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SBC DIGEST: Lifeway releases Hawkins’ book on Criswell; NOBTS holds sold-out Abide conference

‘Criswell: His Life and Times’ traces calling and ministry of influential pastor

By Aaron Earls/Lifeway

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (BP) – W.A. Criswell is a name well known in Baptist circles. He served as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastored one of the largest churches in America for five decades. His name even adorns a college in Texas. But while many are familiar with the name “Criswell,” few know the man behind the name as well as O.S. Hawkins. With his book “Criswell: His Life and Times,” Hawkins aims to help readers see who the famed pastor was as a man, husband, father, friend and mentor.

Chancellor of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Hawkins served as the pastoral successor to Criswell at First Baptist Dallas and now as his biographer with “Criswell: His Life and Times.” Hawkins believes now, more than 20 years after Criswell’s passing, is the right moment to tell his story. “We live in a day when some of the older people in ministry think the younger ones are irreverent, and the younger ones in ministry seem to think the older ones are irrelevant,” Hawkins said. “Criswell is the one man who bridges that gap. His life lessons and leadership principles are applicable to all today.” Hawkins said the biography aims to stir up older leaders by way of remembrance and introduce younger leaders to “the most influential figure in 20th-century evangelicalism.”

Hawkins traces Criswell’s life from virtual poverty on the Texas plains and his early days as a small church pastor through his time leading First Baptist Dallas, including handling the successes and regrets that came in his life and ministry. “As someone once said, ‘Giants dwindle into ordinary men when we really get to know them.’ In the midst of his far-reaching greatness and endless accomplishments, when all is said and done, he was, as James said of Elijah, ‘a man with a nature like ours,’” said Hawkins.

Criswell was known as a leader both nationally and at the local church level. Hawkins said three factors enabled Criswell to lead with clarity and consistency. “He knew where he was going,” Hawkins said. “He never got to an intersection in leadership without already knowing which way he was going to turn. He knew who he was. He never tried to be his esteemed predecessor, George W. Truett, or anyone else but was secure in his own calling. And he knew why he was there. He was moved and motivated by an inner purpose and calling in life and never wavered from it.”

Despite Criswell’s national reach, Hawkins said he would most want to be remembered as a pastor of a local congregation and one who never wavered from his convictions about Scripture and the task to which God has called the church. “This was all he ever aspired to be,” said Hawkins. “He genuinely loved people, and the Word of God was central to all he was and all he did.”

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Abide 2024 calls on sold-out crowd to be ‘women of prayer’

By Marilyn Stewart/NOBTS

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – A packed house of more than 1,200 women gathered for Abide 2024 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College Feb. 23-24 to worship and embrace a calling to be “Women of Prayer.”

“We chose the theme ‘Women of Prayer’ because prayer is a vital discipline in the life of the believer,” said Tara Dew, wife of NOBTS president Jamie Dew, adjunct professor and director of the seminary’s ministry wives certificate program, Thrive. “If we are to truly abide with Christ, then we will be women who pray.”

Keynote speakers were Donna Gaines, founder and director of the non-profit ARISE2Read and wife of Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist, Memphis; Andrea Lennon, author, speaker and Arkansas Baptist Convention Women’s Specialist; Heather Johnson, educator, women’s ministry leader, and Thrive assistant director; and Tara Dew.

Worship was led by Nate Jernigan, Leavell College assistant professor of music and worship, with guest vocalist Meredith Andrews, a Dove Award-winning Christian music artist and worship leader.  

Women from more than 190 churches from nine states were in attendance.

The Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 was the focus of the keynote addresses.

Tara Dew, in the opening plenary, pointed to the “remarkable, earth-shattering truth” that believers have access to God and stand in relationship to Him as children.

“Jesus did not say ‘my father’ but ‘our father,’” Dew said. “We now have a relationship with the almighty God. We now have access as children.”

Though believers have an intimate, father-child relationship with God, Dew cautioned that God must be approached with reverence and respect. Only when believers understand God’s holy character will they be capable of praying that God’s will is done in their lives, Dew explained.

“Never forget He is holy, He is in heaven,” Dew said. “We must approach rightly and then we can pray, ‘May your kingdom come. May your will be done.’”

Donna Gaines, in the Friday night plenary that followed, pointed to verse 11 to stress the importance of focusing on daily needs in prayer rather than worrying about tomorrow. Gaines drew from her experience as her husband journeyed through cancer to say that understanding the depth of God’s love allows a believer to trust Him for provision.

“As I meditated on [verse 11], I realized I had enough grace for today,” Gaines said. “I will not dwell on the ‘what ifs,’ but on the ‘what is’ … one being, God will never leave me nor forsake me.”

Gaines reported that her husband is doing “very well,” and went on to relate lessons she learned in trusting God for daily provision through her work as director of the nonprofit organization ARISE2Read.

“Every step of the way God has opened the door,” Gaines said of the organization’s growth from its beginning twelve years ago. “Every step, God has said, ‘Donna, just take care of today.’”

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