house of Jesse the Bethlehemite, and one of his sons have I chosen to be king over My people” [1 Samuel 16:1].
Samuel calls the family of Jesse to the sacrifice and he has Jesse bring before him his sons, One of them, God says, is to be king over Israel. And the first one who stands before Samuel is named Eliab. And when Samuel looks upon him, tall and handsome and personable, Samuel says, “Surely this is God’s anointed standing before me” [1 Samuel 16:6]. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Man looks on the outside. God looks on the heart. I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:7].
And Jesse brings his second son, Abinadab, and Abinadab is tall and handsome. And Samuel said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is standing before me.” And God says, “But I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:8]. Jesse brings his third son, Shammah, who stands before Samuel. And again, Samuel says, “Surely, surely the Lord’s anointed is standing before me.” And once again God says, “I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:9]. And Jesse brings all seven of his sons, and after each one is presented, God says to the prophet: “But I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:10].
And in frustration and confusion, Samuel says to Jesse, “Are these all of your sons, these seven?”
And Jesse replies, “No, I have one other. He is a boy. He is keeping the sheep.”
Samuel says, “We will not sit down until he is brought hither” [1 Samuel 16:11].
And they send where the sheep are to the lad David. And David comes—ruddy, the Bible calls him, unshaven, a teenager, beautiful of countenance [1 Samuel 16:12].
And when the lad stands before the prophet, God says, “Arise. Anoint him: this is he” [1 Samuel 16:12].
And the next verse says, “And Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brethren” [1 Samuel 16:13]. This is God. And we wait upon the choice of the Lord in heaven.
Deuteronomy, the fifth book of Moses, closes: And God buried Moses in Beth-peor, in the land of Moab; his eye was not dim, nor his natural strength abated” [Deuteronomy 34:6-7]. But God chose Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land [Deuteronomy 3:26-28, 31:3]. God did it.
Elijah was caught up to heaven in a chariot of fire, and God chose Elisha, on whose shoulders the mantle of the prophet fell [2 Kings 2:11-13]. Paul was beheaded on the Ostian Way, taken out of the Mamertine dungeon, and God chose Timothy to be his apostolic successor [2 Timothy 4:5-6]. We shall wait upon the Lord. God has to do it.
I think of the providences of God—if I could turn aside for just a moment—I was graduated from Baylor in 1931. I was graduated with my master’s degree, the usual theological degree from the seminary—Southern Seminary, in ’34. I was graduated with a Ph.D. degree from the seminary in 1937.
All of the men with whom I went to school, all of them are either dead or they have been retired for years and years and years. I’m not speaking of retirement yesterday or last year. I’m talking about years and years and years ago—all of them: every man with whom I went to school.
And I am still here, the undershepherd of this wonderful church. I cannot understand the providences of God. I cannot enter into them. I’m just saying this morning that, in acquiescence, I bow before the will of the Lord. And we shall wait and pray for God’s choice, to show us God’s man, in God’s time—and in the meantime, work and strive and pray and serve and love and sing and do God’s work in the earth.
When I was called as pastor of the church here in Dallas, in 1944, Dr. T. L. Holcomb wrote me a letter. Dr. Holcomb was the executive leader of the Sunday School Board of our Southern Baptist Convention. And Dr. Holcomb said this in his letter to me in 1944: “Never yet has there been a downtown church that really has done the job, reach the people commensurate with the great business houses, skyscrapers, movements of the masses. We are watching your church, your program, your staff, your organization. Maybe you will do it.”
Since those years, the church has greatly changed. It is a different church from what it was forty-three years ago, in 1944. Their idea of a church—as everywhere, at that time, I mean everywhere—their idea of a church was to put a preacher like George Truett in some kind of an auditorium. And that was church.
My idea of a church was a thousand miles different. My idea of a church was one that ministered and consumed the attention and the life of every member of the family. That’s why, when I started out here, I wanted to buy all of northwestern Dallas County. And I would have done it, if I could have gotten the men to go along with me.
My idea of a church was to have a baseball diamond and a football field and an academy and a school and all the other things that involve the life of people—pulling them out of the world. God has somewhat blessed that vision and that work. We have added thousands and thousands to our membership.
