DALLAS (BP) — Legendary pastor W.A. Criswell passed away just as the internet age was beginning to boom and several years before high-speed internet was common.
But 15 years after his death, pastors and laypeople around the world are utilizing modern technology and a free website to listen to and research more than 4,000 sermons by the long-time pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas.
The site, WACriswell.com, features audio of his sermons from 1953 to 2001 as well as sermon transcripts dating back to his first year, 1944, as pastor of FBC. All total, the site includes about 1,000 sermons on streaming video and 4,150 sermons on streaming audio, all of which are accompanied by written transcripts. Most of the sermons also include a sermon outline and a PDF of his sermon notes. The site, which has continued to expand in material through the years, is a ministry of the W.A. Criswell Foundation. See related story.
Criswell served 50 years as pastor of the church, preaching his first sermon there in 1944 and retiring in 1995, before passing away in 2002. He twice was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
His longtime friend Jack Pogue led the effort to place all of Criswell’s sermons on the internet.
“We get emails from pastors from larger churches who say, ‘I never go to bed on Saturday night until I see what Dr. Criswell has said about the verse I’m going to preach about on the next day,'” Pogue told the TEXAN.
Users of the site can search for sermons by date, verse, topic, sermon series or keywords.
“If you ever heard Dr. Criswell preach and you can remember just two words to that sermon, you can pull up that sermon,” Pogue said.
The website features some of Criswell’s classic sermons, such as “Whether We Live Or Die,” which he delivered at the SBC annual meeting in 1985, and “The Curse of Liberalism,” which he preached at the SBC meeting in 1988. The site also includes sermon series on entire books: Genesis (1956-58), Romans (1954-55) and Revelation (1961-63).
Pogue was not a Christian when he began attending Criswell’s church in the early 1970s. Criswell’s focus on the Bible immediately had an impact.
“Before Dr. Criswell got up to preach on my first Sunday there, he said, ‘I just want to say something. All these years I have been your preacher, I have preached from the pages of this sacred Book. And I promise you, as long as I’m your preacher, every sermon I will ever preach will be from the pages of this Holy Book.'”
Up to that point, Pogue had been attending what he calls a liberal church.
“When [Criswell] said that about the Bible,” Pogue recalled, “God said in my heart: I want you in this church, under this pastor.”
Eventually, Pogue met Criswell, and they became good friends. Criswell died in Pogue’s home.
“He would start preaching in his sleep,” Pogue said. “And he would give an invitation in his sleep. He would worry about not having enough counselors to take in the people who were answering the altar call.
“I wish my mind was like that, that even when I slept I would dream of Jesus and lost people and the cross.”
The sermons are transcribed by professional transcriptionists. Pogue then proofs the transcripts by listening to the sermons and checking for misspellings and wrong punctuation.
Although First Baptist began recording Criswell’s sermons in 1953, some of the early recordings contained static.
“They were very, very hard to hear,” Pogue said. “But new technology came around that got a lot of that static out, and you could hear the sermons much better.”
Pogue recounted how he once gave a personal tour of the website to Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., where Billy Graham is a member. Wilton asked Pogue to search for “imputed righteousness,” a topic of Wilton’s upcoming sermon. The search engine found dozens of Criswell sermons on the term.
But the website is not just for preachers, Pogue noted.
“I want the most uneducated man to be able to listen to Dr. Criswell preach, let him guide him through the Bible and win him to Christ,” Pogue said.