Criswell trustees prioritize church planting & missions


Criswell College renews SBTC affiliation

Written by Jerry Pierce, TEXAN Managing Editor

Dallas, Texas, August 31, 2011 —

Criswell College trustees renewed a three-year affiliation agreement with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, affirmed plans for an undergraduate program in church planting and revitalization, and approved the school’s adoption of an unengaged people group abroad as part of a larger Southern Baptist initiative.

Meeting Aug. 26 at the Dallas school, the trustees also voted to promote Joe Thomas from dean of students to vice president of student services, and Barry Creamer from associate professor of humanities to professor of humanities. Creamer has also served as director of online education.


The affiliation agreement with the SBTC is for the calendar years 2012-2014 and requires ratification by governing boards of both bodies. The SBTC and Criswell have been affiliated since 2003. Under the agreement, Criswell would receive 3.25 percent funding from the SBTC’s Cooperative Program budget. In 2011, the school’s SBTC CP allocation is $364,755.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told the trustees his hope was for a five-year affiliation term in the future. The SBTC is “expressing a high confidence on the part of our Executive Board, and we foresee a long-lasting commitment to the college,” Richards added.

Criswell College is the only four-year college affiliate of the SBTC. Jacksonville College, an associate degree-granting school based in Jacksonville, Texas, is also affiliated. The SBTC has a fraternal ministry relationship with Houston Baptist University, which includes no budgeted funding.


The development of the church planting and revitalization bachelor’s degree program might be the first of its kind.

“The best way to evangelize North America is to plant new churches,” Criswell President Jerry Johnson told board members. He said the school would be working closely with the SBC’s North American Mission Board and the SBTC church planting team in developing the program.

Asked by one trustee to comment on the stewardship of planting new churches while existing churches with buildings flounder, Johnson said the data are clear that on average new churches far exceed existing churches in evangelistic success. Even so, the revitalization component of the new program would also help focus energy on existing churches that desire to renew their vibrancy.

The discussion brought comments from several other trustees, including McKinney pastor Jeff Nyberg, who leads a church planting ministry, and Denver, Colo., pastor Calvin Wittman, both of whom reiterated the effectiveness of biblically sound church plants.

“I think we could be a go-to place for church planting organizations,” Johnson added.


After hearing a charge via video from International Mission Board IMB President Tom Elliff, trustees approved the school’s adoption of an unengaged people group as part of the IMB’s initiative to take the gospel to 3,800 unreached and unengaged people groups worldwide.

Elliff has challenged each Southern Baptist church to adopt at least one of these people groups, and the SBTC, after giving a $1 million gift through the IMB’s Lottie Moon Offering last month, challenged its churches to adopt 1,000 of the 3,800 people groups.

Pornographers and soft drinks companies have managed to engage many of these people groups with their wares. “Shouldn’t we want them more than they?” Elliff asked.

“While [Criswell College] is not a church, we have the resources,” Johnson said, in students and faculty to help get the gospel to one of these unengaged groups.


In his report to the trustees, Johnson told the board the school continues to be, “above all else,” about “the saving of the lost” and “sending laborers into the harvest” in the spirit of its founding. He said fall enrollment, as of Aug. 26, was 311 students, with that number expected to rise slightly as late enrollment ensued.

Also, the certificate in the W.A. Criswell Great Doctrines of the Bible is now being offered as an online course, with public enrollment beginning in October.

Criswell plans to host an evangelistic block party on Nov. 12 in tandem with the SBTC’s Crossover evangelism effort, Johnson reported. They will have bounce houses and give away school supplies and coupons for turkeys. The area around the school is an intersection of affluent urbanites and low-income families, Johnson said.

Johnson said the school’s use of web-based technology and social media continues to grow. A Criswell College web app is now available for Android mobile devices, and Apple is in the process of approving Criswell apps for its mobile devices. A Criswell blog,, is online also.

At the trustees’ previous meeting, they took the first steps in a potential move of the campus to a location that could facilitate more growth. Johnson said the search for property is continuing.

In other business, trustees:

—amended bylaws limiting to three the number of trustees from a given church (inaugural trustees would be exempted), and limiting the chairman to two consecutive one-year terms.

—authorized the trustee chairman to appoint a three-person committee “to clarify all doctrinal requirements in our documents”; and

—adopted a revised five-year strategic plan.

The five-year plan requires ongoing evaluation and affirmation by trustees, Johnson explained, and is helpful in Criswell’s standing with its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Among other things, the plan includes expanding curriculum offerings, developing distance education and doctor of ministry programs, and improving the school’s physical structure.

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