The year before I came, the budget of the church was $150,000 for the year. I think the giving of the people is a spiritual barometer of how they are in their hearts toward God. For over thirty years, I prayed and worked and longed for an academy. When we had our first chapel service, I sat there and wept rejoicing, singing a song of Zion—praying, reading the Bible, bringing a message from God. By law, you are interdicted from doing that in the secular schools. In our school, we have revival meetings. We win the youngsters to Christ. It is the most blessed thing in this earth to see those boys and girls come here and sit down at the feet of Christian teachers learning about the Lord.
And we organize our Center of Biblical Studies. In this present, current issue of the Reminder, I have here a whole sheet on the conservatory of music. There are classes in so many areas of the music that praises God. Oh, I am so grateful! I’m so glad. It just lifts up my heart to think about our people coming to learn to praise God in song in the choir, in all the instruments of our orchestra. That is what God was pleased with, with the Levites—four thousand of them singing [1 Chronicles 23:5]. Think what that sounded like; 288 of them in the orchestra, think how that glorified the Lord [1 Chronicles 25:7].
And we have our tremendous KCBI Radio; which, if the FCC carries through its word, we will be one of the largest FM stations in our part of the world. And we have KCBI International. We are preaching the gospel every day beyond the iron curtain—think of that!—besides Central and South America.
The outreach ministries of our church are marvelous to behold. We have twenty-six chapels already—twenty-six of them, scattered throughout this Metroplex, preaching the gospel. One of them is our inner-city chapel, our inner-city mission, right here. Out of the flotsam and the jetsam of humanity that goes up and down the street, poverty stricken, without a house or a home, hungry and half-naked, we minister to them every day. And four of them are now in our preacher’s school over there, being taught to preach the gospel of the Son of God.
In this time of the year, at Christmastime, at Thanksgiving-time, there are charities that you hear advertise. They do it one time a year. My brother, my sister, in these twenty-six chapels, we carry on that ministry every day—365 days in every year. We are feeding the hungry. We are clothing the naked. We are helping those in distress and illness. And we are winning them to Christ.
And our twenty-six chapels, apparently, are just the beginning of their increase, their multiplication. Time and again and again, we are organizing a new ministry in another part of the city—most of them, of course, in some marginal areas, among the Laotians and the Cambodians and the Vietnamese—many of them among our Hispanics, two of them at least I know of among our black people all through this great metroplex—every day, ministering in the name of Christ. I love that. God bless them.
We have our Evangel home ministries, where our people gather, and we pray will increase in number, studying the Word of God, winning to the Lord. We have our care ministries; people who are not well, going to see them, praying for them. And at long last, as of this morning—as of this minute, we are beginning a “Brotherhood” ministry in our dear church. That’s been one of the strangest things. In these years past, we have had brotherhood meetings; they would meet and eat, and do nothing else and then finally disintegrate. Yet, in our church, the president of the state brotherhood is one of our deacons. And the men in the Baptist Building who direct our Brotherhood work are members, faithful members, Sunday school teachers in our congregation. Yet we have had no Brotherhood here in our church.
Beginning now, beginning now, we are starting a tremendously effective men’s work; not to “meet and eat.” We are organizing them into units. They are Baptist Men’s units. There are about eight of them already being organized. And they are organized according to the gifts of the men and according to the needs in God’s kingdom.
For example, I have mentioned our twenty-six chapels. There will be a unit of our Baptist Men who will be responsible for the spiritual life of those outreach ministries. And there will be a unit that will help us in the care of our facilities.
On that side of the tenth floor of the Spurgeon Harris Building, is half of that building unused. It’s no usable arrangement. It’s just there. On this side of it is the Wallace Library, with over 100,000 volumes.
The accrediting agency for our school says, “You must do something about that part of the building.” So they come to me and say, “We need $250,000 to use to refurbish, to remake that part of the tenth floor of the Spurgeon Harris Building.” Well, I don’t have $250,000. And we are so engrossed in these other needs. We do not have $250,000.
Well, what do you do? It is a plain and simple thing what we ought to do. There are men in our church who are good electricians. There are men in our church who are good plumbers. There are men in our church who know how to work with dry wall, sheet rock. There are men in our church who know how to paint. Why should we stagger at $250,000 that we don’t have, when we can do it ourselves? That’s what we are going to do. That will be a unit.
I believe in this blessed Book. The Book says that God gives diversities of gifts to His people [1 Corinthians 12:4]. He names them, a whole bunch of them, in the Book of Romans [Romans 12:6-8]. He names a whole bunch more in the Book of 1 Corinthians [1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 28-30]. He names another group of them in the Book of Ephesians [Ephesians 4:11-13]. Diversities of gifts; we’re not all gifted the same.
