Building a Great Home Base
April 22nd, 1990 @ 8:15 AM
1 Thessalonians 1:18
BUILDING A GREAT HOME BASE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Thessalonians 1:8
4-22-90 8:15 a.m.
The text is in 1 Thessalonians 1:8. This is the first letter of the apostle Paul, and he compliments the church at Thessalonica. First Thessalonians 1:8: “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia,” two of the Roman provinces, “but in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; we do not have to say anything about you, everybody knows about you already.”
This message this morning arises out of the pilgrimages that I used to make covering this whole earth. For about thirty-five or forty years, I went everywhere preaching the gospel. I remember one time for four months—I can hardly believe I did it—for four months I went on a preaching mission around the world, especially concentrated in the nation of Japan. As I preached, and as I made these many, many visits in these many, many countries, I could easily see what happens when we lose our home base: lose it here, you will lose it everywhere; build it here, you will build it everywhere.
For example, in Jerash, in the days of the Roman Empire, on the other side of the Jordan River, this city had two hundred thousand population. It became solidly Christian. And that whole part of the earth over there around Jerash, the nation, the people, became Christian. Then the witness died in Jerash. Today if you go there all you will see, outside of some Roman ruins, you will see the ruins of about thirteen Christian churches. And the witness has died. There’s not a Christian in Jerash, and there’s hardly a Christian in the whole nation and country. When you visit the seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22], our Lord said to Ephesus, “You turn, you do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy lampstand out of its place, except ye turn and do those first works” [Revelation 2:5]. When you visit Ephesus, or Smyrna, or Pergamos, or Thyatira, or Sardis, or Philadelphia, or Laodicea, you will see no signs of the Christian witness; it died completely. And that whole part of the earth, all of Asia Minor, is solidly non-Christian; in fact, belligerently anti-Christian.
When I was in India, they were closing down the mission station on the Ganges River, founded by William Carey himself. Later I visited Kettering, in England, from which place and church William Carey went out to be our first modern missionary; he founded the first modern missionary movement. Andrew Fuller in the church said, “You go down in the well and we’ll hold the ropes.” He went to India, never returned; spent his entire life witnessing for Christ in India and building a great missionary ministry. When I was there, I repeat, they were closing down all of the mission stations founded by William Carey. Then in Kettering, I couldn’t even find the church. I finally asked a historian to take me to that sacred place; he did. It was a warehouse. They were filling things with crates, filling crates with things, and they were nailing boxes. And I asked where the baptistery was: it was underneath the floor.
In America there was a time when Baltimore, Maryland, had some of the greatest churches in the world; mission-minded, ministering in the name of Christ, preaching the gospel. One of the greatest preachers America has ever produced, Richard Fuller, was a pastor in that church. You go there to Baltimore, Maryland, now; you’ll hardly find a Baptist witness. The children, the adults, the young people, they forgot.
And in Louisville, Kentucky, where I went to school for six years attending our seminary, downtown was the Broadway Baptist Church. It was the church of the seminary president. Every president of the seminary belonged to that church, an illustrious pulpit place; but no ministry to children, to young people, to the people around them at their doorstep. You go to Louisville now, and where that great Broadway church once stood is an empty parking lot. Lose the witness here, and you lose it everywhere; build it here, and you will build it everywhere.
I think of God’s challenge to our dear church: such an open door as you saw in the film a moment ago as God has placed before us. I still cannot believe, nor can any real estate agent in this part of the earth believe that we bought that 505 North Ervay building, eleven stories and a full basement, for $9.23 a square foot. That building right in front of the church, they paid $300 a square foot to build that building; and we bought the one right there for $9.23 a square foot; a glorious, glorious intervention of God to give it to us.
And we are expanding our youth ministry. Last Sunday there was a picture on one of the front pages of one of the sections of the newspaper: a brilliant young fellow, Warren Samuels baptized him about two or three weeks ago. Our ministry to our young people needs to expand. They fill that youth building. By the open door we have in the 505 building, we are going to expand our youth ministry. And as you heard in the film, these adult ministries will go over there. I talked to Luis Pantoja, who will lead our benediction, his Filipino chapel temporarily housed on the tenth floor of the Spurgeon Harris building will find a permanent home over there—a marvelous open door God hath set before us.
