Largest Church Building Program in Modern History

First Baptist Church of Dallas’ plan for a new building is said to be “the largest church building program in modern history,” the Dallas Morning News reports. There is a website that shows the plans for the building, and you can see extensive video renderings of what the facility will look like. The videos also include an historical piece on George W. Truett and W. A. Criswell.

44 Responses to Largest Church Building Program in Modern History

  1. Matt Svoboda November 1, 2009 at 11:14 pm #

    In my humble opinion, this is not a good thing.

    Why do churches spend so much to make sure everything is so nice. Why isn’t ‘good enough’, good enough?

  2. Matt Svoboda November 1, 2009 at 11:27 pm #

    I would not go to a church that looks like that on the outside. I would want to go to a church that didn’t spent excessively.

  3. Darius T November 2, 2009 at 12:06 am #

    Amen Matt.

  4. Scott November 2, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    That’s bothersome on so many levels.

  5. Jeff November 2, 2009 at 12:16 am #

    That’s a shame, no wonder we have so little power…

  6. Mark November 2, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    I agree. Churches shouldn’t look like expensive modern sports centers.

  7. DennyReader November 2, 2009 at 1:49 am #

    Their intention might be good. I would not judge if what they are doing is wise or not, but it reminds me of this story.

    The story is famous of the discourse between Pope Innocent IV and Thomas Aquinas. When that great scholar came to Rome, and looked somewhat amazedly upon the mass of plate and treasure which he saw, Lo, said the Pope, you see Thomas, we cannot say as St Peter did of old, silver and gold have we none. No, said Aquinas, neither can you command, as he did, the lame man to arise and walk. — Bishop Hall

  8. Jada November 2, 2009 at 1:50 am #

    You know as a church planter….this absolutely makes me sick to my stomach..all I can do is shake my head in disbelief.

    I am an artsy-fartsy type, too, so, I like cool, hip designs, art and nice things. But, you know what $130 million. I mean, FOR REAL, $130 million. Why don’t they take a portion of that for the building project, then, what about sending the rest to church planters, who are barely making ends meet, meeting in schools, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, movie theaters, etc. Or what about Eden Reforestation Project? Or what about all the homeless people in Dallas/Fort Worth (anyone read “Same Kind of Different As Me” they are there)? Or what about helping families who want to adopt with adoption fees? Or what about church planters? Or missionaries? Or (what our church plant did) helping local schools in the area with beauty bark, pressure washing the school buildings? Or partnering with Volunteers of America to provide gifts for families in need (b/c in this economy there are many) and food boxes (my husband and I keep boxes in each of our cars at all times)? I could go on b/c $130 million could be spent in much better ways than a fancy church building. TRUST ME!

    I am utterly in disbelief.

    Speechless.

    I don’t think this is a good thing. Not. At. All.

    Once again it shows the world that it is all about outside appearances. People are dying. People need Jesus. People are starving. People need food (spiritual and otherwise).

    Maybe $130 million is not a lot to them. Maybe their budget is astronomical (as if $130 million is not astronomical).

    If I was on staff at that church, I couldn’t support this. Not. at. all.

    Maybe I should tell you how I really feel:)! (you know I love you and your wonderful family, butt his is UNBELIEVABLE.

    People are busting their bums in the trenches of ministry…and to hear this….absurd!) For shame….I really think this is wasting God’s resources that they have been given to steward.

  9. John Holmberg November 2, 2009 at 2:05 am #

    Denny,

    Perhaps you left your comments vague on purpose, but just what do you think about this? Do be honest.

    For me, this makes me want to vomit. The accompanying videos were nothing short of idolatrous marketing and arrogant boasting. They are building their kingdom for themselves and the kingdom of God cannot be confined to buildings. Unfortunately it’s going to burn just like the others who do the same thing. I’m not against building things, but this is insane and is clearly evidence of the “Dallas” mindset. They look just like their surrounding culture and there is not one ounce of “holiness” in what they’re trying to do.

    Sickening, just sickening. And I hope Jeffress reads this too. You should be ashamed sir and this is evidence of how selfish your church is. They’re only willing to shell out the big bucks for themselves and this is frivolous, and captures every nuance of the word “pretentious.”

    Where is the voice of wisdom from inside the church? Things like this demand criticism and judgment. Absolutely sickening. . .

  10. Michael Butterworth November 2, 2009 at 2:56 am #

    The proposed building looks very impressive, but I do question what it will accomplish. In the video FBC Dallas states their desire to have a facility that will reach emerging generations, that’s great, but I think I speak for most of my generation in saying we are not interested in contemporary architecture so much as meaningful relationships and authentic, biblical community.

  11. Josh Philpot November 2, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    I need help understanding why many Texans want everything bigger and better.

    Was Jerry Jones influential for this building project?

