Building a Great Home Base

Building a Great Home Base

April 22nd, 1990 @ 10:50 AM

1 Thessalonians 1:18

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in the Roman province of Macedonia, where they live, but also in Achaia - the capital of it was Athens - and in every place, your faith to God-ward is spread abroad.
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Dr.  W.  A.  Criswell

1 Thessalonians 1:8

4-22-90    10:50 a.m.




And we welcome the uncounted throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television.  You are now part of our wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Building a Great Home Base

Our text is in the first letter that Paul wrote.  It was to Thessalonica, and in the first chapter and eighth verse he says:


For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in the Roman province of Macedonia, where they live, but also in Achaia—

the capital of it was Athens—

and in every place, your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we do not have to say anything.  Everybody knows about you and your marvelous devotion to the gospel of Christ.  

[1 Thessalonians 1:8]


Building a great home base; if it disintegrates at home, if it is weakened at home, it is weakened everywhere, and if it is lost at home, it is lost everywhere. 

For something like thirty-five or forty years, I used to go all over this world on preaching missions.  I can hardly believe it now.  One year I took four months off at one time in a preaching mission around the world, culminating in an extensive series of crusades throughout the great cities of Japan.  Naturally looking, and seeing, and sharing, and preaching, I observed many, many things, and one was this: that if you lost your witness at home, you lose it throughout the whole world in which you live. 

For example, in Jerash on the other side of the Jordan River, a city in Roman days of a population of two hundred thousand, and it became solidly Christian; ministered to all that part of the world, it lost its witness; died.  If you go there today, you’ll see Roman ruins; but especially, you’ll find the remains of thirteen dead churches, and the whole area is lost to Christ.  There was a day that came when there was not a Christian in Jerash.  At one time, the two hundred thousand population was solidly Christian.  Now there are no Christians in existence there. 

The seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22]; in the second chapter of the Apocalypse, our Lord says to the church at Ephesus, “You turn, and you do the first works; else I will come and remove thy lampstand out of its place” [Revelation 2:5]. You go to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, to Laodicea.  Go to those seven churches.  There’s not a vestigial remnant that you can find of them.  And the entire earth there, the entire Asia Minor, is not only non-Christian, it is anti-Christian. 

I was in India when they were closing down the mission stations founded by William Carey himself, the father of modern missions.  After that, I was in Kettering seeking the church from which William Carey had been sent out.  You couldn’t find it.  A historian guided me to the place.  The church was a warehouse.  I went inside of it.  They were hammering crates and nailing boxes.  And I asked where the baptistry was.  And they said, “It’s underneath the floor where the workmen are at their tasks.” Lose the witness there, lose it everywhere. 

There was a time, about a century and a half ago, when the Baptist work in Baltimore, Maryland was flourishing; great missionary-minded congregations, but they didn’t win the lost around them.  You go there and try to find those churches.  They don’t even exist. 

I so well remember in Louisville, Kentucky, the Broadway Baptist Church where every president of the seminary belonged: a great congregation.  It’s a parking lot now, a vacant parking lot; never occurred to them to build facilities for children and young people and adults and the throngs around them that were lost.  When we lose it here, it’s lost everywhere. 

That’s why it is so vital, where God has placed us, to pour our very lives into a ministry of the people to which we belong.  In the glorious opportunities that God hath given to our dear people, right there is that 505 North Ervay Building that you saw on the screen.  I cannot believe this, nor can any other real estate agent in this part of creation.  We bought that building for nine dollars twenty-three cents a square foot, that beautiful eleven-story building pressed against our property. 

In front of the church, that building right there, they built it at a cost of three hundred dollars a square foot.  And we bought that building for nine dollars and twenty-three dollars a square foot.  You can’t decorate your house for nine dollars and twenty-five cents a square foot.  It’s a miracle what God has done for us. 

And we’re beginning to expand our ministry to the young people.  We have a youth building right there, the Ruth Ray Hunt Youth Building.  They fill it from top to bottom.  There’s not an inch in the building where they can expand.  We can now placing our adult ministries over there in that 505 Building, make opportunity to reach these young people. 

