Our Double Jubilee
May 6th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
OUR DOUBLE JUBILEE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-6-90 10:50 a.m.
You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Double Jubilee. A background text in Leviticus 25, beginning at verse 8. Moses writes:
Thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.
Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the Day of Atonement ye shall sound the trumpet throughout all the land.
And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all of the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a Jubilee unto you; and you shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
A Jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you.
It is the Jubilee: it shall be holy unto you…
And, of course, the background text arises out of the praises of God for all He has done for us in these years that have passed and in these years that lie before us; a double Jubilee, a thanking God for this congregation and this church, and the thanking God for the campus of our college, which is rich in inheritance from the years that are passed, a double Jubilee. This church was organized in July of 1868, over a hundred years, a double Jubilee. And the church in East Dallas, became known as Gaston Avenue Baptist Church, was organized in January of 1878. And the double Jubilee arises out of a common denominator for both congregations. The Gaston Avenue Church was organized with twenty-four members from this church.
There has been a deep and continuing interest on my part for the congregation there and its ministries in East Dallas. For one thing, we have lived there for almost forty-six years; it is the parsonage of this dear church. And as I look forward to the ministry of the building of the college, within one block is the Baylor Medical Center and within another block is the Dallas Theological Seminary.
But there is also, in these years past, a burden of heart for that section of our city. We often hear of West Dallas and we often hear of South Dallas, but it is not frequent that you hear of East Dallas. Yet so burdened became my heart for that section, that great section of our city, that in the 1970s I spent almost two years seeking an amalgamation of our congregations in order to minister dynamically to that great area of our metropolis. And the reason lay in this: the pastor there, Charles Holland, was my friend. And for, I say, these two years, I sought the union of our congregations to minister there. I succeeded in that until the last tragic moment. Going through committees and seeing people personally, and finally through the fellowship of deacons; then came to an ultimate conference on the part of the congregation and we lost the affirmation. It was a sadness for my heart beyond any way I could describe it. For you see, the pastor then, Charles Holland, and I made a census of that section of the city. And we found eighty thousand people who were lost in that one area right there, eighty thousand.
It came about like this: when the church was organized there, that was the most pristine and affluent section of our city. Now I am going to read from a volume written by Dr. Estep, of the seminary in Fort Worth, called The Gaston Story. And I quote from him:
Problems presented themselves by the arrival of ethnic minorities in the 1960s. These were largely blacks and Mexicans. A survey of the Hispanic population was attempted, but there was no effective follow-up. The population remained unreached. The church is also faced with a growing Asian community. In short, the church that was formed in East Dallas, and that developed into one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, suddenly found itself in the middle of a mission field with the added complications of its multi-racial and cross-cultural character. The response of Gaston to the new challenge could have been anticipated. The heart was willing, but the know-how of grappling with the new situation was lacking.
And that was the burden of my heart. However we may appeal and intercede for the lost in East and West Africa, or in the Asian nations across the Pacific; how do you close your eyes and harden your heart to a community right there where there are eighty thousand lost people? If God has any compassion at all, doesn’t He also remember them? And being at our doorstep, are they not our primary responsibility? Anyway, that was what lay back of this desire and effort on the part of your pastor to seek an amalgamation of these efforts to win those people to the Lord. Well, I ignominiously failed, as you know. And the burden of it just abided with no effective way to reach that area of our city.
Then in the interposition of heaven, in God’s mercy, there came a miraculous gift from His hands. Through the tender mercies of Mrs. H. L. Hunt and the Hunt family, the whole property was bought and given to us; one block of those buildings facing Gaston Avenue, and back a whole block for parking. And the appeal that we build our great Christian preacher’s school there, ministering to those people, using those young preachers to visit and to preach and to win the lost, as well as to seek through the building of the school, a ministry to the lost of the whole world. And there is a concomitant, a corollary that attends the purchase of that campus that is so meaningful to me. The rich heritage that belongs to that place will ever be one of its great foundational strengths.