  12. Paul Butterworth November 2, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    My jury is partially out on this one. I’m not sure if I dig the design but I definitely dig there desire to be “in the city” center. Not that there’s anything wrong with building a suburban megaplex, but still.

    I was concerned by the video though, in regarding its narration. I’m sure it was co-written by the architectural firm, at least, I hope it was, but it spoke of a fancy building as being the answer to all the church’s problems and the key to relevancy. That is disconcerting.

    As a side note, the interesting thing about “good ‘ole SBC congregationalism” is that you can’t do something like this without every grandma having something to say at business meeting. Should be a fun one.

  13. Miguel November 2, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    I think the inspiration for this building came from Jerry Jones.

  14. Nathan November 2, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    It is interesting that many of the comments seem to imply that 1st Dallas should do something else with their money and their mission.

    So, what about you church planters. Why are you meeting in a school? Why not your homes and save the money? If your home is not large enough, start another church.

    As far as 1st Dallas overspending, thankfully none of us do that. I am so grateful we don’t have cars, boats, flat-screen TVs, high-speed internet, more square footage in our homes than an African village. Wow! I am so glad I’m not like 1st Dallas! I so glad that I don’t spend my income on pleasures for myself or my family. I’m so glad I don’t spend $3.00 on coffee. I’m so glad…

    I don’t know what ministries 1st Dallas has and I don’t know how much money they give per member towards missions, so I’ll just refrain from comments that appear jealous, but jealous for the gospel no doubt.

  15. Scott November 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    Nathan,

    This has absolutely nothing to do with jealousy. I think it’s safe to say that none of the posts to this point are about jealousy.

    And if you can’t see the difference between a cup of coffee and an organized effort to spend 130 million….

  16. Ben Stevenson November 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    I think there are many ways in which this money could be better spent.

    Instead of $130,000,000 on one site, why not $1,000,000 on 130 sites spread across the city, involved the each community?

    Or, assuming the average wage of a senior pastor in a Baptist church was apparently $67,000 in 2007 – how about paying the wages of about 970 pastors for 5 years?

  17. Darius T November 2, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    Point taken, Nathan, but are you saying that you’re cool with a church spending extra money on things that don’t matter? I’m in complete agreement with you that Christians should take a look inward at our own spending… we have huge problems with wasting money on things that rust and moth destroy. But just because Christians have problems doesn’t mean that this church is right to spend excessive amounts of money on bling.

  18. Ben Stevenson November 2, 2009 at 1:03 pm #

    Nathan,

    Perhaps you are right and all those who disagree with this use of money are hypocrites.

    But that would not make any difference to whether or not FBC is right to spend the money in this way or not.

    “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” — Matthew 7:4-5 (ESV)

    Maybe we need to look at our own lives before commenting on what FBC does with its money. But that would not make a difference to whether this is right or not – people with specks in their eyes should want them removed as well as people with logs.

    http://bit.ly/3tZA9k explains what I am saying better than I could.

    (By the way, I am not accusing FBC of sin. I think this use of money would be unwise, and could be spent better, but I wouldn’t call it sinful.)

  19. Jada November 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Nathan, I am not even going to try to defend myself to you. Your point is taken. I get it. However, I am very frugal in my personal and church finances (almost to the extreme) because I desire to live simply so that others can simply live.

    I have been a part of a mega church. Grew tremendously there. However, in their building project where they were building an entirely new facility, here in the Seattle area, where I know land, permits, etc. are WAY more expensive than in Dallas, they spent no where near $130 million dollars. In fact that is almost 10 TIMES what this church spent. And their sanctuary seats 5500. There is some serious excess going on here.

    And for the record, I am not jealous, as your post so implied. Rather, I am a frugal person seeing money spent in outlandish ways that are not justified. I grew up SBC. Infact, my dad is an ordained pastor in that denomination. Nice buildings are fine. New buildings are fine. But it doesn’t take $130 million dollars to have either. They could have a nice facility for far less money and have money left over to make more of a kingdom impact, as opposed to building such a large castle.

  20. Nathan November 2, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    Darius, Ben, and Jada:

    My previoius post was just to stop the seeming calvacade of slams on 1st Dallas. Having said that, I am uncomfortable with the expenditure. I would continue to urge some caution in how we throw barbs at them. It certainly should make us think about the “things” we all have and that we would like to see our churches have.

    On the flip-side, if this building project spurred a revival among the people in 1st Dallas and it started a movement that saw hundreds of thousands in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area come to know Christ, would it be worth it?

    My biggest critique of the presentation was the lack of missional speech about how this new facility would impact the lost of Dallas, but again, I have not sat in the leadership meetings there.

    What about all the suburban churches that have left the inner-cities because the work got hard? I’m sure there are at least 130 $1,000,000 facilities sitting just a few miles from where they were just a decade ago, all in the name of reaching the lost, no doubt.

