Tag Archive: Sword of the Lord

Shelton Smith, A Preacher Who Ignores His Neighbor and Tweets About It

Shelton Smith,editor of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) paper, Sword of the Lord, sent out the following tweet today:

 

shelton smith tweet

I responded:

bruce gerencser twitter response shelton smith

IFB preachers:

all thought Smith’s tweet was so wonderful that they they made it a favorite.

I have a modern day story for Shelton Smith and his merry band of let ’em starve but make sure they pray the sinner’s prayer preachers. Maybe they will recognize what book the story is from:

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Murfreesboro to Nashville and rummaged in dumpster to find a morsel of food to eat.

And by chance there came down Shelton Smith that way: and when he saw him, he sent out a tweet to his peeps, not bothering to stop, lend a hand, or buy him a meal.

And likewise another IFB fundamentalist, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and said “is there not a rescue mission this man can go to?

But a certain man, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

And went to him, bought him a meal, brought him to a Motel Six, and took care of him.

And on the morrow when he departed, he took out 50.00 and gave it to the motel owner, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that had fallen on hard times?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Luke 10:29-37

If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen

fake church sign first baptist

The late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, a man considered by some of his followers to be the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul, made famous the statement:

If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen

Over the years, at Sword of the Lord conferences and Bible conferences, I heard Jack Hyles make this statement.  When Hyles was accused of having an illicit relationship with his secretary, it is this very line he and his followers used.  This, If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen, thinking was taught to countless pastors at Pastor’s School and Hyles-Anderson College.  These Hyles trained men carried this thinking home to their churches and used it to rebuff accusations of impropriety and immorality.

This is the argument that one commenter used when dismissing Bethany Foeller Leonard’s accusations against Pastor Bill Wininger. Since the abuse occurred almost two decades ago, there is no physical proof that Wininger sexually molested Leonard.  While others have now come forward and added their name to the accusations, they too have produced no hard, physical evidence to prove their claims.

According to this commenter, since there is no actual physical evidence, it is likely the abuse never happened. According to him, Bethany Leonard and others are lying and are out to ruin a man of God. In his mind, since there is no Monica Lewinsky blue dress, any claims of abuse should be rejected out of hand.

This is the same kind of argument that Ken Ham uses when ignoring the overwhelming evidence for evolution and the age of the universe being billions of years and not thousands of years old.  Countless Evangelicals have been swayed by Ham’s Jack Hyles impersonation when he says, were you there? Since none of us were there when the earth was birthed into existence, we can not know how old the universe, earth, and the human race is. We should accept what God says in his inspired, infallible, inerrant Word, that the universe is 6,019 years old.  According to Bishop James Ussher, a 17th century Ken Ham,  creation began on the “nightfall preceding 23 October 4004 BC.”

While this kind of thinking sounds insane to people who are not Evangelical, millions of American Evangelicals believe like Ken Ham. Since none of us were there, we must accept what the Bible says about the beginning of the universe. Never mind the fact that the writers of the book of Genesis weren’t there either. The oldest manuscripts, which are not the originals, are dated thousands of years after the events recorded in Genesis. Even if Moses actually wrote the book of Genesis, and we have no evidence for this other than the BIBLE says he did, he would have written the book of Genesis thousands of years after the events recorded in Genesis.  In other words, Moses or whoever the authors were weren’t there at the moment of creation, so how can they know what happened?

The commenter I mentioned earlier refuses to believe that Bill Wininger sexually abused Bethany Foeller Leonard because there is no physical evidence to prove Leonard’s claims. No one saw it, there is no proof of it, so it didn’t happen.

I wonder if this commenter, and others who think like him, realize the huge problem they are creating for themselves. As Christians, they believe:

  • Jesus came to earth and was born of a virgin
  • Jesus worked miracles in Palestine over 1,980 years ago
  • Jesus was crucified on the cross
  • Jesus resurrected from the dead three days later
  • Jesus ascended into the clouds and left the earth 40 days after he resurrected from the dead

Every Christian believes these things to be facts, yet there is no evidence for any of these claims. None. Nada. Zip. Using the commenters objection to Bill Wininger being considered a child molester, should he not refrain from calling himself a Christian or evangelizing others in hope that they will put their faith in Jesus? Where is the evidence?

When it comes to Bethany Foeller Leonard and others who are claim they were abused by their pastor, we have living people who can be questioned. Yet, according to the one commenter, their claims should be rejected.  Their testimony, which Leonard has put in written form, can be read by everyone, yet, because there is no physical evidence, the claims must be rejected out of hand. Why is this same rationale NOT applied to the Bible and the claims Evangelicals make for Jesus?