Nor do I have words to praise God for the Dallas Life Foundation that is being opened for us. That is the largest ministry to the poor that I know in the earth. I have been in London, where William Booth founded his Salvation Army, looked at it; in New York City I’ve been in the Bowery mission, preached there; in Chicago, the Pacific Garden mission, where Billy Sunday was converted; I’ve seen them everywhere. There is nothing like that, nothing in the earth; a ministry to the poor, and the helpless, and the homeless. And if we read the Word of God with any sensitivity at all, God says the poor are our open way of love and gratitude to God in the service of Christ: “Insomuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these. . .you have done it unto Me” [Matthew 25:40]. And for us to seize this opportunity and to build that ministry for the homeless is one of the most precious assignments I could ever think for in this earth. It moves my heart every time I think about it. And to go down there and look at it is beyond description: a blessing from heaven.
And our incomparable college: dear God, who would ever thought that we would be building here such a marvelous worldwide ministry? A man was asked, “What did you do last week?” And he replied, “On Monday of last week, I distributed Bibles in South Korea. And on Tuesday, I helped in a service in Japan. And on Wednesday, I was building a church in the Philippines. And on Thursday I was preaching the gospel in the Amazon jungle in South America. And on Friday I was distributing tracts in West Africa. And on Saturday, I was helping in our ministries in the Rio Grande Valley. And on Sunday, I was preaching in the thirty-one chapels of our dear church.” And the man to whom he was making reply said, “You are mocking! You are jesting!” And the man replied, “No, I’m not. I made a gift to our Criswell College; and those young graduates and those young preachers are all over the earth, and they are preaching the gospel of Christ in my name and in my support and in my prayers. And I’m doing it, God blessing and the Lord helping.” This is the most marvelous thing that mind could think for.
In the Bible, and I haven’t time, though I’ve listed it here, in the Bible over and over again, in the Old Testament you will find references made to the “school of the prophets” [1 Samuel 10:5-6, 19:20; 2 Kings 9:1-3]: these preachers being taught the prophetic message of God. And in the New Testament, Paul is teaching in the school of Tyrannus. This is the Lord’s work, and it is marvelous in our sight.
Our college is unique; it is a college for one purpose, just one: teaching that preacher the Word of God in Greek and Hebrew, teaching him to preach, teaching him to build up the church, teaching missionaries getting ready to go to the foreign field, and teaching staff members in the church their ministries in the house of God. There’s no other college like that I know of like that in the earth, not one. If you want to be a doctor, if you want to be a lawyer, if you want to be a professor of literature, if you want to do a thousand other things, there are universities and colleges everywhere. But if you want to be taught the Word of God and the ministry in the church, that’s this school: it has that one purpose. And it is glorious beyond compare. We learn to do by doing. And in the building up of that school, those preachers over there in East Dallas where this new campus is being located, there was a census made in East Dallas, and there are eighty thousand lost people, eighty thousand lost people right there at our doorstep. Often in the paper you will hear about West Dallas; often in the newspaper you’ll read about South Dallas. I never hear East Dallas referred to. I’ve lived in it forty-six years. I drive through it every day. Eighty thousand lost people right there. They are at our doorstep. And I can’t for all these years and years get away from the burden of that vast area of our city, as lost as any segment on any foreign field. I’m looking forward to the day when these young preachers are there, and we have services every day, we have services every night, we have visitation programs trying to reach that eighty thousand people that are lost right there.
And when we think of our Dallas Life Foundation, this ministry to the poor, right now it is a ministry feeding and bedding: we are going to turn it into an evangelistic appeal; giving them bread to eat, but giving them bread of life that they might live forever. And we’ll use these young preachers to hold services down there all day long, and half of the night—an incomparable ministry in the name of Christ.
Dear me, how wonderful this incomparable work God has set before us! I received a day or two ago a letter signed by eleven of the wonderful pastors of our Southern Baptist Convention. They are making appeal for that school; and I read a paragraph from it:
Consider the following facts about Criswell College. Though the school is only fifteen years old, it has already placed four hundred fifty and beyond graduates in staff positions. Currently three hundred eighty are enrolled, preparing for the ministry. No Southern Baptist University in America has as many ministerial students as Criswell College. There is not a school in this earth that has as many ministerial students as our Criswell College. It is also significant to note that tuition at the Criswell College is one fourth of the cost of the next college in lowest tuition; one fourth as much as is any other college in the earth. This enables quality students with limited resources to come to be taught the inerrancy of Scripture. The college has produced some of the most outstanding pastors in key pulpits across the nation. And during this time of revival of conservative theology, believing the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, during this time, the college has been a source of conservative professors who have been added at many colleges, universities, and agencies.
