On a Nov. 1 standing vote to endorse a unanimous recommendation from their deacon board, church members overwhelmingly approved the capital campaign, which will create a new 3,000-seat, 90,000-square-foot sanctuary, a six-story education building and a parking garage with sky bridge. The project is designed to complement the revitalization initiative in downtown Dallas, which has included the recent opening of a new performing arts center and construction of a new convention center.
The massive project, which fundraising consultant Doug Turner said is "the largest building program undertaken by a single congregation in recent history," is intended to provide spiritual support for downtown's denizens that brings glory to God.
First Baptist's campus will enable the church to enhance its ministry to Dallas while completing the circle of resources meeting the mind, body and spirit needs of downtown residents, senior pastor Robert Jeffress told the congregation.
"For more than 140 years, God has put First Baptist Church at the center of Dallas, the nation's fastest-growing city in the heart of America," Jeffress said, according to a publicity release. "Jerry Jones recently unveiled a new $1.2 billion 'temple to sport.' In these tough economic times, why can't we use our gifts to build a church building that provides a spiritual oasis and matches the splendor and majesty of God?"
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, a member of the congregation, said the project will benefit the entire community by providing an open and inviting atmosphere and additional parking.
"This is a critical and important investment in downtown Dallas," Leppert said. "It will have an impact on this community and what we're trying to accomplish of creating more of an urban setting that is vibrant and exciting and brings people downtown. This is going to be exciting effort, not only in terms of Sunday but all the other different activities and what it will to contribute."
Five older buildings on the church campus will be torn down in the project, but the 1890 sanctuary will be retained as a special events chapel. The plans also call for a one-acre green space, an outdoor baptismal fountain and a towering cross, according to the Dallas Morning News. Groundbreaking is planned for July 2010, with construction completed in two years.
The church goes into the building program with $19 million in debt but the fundraising plan calls for the new construction to be debt free in 2013, the church's publicity release said.
While the project price tag is high, the church sees the new construction as a tool for improved witness and ministry in the city, Jeffress said.
"First Baptist's building program is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end to better minister to and meet the needs of the community," Jeffress said. "Now, more than ever, our church is firmly committed to spreading the message of God's love to transform lives and our city."
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.
Copyright (c) 2009 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net