What You See Is What You Get

So it was in 1939 that 70 brave souls gathered in the University Park Elementary School to begin the Park Cities Baptist Church. No church sponsored them. They simply believed that “there ought to be a church” in the Park Cities, and pledged their lives to reaching this community with the gospel.

Their first pastor matched their bold, sacrificial, and courageous vision. Dr. Alton Reed left a thriving congregation of more than 1,500 for a congregation of 142 meeting in an elementary school. But God led him and his family to join his vision for this church and this city.

They purchased the home at 4201 Lovers Lane, now the administration building of the Highland Park Independent School District. They planned a massive capital campaign and building project for that land, to commence in June of 1944. Remember what was happening in America in 1944? But part of the land was unavailable to the church.

So they bought 7½ acres of land for $15,000 on Northwest Highway—as far north as you could go on a paved highway in Dallas. And they built this campus. A sanctuary large enough for all who would come; the first church gymnasium in Dallas; outstanding facilities for preschoolers and children.

Over time, Park Cities would give more money to missions than any other Baptist church in Texas, some say in the country. And God would extend her global reach literally around the world.

All of this began with some spiritual fishermen and women who left their boats and nets and church families to come here. To start a church where there was no church, in an elementary school, without a pastor. Would we be that visionary today? My friends, we must be.

Fishing today

You see, the world has changed. Southern Baptist Sunday schools grew by 27% in the 1930s, 31% in the 1940s, and 57% in the 1950s. But they grew by 2% in the 1960s, minus 1% in the 1970s, and minus 8% in the 1980s. A recent demographics study indicates that our church is now located in that part of Dallas with the highest percentage of people who say they have “no faith involvement,” as much as 46% of the population. 130,000 people live within three miles of our church; total average worship attendance for the churches in this radius is 14,576; so at least 100,000 living right around us are not in church today.

And so we must find new ways to fish for this generation. New ways to meet the needs of our community effectively, thus meeting their spiritual needs.

Our immediate community has no recreational facility.

There is no senior adult center in our community, yet the senior adult population is exploding around us.

There is no community center or public library in this immediate community.

Our church has a very significant parking and traffic impact on our neighbors, and this issue must be addressed.

Meanwhile, we are experiencing enormous growth and space needs with our congregation. Our preschool and nurseries are completely out of space. Our children’s space is at capacity in the second hour on Sunday morning. Our youth are up as much at 50% from last year; 375 are enrolled in next week’s DiscipleNow, the largest number in our history; and they meet in six locations on Sunday morning. Areas of our adult and senior adult ministries have significant space needs.

And so I am privileged to announce to you a strategic initiative our leaders have titled, “Continuing the Vision.” A capital project which will meet each of these needs and build bridges to our community for the gospel. An initiative which will enable us to reach lost people more effectively than ever before.

The project would create a three-story facility on our existing east parking lot. The first floor will be dedicated to preschool and youth. The second and third floors will be a double gym with a jogging track, and aerobics and recreational facilities. Our library would move to the first floor of this building and be available to the community. The Howard Center would move to this facility, with new and larger classrooms for its curriculum.

Beneath the new building would be a three-floor underground parking lot which will give us a net increase of 575 parking spaces, greatly minimizing our traffic impact in the community.

Our existing gymnasium would be extended 40 feet to the north and become a Great Hall, seating 600 for dinner and 1,200 for conferences. The area below would be fully excavated and become a new Senior Adult center.

Colonnades would be added to the exterior of the Sanctuary for inclement weather traffic flow, and offices would be congregated in the north tower to return current offices to Sunday school space.

Now, let’s measure this initiative by the vision of those who founded our church.

Is it bold? Yes, but they began a church with no history, no facility, no pastor, no support. They were ready to initiate at least as great a capital project in 1944.

Is it sacrificial? Yes, it will cost approximately $35 million, though $2.5 million has already been given without any solicitation whatsoever. But those who founded our church sacrificed their church homes, their faith families, and sacrificed greatly their finances to build the campus we appreciate so much today.

Is it courageous? We’re stepping out by faith, but so did they.

And so did the first spiritual fishermen Jesus called. We must be as bold, sacrificial, and courageous as they were. If we are, God will use us to reach our world, as he used them to reach theirs.

Conclusion

Today’s announcement is about building the Kingdom of God. This is not about our will, but his. This is not our church, but his. We will seek his face, his will, together. And we will be the spiritual fishermen he has called us to be.

Over the next two weeks every Sunday school department will be given detailed presentations and explanations of this project. Open forums will enable every member of our church to know the project and ask any questions you like. Community groups have already been organized in fourteen homes to present the project to our neighbors; a large such gathering will take place this Tuesday on our campus as well.