Criswell remembered as larger-than-life pastor
January 18 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Criswell remembered as larger-than-life pastor | Friday, Jan. 18, 2002

Friday, Jan. 18, 2002

Criswell remembered as larger-than-life pastor

By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press DALLAS, Texas - Legendary Baptist preacher W.A. Criswell was remembered as a larger-than-life figure, evoking comparisons to the Apostle Paul, King David, Elijah and others, in eulogies Jan. 16 at First Baptist Church of Dallas. Criswell, pastor of the Dallas church for more than 50 years, died nearly a week earlier at age 92. For two days prior to the funeral, his body laid in state at Criswell College and First Baptist Church.

Thousands of people filled the sanctuary and overflow rooms at First Baptist Church and Criswell College, where the service was broadcast via closed-circuit TV.

In a highly unusual move, several miles of Dallas' North Central Expressway were closed after the funeral for a procession to Hillcrest Memorial Park for burial.

The two hour and 10 minute service featured six speakers: Richard Wells, president of Criswell College; Cliff Barrows of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls and a product of Criswell's ministry at the Dallas church; Paige Patterson, former longtime president of Criswell College and now president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina; O.S. Hawkins, former pastor of First Baptist Church and now president of the Southern Baptist Annuity Board; and Mac Brunson, current pastor of First Baptist Church.

Wells provided extensive biographical information about Criswell's life and ministry and read testimonies from family members and friends.

Barrows brought greetings from Graham, who has been a non-resident member of the church for years and was unable to travel to Texas for the service.

Jeffress testified to Criswell's influence on his own ministry and the ministry of thousands of other young pastors.

Patterson brought a bit of comic relief, sharing self-deprecating anecdotes related to his tenure with Criswell that elicited both laughter and tears. In the manner adult children sometimes tell stories on their parents, Patterson recounted how Criswell taught him to display proper decorum when seated on the platform during Sunday morning worship.

But more than anything, Patterson said, Criswell taught him how to weather life's storms.

"All your life you will be in a storm," he recalled Criswell advising him. "You can't do anything about that. All you can do is be certain you are in the center of God's will."

Hawkins spoke of Criswell's theological influence on the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond, calling Criswell "our standard bearer."

Brunson delivered a sermon based on the books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings, in which he called Criswell God's "defender of the faith." Brunson ended his sermon with a call to spiritual commitment, urging anyone listening who was not a Christian to make that commitment as the church choir sang Handel's "Hallelujah."

The congregation included a host of Baptist and local dignitaries, including the presidents of SBC seminaries, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Dallas Mavericks owner Don Carter, SBC President James Merritt and other SBC officials, Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Director Charles Wade, BGCT Executive Board Chairman Brian Harbour and other BGCT representatives.

Throughout the service, Criswell was portrayed in larger-than-life terms including "giant," "genius" and "visionary." But speakers constantly returned to the theme of Criswell's obsession with Bible study, preaching and evangelizing.

Brunson recalled his last visit with Criswell, which he said was about two weeks prior to his death. Criswell's mind was clouded by medicine, but his heart was still set on God, Brunson said.

Criswell did not recognize Brunson. But upon seeing him, Criswell asked: "Are you here for the revival?"

His answer, Brunson said, was, "I pray so."

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1/18/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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