DALLAS, TX — An ISIS propaganda magazine has encouraged members of the Islamic State to turn toward one of Southern Baptists’ most historic churches.
NBC5 in Dallas reported the story Jan. 26, saying the ISIS publication included a photo of First Baptist Dallas earlier this month with suggestions to carry out arson attacks. Federal law enforcement has found no evidence of an impending attack, but see the threat as credible. Also, church leaders told NBC5 they have remained in contact with both the FBI and Dallas police for several weeks.
In the piece the ISIS magazine termed First Dallas as “a popular Crusader gathering place waiting to be burned down.”
In response, church leaders issued a statement testifing they will not be intimidated by the threat.
“The Bible tells us the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear. If we surrender to fear, ISIS wins. We will continue doing what the Lord has called us to do,” it read.
Like many churches, First Baptist retains its own security in addition to relying on local law enforcement. North Texas has experienced ISIS-inspired attacks before, when in 2015 gunmen opened fire over a contest involving cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Whom shall I fear?
The historical Southern Baptist church began in earnest in 1890 when its cornerstone was laid in downtown Dallas. Since then, legendary pastors such as George W. Truett and W.A. Criswell have occupied its pulpit. In 2007 Robert Jeffress became senior pastor of the congregation numbering approximately 12,000 members.
Nationally known for his stances on numerous social issues such as abortion, marriage, immigration, and the influence of Islam, Jeffress was one of the first evangelical pastors to openly endorse then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. As such, the Dallas pastor remains part of the now-president’s evangelical advisory board.
In the sermon, Jeffress pointed to God’s calling of Nehemiah building a wall around Jerusalem to protect Israel. The connection alerted critics, who called the pastor anti-Muslim. President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday, Jan. 25 directing funding toward building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The church hasn’t addressed the issue directly on social media. However, an image on its Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts the same day of the NBC5 report cited Psalm 27:1 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” An additional comment on Facebook accompanied the image, saying, “The God of angel armies is always by my side. #FirstDallas”