  21. Darius T November 2, 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    “What about all the suburban churches that have left the inner-cities because the work got hard? I’m sure there are at least 130 $1,000,000 facilities sitting just a few miles from where they were just a decade ago, all in the name of reaching the lost, no doubt.”

    Amen. It was exactly because of that tendency that my semi-megachurch decided to switch from being a suburban white church and embrace the urban multiethnic community it now finds itself in. Rather than build a brand new building out in the new suburbs that would better support our growing numbers and tailor itself to the suburban lifestyle, it was decided to reassess our mission. In so doing, the attendance dropped by about 20%.

  22. Jada November 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    And again, perspective is everything. I grew up in the south, North Louisiana to be exact. However, now living in the spiritually dark Pacific Northwest, my perspective on a lot of things has changed. I no longer see that it is the ‘bells and whistles’ that people desire, rather, authenticity in every way (relationally,financially, etc.)

    And Nathan, totally hear you about churches leaving the inner-cities. Sad. Just plain ole sad.

  23. DennyReader November 2, 2009 at 1:55 pm #

    I know it does seem excessive as outsiders. I think the objections expressed here would have been considered by FBD, unless they are a bunch of dunces. I like to get their side of the story to these concerns. I mainly would withhold any harsh judgment until then just out of respect for Dr. Criswell.

  24. JustinM November 2, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    I was at the service yesterday when this was presented and it’s very clear that although a nominal amount (relatively) was put up by the church for planning (and marketing), the vast majority of the funds are coming from individuals making a decision that this is a good way to make a once-in-a-lifetime impact “for generations to come.” The pastor suggested taking 1/10th of your net worth for this donation and the plan is to have it paid off by the time it’s built (they’re well on their way). It seems likely that these contributions to something (arguably) church-related may have never happened if it weren’t for this opportunity. For much of the donations, it’s not either this thing or another thing; it’s this thing or nothing.

  25. Nathan November 2, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    Sorry to hear about your attendance drop Darius, but I would imagine most were probably not all that interested in the gospel.

    Jada: Geography does plays a large role in out perspective. I pray the Lord uses your plant in the Northwest – it is a dark and difficult work there.

  26. beth November 2, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    With today’s debt culture, it might show wise stewardship on the part of FBC Dallas to at least save up a chunk of the money needed before breaking ground. That at least would be an example to others.

  27. Darius T November 2, 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    Nathan,

    The attendance is what it is, I would prefer 50 on fire for the gospel than 500 lukewarm about Christ.

  28. Nathan November 2, 2009 at 2:56 pm #

    Actually Beth the presentation said they already had 50% of the money and are planning on having the entire 130 million up front by Spring of 2010 in order to save significantly on phased construction.

  29. Ben Stevenson November 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    Watching the videos, I can see why this idea seems attractive.

    http://ascendio.com/fbd/

    And as Beth noted, it is good that they intend to do this without going into debt.

    “Q: Will the church incur more debt?
    A: Our church has the capacity to build this campus debt-free, and that is how we would like to proceed…”

  30. ex-preacher November 2, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    How can this be considered the most expensive church building in modern history when the Los Angeles Cathedral cost $189 million?

    I am curious to know the square footage so the cost per square foot could be calculated.

  31. Mason Beecroft November 2, 2009 at 8:06 pm #

    The “money could be better spent” argument really does not work. It sounds pious, like Judas almost, but the Lord’s House deserves the best. Remember when Moses had to tell the people to stop giving? We have enough money to build the finest sacred space and take care of the poor and missions. It is not an either/or, but a both/and.

    Now the problem here is they are spending $130 million on an architectural abortion. The design is ghastly. The modern sports arena/consumer complex directs worship toward the felt needs of the community rather than the Most Holy Trinity. It will remain a monument to the pastoral leadership of First Baptist and their short-sighted vision of ministry for generations to come, just like the LA Cathedral.

    See Tiers of Glory by Michael Rose for an excellent introduction to the theological rationale driving classic Christian architecture.
    +Mason

  32. John Holmberg November 2, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    Mason,

    The “Lord’s house”? Really? You think God is confined to “houses”? You think buildings are God’s “houses”? We, the people, are God temple, brother. Moth & rust destroy what you call the “house.” And if it deserves the best, then lets just get the most expensive chandeliers along with marble floors throughout the entire building. After all, it is “God’s house,” so it does deserve the best.

  33. Darius T November 2, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    I agree with Mason. I don’t have a problem with spending money on a new facility as much as how much money is spent and how it is spent. Architecturally, it is a monstrosity.

  34. Larry S November 2, 2009 at 11:57 pm #

    Mason #26 wrote, the Lord’s House deserves the best”

    Mason i think u are reading the wrong Testament. The NT People of God are the temple.