To begin with, my predecessor at the First Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma, from which pastorate I came to the City of Dallas and to this congregation soon forty-six years ago, my predecessor there was Dr. A. N. Hall. They called him “the George Truett of Oklahoma.” He was a man of God; everyone loved him and revered him and honored him. He died just before the close of the year of 1940 at seventy-six years of age, and on his desk when he died, they found the sermon notes for his next message. It was entitled “My First Five Minutes in Heaven.” That great man of God had expressed to his people there that if anything ever happened to him, he hoped they would call W. A. Criswell—then pastor of my first church out of the seminary in Chickasha, Oklahoma. The pulpit committee was appointed at high noon after the 11:00 o’clock hour, the second Sunday in January. And the first thing they did, at 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, they called me on the telephone and invited me as the committee of the church, to become pastor of the congregation. They never considered anyone else. They never discussed anyone else. When the committee was appointed, they met and they asked me to be undershepherd of the congregation.
That was in the ministry of Dr. A. N. Hall, who was pastor of the Gaston Avenue Baptist Church. They so loved and revered him here in the city of Dallas, that they asked him to be the executive leader and the missionary superintendent of the Dallas Baptist Association, from which place he went to Muskogee. But he was pastor of the East Dallas Baptist Church, Gaston Avenue. He was followed by an illustrious preacher, George W. McDaniel, George White McDaniel. It was under Dr. McDaniel’s ministry that that beautiful building, that Greek architectural monument, was built. They do not build buildings like that anymore; they are too expensive. But that one is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city of Dallas. And we are restoring the dome that once graced it, and we are going to light it up at night. It will be a glory. Under his ministry, George White McDaniel, that building began to take shape. And he was called to be pastor of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia, at which time he was president of the Southern Baptist Convention. One of the illustrious prelates of our communion, and he was pastor of the Gaston Avenue Baptist Church.
He was followed by Austin Crouch, Dr. Austin Crouch. Dr. Austin Crouch was the first executive secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention, an illustrious man of God, Austin Crouch. When I was in the seminary, a student, Austin Crouch—whose office of the executive secretary was in Nashville, Tennessee—Austin Crouch came to Kentucky where I pastored two little village churches while I attended the seminary. Dr. Austin Crouch came to Kentucky and he chose a team, a small group, a team of about three or four, and he went over Kentucky with that little team, in convocations of big churches or associations of churches, putting on stewardship appeals, tithing programs. And he chose me to be with him in that team. Ah! That was one of the highest experiences of my life as a student in school to go around with Dr. [Crouch], head of our great denomination, Austin Crouch, and to speak at those convocations.
Anyway, at one of those associational meetings in the mountains of Kentucky, after the rest of us, after I had spoken, why, the great man, Austin Crouch stood up at 11:00 o’clock to bring the closing message on stewardship and tithing. It was a marvelous message, a wonderful appeal. And when he had finished the delivery of his sermon and sat down, right in front of me—I was seated on the second row—right in front of me stood up, the very minute Austin Crouch sat down, that great big mountain, giant gargantuan of a man stood up. Oh! I thought he was going to decimate him. That big man, mountain preacher stood up right there in front of me. He was dressed in a blue serge suit that I would say he had worn for at least thirty years. I could see my face mirrored in the seat of his pants as he stood right there in front of me. I thought, “Oh, this man!” because those people were again stewardship and again tithing, particularly tithing, I thought this was going to be awful!
Instead, that big mountain preacher stood up. I would give anything if I could imitate his brogue, their mountain talk, how they speak. I cannot do it. So I can just say in the substance of what that big mountain preacher said. He said, standing up there, he said, “I have preached agin’ tithing all through those years. And I was agin’ it.” Then he said, “One day, as I was plowing out in the field, it came to my heart; I have been preaching agin’ it, but I have never tried it. Why don’t you try it just to see what God does?” And he said, “My brothers and my sisters, I began to tithe. I tried it.” Then in an eloquent peroration, he described how God blessed his farm, and his fields, and his flocks, and his family. Then he said, “I went to my neighbor and I told my neighbor how God had blessed me in tithing. And I asked him to try it and see.” Then he went into that beautiful peroration again, how God blessed his farm, and his fields, and his flocks, and his family. Then that big mountain preacher said, “I went before my congregation and I told them how God had blessed and I asked them to try it. And my congregation responded.” Then that beautiful peroration again, “How God blessed our farms, and our fields, and our flocks, and our families.” When the guy got through, I was weeping; one of the sweetest testimonies I ever heard in my life. Well, any way, that was Austin Crouch, the executive leader, the first one of our Southern Baptist Convention. And the dearest thing that could ever happen to me, to be invited to be with him in that stewardship tithing team.