There’s nothing like it I’ve seen on the earth, not on the planet. And it is God’s gift to us. I can hardly believe what the Lord has done before our very, very eyes.
One of the men who is objecting to this expansion of our ministries said to me, “When the college moves out, you’re going to have vacant space over there in the Spurgeon Harris building.” And I said, “That’s right. When they move out, the entire tenth floor of the Spurgeon Harris building will be vacated.” That’s where that vast Wallace Library is located. Luis Pantoja has built a chapel for the Filipinos; they have services there every day. He’ll be preaching there at this next hour. Well, I thought the chapel was located there permanently. I went up there and they were building that chapel for him. And Luis said to me a moment ago in our prayer room, he said, “Pastor, that’s temporary. Our permanent home for the Filipino chapel is in the 505 North Ervay building.” The entire, therefore, tenth floor of the Spurgeon Harris building will be vacant when the college moves out. “Well, what are you going to do? You’re going to buy that 505 North Ervay building for added space when you’ve got an entire tenth floor vacated over there in the building you already have? What’s the matter, pastor?” Well, this is the thing that I learned, and I was dumbfounded at it: the headmaster of our First Baptist Academy said to me, he said, “The very minute that college moves out and vacates the tenth floor, we’re going to seize the place and use it for the building and expansion of our First Baptist Academy high school.” Well, I said, “I thought that you had all the room that you need for the high school.”
He said, “Listen, pastor, you don’t realize it, people, people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the public school, and they are seeking places where they can take their children and educate them, among other things, in the work and name of the Lord.” And he said to me, “I’m not saying that in the elementary school that you can expand it indefinitely,” but he said, “I’m telling you that in the high school, in the secondary school, there is no limit to how big you can make that high school; there’s no limit to it!” Think of taking these young men and these older teenagers, bringing them into our high school, and teaching them the Word of God; most marvelous thing the Lord could ever have done for us. And that’s what’s going to happen over there: the very minute the college moves out, the entire tenth floor will be given to Dr. Estes and our high school, our First Baptist Academy high school; teaching them reading, writing, arithmetic, and algebra, and geometry, and all the other things, but also teaching them the living Word of the living God. This is God’s great open door that He has set before us.
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 do what God’s called us to do, God in heaven Himself will work with us.
I have to close. May I make one last appeal? Who’s going to respond to this glorious opportunity the Lord has set before us? It will take all of us, all of us, all of us. I’m talking about the poorest of us, as well as the most affluent of us.
“Well, what about that, pastor? Making an appeal to the poorest?” You heard Loren Just just say that he and his family had come into hard times because of this depression, this downwardness, even lost his business; and yet they’re going to respond. Is God pleased with that?
Jesus sat by the treasury and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury. There came a certain poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing, less than a cent. He called His disciples, and said, “Verily I say unto you, this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: they out of their abundance, but she of her want, of her necessity, did cast in every thing that she had, even all of her living” [Mark 12:41-44]. Instead of condemning the woman and saying, “What poor judgment you have to give to God everything you have when you are at the verge of starvation yourself,” the Lord commended her.
Who’s going to respond to this? All of us, every one of us from the poorest to the most affluent, all of us will respond; and God will bless us in it. He will see us through. He will take care of us.
The pastor went into an affluent home in the city. There was a widow with all of the accouterments of wealth, and just complaining about everything. The pastor went into the home of a poor widow with several little children. He wanted to know if they had enough to eat; poor. And that darling widow replied, “Why, pastor, yes, we have plenty. Look at this sewing. I take in sewing, and I have more sewing than I can do.” Moved my heart, because my mother did that; in order to put me in school my mother took in sewing. After the prayer with the sweet mother and the family, the pastor closed the door to leave. And as he left, above the hum of the sewing machine that poor precious widow mother was singing this song:
Be not dismayed, whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His loving wings abide,
God will take care of you.
Through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you.
[from “God Will Take Care of You,” Civilla D. Martin]
That’s the way God’s people ought to be. However the providences of life, however the poverty or the need, God will take care. And we love Him, and praise Him, and worship Him, and serve Him out of the abundance of the overflowing of the gratitude and thanksgiving of our souls. It’s a great time to be alive! And it’s marvelous to walk in that pilgrim way.
Now, Fred, let’s sing us a song. And while we sing the song, a family you, a couple you, a somebody you, give himself to the call of God [Romans 10:9-10], you come on the first note of the first stanza and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.