For example, I don’t know how to work with my hands. I never have. I have never worked with my hands. But there are men in our church who are geniuses working with their hands. I’ll tell you what I can do. I can be a pastor. If you were to assign me any one of these chapels, anywhere in this city or anywhere else, God would bless it. He did it when I was seventeen years old. Everywhere I have ever worked, God has blessed it, and it has flourished. I know how to be a pastor and to work with people. That’s my gift. That’s a gift in the Book of Ephesians, the gift of a pastor [Ephesians 4:11]. That is my gift. I’m no good at working with my hands. Therefore, what we need to do in a church is, “Pastor, you have the gift of an undershepherd. You be our undershepherd. And we—I have a gift of working with my hands, and we’ll do the work with our hands.”
And if I go over there, where you’re working over that building, the best thing I can do is, “Pastor, you just stand over there in the corner. You just get out of the way. You just move out.” We are differing in our diversified gifts [1 Corinthians 12:4]. And what we need to do in our church is to make it possible for every man to use his gift for God. And I pray that, in this new year, there will be an open door for all of our people to serve the Lord according to his and her gift.
Now I have to close. I want to speak of our “golden tomorrow.” If you have ever been in Philadelphia, in the Independence Hall, where the Constitutional Convention convened, you will see a chair up there at the front in which General George Washington was seated as he presided over that Constitutional Convention. When you look at the chair, on the back of the chair, inlaid in beautiful wood, is a sunburst. After the Convention was over, Benjamin Franklin said, “All through these days and weeks and months, I have looked at that sunburst in that chair. And I have wondered if it were a rising or if it were a setting sun. Now,” he says, “I believe it is a rising sun.” That is America.
I believe for our church, we stand before a rising tomorrow—a golden day. We are just beginning to get started. And I have reasons for that. One is the coming of Denny Dawson. He has brought into our congregation a new spirit, a new up-ness, a new glory, a new praise, and I feel it. I love to hear our choir and orchestra. I love to hear our people praise God in song and music.
We have a new day in our church; not only the coming of Danny Dawson, but as today, the coming of Dr. Charles McLaughlin, who is going to lead us in our educational ministries. One of the first things that they have done is to set a goal of twelve thousand studying God’s Word in Sunday school every Lord’s Day. Is such a thing possible? It is easily possible for us. There have been days in the past when we have had ten thousand present in Sunday school. Once in a while, we have had twelve thousand present in Sunday school. And upon those days, there has never been one time when one somebody ever came to me and said, “Pastor, we did not have enough room. We were crowded up. We did not have an opportunity to take care of our people.” Not one time has that ever happened—even when we have had over twelve thousand. That shows me that we have the facilities here to reach twelve thousand every Sunday, teaching them the Word of God.
If there is any other church I know of in this earth that set for itself a goal of twelve thousand in Sunday school, the first thing they would have to do would be to mount a campaign of fifty to sixty or seventy million dollars to build a facility in which they could teach twelve thousand people the Word of God. We don’t have to mount that kind of a campaign. We have the facilities. God had given them to us. This next Sunday we shall dedicate that Ruth Ray Hunt Youth Building. I do not know of any other church in the world that has a magnificent building just for teenagers, just for those young people. But we have it. God has given it to us. These things are presents. They are remembrances. They are gifts from God’s gracious hands in heaven. And the Lord looks down upon us, and He says, “This I have done for thee; do this for Me.”
And that is our commitment. The staff is praying, getting ready to work. All of us are sharing in the vision. And little by little, growing Sunday by Sunday, we are reaching out reaching out to at least twelve thousand every Lord’s Day being taught the Word of God in this dear place. It is just for us to be committed unto death. As long as God leaves us here, we are going to work for Him.
If you have ever been in the Holy City, in Jerusalem, on that side, on the eastern side is Mount Moriah, where the temple is, then the Tyropoeon Valley, which used to be very deep. And on this side, on the western side, is Mount Zion. That is where David was buried. When you go to Mount Zion today, the upper room is there, and other things. But when you go to Mount Zion today, you will also see an extensive display of the Holocaust, those terrible years when something like six million Jewish people were slain or burned or beheaded or decapitated, destroyed.
