Prestonwood Baptist Church

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Prestonwood Baptist Church is a Southern Baptist multi-site megachurch located in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. With almost 45,000 members it is among the largest evangelical churches in the United States, and likely the largest Southern Baptist congregation.

History

Prestonwood started as a mission church of Northway Baptist Church, serving the Far North Dallas[1] neighborhood of the same name, with its first services held in February 1977. Bill Weber (who's father served as past President of the Southern Baptist Convention), then pastor at Northway, also led the mission congregation. Upon Prestonwood becoming autonomous, Weber resigned from Northway. The church moved into its first building in 1979 near the corner of Hillcrest and Arapaho roads.

The church grew quickly, due in equal parts to Weber's "positive" style of preaching (similar to Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller) and having numerous activities designed to draw people -- especially non-Christians -- to attend services.

However, Prestonwood faced a major crisis when, in September 1988, Weber resigned from the pastorate due to an admitted affair with another member. It was later discovered that this was not a one-time issue: it was estimated that Weber had as many as ten affairs, some of which were simultaneous with others. Notwithstanding that a pastor admitting to an affair is considered within most evangelical circles to be permanently disqualified from the office, behind the scenes Weber was actively seeking to regain his position as pastor, and failing that had convinced several of the church's wealthier members -- including cosmetics magnate Mary Kay Ash -- to support a new church he was starting.[2] The congregation moved on, in May 1989 Prestonwood called Dr. Jack Graham to replace Weber in the pulpit.

Weber's departure from Prestonwood, and the circumstances behind it, led several to wonder if the congregation would survive. Instead, Prestonwood continued to grow (continuing its numerous evangelistic activities, but with a change in preaching style -- Dr. Graham's style is in line with traditional Southern Baptist preaching), which led to the next issue: the Far North Dallas location was far too small to handle the crowds, with no room to expand. The congregation located a 140-acre plot of land on the Plano-Carrollton border, and relocated there in May 1999. The sanctuary seats 7,000, and due to its size is notable for hosting funerals of local law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty (the church pays the entire cost of the funeral)[3] and on at least one occasion performed the funeral of an Army Soldier who died serving his country.[4]

In 2006 Prestonwood added a second campus (the North Campus) in Prosper, a fast-growing suburb in the "380 Corridor"[5]. (For a time Prestonwood had a third location, returning to North Dallas, but the building was later sold to Gateway Church, a notable megachurch in its own right.)

In 2009 Prestonwood launched Prestonwood en Espanol, a Spanish-speaking service which grew quickly, and in 2017 added a second location in the suburb of Lewisville.

Core Values and Beliefs

Core Values

The official mission statement of Prestonwood is:

"Our mission at Prestonwood Baptist Church is to glorify God by introducing Jesus Christ as Lord to as many people as possible and to develop them in Christian living using the most effective means to impact the world, making an eternal difference in this generation."[6]

The church has summarized its core values in six words, all beginning with the letter "E", and expanded on each value:

  • Excellence ("to glorify God"): The Prestonwood family believes that honoring God with our very best is an essential quality of Christian living. Through all of our ministry programming and campus facilities, we strive to display excellence in all things to the glory of God. Great care is taken to ensure a wonderful, worshipful environment in every area of ministry.
  • Evangelism ("by introducing Jesus Christ as Lord"): Under the direct commission of Jesus Christ, Prestonwood exists to reach those in our neighborhoods and around the world who have yet to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Our church programming, services and ministry models all point toward sharing the message of the Gospel with individuals and families. In every service, a public invitation is given to allow people to respond to this clear message of hope and eternal promise. We also provide multiple opportunities to invite unbelieving friends and family members to hear the Gospel. And every member of the church is challenged to share their faith daily in work, schools and social settings.
  • Engagement ("to as many people as possible"): The joyful responsibility of every member of Prestonwood includes fully engaging in the life of the church. We ask and expect members to faithfully volunteer in multiple areas of church ministry. We challenge every member to participate in a local, national or international mission activity. And finally, we believe that every member has a financial responsibility to support the work of Christ on earth through the Church. By participating in each of these areas of service, a member will experience the fullness of this church fellowship.
  • Equipping ("and to develop them in Christian living"): One of the great passions of this church family is to intentionally share in the process of Christian growth and development of individuals and families. Prestonwood offers many outlets for discipleship—personally and corporately—through training, mentoring and our vast Bible Fellowship Ministry. Classes are offered on weekends and throughout the week to strengthen the faith of those who believe, and to encourage those who are on a journey toward faith.
  • Expansion ("using the most effective means to impact the world"): Prestonwood is committed to using new and innovative strategies to reach people for Christ. Through our radio and television broadcast ministry, PowerPoint, the message continues after the weekend Worship Service has ended. Locally, Prestonwood has added campuses so that members can invite neighbors to church, allowing us to reach new communities with the same message. In addition, the Prestonwood Network assists and connects pastors and church leaders who have been launched from Prestonwood to serve Christ in other locations. This network expands the work of the church exponentially and helps plant new churches in strategic cities around the world.
  • Encouragement ("making an eternal difference in this generation"): Beyond growth in faith, we believe in the whole development of every individual, and strive to be an encouraging and comforting body of believers. Prestonwood exists for people … those here and those yet to come. As we develop our people in Christian living, we desire to see individuals and families strengthened by the love shared among the people of this church.