As the days passed, Henry Alfred Porter was called as pastor of that church. He was the pastor of the Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville, the most prestigious church in that part of the earth. And he resigned it and came down here to be pastor of that Gaston Avenue Baptist Church, that great orator, Dr. Porter. Then, of course, as the days passed, Marshall Craig, there twenty-six years, and it was under Dr. Marshall Craig that the church built their beautiful sanctuary. These architects say to me now, that it would take you more than eleven million dollars today to build that sanctuary; it is magnificent. The book says it will seat two thousand people. And of course, along the way, they built their educational building and they built their activities building. And in the loving help and prayers and the influence of Ed Brooks Bowles, their present pastor, the property now is the campus of our school. O God in heaven, how He remembers us!
Our school; our college; it has more preacher boys in it than any other college or university in the world. In this current issue of our church paper, the Reminder, there is a column that lists the institutions, the colleges and universities, and how many preacher boys they have. I read two or three of them: Baylor University in Waco has eighty-nine, eighty-nine ministerial students; Hardin Simmons University in Abilene has eighty-eight; Houston Baptist University in Houston has fifty-eight; Howard Payne University in Brownwood has fifty-seven; Mercer University over there in Georgia, their senior university, has thirty-three. How many do we have? We have three hundred five. There is no comparison. Greater than any other university or college in the earth has God blessed us with these young men like Dr. Akin; these young men who come here to be taught the infallible and inerrant Word of God. And when we continue that ministry and have our own campus, I do not know how many God will send us. I am looking forward to a thousand of them. O God in heaven, when it seems that every major denomination has fallen into the liberal denial of the inspiration of the Scriptures [2 Timothy 3:16], much less believing in its infallibility, for us to take young men and teach them Hebrew and Greek and the very words of the infallible revelation of Christ our Lord; O God, what a happiness, what a glory and what a prospect!
Now for us, our part, I wish all of us were able to give a million dollars to it, but we can give some; and what we can, we shall and that is our dedication:
What we have dug from the mountainside,
Washed in the glen,
Servant am I or the master of men?
Steal me, I curse you,
Earn me, I bless you.
Grasp me and horde me,
A theme shall possess you.
Lie for me, die for me,
Covet me, take me.
Angel or devil,
I am what you make me.
That gift in your hand.
When Jesus came to Galilee,
A few men gave their all,
Their souls and minds and strength and wealth
In answer to His call.
Eleven men did not withhold
From Him a thing they owned.
‘Twas worthy of a Christ who died
To see a world atoned.
When Jesus came to Dallas town,
They simply passed Him by,
They hurt not a hair of His head,
Then let Him die.
For men had lost the vision
Of a world from sin redeemed,
They bought and sold for profit
And forgot His church it seemed.
Yet Jesus wept such bitter tears
To see the sons of men,
Live just as if He’d never come
And died and risen again.
As if He’d never taught them,
They must consecrate their all,
Their souls and minds and strength and wealth
In answer to His call.
[adapted from “When Jesus Came to Birmingham,” G.A. Studdert-Kennedy]
And that is what we are doing to the least one of us.
And to the multitudes of you who have shared this hour on television, on the screen you will find a number; call us. If you do not know how to accept Christ as your Savior [Romans 10:9-13], call and we will show you the way to God and to heaven. And write us anyway, we love to know where you are, where you live. It will be an encouragement beyond compare. And the Lord bless you and save you, and I will see you in heaven someday.
OUR DOUBLE JUBILEE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Jubilee, a year of commitment to God
First Baptist’s one hundred year anniversary, June 1978
Burden for east Dallas
Southern Baptist history
Missions giving program