Last Sunday, on one of the front pages of the Dallas News, there was a picture of a brilliant young man.  I mentioned him at the early service.  I wrote him a little note.  That young fellow, about two or three weeks ago, Samuel Warren baptized him.  And he came to me after the service at the eight-fifteen hour and told me how much he appreciated my sending him a little note, and how I was proud of him.  It’s a glorious ministry, the ministry to those young people.  And the Filipino Chapel is moving over there.  All the rest of those chapels are moving over there.  It is a glorious thing that God has done for us. 

Then, of course, our Dallas Life Foundation; I do not know anywhere in the earth a remembrance of the poor, and the helpless, and the homeless comparable to that ministry there.  It is an amazing thing to me.  That building is a block long.  It is half a block wide.  It has a full basement.  It has three full stories above it.  And they minister to thousands and thousands of the poor and the homeless. 

I can’t believe that God is making possible for us to have it.  I have been in London and looked where William Booth started and founded the Salvation Army.  I have been in lower Manhattan at the Bowery Mission in New York City.  I’ve been at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, where Billy Sunday was converted.  I’ve been in them in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  I’ve been in it all over this world.  There’s not anything like that I’ve ever seen in the earth comparable.  And God is making it possible for us to possess it, to minister in the name of Christ to those poor, and helpless, and homeless people. 

And what could I say about our Christian college?  It is unique.  There’s nothing like it I know of in the earth.  We have many colleges and many universities, and they teach every subject to which you might be interested.  If you want to be a doctor, if you want to be a lawyer, if you want to be a teacher, if you want to be a businessman—they teach all kinds of things. 

This is the only college I know of in creation that does one thing only.  And that is, it teaches those preachers the inerrant Word of God, in Greek, in Hebrew, and in homiletics and in systematic theology.  And it teaches the missionary how to win the people to Christ.  And it teaches young people who are interested in being staff members of a church.  It has one dedication alone, and that is to prepare for the gospel ministry in the house and family of the Lord.  It is wonderful, nothing like it in the earth. 

A man was asked about a week ago—he was asked, “What did you do last week?”

“Oh,” he said, “last week.  Last week I distributed Bibles in South Korea on Monday.  And on Tuesday, I held a service, conducted a service in Japan.  And on Wednesday, I helped build a church in the Philippines.  And on Thursday, I preached the gospel in the Amazon jungle of Brazil.  And on Friday, I distributed tracts in West Africa.  And on Saturday, I was down in the Rio Grande Valley, helping in the ministry down there.  And on Sunday, last Sunday, I was preaching the gospel in thirty-one chapels of our dear church here in the city of Dallas.”

And the man to whom he was making the reply said, “You’re mocking.  You’re jesting.”

And the other man replied, “Not so.  I did it all last week.  I gave a gracious gift to our preacher’s college and those graduates out there at the end of the earth doing God’s work in God’s name for God’s people.”

That’s an amazing thing!  It’s a remarkable thing. 

I have copied here, and don’t take time to read it, all those passages in the Old Testament that speak of the school of the prophets, the sons of the prophets.  And I have here—it says in the Book of Acts that Paul taught, preached, in the school of Tyrannus [Acts 19:9], and all of those things in the New Testament that concerned the ministry of teaching.  It is glorious.  It’s incomparable.  It’s something God has done for us.  It is marvelous. 

I live in East Dallas.  In the papers, you’ll read about West Dallas, all kinds of things going on all the time.  You’ll do likewise reading about South Dallas.  I never hear East Dallas referred to.  They took a census in East Dallas and found 80,000 lost people—80,000 lost people in East Dallas, where I live.  I drive through it every day.  Who pays any attention to it?  Who’s sensitive to it?  Who bothers to ask God about it?  Eighty thousand lost people in East Dallas. 

When we moved that College of ours into that campus on Gaston Avenue in East Dallas; every day of the world, we are going to have services over there preaching the gospel.  We’re going to knock at those doors.  We’re going to visit those people.  We’re going to ask God to give us their souls.  The Dallas Life Foundation is now a ministry to feed the poor, to house them, to take care of them.  When we possess it, it is going to be a lifesaving station.  We’re going to take those young preachers and, not only will they be out in East Dallas, they’ll be there in that Dallas Life Foundation, holding services all day long, every day of the year and every evening and night, every night of the year, reaching out for the souls of these who are lost—the most incomparable open door God could ever have set before us. 