Beliefs

Prestonwood's full statement of faith is the Baptist Faith and Message (2000 version); the church has summarized its beliefs centering on nine principles:[7]

  • Our God - There is one God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; who subsist in unity, and also as three separate distinct Persons
  • Jesus Christ, God's Son - Jesus Christ is God's Son. He was born of a virgin as both God and man, lived a sinless life, died to atone for the sins of human beings, was buried, arose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and will literally return to earth
  • The Holy Spirit - The Holy Spirit is the divine helper, assistant, counselor and instructor and His work is to reveal Christ, convict of sin, lead to repentance, guide believers, comfort, strengthen, and sanctify the soul
  • The Bible - The Bible is God’s Holy Word, without error, and is the sole authority for life
  • Created Man's Need for God - Human beings are the special creations of God, made in His image. They fell through the sin of the first man, Adam, and all human beings are sinners in need of salvation
  • Salvation - Salvation is a gift through repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. Every person who truly is saved is eternally secure in the Lord Jesus Christ and will spend eternity in heaven, while those who die in their sins will spend eternity in hell
  • Baptism - Baptism is by immersion after salvation and is done in obedience to Jesus Christ’s command
  • Believer's Access to God - Each believer has direct access to God through the Lord Jesus Christ
  • The Church - The Church is a local body of baptized believers with the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head

Ministries

As one of the largest congregations in the United States, Prestonwood has a wide array of ministries. Some of them include:

  • A full choir and orchestra (at the Plano campus only and excluding Saturday evening services)
  • Bible Fellowship classes for all ages, life stages, and including classes for special needs and non-English speaking persons
  • Prestonwood Sports Outreach[8], a sports and fitness ministry for adults and children
  • Prestonwood Christian Academy, a PK-3 through 12th Grade school (Plano campus, North campus will have a full complement of grades in 2023). PCA also operates an online campus, and has partnerships with St. Timothy Christian Academy (a school for special needs students, located at the Plano campus) and The King's Academy (located in the south Dallas neighborhood of Bonton)
  • Prestonwood Pregnancy Center, a pregnancy resource center with locations in Richardson (adjacent to the University of Texas at Dallas) and South Dallas (located across the street from Planned Parenthood's DFW abortion facility)[9], plus a mobile sonogram truck serving portions of Dallas
  • PowerPoint Ministries, which broadcasts Dr. Graham's sermons via radio, television and live streaming
  • Prestonwood Network, which assists pastors and church planters in starting new or reviving existing congregations
  • Prestonwood Foundation, which raises endowments for various ministries and assists with financial and estate planning (one of its offerings is to provide any person -- regardless of religious belief or church membership -- a free "basic" will so long as the person attends a one-hour class on the necessity of having a will)
  • The Gift of Christmas, an annual Christmas pageant. It is one of the most popular Christmas pageants in the United States (usually around 12-14 performances with around 70,000 total attendance), and lasts approximately 90 minutes in two acts (the first act focuses on secular Christmas traditions and prominently features children, while the second act focuses on the birth of Jesus Christ and prominently features adults; after the second act a Gospel presentation is provided).

References

  1. Far North Dallas is considered to be those portions of Dallas located north of Interstate 635 (LBJ Freeway).
  2. https://www.dmagazine.com/publications/d-magazine/1989/july/the-second-coming-of-billy-weber/
  3. http://prestonwood.org/about/our-people/ministering-to-the-hurting
  4. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/102654814/enrique-mondragon
  5. This refers to a stretch of US Highway 380, primarily between Denton and McKinney, which has seen tremendous growth.
  6. [1], church website, retrieved January 18, 2020
  7. [2], church website, retrieved January 18, 2020
  8. Officially titled Prestonwood Sports Organization.
  9. https://www.foxnews.com/us/texas-abortion-pro-life-center-dallas-planned-parenthood?fbclid=IwAR0Wig1b1e6k7wfE95KEQFWilBbQVm5Rn8oV4GoZl06CX3ds9wE4W3tlmTQ

External Links

Prestonwood Baptist Church