I can know Bethany Foeller Leonard wrote a letter about Bill Wininger abusing her, however I have no way of knowing who wrote the various books of the New Testament. I wasn’t there, to use Ken Ham’s illogical logic, and I didn’t see it, so it must not have happened, to use Jack Hyles’s illogical logic.  Surely, this is one of those what is good for the goose is good for the gander moments.

Please explain to me, how it is reasonable and rational to reject Leonard’s claim out of hand, but not apply the same thinking to the claims made for Jesus that I mentioned above? Or, can reasonable people put their faith in Leonard and the others and come to the conclusion that they are telling the truth, just as the Christian would do concerning the historic witness of the Christian church concerning the claims the Bible makes for Jesus Christ?

Why are people like the commenter mentioned above so willing to accept what they are told about Jesus, a Jesus they have never met, never seen, and for which there is no physical evidence, yet when a few women say, this man abused me, their claims are rejected out of hand?

Simply put, you can’t have it both ways.

Let’s Go Soulwinning

lets go soulwinning

Let’s Go Soulwinning by Jack Hyles

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30

Soulwinning, the art, the endeavor of sharing the gospel with sinners and leading them to put their faith in Jesus Christ. A metaphor for evangelism or witnessing. (it is not a word found in the English dictionary)

Soulwinner, a person whose purpose, desire, and motivation is to share the gospel with sinners and lead them to put their faith in Jesus Christ.  (it is not a word found in the English dictionary)

The Bible makes it clear that every church should be a soulwinning church and every Christian should be a soulwinner.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20

Matthew 28:19,20 is commonly called the Great Commission. While some may argue that the Great Commission was given ONLY to the eleven disciples, most sects and pastors think the Great Commission is a command given by Christ to every Christian.

Why is it then that most Christians never verbally share the gospel with another person? I am not talking about inviting them to church so the head soulwinner, the pastor, can preach the gospel to them. I am not talking about nonverbal, just let your light shine or any of the other excuses Christians give for not verbalizing the gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Why is it that most Christians never, one time, in a clear, concise way, share the good news of the gospel with a lost, hell bound sinner? Isn’t not doing so a direct repudiation of the Great Commission, a direct command given by Jesus to his followers?

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement has turned soulwinning into a fine art. Churches hold soulwinning conferences and clinics. These special events are used to light a fire under church members who are not soulwinners. They are also used to train members in the best soulwinning techniques. Technique matters. Dennis Corle bragged to me that he could win a soul in five minutes. According to him, all a soulwinner had to do is follow the script. Follow the script, use proper technique and you too can be a great soulwinner like Dennis Corle.

No one was a bigger promoter of soulwinning than Jack Hyles, the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Hyles was famous for telling stories like this:

A few years ago I was in a Bible Conference in Houston, Texas. After a morning service, I returned to my room at one of the large motels on the north side of Houston. To my surprise, the door to my room was open and I heard singing coming from the bathroom. After checking the room number with my key, I realized I was in the right room. Perhaps someone else was in the wrong room.

I hollered through the door, inquiring who was there, only to find it was the Negro maid cleaning out the bathtub. She was actually down in the tub cleaning out the ring.

I asked her if she were a Christian. She said, “Mercy, no! I am as mean as the devil.” I got my Testament out and showed her the plan of salvation. All the time she was in the bathtub. After I showed her how to be saved, she knelt in the tub and received the Saviour.

I have laughed many times about this and have jokingly said, “I guess I am the only preacher in the world who ever won a lady in a bathtub!” This is just another of the many unusual experiences that God gives to soul winners. We should be on the lookout constantly for people who need the Saviour

I have won people to Christ in train stations, in bus depots, on airplanes, in grocery stores, in barber shops, in shine parlors, in service stations, in garages, in school buildings, on ball diamonds, and in many other places. There are many hungry hearts waiting for someone to tell them the story.

You can read more of Hyles’s soulwinning stories here. (Hyles was a powerful preacher and a masterful storyteller. He was also a pathological liar.)

For decades, Hyles and First Baptist Church conducted what they called Pastor’s School, a week-long event used to motivate pastors and church leaders to win more souls. Under the leadership of John R. Rice and Curtis Hutson, the Sword of the Lord held Soulwinning Conferences all over the country. These conferences were used to encourage and motivate pastors and churches that had forgotten Jesus’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

From the 1960’s-1980’s, countless IFB churches experienced explosive growth as they went into the highway and hedges and compelled (without vampire powers) sinners to put their faith in Jesus. In the 1970’s, most of the 100 largest churches in America were IFB churches.

Today? First Baptist Church in Hammond, once the largest church in the world, no longer conducts the Pastor’s School,  The Sword of the Lord no longer holds soulwinning conferences all over the country. Based on the 2013 Outreach 100 Largest Churches List, there is not one IFB church on the list. (many large IFB churches refuse to publish their actual attendance numbers)  Most of the IFB churches that made the Top 100 list in the 1960’s-1980’s are shell of what they once were. Some have even closed their doors. What happened?

