DALLAS (BP)–First Baptist Church in Dallas elected Robert Jeffress as its newest senior pastor Aug. 12 at the end of a service that filled the sanctuary and multiple overflow areas.
Jeffress — who is leaving First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas — replaces Mac Brunson, who left the church in February 2006 to become pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. Jeffress attended FBC Dallas growing up.
More than 3,000 people came to hear Jeffress preach and at the conclusion of the service voted to call the 51-year-old minister. They voted by standing. The pastoral search committee had recommended him to the congregation one week earlier.
“I will pour my life — everything I have — into building this church for the glory of God,” Jeffress said, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The pastoral search committee looked at more than 100 individuals before settling on Jeffress, according to a news release from the church.
FBC Dallas has been home to several well-known preachers during its history, including George W. Truett and W.A. Criswell. Truett was pastor of the church from 1897 until his death in 1944, and membership during that time grew from 700 to 7,800. He served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1927-29. Truett was succeeded by Criswell, who served there for 50 years before retiring in 1995. Criswell served as president of the SBC from 1968-70.
Jeffress has been at FBC in Wichita Falls since 1992 and prior to that served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Eastland, Texas, from 1985-92. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University, a master’s from Dallas Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He is the author of several books, including “The Solomon Secrets,” “Hell? Yes!” “The Divine Defense,” “Grace Gone Wild!” and “Second Chance, Second Act.”
Jeffress and his wife, Amy, have two daughters; one is in college, the other in high school.
When Jeffress came to FBC Wichita Falls in 1992 he succeeded Morris H. Chapman, who left that position to become president of the SBC Executive Committee. In fact, Jeffress asked and Chapman accepted an invitation to preach at FBC Wichita Falls Aug. 12 while Jeffress was in Dallas.
“Robert Jeffress is extremely gifted as a pastor, preacher, author and administrator,” Chapman told Baptist Press. “Fifteen years ago he succeeded me as pastor of First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, and over these years I have had the privilege of getting to know him personally and observing the wisdom with which he has led the people of Wichita Falls. He is a passionate preacher of the Gospel, a conservative theologian in the tradition of his childhood pastor, W.A. Criswell, and a visionary who is most adept at translating the vision into reality.
“Very few men become pastors of the church in which they grew up, but Dr. Jeffress is highly qualified to lead his home church in restoring the glory enjoyed by the church in past days. I pray the church enjoys her greatest spiritual victories ever under his leadership.”
Including Chapman, FBC Wichita Falls has a rich history of former pastors becoming denominational leaders. William M. Pinson, the pastor prior to Chapman, went on to become president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Another former pastor, Landrum P. Leavell, left FBC Wichita Falls to become president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Additionally, former pastor James Landes later served as president of Hardin-Simmons University and president of the BGCT.
“There’s no doubt the congregation in Wichita Falls will miss [Jeffress] greatly but they are grateful to the Lord for the 15 years they were together as pastor and people,” Chapman said. “As I pray for Dr. Jeffress and the First Baptist Church, Dallas, I am praying for the dear people of Wichita Falls in this time of transition. God never calls a pastor away without having his successor prepared to lead His people in the next phase of their ministry. In this sense I rejoice with both congregations.”
Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.