DALLAS — Now 52 weeks until scheduled completion, First Baptist Church of Dallas celebrated construction progress for its new downtown home by honoring the man who made it happen.
But instead of gifts, Pastor Robert Jeffress got a pile of dirt and shovel, which is odd for a leader who is heralded for raising the most money ever for a Protestant church: $115 million.
His efforts to rebuild First Baptist is spurring economic development downtown, and politicians — both local and national — turn to him for endorsements.
So why in the world is Jeffress so happy with a time capsule being dug into the ground? Supporters like Theresa Ray say he's a visionary.
"We're from Waxahachie", Ray said. "We drive all the way over here and we love it. We love Dr. Jeffress; he's a great man."
First Baptist Dallas is one year away from completing construction, and Jeffress marked its progress by unveiling an animation of a new Family Center and the burial of a time capsule that included Sunday's edition of The Dallas Morning News, several of the pastor's sermons, and stacks of personal handwritten letters that won't be unearthed for 56 years.
"The note really was to folks about the importance of knowing Christ," explained church member Scott Sexton, who addressed his message to people he many never meet. The capsule won't be unearthed until the church's 200th anniversary.
"I'll be 99 when the capsule opens," Sexton said with a laugh.
But the present is important, too, and members were ecstatic as they watched vehicles enter the first completed project of the new campus — a garage with 500 parking spots.
Construction for the entire campus is expected to be complete by next Easter.