First Baptist Church (Dallas)
|First Baptist Church|
|Denomination||Southern Baptist Convention|
|Founded||July 30, 1868|
|Division||Baptist General Convention of Texas, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention|
First Baptist Church is a Southern Baptist megachurch located in Dallas, Texas. It was established in 1868 and as of 2011 has a congregation of about 10,000. The church, considered influential among evangelical Christians in the United States, also owns and operates a school, a college, several radio stations, and Dallas Life, a mission for the homeless on the southern edge of Downtown Dallas. The current pastor is Robert Jeffress. Dr. Jeffress is currently leading the congregation in a $130 million campaign to re-create its downtown campus. The project is the largest in modern church history.
The First Baptist Church of Dallas was organized on July 30, 1868. First Baptist was organized with eleven charter members on the first floor of the Masonic Hall, on Lamar Street near the intersection of Ross Avenue.
In 1872, the determined congregation pooled their funds together to purchase the first building, on Akard, in downtown Dallas.
The cornerstone of the sanctuary that the congregation worships in today was laid in 1891.
Since the 1970s, the church has established a number of ministries that are affiliated with the church. First Baptist Academy of Dallas and Criswell College (formerly Criswell Bible Institute) were formed to champion Christian education. In the mid-1970s, Criswell College purchased KCBI, to be used as a Christian radio station and has resided on the lower frequencies of FM. Now at 90.9 FM, KCBI broadcasts as part of the Criswell Radio Network, and includes KCRN and KCRN-FM of San Angelo, Texas and KCBK of Frederick, Oklahoma.
W.W. Harris was the first pastor and was followed by several others during the early years of the church.
In 1897 the first of the two most notable pastors, George Truett accepted the position of Pastor and remained there until his death in July, 1944.
In 1944 Dr. W.A. Criswell was called as the pastor of the church. During his tenure the church expanded to multiple buildings covering five blocks in downtown Dallas, eventually becoming the largest Southern Baptist church in the world. Dr. Criswell became Senior Pastor in 1990 and Pastor Emeritus from 1995 until his death in 2002.
Under Dr. Truett, church membership increased from 715 to 7,804; a total of 19,531 new members were received.
The growth continued under Dr. Criswell, when membership grew from 7,800 to 26,000, with weekly Sunday School attendance in excess of 5,000. Criswell reportedly disavowed the idea of "priesthood of the believer" (i.e.; the congregation has the final say), stated that "a committee-run church is a dead church," never allowed a negative vote in business meetings after a proposal, and failed to provide church members with open disclosures of the finances given to their church as Baptists generally require. In 1991, with a membership of more than 28,000, First Baptist was the largest church in the United States and Criswell left First Baptist Church of Dallas with $9 million in debt at the time of his retirement.
American evangelist Rev. Billy Graham became a member of the First Baptist Church of Dallas in 1953 while visiting Dallas during his crusade to the area and remained a church member for over fifty years, despite not residing within the Dallas area and only very infrequently visiting the Dallas church. During 2008, the 90 year old Graham switched his church membership to First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, South Carolina that was nearer his residence in North Carolina.
Currently the church has about 11,000 members.
In 2008, Pastor Robert Jeffress, in his sermon "Gay Is Not OK“, stated that “What they [homosexuals] do is filthy. It is so degrading that it is beyond description. And it is their filthy behavior that explains why they are so much more prone to disease.”
In September 2010, Pastor Jeffress branded Islam as an "evil, evil religion." and in December 2010, Jeffress established a "Naughty and Nice List" where businesses are identified based on whether or not they openly celebrated Christmas, saying "I wanted to do something positive to encourage businesses to acknowledge Christmas and not bow to the strident voices of a minority who object to the holiday."
In October 2011 at the Values Voter Summit, Pastor Robert Jeffress branded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) as "a cult." He received widespread criticism for his statement, but has not retracted it despite U.S. presidential candidate and church member Mitt Romney's request for him to do so.
"Jeffress has spoken out in the past against Muslims, Jews, Mormons and homosexuals, claiming that Islam 'promoted pedophila....'”
These controversial statements are nothing new for First Baptist Church of Dallas. A previous senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, in a discussion of racial integration, stated that 'He expressed astonishment at the cowardice of ministers “whose forebears [sic] and predecessors were martyrs and were burned at the stake” but who themselves refuse to speak up about “this thing of integration.” True ministers, he argued, must passionately resist government mandated desegregation because it is “a denial of all that we believe in.”'
- "Conservative pastor on Romney: Don't vote for a Mormon". Political Ticker (blog). CNN. October 7, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2013/10/29/115827/56 'Criswell's Legacy'. Talk to Action. October 29, 2013.
- http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/2008/12/billy-graham-moves-membership.html 'Billy Graham moves membership from First Baptist Dallas'. Dallas News. December 29, 2008.
- How First Baptist's Robert Jeffress Ordained Himself to Lead America”, Michael J. Mooney, “D Magazine”, Jan 2012
- Jillian Rayfield (September 7, 2010). "Dallas Pastor Defends Claim That Islam 'Promotes Pedophilia'". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
- "December 7, 2010 Podcaset". Christian News Weekly.
- "First Baptist's Robert Jeffress to Publicly Shame Stores That Don't Celebrate Christmas". Dallas Morning News. December 7, 2010.
- "Jeffress Says Satan Is Behind Roman Catholicism". Right Wing Watch. October 8, 2011.
- Karen Brooks and Peter Bohan (October 9, 2011). "Texas pastor stands ground on "cult" comment about Mormons". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
George Jackson, Sixty Years in Texas, 1908, pp. 247-248 H. Leon McBeth, The First Baptist Church of Dallas: Centennial History (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1968)