Review of Apparent Danger

July 28, 2010

Apparent Danger: The Pastor of America’s First Megachurch and the Texas Murder Trial of the Decade in the 1920s
©2010 by David Stokes
Published by Bascom Hill Books
391 pages

Growing up as an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) and graduating from an IFB college, I was taught that Dr. J. Frank Norris was a hero. He was one of the founding fathers of (Baptist) fundamentalism. He not only was the pastor of one megachurch but two megachurches at the same time! This was before (1930’s and 1940’s) there were megachurches or “virtual” campuses. In the late 1940’s the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth Texas and the Temple Baptist Church of Detroit Michigan had a combined membership of around 25,000! The fact that Norris killed a man only added to his fundamentalist street cred. Both the Bible Baptist Fellowship and the World Baptist Fellowship owe their genesis to Norris.

This is a fascinating book about a sensational murder trial. I will not spoil the book by giving you the jury’s decision. The author certainly has his opinion of guilt or innocence. You can decide for yourself if Norris was a murderer or not. What I found more fascinating was the personality and pulpit style of Dr. Norris (yes the “doctorate” was honorary in true IFB fashion). Although the author shows some bias, this was not a pastor to emulate. His un-Christlike and un-biblical manner speaks volumes about a movement who would consider this man a hero.

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