New book details legends, legacies of Norris, Truett
By Roy Hayhurst/GuideStone
DALLAS (BP) – George W. Truett’s name is on schools, one of the Texas’ largest hospital towers, even an auditorium at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
J. Frank Norris’ name does not appear on much of anything.
Truett is generally venerated, and Norris is generally vilified in Baptist history. The two – contemporaries from pulpits barely 30 miles apart who led the two largest churches in the world at the time – cared little for one another during their ministries. Given Norris’ and Truett’s legacies, it would be easy to dismiss Norris and to put Truett on a pedestal.
The truth, GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said, is more nuanced.
Hawkins tells the tales of the two legendary North Texas pastors in his newest book, In the Name of God – The Colliding Lives, Legends, and Legacies of J. Frank Norris and George W. Truett. Published by B&H Academic and releasing Wednesday (Sept. 1) from all booksellers, the book seeks to look objectively at the two who led their larger-than-life congregations.
“No one is better qualified to tell the untold story of Baptist legends J. Frank Norris and George W. Truett than my lifelong friend O. S. Hawkins,” wrote Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. “His own family roots run deep in the history of First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, and for several years he was one of George W. Truett’s pastoral successors at the historic First Baptist Church in Dallas. This story of these entwining lives and legacies reads like a page-turning novel. It reveals the dangers of elevating denominational loyalty over scriptural fidelity.”
Both Norris and Truett were charismatic and winsome. Both pastors had killed a man — Norris in self-defense, Truett in an accident on a hunting trip in the Texas Hill Country.
Truett prized denominational loyalty above all; Norris felt doctrinal unity was more important. Both proved to carry those beliefs to the extremes, Hawkins says. Truett, so determined to make the 75 Million Campaign a success, would not address the evolution controversy at Baylor University. Norris drew the circle of cooperation more narrowly until he cooperated with virtually no one.
“This is one of the most fascinating stories of our time, written by the one man who has a claim upon the entire story,” wrote R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “It is incredibly well told and tremendously relevant. I recommend it eagerly.”
Hawkins weaves in plenty of the espionage and intrigue of the two pastors. Their distaste for each other began when Norris left Southern Seminary in 1905. He went first to the 13-member McKinney Avenue Baptist Church in Dallas. On his first anniversary, more than 1,000 were attending, many of whom had left First Baptist Church of Dallas to join the young and growing church. The dislike between Truett and Norris began to fester then and only grew once Norris moved one county west to take over First Baptist in Fort Worth.
Lifeway’s Glory event with Jackie Hill Perry gathers 1,200 women
By Helen Hummel/Lifeway
NASHVILLE (BP) – Minutes after the lights dimmed in the sanctuary of Nashville’s Mount Zion Baptist Church Friday evening (Aug. 27), the room erupted in praise.
Led by worship leader Jordan Welch, 1,200 women stood from rows of wooden pews and raised their hands. Their voices rang out and filled the room as they sang, “We will praise the name of Jesus, that great name.”
This was the first night of Glory, Lifeway Women’s brand-new event featuring Bible teacher Jackie Hill Perry. Over two days, Hill Perry led the women in a study of the doctrine of God focused on His holiness.
Drawing themes from her latest book, Holier Than Thou, Hill Perry said this topic is critical for women to engage, especially in a moment in history like this.
“There’s too much happening for us to not have some substance to cling to, to anchor our faith,” Hill Perry said. Holier Than Thou debuted on the USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list, coming in at No. 37.
She opened the event by sharing a classic quote from A.W. Tozer’s 1961 book, The Knowledge of the Holy: “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Hill Perry spent the weekend unpacking this idea, showing women the connection between what we believe about God and how we live our lives. In doing so, she encouraged women to get down to the core of what they really believe.
“At the root of all sin is unbelief in the Word and worth of God,” Hill Perry said. “And that, my friends, is why it is so hard for us to be holy sometimes – because we keep trying to modify our external behavior without dealing with the belief systems way at the bottom of them.”
Pointing to God’s holiness, Hill Perry reminded listeners they should instead prioritize heart and mind renewal, which will ultimately lead believers to desire God more than anything else.
“Desiring God above all things is the soil from which holiness is grown,” Hill Perry said. “We are already empowered through the Spirit to flee sin, and we will want and choose to put to death what is earthly in us when we believe that God is infinitely better than everything we are tempted to leave Him for.”
Friends Ally Johnson and Katrina Reed came to the event together, and they both said they felt its uniqueness.
“It was so good,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t like any other women’s conference I think I’ve ever been to.”
In addition to in-depth biblical teaching from Hill Perry, the Glory event also featured powerful, extended times of worship led by Welch. For Hill Perry, this approach to worship was intentional as well.
“If you know me, you know I love music – a lot – and that’s why I really wanted Glory to have a significant amount of time for worship,” she said. “Because I think it’s just as important as the Scriptures, to be honest. I think it helps us to engage our emotions and to praise God and confess.”