The Legacy of Jack Hyles

jack hyles

Jack Hyles, pastor First Baptist Church Hammond

From 2012, updated and rewritten

Members of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana and people closely associated with Hyles-Anderson College and Pastor Jack Schaap were astonished at the firing of  Schaap for sexual misconduct with a minor and his later criminal conviction for these crimes. Evidently these people have a short memory or live in denial because First Baptist Church has a long history of pastors getting themselves in trouble with the fairer sex. (please read Chicago Magazine feature story on First Baptist and their sordid history)

Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, had an illicit sexual relationship with his secretary. The evidence against Hyles was overwhelming, yet the church rejected the evidence and Jack Hyles continued to pastor the church until his death in 2001. (Please read The Biblical Evangelist’s report on Jack Hyles)

David Hyles, the son of Jack Hyles and youth pastor of the church, had numerous sexual relationships with women in the church. The church quietly sent him away to pastor another church, not telling the new church about his sexual proclivities, and he continued to have numerous sexual relationships with women in the new church.

Many people praised the church for publicly exposing Jack Schaap’s “sin.” This is the same church that ignored Jack Hyles’ “sin”, covered up David Hyles’ “sin”, and whitewashed numerous other scandals in the Church and College, so forgive me if I don’t think they are acting “better” than the Catholic Church. (as one commenter said)

The people of First Baptist Church were taught by Hyles and Schaap that if they didn’t see something it didn’t happen. They were taught that unless an allegation could be confirmed by two or more witnesses (Matthew 18) they were not to believe it. This kind of thinking resulted in a culture where “sin” was ignored or swept under the proverbial rug. (a rug that is so high now that you have to walk up a five foot hill to get into the church)

In general, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement abhors scandal and they do everything they can to cover it up. More important than the sin or the victims is the church’s testimony. The church’s testimony must be protected at all costs, even if  they ignore a pedophile in their midst like Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida did. (Please read Stop Baptist Predators articles on Trinity and Bob Gray)

For First Baptist Church of Hammond to out Jack Schaap they had to have been backed into a corner without the option of covering it up or quietly making the “problem” go away. Calling in attorney David Gibbs to “manage” the crisis speaks volumes about depth of the scandal.

The root of the Jack Schaap scandal is found in the ministry, teaching, and doctrine of his predecessor, Jack Hyles. The remainder of this post will focus on Jack Hyles. It is impossible to understand the Jack Schaap story without first looking at Jack Hyles’ forty-two year ministry at First Baptist Church of Hammond. (a church that was an American Baptist Church until Hyles pulled it out of the Convention a few years after he arrived there in 1959)

In its heyday, First Baptist Church of Hammond was the largest church in the United States. (and, at times, claimed to be the largest church in the world) The Church was built around two things: the bus ministry and Jack Hyles.

jack hyles 1973

Jack Hyles, 1973

The Church saw attendances exceeding 25,000 people. At the center of this huge church was its Pastor, Jack Hyles. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s Jack Hyles was, what many of us described, the pope of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church movement. He authored numerous books with titles like Let’s Go Soulwinning, Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church, Enemies of Soulwinning, The Hyles Church Manual,How to Rear Infants, How to Rear Children, How to Rear Teenagers, Satan’s Bid for Your Child, Marriage is a Commitment, Woman the Completer, and Blue Denim and Lace.

There is a hard-fast rule in the IFB movement. The bigger the church attendance the more authority you are granted and the more weight your words have. I heard countless big name IFB pastors say, “until you have as many eggs in your basket as I do you have no right to criticize me.” Pastors with small churches were looked down on and were expected to shut up and learn from those whose basket were overflowing with eggs.

From 1976 to 1989, I heard Jack Hyles preach numerous times. I traveled to a number of Sword of the Lord Conferences, often taking people from the churches I pastored with me. Hyles was a dynamic preacher, a real motivator. He used very little of the Bible in his preaching. His sermons were always topical or textual and were littered with personal stories and illustrations.

Hyles was a narcissist. Most of his stories and illustrations were about his own personal life and exploits. His stories about he and his mother are legendary.

Over time, as I became more and more dissatisfied with the IFB movement, I paid closer attention to the substance of Hyles’ sermons. In particular, I focused on the stories that Hyles told. I came to the conclusion that Hyles was a narcissistic liar.

Hyles would often talk about how important and busy he was. In several sermons he talked about how many people he counseled every week. I sat down and did the math and I concluded it was physically impossible for Hyles to have counseled as many people each week as he claimed.