This week I received a letter.  It is signed by eleven wonderful pastors in our Southern Baptist Zion.  It is an appeal for support for that Christian preacher’s school.  And here is a paragraph:

“Consider the following facts about Criswell College.  The school is only fifteen years old.  But it already has 450 graduates who are in staff positions.  Currently, 380 students are enrolled in preparing for the ministry.  No Baptist university in America”—and, I want to expatiate on that.  There is no school in the earth, there’s no college or university in the earth that has as many ministerial students as we do, not in the earth.  “It is also significant to know that tuition at the Criswell College is only one fourth of the cost of a Baptist college with the next lowest tuition.”

It’s a marvelous thing.  This enables quality students with limited resources to pursue their studies.  And we’re producing some of the outstanding pastors in key pulpits across the nation.  During this time of sorts not only and besides, conservative professors have been added at many universities and agencies from our school.  It’s a miracle.  It’s an amazing thing.  It’s something God has done.  And to have a part in it, to pray for it and to support it is truly one of the many, many marvelous glorious things of life.  O God, O God!

Now I want to take a little facet of that, in the moment that I have, and share it with you.  Naturally, in a congregation like ours, 28,000 members, you’re going to find people that look askance at anything that you do.  So they look askance upon this—negative.  So they say to me, “Now, when the college moves out of your Spurgeon- Harris Building, and they go to the campus in East Dallas, you’ve got room over there.  You have space over there.  You don’t need that 505 North Ervay Building.  That’s just wasted money.  You’re going to have space over there in that Spurgeon Harris Building, where the college is now located.”

Well, I didn’t know what to say.  So this past week I made inquiry about it.  What are we going to do when the college moves out of the Spurgeon-Harris Building?  What are we going to do with that space?  Well, here’s what I learned.  The space is the tenth floor of the Spurgeon-Harris Building.  The rest of that building is already used.  There’s only the tenth floor that will be vacated.  That’s where the Wallace Library is located.  I found out, also, that’s where Luis Pantoja has his Filipino chapel.  And I thought that was a permanent thing. 

This morning Pantoja, the pastor of that Filipino chapel, said, “No.  That’s just temporary there.  We’re going over into the 505 North Ervay Building.  And there, they’re building us a permanent chapel.  Every Sunday at this hour we have a Filipino service, gloriously blessed of God.”  Well, anyway, the tenth floor will be vacated.  And what are you going to do with it?  Well, I didn’t know.  I didn’t know how to answer. 

So this week, the headmaster of our First Baptist Academy said to me, he said, “Pastor, I’m not speaking about the elementary school, these little children.  They’re down here in the heart of Dallas.  And for the most part, the small children that are brought to our elementary school are of people who work downtown.  And they bring the children with them.  And they’re here.”

But he said, “Pastor, let me tell you something.  There is no limit,” he said, “to how big we can make our high school.”  He said, “There are increasing numbers of people who are disillusioned with the public school system.  And they’re taking their children wherever there’s opportunity, where they can be taught the Word of God and can be brought up in a Christian school.”

And he said, “Pastor, the very minute that you vacate that tenth floor of the Spurgeon-Harris Building, that minute, we want to take it over.  Our high school wants to take it over.  And we’ll keep on building that high school.”

And he repeated, “There’s no limit to how big we can build that First Baptist Academy high school.  The academy has a marvelous reputation among the people.  Sixty-five percent of the youngsters that attend it don’t come to our church at all.  There’s no limit,” he says, “to it.”

And my heart is thrilled at the prospect of taking these young men and women, these teenagers in school, and teaching them the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God [2 Timothy 3:6], to pray, to have services, to win them to Christ.  It’s something God has done.  He has done it.  I never thought of such a thing. 


And the Lord God whispered and said to me,

“These things shall be, these things shall be,

Nor help shall come from the scarlet skies

Till My people rise!

Till My people rise, My arm is weak;

I cannot speak till My people speak;

When men are dumb, My voice is dumb—

I cannot come till My people come. . .


