DALLAS (BP)–Even after his death, W.A. Criswell’s preaching legacy can be tapped by a global audience at www.wacriswell.com.
More than 1,600 sermons preached by Criswell over his 54-year tenure at First Baptist Church of Dallas can be read, viewed and heard at the Internet site.
The Criswell Sermon Legacy Project took six years of intense research, transcription, digitization and editing by numerous volunteers and paid professionals to bring the project to its current state. It was underwritten by the W.A. Criswell Foundation and First Baptist layman Jack Pogue.
Gloria Cowan, director of the W.A. Criswell Foundation, headed up the project. It all began in 1994, Cowan said, during a project to collect and archive memorabilia from Criswell’s ministry at First Baptist Church. A seminary student assisting her mentioned what a help it might be to other students to be able to see and hear Criswell preach again. From that thought came the idea to establish a website that would contain outlines, transcripts, videos and audios of as many of Criswell’s sermons as possible.
Cowan said it was “quite an involved process” to collect and organize the material. Thanks to Criswell’s detailed ledger containing the date, title, text and time of his 4,010 sermons preached at First Baptist, volunteers were able to match taped recordings to sermon dates and titles. Project workers listened to the tapes of each service, and dubbed only the sermon portion onto a separate tape. Court reporters received copies of the tapes in order to transcribe the sermons. Cowan decided she needed editors to read each transcription when one sermon which mentioned Jehoshaphat was recorded by the transcriber as “so your so fat.” Several seminary professors edited the texts and categorized the sermons into topics and key words so that online searches could be very specific.
Criswell College preaching professor David Allen described the website as “a splendid resource for pastors in that it is a model of expositional preaching, and is chock full of illustrations as well.” Allen edited sermons from several New Testament books with other Criswell College professors involved in the rest of the editing process.
The site was announced in the three Sunday services of First Baptist, Dallas, on Oct. 7. With no other promotion, in its first three weeks of operation the site received more than 100,000 hits. Interest has come from as far away as Canada, England and Europe, Cowan said. The most requested sermon is entitled “The Terrorists of the Middle East,” delivered Jan. 20, 1991 using Rev. 6:6-8 as the text.
Cowan also heard from a teacher at a Christian academy who printed off all of the sermons on angels to use in teaching her students. The students now use the site to do their own research on topics of interest.
Web users who go to the site can access sermons by searching according to a book of the Bible, a chapter or a verse, by category, by topic or by key word.
In offering the sermons free of charge, the board members of the W.A. Criswell Foundation hope it will be used as a tool for seminary students, college students, pastors, Sunday school teachers and “anyone, anywhere, anytime” who needs biblical expository preaching from “the inerrant and infallible word of God,” according to website promotion.
Cowan told of one email that confirmed the foundation’s goal as being realized. “In a day when the ‘superstar’ preachers are selling their sermons for $5 to $10 each,” the writer stated, “I can think of no better legacy for any preacher than to give such a gift to future preachers who will never have the money to buy such resources. I am truly stunned by what you are doing.”
Cowan also noted that some older people who miss Criswell’s preaching are learning to use the computer and can see him preach again. She said, “If God’s name is glorified, we are all very happy.”
Criswell, who died Jan. 10, 2002, served as the pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas from 1944-97. In 1999 he was named to the top 20 greatest 20th century preachers by Preaching magazine, a non-denominational publication.
Adkins is a writer for The Texan, a monthly publication of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.