Hyles was a ruthless man. I watched him, during Q and A time, at a conference at the Newark Baptist Temple,  dress down and belittle pastors for asking the “wrong” question. He refused to allow anyone to challenge his authority as the king of the IFB hill.

To understand the scandals at First Baptist Church in Hammond, we must understand the gospel that has been preached at First Baptist for over 50 years. It is the same gospel that is/was preached by men like Bob Gray of Texas, Bob Gray of Jacksonville, Curtis Hutson, Dennis Corle, and thousands of other IFB pastors.

Jack Hyles preached a bastardized version of the Christian gospel. The Hyles gospel has been labeled as decisional regeneration or one, two, three, repeat after me. I used to label the gospel of the IFB church movement as:

  • win them
  • wet them
  • work them
  • waste them
lets go soulwinning

Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soulwinning

The only thing that mattered was winning souls. IFB Evangelist Dennis Corle told me one time that I should spend more time soulwinning and less time studying in preparation to preach on Sunday.

In the IFB church, the key to church growth is to keep more people coming in the front door than are going out the back door. IFB churches are notorious for turning over their church memberships, especially when a pastor leaves and a new one comes in.

The Hyles gospel focused on praying the sinners prayer. Pray this prayer and you are saved.  Good works? They were desired and even expected, but if a saved person never exhibited any change in their lives they were still considered saved.

If a pastor dared suggest that new life in Christ meant a change of conduct they were accused of preaching “works salvation.” (the Lordship Salvation controversy) According to the Hyles gospel, it was all about praying the prayer, and once a person prayed the prayer they could NEVER EVER be lost again. This is why some people insist that I am still saved, even if I don’t want to be. Once God has you he never lets go of you.

The Hyles gospel filled churches with people who had made a mental assent to a set of propositional facts. Every year churches like First Baptist Church in Hammond and Longview Baptist Temple report thousands of people being saved. Most of these new converts stop attending after a short while, but this is of no consequence. They prayed the “prayer”. On to the next sinner in need of saving.

The IFB church movement is centered on men. Most IFB churches are pastored by one man who has total control of the church. Most IFB churches are congregational in name only, with the pastor being the autocratic king of the church.

david hyles greatest men

Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men

Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and countless other big-name IFB traveling preachers routinely promote the notion of pastoral authority. The pastor, under the authority of Jesus and powered by the Holy Spirit, is the final authority in the church. He is the hub around which everything turns.

IFB churches are not known for their name but for who their pastor is. IFB church members routinely say, when asked about what church they attend, I go to Pastor So-and So’s church.

Four years ago, in a post titled The Cult of Personality, I wrote:

Churches aren’t known for what they believe or even the works they do. They are known for who their pastor is. When asked where they go to Church a Christian will often say “I go to  Pastor Smith’s Church.”

The focus of everything is on the pastor. He is the mover and shaker. He is what powers the machine. Without him it all fails.

Christian TV, radio and publishing is all about the personalities within the Church. Name recognition is the name of the game.

Does anyone really believe Rod Parsley is a good writer? Yet, his books sell. Why? Name recognition.

Everything is focused on and culminates with the sermon and the preacher.

I had people drive 40 minutes to the Church I pastored in SE Ohio. They loved my preaching. They thought I was the greatest preacher since the last guy they thought was wonderful. Really? As much as I think that I am a pretty good public speaker, they had to drive past 40 Churches to get to the Church I pastored. Not one of those  Churches had a preacher that could preach competently? (well maybe not, after hearing more than a few preachers)

What happens when the pastor leaves the Church? What happens when the personalities change, when a new preacher takes over? Strife. Division. People leave the Church. Why? Because Church became about the preacher rather than about Jesus and serving others.

Why is it the pastor’s name is on everything? The sign out front. The bulletin . Every piece of literature the church produces. If it is really is all about Jesus then why does it matter if anyone knows the pastor’s name?

Ah, but it does matter. Many Evangelical Christians are good capitalists. (serving a socialist Jesus) They are consumers first and Christians second.  They know people are “attracted” (the attractional method) to the church by the pastor, the programs, the building, etc.

They know the pastor becomes the face of their church. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is, and quite frankly, it is the church itself that must bear the blame for this.

They revel in the cult of personality. They love having a name brand preacher. They watch Christians TV and listen to Christian radio because  Pastor/Rev/Dr/Evangelist/Bishop/Apostle so-and so is on. Take away the names and it becomes as interesting as eating a no-name hamburger at a no-name restaurant surrounded by no-name people…

Is it any wonder IFB pastors and churches have the scandals they do? Members are taught to obey their pastor without question. He is the man of God. If he is doing something wrong God will chastise him.

