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.