The Benton Trio’s first road trip was to Dallas. Debi was about 4 months old. Doug wouldn’t join the group for another year. We enrolled at Stamps School of Music. Three weeks in a small apartment and interaction with great people—some of our heroes, others who would become national singers.
We stopped in Wichita to check out an Assembly church that was getting lots of press for their creative youth ministries. Talk about being ahead of the times. The senior pastor talked vision, core values. He spent an hour or more showing us facilities and sharing dreams. I now understand that he was casting a vision into a young couple—with dignity and reserved nature, he was imparting the Kingdom into us.
I also wanted to visit First Baptist Church downtown Dallas. First Baptist Church was a mega-church before the name was invented. Dr. W.A. Criswell was the senior pastor. The Sunday morning we visited was life-shaping as we envisioned the local church. It was a shocking experience.
We were welcomed by a tall thin man who escorted us to our seats. We had been in large churches to worship and minister, but that meant 200-400. That morning we were seeing thousands. Huge choir. The service was seamless. The first two rows seated men dressed alike with a white boutonniere in each lapel. I don’t know if they were Deacons or Elders. During the pastoral prayer, they turned and knelt. Precision! It may sound stuffy, but in fact I saw it as orderly in a room filled with high energy.
After the benediction, our welcomer came to talk to us. “Have you met our pastor?” he asked. He took us to meet Dr. Criswell as if we were somebodies. Criswell was a world leader in his part of the Church. And they treated us well! We had never been in a setting like that. I took notes!
We have been reminded of First Baptist during the past few days. We listened to a radio message by the present pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffers, as we traveled. We reviewed that Sunday morning when we had discovered, “Dorothy, shine your ruby slippers, this is not Kansas anymore.” Then, a friend posted this:
Precision, orderly, exciting, anointing. Love it!
©2019 D. Dean Benton