In 1976, I enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern, a small IFB college, was known for producing preachers who were great soulwinners. Tom Malone, the founder and chancellor of Midwestern, was also the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. Every student was required to attend Emmanuel.

For many years, thanks to its bus ministry,  Emmanuel experienced explosive attendance growth and was listed as a Top 100 church. Emmanuel saw high attendance days of over 5,000. Soulwinning was the lifeblood of the college and church. Students were required to go out soulwinning at least once a week, and each week were required to account for their soulwinning activities.

While I was a student at Midwestern, they held a soulwinning contest. Students competed with each other to see who could win the most souls. The winner of the contest usually won a hundred or more souls. Every student was required to participate in the soulwinning contest. One year, the college put up a big banner and chart that was used to track who was winning the most souls. In the mind of Tom Malone, soulwinning was all that mattered.

for sale sign midwestern baptist college

For Sale Sign in Front of Midwestern Baptist College

Today? Midwestern has its campus up for sale, having moved its small student body to Shalom Baptist Church in Orion Michigan. Emmanuel, a church that once bragged about being a Top 100 church is no more. Like the college, it’s facilities are up for sale.

for sale sign emmanuel baptist church pontiac

For Sale Sign in Main Entrance Door, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan

What happened? Why is Emmanuel closed, Midwestern a shell of what it once was, and the IFB church movement facing steep attendance declines?

If you ask an IFB pastor this question, he will likely tell you that the WORLD is the cause for the attendance decline. People love their sin more than they love Jesus. They might even point the finger at Evangelical mega churches and their slick marketing, worship bands, and relational sermons. Where they will never point the finger is at themselves. In their mind, they are the true church, preaching the true gospel. They seem unable to see that it is their theology and methods that have led to their decline.

Instead of preaching a transformative, holistic gospel, they preached decisional regeneration, also known as easy-believism. Salvation became a simple transaction between a sinner and God. Sinners were told to pray a prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Come into my heart and save me from my sins. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. I am trusting you to take me to heaven when I die. Amen.

If a person prayed that prayer, they were considered a born-again Christian. Millions of Americans have prayed a prayer such as this. From Billy Graham crusades and Campus Crusade outreaches to Southern Baptist churches  and IFB churches, the sinner’s prayer was the magic words that made one a child of God. This bastardized version of the gospel filled churches with people who had no idea about  what it meant to a Christian or a member of a Christian church.

The sin of the soulwinning movement and the IFB church is that they thought that winning souls was just a matter of using the right techniques. Pastors taught church members to use a certain formula like The Roman’s Road to lead people to saving faith. Got Questions, a fundamentalist website explains The Roman’s Road like this:

The Romans Road to salvation is a way of explaining the good news of salvation using verses from the Book of Romans. It is a simple yet powerful method of explaining why we need salvation, how God provided salvation, how we can receive salvation, and what are the results of salvation.

The first verse on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We have all sinned. We have all done things that are displeasing to God. There is no one who is innocent. Romans 3:10-18 gives a detailed picture of what sin looks like in our lives.

The second Scripture on the Romans Road to salvation, Romans 6:23, teaches us about the consequences of sin – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The punishment that we have earned for our sins is death. Not just physical death, but eternal death!

The third verse on the Romans Road to salvation picks up where Romans 6:23 left off, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ died for us! Jesus’ death paid for the price of our sins. Jesus’ resurrection proves that God accepted Jesus’ death as the payment for our sins.

The fourth stop on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, all we have to do is believe in Him, trusting His death as the payment for our sins – and we will be saved! Romans 10:13 says it again, “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and rescue us from eternal death. Salvation, the forgiveness of sins, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The final aspect of the Romans Road to salvation is the results of salvation. Romans 5:1 has this wonderful message, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Through Jesus Christ we can have a relationship of peace with God. Romans 8:1 teaches us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, we will never be condemned for our sins. Finally, we have this precious promise of God from Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Would you like to follow the Romans Road to salvation? If so, here is a simple prayer you can pray to God. Saying this prayer is a way to declare to God that you are relying on Jesus Christ for your salvation. The words themselves will not save you. Only faith in Jesus Christ can provide salvation! “God, I know that I have sinned against you and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. With your help, I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”

Have you made a decision for Christ because of what you have learned through the Romans Road to salvation? If so, please click on the “I have accepted Christ today” button below.

The soulwinner is told to stay on point, reiterating the points in the soulwinning plan. If the sinner asks questions not related to salvation, the questions were to be ignored and the sinner steered back to the soulwinning plan.  They were to give the sinner just enough information to get saved. Questions would be answered later after they were baptized and became a part of the church.

