First Baptist Dallas is halfway to $130 million campaign

First Baptist Church Dallas will build an expansive, new state-of-the-art campus that will enable the historic congregation to continue to be a spiritual beacon in downtown for generations to come. The congregation gave standing approval Nov. 1 to the plans and groundbreaking could occur as soon as July.

The facility will cost in the range of $130 million; the record for the largest sum raised for a church building campaign is $80 million, with a church in Florida. Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress says “Our church has the capacity to build this campus debt-free and that is how we would like to proceed.” In the Nov. 1 service, Jeffress said that the church had already received $62 million in pledges, even before the launch of the campaign. Richard Caperton and Doug Turner are the independent consultants in raising the funds.

The new worship center will hold 3,000, almost twice as many as the existing sanctuary (which dates to 1890), which will remain in place and used for weddings and smaller gatherings, with close to a mile of pews. A sweeping glass concourse, including a sky bridge over St. Paul St., will connect the new worship center, education building and parking facilities.

More than 800 parking spaces will be added to the campus, for a net gain of nearly 300 spaces when other spaces being eliminated are figured in.

The current sanctuary will have a new steeple, replicating the one taken down in the 1960s for safety reasons. A cross tower and fountain, suitable for baptisms, will be surrounded by green space, creating a spiritual oasis in the middle of downtown.

A six-story education building will have a double gymnasium, a roof-top prayer garden, junior high and high school theaters and an indoor playground. The first floor will be dominated by glass to make it more open and inviting to people passing by.

Other than the current sanctuary and the Criswell Center, built in 2006, everything in the city block bounded by three streets will be torn down for what will be 1.5 million square feet of buildings on the new campus. The campus will be certified by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. The Beck Group of Dallas is the architect for the project. The church’s research shows that for every dollar spent now the church will receive up to $1.30 in value due to the economic downturn.

Dallas is going through a downtown revitalization that includes the Convention Center Hotel and the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. Says Jeffress: “The new campus will make a compelling statement of the central role of God’s church in Dallas. It forms a new gateway to the heart of the city, a landmark as significant as its neighbors from the spheres of commerce, the arts and government.” Jeffress was the cover interview in the June 2009 issue of Church Executive.

— Ronald E. Keener, with reports from First Baptist Dallas


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