W.A. Criswell’s noted expository preaching is being honored in academic chairs at four Southern Baptist seminaries to model for new generations the verse-by-verse teaching that led thousands to Christ during his lifetime.
The W.A. Criswell chair for expository preaching was installed at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in January and was established at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary last fall. Two more chairs, at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, have not been formally announced.
At Southeastern, Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching and a teaching pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., was installed in the new chair.
Jack Pogue, a close friend of Criswell’s and chairman of the W.A. Criswell Foundation, is establishing the academic chairs. The foundation’s aim, Pogue said, is to be involved in winning people to Christ through preparing pastors, missionaries, church workers and laypeople to lead people to Jesus.
Pogue, a Dallas commercial real estate broker, told Baptist Press the word “expository” is the key component of the academic chairs in Criswell’s honor.
Photo courtesy of Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives
W.A. Criswell, delivering a presidential address at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1970, was known for preaching the Bible verse-by-verse. Academic chairs are being established in his name at four SBC seminaries.
As Criswell, who helped return the Southern Baptist Convention to its conservative roots and died in 2002, traveled the country preaching, pastors would ask him, “How do you know what you’re going to preach on next Sunday?” Pogue said. “We wake up on Monday morning and have no idea what we’re going to preach on.”
Criswell’s reply, Pogue said, would always be the same: “It’s very easy. I’m an expository preacher, so I start at the first passage in a book of the Bible, and I preach verse by verse all the way through that book. So I don’t have to worry what to preach the next Sunday. I just preach on the next verse from where I ended my previous sermon.”
Pogue said of Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas for 50 years, “He preached through the entire Bible one time. It took him 17 years and eight months. He started at the first verse of the Book of Genesis, and he preached verse by verse by verse by verse all the way through the Bible.
“Dr. Criswell said, ‘Where I would leave off Sunday morning, I would start at the next verse on Sunday night. Where I would leave off Sunday night, I would start at the next verse the next Sunday morning. I never have to worry about what I’m going to preach the next Sunday. It will be just the next verse.’”
“After he got through preaching through the Bible, he’d start at different books in the Bible, and he would preach verse by verse all the way through that book,” Pogue said. “He said these young pastors worry about what they’re going to preach, but if they do expository preaching, they don’t have to worry about what they’re going to preach. They just preach the next verse from where they ended the previous sermon. I think it’s a great lesson for young preachers.”
In announcing the expository preaching chair at Southeastern during the seminary’s spring convocation, President Daniel Akin said Pogue “is a dear friend and a wonderful brother. I thank God for how he has been used in our Lord’s work.”
Criswell and Pogue had “a father-son relationship,” Akin said, “and Jack has done a tremendous job in honoring and perpetuating the legacy of Criswell.”
“If not for men like Dr. Criswell, you would not be here today,” Akin told the convocation.
The announcement of the chairs at Southeastern and Southern was accompanied by a video of Criswell’s sermon “Whether We Live or Die,” delivered in 1985 at the Pastors’ Conference preceding the SBC annual meeting in Dallas during the Conservative Resurgence.
Shaddix, who now occupies the sixth SEBTS chair installed in the past 10 years, said, “I was there in 1985 as a seminary student when Dr. Criswell gave this address. It opened my eyes to become aware of what was going on and the need to stand on God’s Word and preach it faithfully with integrity.”
Being named to the chair, Shaddix said, “is the greatest honor, encouragement and affirmation in my life in ministry.”
Criswell’s 1985 sermon highlighted “the promise of renaissance, resurrection and revival” in Christ versus the “pattern of death for a denomination, the pattern of death for an institution, the pattern of death for a preacher and a professor” in theological liberalism.
Criswell also encouraged the audience to “never turn aside from [God’s] great high calling to preach the whole counsel of God, warn men of their sins and the judgment of God upon them, baptize their converts in the name of the triune Lord, and build up the congregation in the love and wisdom of Christ Jesus.” He added, “Just keep on winning souls to Jesus!”
Pogue established the first academic post in Criswell’s honor nearly two decades ago at the Criswell College he founded in Dallas, naming it the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching.
Pogue is the “custodian” of the Criswell legacy that has benefited thousands of ministerial students, said Susie Hawkins, a former Criswell College trustee. “As one of those, I am eternally grateful for Jack’s love for the Word and how he so generously has given of his time and resources to expand the extraordinary teaching/preaching ministry of Dr. Criswell.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)