Peace if possible. Truth at all costs. ~ Martin Luther

W.A. Criswell on Having Confidence in God’s Word [Funny Video]

In this very funny short clip, the old warrior Dr. W.A. Criswell was 89 years old. This was, in fact, the last time he preached (1998).

If you are unfamiliar with Dr. Criswell, for more than 50 years he served as Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. He followed on in that pulpit from Dr. George Truett, who himself had been a legend.

In his early days in Dallas, Criswell announced that he was going to begin preaching in Genesis 1:1.  Wherever he finished that Sunday morning, he said he would pick up and continue on Sunday night. Wherever he finished Sunday night he would pick up again in the Wednesday Bible Study.

This was a very different approach than Truett had taken, who was a straight isolated text preacher. People warned Criswell “You’re going to have problems!”  They said he would “kill the church”. Years later he was able to testify that they DID indeed have problems – problems about where to put all the people, and where to park all the cars!

It took Criswell over 17 years to preach through from Genesis to Revelation the first time.  Under his ministry, over the years that he was pastor, the church grew to 26,000 members, with the largest Sunday School in America. He led the building of a “mega” church (one of the first), but unlike so many of todays, he did so without ever compromising the gospel or bowing down to the idol of “relevance”.  He relied on the power of God’s Word to build a strong and vital church.

The story he tells in the video above is very funny, but it makes an excellent point. The story may be a cariciature, but there was a time when preachers had just such absolute confidence in God’s Word. We desperately need a return to it. Today, even many of our so-called “evangelical” preachers – who espouse to believe in Biblical inerrancy and authority – act in all practicality as if they don’t. They may believe in the virgin birth and the resurrection, but they add all kinds of worldly wisdom and philosophy of their own, as if the Bible in itself is not sufficient.

 If we preach the whole counsel of God’s Word, we can still trust God to build great, strong churches for HIS glory. But if we revert to other things to draw crowds we will one day wish we had never had a large church – when every false convert and weak, shallow believer only adds to our shame before the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ.

Pastors, let us be warned.

Phil

Comments

  1. So true regarding the need to return to biblical teaching and preaching that is grounded solidly in biblical theology. It is still baffling to me how people would prefer to be satisfied with teaching that is not sound in doctrine and don’t say anything about it either.

    I guess they can be likened to the frog that’s placed in a pot of lukewarm water that rises 1 degree every few minutes or so, until it becomes so relaxed in the warmer water that it does not realize it is slowly being boiled to death. I wish that metaphor would be more profoundly recognized today in America.

  2. Excellent article – and a timely warning to all who are engaged in preaching the word of God. It was also a pleasure to watch and listen to the video clip of Dr. Walter Criswell. Fantastic! The story of First Baptist church, Dallas under his ministry is classic. George Truett was a great ‘topical’ preacher, and people loved to listen to him. Dr. Criswell was something else. I have mentioned him a number of times in Pastors’ conferences and Bible Schools where I have been privileged to speak, to encourage ‘expository’ preaching of the Word. There is no substitute for the general preaching / teaching ministry in the local church – it has to be expository. Too many pastors scratch around for some text and topic, some ‘grain’ they can pick up and ‘get away with’ before their congregations.

    Indeed, we live in times when some even assert that ‘the day of preaching is over’, that it is ‘a dying art, an outmoded form of communication.’ That is an indictable confession and deceptive opinionating. I would affirm most vehemently, as you strongly insist, that preaching is indispensable to Christianity and the establishing of sound churches. As Dr. John Stott has rightly said, “Christianity is, in its very essence, a religion of the Word of God.” Sadly these days our pulpits are plagued with all manner of novel innovations, while true expository preaching has been discarded. Such regrettable substitutions for the Word of God may amuse and entertain but never save or change the hearers.

    Of course, expository preaching is going to prove most demanding for the preacher. Maybe this is one of the reasons why many preachers shy away from this method of preaching; it appears easier to be a mere ‘topical’ preacher. I say, ‘appears,’ because we need to be possessed of the conviction that true expository preaching alone makes for logical, more satisfying, and resourceful preaching. After all, if anything is worthwhile in life it is going to demand labour and application, diligence and resolve. Maybe preachers ought to reflect on the words of Henry Ward Beecher (“Yale Lectures on Preaching,” 1874) -“No trade requires so long an apprenticeship as preaching, for it is the living force of a human soul, brought to bear on human souls for the sake of their transformation. If a man takes years in acquiring the art of shaping clay into beautiful vases, how much longer ought he to spend in acquiring the art of moulding and shaping that delicate and subtle, yet eternal thing that we call the human soul. No time should be counted too long in preparing men for that task.”

    Thanks, Phil, for the warning!