What you find on Mount Zion is a display of that Holocaust. Here will be a room, for example, and you’ll see the exact place transferred there. You will see an exact place; the things of a synagogue, a Jewish synagogue. And in the disarray and in the violence, you will see the rabbinical garments, stained and covered in blood, where the rabbis who were conducting the services were cruelly murdered and died in their own blood. That will be one of the displays.
Then, in another one, you will see where the scroll of the Bible has been torn apart, and the menorah mashed and misshapen. And so room after room, you will see the tragic story of the destruction of those millions of Jewish people. It’s the last room that made the profoundest impression upon me. When you come to the end of that display of the terrible and tragic Holocaust, there will be a large table. And on this side of the table is soap made out of human lard—made out of human lives—Jewish people who were turned into soap. And the soap is there on the table. And then, on this side of the table will be a lamp, a lamp. And the lampshade is made out of a Jewish skin. And the number of the tattoo is seen there in the lamp.
And last of all, at the end of the display is a large, large, large plaque in Hebrew. It is a poem. And this is what it says:
Of all truth, this is the truth that we believe:
The Messiah is coming soon.
Despite the fact that He has not come to date;
Despite any other fact of life,
This is the truth that we believe:
Messiah is coming soon.
That is our faith and our commitment. We are to live and to work in the imminency—i-m-m, in the imminency—of the coming of our Lord. He said, “I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man as his work shall be” [Revelation 22:12]. When He comes, may He find us at our tasks, faithful unto the end. Those disciples in the first century; when they bid one another goodbye, if they were Jewish, they said, “Maranatha, maranatha,” the Lord comes, “maranatha.”
If they were Greek, they would say, “Achri hou elthe,” till He come, till He come [1 Corinthians 11:26]. And we labor and work like that in our lives until He comes. Until He comes, we will be faithful at our tasks.
And then may God bless the work and the devotion of our hands. This is our New Year; the greatest we have ever known. Now may we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, on His way, soon coming, according to Thy Word a thousand years is but a day in Thy sight; a thousand years, a day [2 Peter 3:8]. Then our Lord has been gone two days, maybe He comes back the third. When He comes, when He comes, may He find us faithful at our task, when He comes, when He comes. And may each one of us, taking God’s gifts and assignments, may we do good for Thee and may the Lord be pleased. And may our reward be gracious when the Lord says, “Well done good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” [Matthew 25:21].
In just a moment, we’ll stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and when we sing it, a family you to put your life with us in our dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25], a couple you, a one somebody you, “Pastor, the Lord has spoken to me, and I’m answering with my life” [Romans 10:8-13], on the first note of the first stanza, come. May God bless and angels attend as you answer with your life. And thank You Lord Jesus for the sweet harvest You give us this first day, this first Lord’s Day of a wonderful new year for Jesus’ sake, in His gracious name, amen. In the balcony, down one of these stairways; in the lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand.” While we stand and while we sing, come.
year marks ninetieth year of the two pastors of our congregation
For two and a half years I have brought the finest and most gifted young men to
our church to preach, hoping one would be God’s man – no response
Our people tell me God has His man, and when the time comes God will choose Him
– may be someone you never heard of
have bowed in acquiescence
The calling of David to be king (1 Samuel 16:1-13)
Waiting for a word from the Lord
not Moses, led the chosen people into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34:7)
God chose Elisha after Elijah was caught up(2
chose Timothy to be Paul’s apostolic successor(2
All the men with whom I went to school are either dead or retired, yet I am
still here as undershepherd
II. Our work, assignment, for a golden
Letter from Dr. T. L. Holcomb
different church than in 1944
My idea of a church was one that ministered and consumed the attention of the
entire life of every member of the family
The church has so grown, expanded extensively
– added thousands
Stewardship – the year before I came budget was $150,000
Prayed and worked over thirty years for an academy
Center of Biblical Studies
Conservatory of music
KCBI radio station
Twenty-six chapels ministering 365 days a year
Evangel home groups
– Baptist Men’s Units
Hall, Philadelphia – rising sun carved on the chair of George Washington
coming of Denny Dawson
The coming of Charles McLaughlin
a. Goal of 12,000 in
b. Dedication of our
III. Our commitment until He comes – true
Museum in Jerusalem – song Jewish victims sang as they faced death
Our faith and commitment – live and work in the immanency of the coming of our
en elthe – “till He comes”