  35. Ben Stevenson November 3, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    Mason,

    I don’t believe that church buildings are “The Lord’s House”.

    In the Old Testament, God commanded that certain acts of worship should only occur at the temple. But in the New Testament, worship does not depend on the place where it is done.

    “Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem….” — John 4:21
    (contrast this with Leviticus 17:8-9 and Joshua 22)

    See also Ephesians 2:19 and 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 – the church (that is the people) is God’s temple and God’s household, not the buildings in which people meet.

    By the way, I quite like the architecture. I quite like modernist architecture with lots of glass.

  36. Stephen Vedro November 3, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    the quote on FBD page: “a spiritual oasis in the middle of downtown Dallas.”

    resort would be a another word to use for oasis. maybe they could have members purchase “spiritual time shares” to help raise money for this building.

  37. Mason Beecroft November 3, 2009 at 8:38 pm #

    Ben, Larry, and John,
    Do you think there is a reason why Christians have historically invested so much in their sacred space?

    I think our perspectives reflect the difference between sacramental, incarnational, iconodule Christianity and non-sacramental, Cartesian, iconoclastic evangelicalism….
    +Mason

  38. John Mark Harris November 8, 2009 at 1:11 am #

    It makes no difference what they spend on the building. As long as they are giving for ministry, missions, and other kingdom work above and beyond, who cares (none of you should). FBCDallas is a RICH church, you can’t just look at their building cost and judge. I mean, their annual regular budget was $17M just a couple of years ago. Not bad for about 1500 attending. All I’m saying is I think as long as the % is good and ministry is being done and all this money is “extra” then more power to ’em! If you were a CEO living in Dallas and made $4-5M per year, you’re not gonna go to church in a dump. It’s their culture. Church must adapt to every culture, it just makes me sad when Christians are so mean towards a church for doing what they believe God has called them to do. Really sad, I hope those pastors in this group that are so graphic in their “dislike” will grow in humility.

  39. John Mark Harris November 8, 2009 at 1:28 am #

    Put it another way, it’s arrogant to say “there’s better ways to spend this money like…”. 100% self-centered to believe you, as an outsider, know better than a body of Spirit Baptized Believers and their Pastoral leadership how to spend the money God has trusted THEM with. It’s only the immature who believe every church should be the same. Would I spend $130M – no way, but this is Dallas dude, much of my family lives there (one of whom could write a check for this). If one person per year comes to faith who would not be caught dead in a trendy “planter” type church, it’s worth every penny.

  40. Larry S November 8, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    Mr. Harris wrote: Put it another way, it’s arrogant to say “there’s better ways to spend this money like…”. 100% self-centered to believe you, as an outsider, know better than a body of Spirit Baptized Believers and their Pastoral leadership how to spend the money God has trusted THEM with.

    John, following the logic expressed in your post Jesus followers in the developed world do not need to listen to the wisdom of those in the ‘undeveloped’ world.

    The perspective or world-view expressed in your post sounds quite narrow, individualistic and western. Isn’t it true that folks from outside often see things that those inside don’t (think the frog in the kettle of slowly boiling water metaphor).

    (i recognize that these little posts of ours don’t fully explore all nuances of a topic.)

  41. C November 9, 2009 at 6:40 pm #

    I am a member of First Dallas and I find the comments regarding the new campus interesting. I am not surprised that many people would have objections to the new building. It is a contemporary design and it is not something I would have chosen either. However I was at the service and Dr. Jeffress clearly stated that we will only spend what we have. If all the money is not raised then the campus will be worked in phases as to not go in debt. I agree that the building is not the ultimate reason that people should attend a church. But I do feel that Dr. Jeffress and the staff are taking wise steps to use the money that is already available and not put the church into bankruptcy.

  42. RD November 9, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    I would like to start by saying that I am a member FBD, and our current facility is falling apart, we running out of room in our current sanctuary with even having three services. The idea of the project is to be more to have a more inviting appearance to the many people driving and walking past our campus every day. The church is located in the arts and cultural district of Dallas so hence the “artsy” design. The water feature in is going to be set up so outdoor baptisms can be performed, a further boldness in expressing the dedication of faith. As for whether the church still will fund other missions, yes, we have several mission churches around the area, and a huge number of other ministries(yes the homeless as well). I think the project will be good for the church because it stands out, and even after the news broke, I was in class and everyone in my class that knew of the church I attended, said nothing but positive things. I think if it draws the attention from the other modern artsy buildings, and directs their attention to the Cross then it will be worth every penny!!!

  43. RD November 9, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

    Also I was one that swore I would never join a large congregation, but FBD actually gave more personal attention and concern than some of the small country churches that I grew up in. The church has a very intimate feeling, a feeling that makes you want to serve it.

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