The Challenge of Downtown Ministry

Dallas: This weekend Robyn and I had the opportunity to attend a reunion of the First Baptist Church of Dallas Chapel Choir (i.e…the youth choir). Back in the last 1970’s my wife attended FBC Dallas and came to faith in our Lord through its ministry. In fact, one of the high lights of her life was a private meeting with Dr. W.A. Criswell before her baptism when he treated her like a princess. Robyn still to this day tears up when she thinks of the night when the Lord called her to be His own through the preaching of Dr. Criswell.

Even though Robyn’s parents were Methodists, Robyn actively participated in the youth group and one of the highlights of her life was a three week tour of Europe with the Chapel Choir. During the reunion Robyn and I slipped away for a few minutes and found ourselves looking at an elaborate model of the new Worship Center designed for FBC Dallas.

Next to the model was a huge video screen and I noticed a panel of buttons and I punched the button listed by Dr. Criswell’s name. Immediately the image of Dr. Criswell appeared in black and white from a message he preached years ago. During his message, he spoke of the challenges and opportunities of downtown churches. He noted that they either are great churches in the heart of the city or they slowly diminish into struggling mission points that depend on the churches in the suburbs to sustain them. With his typical charisma and power, Dr. Criswell challenged the people of FBC Dallas to be a great church in the heart of Dallas.

His message resonated with me in a powerful way since just a few months ago the Lord assigned me to lead the historic First Baptist Church of El Paso in the heart of this great international border city. I must confess I struggle with the mysteries of how to lead a downtown inner city church to be vibrant and effective.

One lesson I learned in just a few moments of listening to Dr. Criswell was the vital importance of vision. How a church sees itself makes all the difference in the world. Downtown churches need to focus on the Lord and His calling on their lives and ministries rather than the challenges and difficulties.

I pray under my watch FBC El Paso will continue to be a great church at the heart of the city, and for the heart of the city of El Paso. Thank you, Dr. Criswell for inspiring me to believe.

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2 Comments

Filed under FBC El Paso, Leadership

2 responses to “The Challenge of Downtown Ministry

  1. SCUBA MAN

    Great post… very moving and it touched me. I will pray for you as you seek God’s will for you and as you lead your church. May the power of God guide you daily.

  2. I have a deep love and appreciation for George W. Truett, Dr. Criswell and for First Dallas, but they have and advantage we don’t have in El Paso – they’re right plum in the middle of the “Bible belt”.

    El Paso? Not so much.

    David, I sense from this post that you understand the weight and magnitude of the privilege you have of leading First Baptist in our great city of El Paso. And I really appreciate that.

    Since I first heard you were hired, I have prayed that God would use you to revitalize First Church and that you would lead First into making an undeniable impact in our city.

    I believe God is not finished with First Baptist El Paso; on the contrary, I believe that the brightest days in the life of First are ahead, if you and the leaders and the people in the church follow the heart of Jesus and lay aside anything and any tradition that will keep you from reaching people for Jesus.

    So please know that from one pastor to another, I have been praying for you and I will keep praying for you and for First Church. You go change our city for Christ, starting right there in Downtown.

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