“From over the flaming earth and sea

The cry of My people must come to Me

Not till their spirit break the curse

May I claim My own in the universe;


“But if My people rise, if My people rise

I will answer them from the swarming skies.”

[adapted from “God Prays,” Angela Morgan]


When we rise to meet God’s call and God’s challenge, God answers from the very heavens themselves.  I can’t believe what God is doing.  And I repeat—as I said last Sunday—what amazes me is that He is doing this now, when I’m beyond eighty years of age.  To thrust upon us all of these marvelous challenges and calls and ministries, it is a miracle of God to me! 

May I close? Who is to respond to this appeal? Everybody, from the least and the poorest, to the most affluent—everybody.  Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury.  And there came a certain poor widow.  And she cast in two mites—that’s less than a penny-—which makes a farthing:


Jesus called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Truly, verily, I say unto you, This poor widow hath cast more in than they all . . . 

For they out of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all of her living. 

[Mark 12:41-44]


I learned something listening to the voice of God in what Jesus said.  There was a time in my life when I sought to dissuade poor people from responding.  They needed it.  O God!  In a providence I haven’t time to describe, I learned differently.  And I should have from reading the Word of God. 

Poor, the poorer we are, the more God is pleased when we give.  Why didn’t God, why didn’t the Lord, say to that poor widow, “Here.  You keep that.  You need it?”  Instead, the Lord commended her, told the disciples how wonderfully blessed she was.  That’s God’s will for us too.  The poorer we are, the more we’ll give.  Everybody respond, everybody respond, everybody. 

The pastor went to visit in an affluent home.  The husband had died.  And there she was, all of the accouterments of wealth and influence and affluence around her, just everywhere.  And complain, complain, complain about everything, everything, everything. 

In the providences of God, the pastor went to a poor home, a widow who was left with a little house, houseful of little children.  He went there to see if she had enough to eat, enough to feed the family.  And she said to the pastor, “Oh pastor, God is providing.  I take in sewing.  And I have more sewing than I can do.”  It touched my heart.  My mother took in sewing to put me in school.  My mother sewed at that machine.  She said, “I have more sewing than I can do.  God is so good.” Had a prayer, closed the door.  And as the pastor left, above the sound of the sewing machine, the humming of the sewing machine, you could hear her voice as she sang:


God will take care of you.

Through every day,  o’er all the way

He will take care of you.

[“God Will Take Care of You,” Civilla D. Martin] 

Lord God in heaven, if I am ever down and discouraged, Lord, help me to remember God purposes some marvelous thing for me.  And in that confidence we’ll face every trial, every discouragement, every loss, every disappointment, believing that the Lord hath provided some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40].  He will take care.  Oh, bless His name forever!

And to you who have listened to this service, look to God in faith and in trust [Ephesians 2:8].  He will be the dearest Friend and Helper you will ever have or could ever know in human life.  There is a telephone on the screen.  If you don’t know how to accept Jesus as your Savior, call that number.  There will be a dedicated, consecrated man or woman who will answer and show you how to enter into the kingdom of heaven [Romans 10:8-13].  And someday dear fellow pilgrim I will see you in glory.  And to the great throng in God’s house this holy and precious hour, in the balcony round, down a stairway; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, today we made our decision for Christ and here we stand” [Romans 10:8-13].  A family you, a couple you, one somebody you, God bless and angels attend in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.



Dr. W.
A. Criswell

Thessalonians 1:8


I.          Introduction

A.  Strong
at home, strong abroad – weak at home, weak abroad

My pilgrimages over the earth

1.  Gerash

Seven churches of Asia(Revelation 2:5)

3.  India
and Kettering

Baltimore, Maryland

Broadway Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky

II.         Building here a great home base – to
reach one city, the world

A.  505
North Ervay Building

B.  The
Dallas Life Foundation

C.  Our

Unique – one dedication

2.  A
man was asked, “What did you do last week?”

3.  School
of the prophets

4.  East

5.  Letter
of appeal for support of our preachers’ school

As they vacate Spurgeon Harris Building, our Academy filling it

III.        We are all to respond

A.  From
the least and poorest to the most affluent(Mark

Pastor visits affluent widow and a poor widow