Jeffress’ Sermon Highlights History, Church’s Guiding Principles
DALLAS, July 29, 2018 – First Baptist Church, an institution in downtown Dallas since it was a frontier town, celebrated 150 years of commitment to biblical teaching, as well as impact on the city and the world, at worship services Sunday.
First Dallas’ senior pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, delivered a sermon called “First Baptist Church: 150 Years … and Still Growing.”
Jeffress’ message took the congregation back to a day in July 1868, when 11 men and women founded the church, through the days of legendary pastors Dr. George W. Truett (1897-1944) and Dr. W.A. Criswell (1944-1990), up to the present day.
Jeffress noted that it takes more than faith in Jesus Christ to build a church, and attributed First Baptist Dallas’ survival and growth to the three foundations of commitment, the Gospel and the Bible.
“First Baptist Dallas has been built on the foundation of the Bible,” he said. “For 150 years, First Dallas has been built not on the shifting sands of culture or a denomination but the unchanging Word of God. Because of that, when the winds of adversity and criticism have fiercely blown against this congregation, it has not fallen.”
Since Jeffress became pastor in 2007, First Baptist has grown to 13,000 members, including what he calls a “flood” of young families. People drive from as far away as Oklahoma to worship at First Dallas; attendance Sunday was more than 6,000.
Despite the national trend for megachurches to relocate to or sprout up in the suburbs, First Baptist has remained downtown since its inception. Jeffress cited as an example of the church’s commitment its $135 million renovation of its campus in 2013, creating a “spiritual oasis” downtown.
Through the years, the church has remained steadfast in its support of biblical truth. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me,’ ” Jeffress said. “That’s the gospel we preach without apology at First Dallas.”
Before giving the offertory prayer at the second celebration service, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott read from a proclamation praising the church as a “pillar of faith in Dallas and an example to all of Texas,” adding, “God has blessed Texas, and for 150 years, He has also blessed First Baptist Dallas.”
The First Dallas pulpit has a history of influence far beyond the city limits. Truett preached to American soldiers in Europe during World War I at the invitation of President Woodrow Wilson, and several presidents were guests at the church when Criswell was pastor. Jeffress, a prominent evangelical advisor to President Donald Trump, gave the dedicatory prayer at the opening of the US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in May.
Jeffress said he had been pondering for months about how to end Sunday’s services. “I think the answer is pretty obvious,” he said. “We will end each service the same way they first did 150 years ago – in prayer.”
After deacon chair Tom Pulley’s closing prayer, a 150th birthday cake was rolled on to the stage as the congregation sang “Happy Birthday.” When the refrain ended, cannons shot confetti into the crowd, and 6,000 balloons were released.
In key locations around the church, 7,000 cupcakes were arranged on tables for members of the congregation to enjoy as they left. More than 15,000 books were given away, including a commemorative leather Bible and a copy of “Tales of First Baptist Dallas through the Eyes of Rose-Mary Rumbley” to each family attending Sunday. Kids also received “The Promise,” a children’s book about the history of the church.
For more information, visit FirstDallas.org.