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.