I first encountered Robert Jeffress, pastor, First Baptist Church, Dallas, in 1998 while working as a national correspondent for Baptist Press. My assignment was to cover an escalating controversy between First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, where Jeffress pastored at the time, the Wichita Falls Public Library and the Wichita Falls City Council. A church member discovered that the library was making available to children two books promoting homosexuality. The member brought the books to Jeffress for him to see.
In an act of civil disobedience, Jeffress refused to return the books, paid a fine and took his concerns to church members, then the general public and city council. Despite withering public ridicule by the local news media and a threat of legal action by the liberal Americans for Separation of Church and State, Jeffress and the church stood firm. They argued that taxpayers should not be paying for such books and that they should not be made available to children. For two years they faithfully fought to keep the books out of the hands of children, until a federal court sided with the library in 2000. While the two books, Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies, are available for Wichita Falls children to read, Jeffress and First Wichita Falls never backed down.
Through that whole two-year episode, Jeffress conducted himself in a manner that was faithful to God. It challenged me, that no matter what comes, we must be faithful to God. For Christians, public policy matters are not about winning or losing, but faithfulness. We are to be “salt and light” in a corrupt, dark world. If we are faithful, we will get our just reward someday and God will provide the victories according to His plan in the meantime.
Since his days at First Wichita Falls, Jeffress has taken stands on a number of issues, many of them grossly mischaracterized by news media members, some no doubt lost and do not understand – or have not heard – the gospel. Others reject the gospel and will oppose it at every turn. I have occasionally let anger get the best of me in my writings about the secular press, but they are no different than I was before Jesus saved me. I am willing to extend grace, but there are consequences for written words.
I’ll not retrace every issue to which Jeffress has spoken, but they include criticism of the catholic church for its views on the sacraments among other things, that Mormonism is not historic Christianity and that Islam rejects Jesus as God. We can disagree about the way Jeffress characterized these matters, but his views are consistent with the Bible and historic Southern Baptist theology, which leads us to the latest dust-up.
The vitriolic tone of the reporting and editorializing by the ultra-left of the news media concerning New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow’s decision not to speak at the dedication of First Dallas’ new $130 million facility has gotten widespread attention. Their coverage has been at best misplaced and at worst, malicious. For example, an Orlando Sentinel sports columnist, of all things, called Jeffress “an equal-opportunity hater.” The media has spread that lie, holding to the adage if you tell a lie enough times, it will become the truth. CBS Sports.com columnist Gregg Doyel called Jeffress “an evangelical cretin” and compared him and First Dallas to the non-Southern Baptist Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Westboro is rightly ridiculed for its protests at funerals of military service members.
The Tebow story was originally reported online by the Huffington Post and interestingly, was moved to its “Gay Voices” page on Feb. 14. It was picked up the next day by a columnist at The New York Times, and while not much was made of it, it quickly spread to bloggers and columnists who began expressing their “informed” perspective. This is how the vast, liberal media network operates.
The liberal media, and particularly those who support homosexuality, are in a heightened state due to the two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court next month concerning homosexual “marriage.” The liberal media, along with the Obama administration which filed a brief with the court Feb. 22 (urging the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act) believe they can influence the outcome. This is why reporters have written stories in recent weeks repeatedly stating – as fact – in supposedly “fair and balanced” news stories, that homosexual “marriage” is “inevitable.” That is a lie. They only want to make it appear ‘inevitable” to discourage the opposition.
Finally, not only has Jeffress been smeared, but so has one of the most historic churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Comparing First Dallas with Westboro Baptist Church is hate-driven insanity. The people are loving, but uncompromising in their faithfulness to God. The pulpit at First Dallas has been filled by some of America’s greatest preachers, from George W. Truett and W.A. Criswell to O.S. Hawkins, Mac Brunson and now Jeffress. Interestingly it was Brunson, now Tebow’s pastor at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, who called for us to pray for Tebow and offered an unqualified defense of Jeffress (see page 20).
A graduate of Baylor University, Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jeffress has had several wonderful books (some I own sporting his autograph) published by Broadman & Holman. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., no stranger to media criticism and hailed as a champion among many Southern Baptists for his thoughtful commentaries on the culture, called Jeffress his “good friend” when Jeffress agreed to nominate him for the SBC presidency in 2008. By any measure, Jeffress is squarely in the mainstream of Southern Baptist life. He is a kind man, a faithful husband and father.
At the Feb. 25 Sunday morning worship service, Jeffress took 10 minutes prior to his sermon, to share his thoughts on the Tebow situation with a packed worship center. When he finished, they gave him a standing ovation. If I had been there, I would have stood, too. But I am standing in Missouri and I will stand with any preacher who preaches the Word of God as faithfully as Robert Jeffress.