This kind of thinking allows IFB pastors to commit adultery, molest children, and steal from the church without anyone ever knowing about it. I could spend the next two days writing about IFB pastors who have abused their place of authority and committed heinous acts against the people they pastored.

IFB churches think they are above the world and other churches because of what they believe. They are Bible believers and their pastors preach hard against sin. Because of this, they have a hard time believing that their pastor or any other noted preacher could ever commit sins like Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, David Hyles, and Bob Gray did.

Bob Gray, pastor emeritus of Longview Baptist Temple had this to say on this blog about the Schaap scandal (I was unable to find the post on Gray’s blog) :

May I present the practical side?  There exists more molestation cases proportionately reported in the 42,000 churches of the Southern Baptist Convention than in the 22,000 independent Baptist churches.  Consider the largest denomination in our nation, the Catholic Church, and then think on their sexual transgressions for a while.  This is not to take lightly one person who is violated by a leader in a church.

Look carefully at the argument Gray is making here. The Southern Baptists and the Catholics are worse than us! Praise Jesus! Such thinking should sicken all of us.

Here is what I know about the IFB movement. They will wail and moan for a while, but, in a few weeks or months, the scandal will pass, and they will go back to “winning souls” and “preaching hard against sin.” It is only a matter of time before a-n-o-t-h-e-r scandal rocks the IFB movement. Until the IFB movement repudiates its corruption of the Christian gospel and changes how their churches are governed, there is no hope of meaningful change.

Change is not likely to come because of their literalism and belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. Armed with certainty, knowing they are right, they will continue to preach a corrupted gospel and allow narcissistic pastors to rule over them. Why? Because, it IS in the Bible…

12 Comments

  1. Ian

    Bruce, this is the post that led me to you. My dad told me to look into the Jack Schaap story, so I started Google searching everything I could find.

    As a child, I heard whispered rumors about Hyles, but could never catch what was really going on. As I got older, Hyles became a name from the past, so he was no longer relevant to me. I had no reason to Google him because he was nothing to me. I even threw away the Bible he signed when it fell apart.

    Now that Schaap brought all of those names and memories back, I did quite a bit of reading about Hyles and his legacy. I have to say that the only good that I got from Hyles is finding this blog.

    BTW, our IFB churches used to host the superstar pastors in state. Hamilton Acres sent its pastor, Hugh Hamilton, to speak for us a few times. Yes, Hyles was king of the hill; but, in each state, there was also a ranking system.

    Reply
  2. Ami

    “How to Rear Infants, How to Rear Children, How to Rear Teenagers,”

    Oh my god I hope he didn’t rear anyone else… although there aren’t many options left after that list.

    In seriousness, I saw more than one ‘overly friendly’ youth pastor, regular pastor and some pious elders who had wandering hands. I told my mom and dad about one of them. “Oh Brother Wayne is just affectionate. Huggy.”

    He sat next to me in church on Sunday mornings and ‘accidentally’ brushed the back of his hand on my leg repeatedly. When we were all supposed to hug the person to the front of us and the back of us etc he was VERY huggy indeed.

    He ended up in prison for ‘rearing’ his grandson.

    Praise Gawd.

    Reply
  3. Ian

    We were in a church that believed in hugs. Hugs are fine, for the most part. There was a family that joined after we left who believed in HUGS. She is a busty woman and would grab people and pull them in, body to body. When we would visit, I would dread those hugs. I always told my wife they were full frontal hugs. Then, a few people started kissing on the lips, as in greeting with a holy kiss. That stayed between just those few people. I think there are well intentioned, but misguided people. Then, there are the true perverts.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: From Hyles to Hitchens: My Journey Out of the IFB (Part 1) | "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

  5. Mr A. Monday

    I attended Liberty for 3 years in the 90s. I left to H.A.C. to complete my degree. The reason for leaving Lynchburg was many. At H.A.C., it was strict. I was in the bus ministry. I really enjoyed it. Pastor Hyles’ preaching was ok imo. All churches have creeps I guess. They tend to go where kids are at,IE schools, scouts, churches, YMCA,etc. There is no perfect church. Liberty was more of a different brand of Christianity,IE. Music, dress ,philosophy of Christian education, etc. That’s why I left.
    Finally, I went to Purdue to get my M.ed. I still attended FBC. I personally never saw any immorality, but I’m sure in any organization that large, one could find something. I knew of a Purdue faculty professor getting fire for having sex with a student. Age was not the issue, both were legal adults, but faculty members cannot date a student in their class.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks for commenting.

      The problem at FBC is not that sexual abuse, immorality, etc happens. It happens everywhere. The difference at FBC is WHO was doing it and the lengths they went to cover it up.

      Reply
  6. Jeff

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s extremely needed. May I add that the rationalization for the “authority” of a pastor in an IFB church is that the “angels” of each church in Revelation is referring to the pastor of each one of them. Such is misguided and a corruption of the text that they claim to believe! And since those angels are “stars” in the right hand of Christ (see Rev. 1), the pastor (whether he openly claims this or not) becomes a “star” in his own mind. Such is incorrect in an egregious way, as nowhere else in Revelation are “angels” referred to as pastors. They say the word means “messenger” and so it does, but that term isn’t applied to a pastor/bishop/overseer anywhere else in the NT. So why is it applied to be pastors in Revelation 2 & 3. I think it is the bedrock rationale for having a one-man show, and they cannot let that go.

    Reply
  7. Joseph Ben Arthur

    it’s amazing how some so called christian people who think they know the truth start judging great men like these instead of praying for them,anyway every saved person will leave this earth with something they failed at and a preacher or pastor is still a human and it’s bound to make mistakes.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Well, like many IFB commenters, you can’t read. I am not a Christian. However, I was a pastor for 25 years and I know what I know about Jack Hyles and the IFB church movement. So, David Hyles screwing his way through the church is a “mistake?” Jack Hyles having an affair with is secretary is a “mistake?” Jack Schaap seducing, manipulating and having sex with a teen age church girl is a “mistake?” Bob Gray molesting children is a “mistake?” Is there any failure or mistake that one of the IFB gods can do that you are willing to say that they are an evil, bad man?

      Reply
      1. Jeff

        I do apologize for the many unbiblical stands and egregious actions over the years that have come under the heading of “IFB.” All of us are sinners, but these matters truly both disgust me and burden me to make a difference by sharing Scripture, NOT man-made ideas about Scripture that bring about corrupted actions. There are SO many practices among churches today that have absolutely no basis in the Bible, but are often used to beat people into submission to what one man thinks and says. God’s design for the church was NEVER to be under a CEO-type, pastor-driven organization, as the Bible clearly indicates that there should be multiple pastors in a given local church which was a city (church at Ephesus, Philippi, Thyatira, etc.; see also Titus 1:5). Nowadays, we have little “kingdoms” with their little “kings” that are a far cry from what God designed. The multiple pastors throughout a city would certainly be a hindrance to the authoritarian views/actions of many pastors. So, for what it’s worth, I apologize for the actions of many (so-called) pastors who have acted inappropriately.

        Reply
  8. Jo

    Since vanity is a sin according to IFB standards, Hyles fell on his face as soon as he started going bald. Imagine the effort to make those few hairs appear as if he were not bald!

    He was a regular at Greenwood Village Baptist Church in Houston. Bored to tears, seated in the balcony, observing Jack Hyles little strand of hairs, circled tightly to appear as a head of hair, had all of my attention. I imagined how those few strands of hair must be to his knees and how funny he would look after a shower. I wondered how he circled them so perfectly like an experienced farmer plowing straight rows. Skill man, I tell ya’ the man had skill, or a rug.

    Hyles did not impress me as a teen or young adult. I thought he was insincere, a showman, like Falwell.

    Reply
  9. Brian

    It is always the same, Jeff…. The Bible says what the Bible says and you work that out as you please but for mercy sake, keep your preachers in their churches where they can only get to some of us…. The rest of us have no desire, no need and we have seen so much harm done by biblical bullshit. Recite the sinner’s prayer and feel better if you please, that is no problem but the idea that you can fix churches with your careful reading of the Bible is more woo-woo: Preachers are like chickens pecking to and fro and endlessly clucking their one true way. That you apologize for preachers in your church really saddens me…. yer all mixed up. Apologize to me, Jeff. The churches shaming, blaming and maiming fucked me over for many years. Apologize to the children and young people who have lost all sense of plain old safety now that they have been fucked by a Jesus Man, an authority with a special place in God’s heart.. Apologize to the women and children in some forsaken village overseas where American drones preach the American message of freedom in Christ. Apologize for enabling, Jeff. You have your own little kingdom of true that you tout here and I want you to know that you could be very very wrong.

    Reply

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