Think for a moment about what I have written here. Doesn’t all of this sound similar to a sales program used by Amway or some other direct marketer? Work the plan! Stay on point! Press the prospect to make a decision! Close the sale!

When I was in college, I sold Kirby vacuüm cleaners. My Dad sold them for many years and I thought, like father, like son. Every Saturday, the local Kirby office would hold mandatory sales meetings for their salesmen. These meetings were pep rallies meant to motivate salesmen to sell more vacuüm cleaners. They even sang songs with lyrics like There’s power, power wonder working power in a Kirby, sung to the tune of the There’s Power in the Blood.

The Kirby pep rallies were quite similar to what took place at  Hyles’s Pastor’s School and Sword of the Lord Soulwinning Conferences. The goal was the same, motivate salesmen to hit the street and sell merchandise. In the case of the IFB church, the merchandise was Jesus, salvation, and fire insurance.

Were you a member of an IFB church? Were you a soulwinner? Was your church an aggressive soulwinning church? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Note

Like Jack Hyles and men and their penis size, many students at Midwestern lied about their soulwinning prowess.

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…

How Fundamentalist Christians Ruin Christmas

candy cane

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Now that I am no longer a Christian, I really enjoy Christmas. I know this might be hard for some to believe, but I enjoy Christmas now more than I ever did when I was a card-carrying member of Club Christian®. The reason is simple. From Thanksgiving to New Years, there were services to prepare, food drives to coördinate, and season-themed sermons to preach. Like the Easter season, Christmas was a high stress, lots of work, time for me. Quite frankly, I found it exhausting and rarely did I have time to enjoy Christmas.

And of course, Christmas was that time of year when it was my duty to focus on and harass any relative or friend that did not know Jesus. I mean know in the Fundamentalist sense. There’s Christianity and then there’s hell is real, souls are dying, I must make an ass of myself every Christmas Fundamentalist Christianity.

Consider these words from John R. Rice, the late Fundamentalist evangelist and editor of the Sword of the Lord:

“I still, from my armchair, preach in great revival campaigns. I still vision hundreds walking the aisles to accept Christ. I still feel hot tears for the lost. I still see God working miracles. Oh, how I long to see great revivals, to hear about revival crowds once again!…I want no Christmas without a burden for lost souls, a message for sinners, a heart to bring in the lost sheep so dear to the Shepherd, the sinning souls for whom Christ died. May food be tasteless, and music a discord, and Christmas a farce if I forget the dying millions to whom I am debtor; if this fire in my bones does not still flame! Not till I die or not till Jesus comes, will I ever be eased of this burden, these tears, this toil to save souls.”

John R. Rice Christians can’t just enjoy the season. To them it is not enough to sit back and enjoy the food, gift giving, and family connection. Oh no, they must see every non-Fundamentalist family member as a hell-bound prospect for heaven. Rather than chatting up atheist Uncle Ricky Bobby about family and life, the souls for Jesus is my battle cry Christian must, with little delay, attempt to witness to their heathen relative. Far more important than love, kindness, and family is the Fundamentalist’s belief system. It matters not  Uncle Ricky Bobby has been witnessed to countless times before. In the Fundamentalist’s mind, this might be the day, the moment when the Holy Spirit comes over Uncle Ricky Bobby and causes him to repent of his sins and put his faith and trust in Jesus. It matters not how unlikely this is, as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker sighting,  if Uncle Ricky Bobby is breathing, the Fundamentalist thinks they have the duty, obligation, and right to badger them.

Sometimes, Fundamentalist Christians can become so aggressive, argumentative, and pushy that it ruins the family gathering. Even when families gather for Christmas with Jesus being the reason for the season, many families focus on, you know, the most important thing, f-a-m-i-l-y. It’s the Fundamentalist, blinded by their certainty, that refuses to leave the salvation of others in God’s hands. After all, it is God that does the saving, right?

I suspect some evangelizing Fundamentalists have a deep need to be perceived as right.  They spend their life hearing that only Jesus gives life true meaning and that every non-Christian has a God-shaped void in their soul. They are reminded by their preacher that non-Christians have horrible, miserable lives that will ultimately land them in hell. How can they not witness to Uncle Ricky Bobbie?

But, Uncle Ricky Bobby seems happy. He and this wife Betty Boo have been married forever. They have great jobs, treat others well, and come Christmas do their best to avoid any Christian/atheist conflict. They are content to enjoy the food and festivities and leave the God debate for another day.  To Ricky Bobby and Betty Boo, heaven, hell, and eternity can wait.

Tomorrow will be our family Christmas. I am looking forward to it. It is a day when we celebrate family. It is a day when we eat Polly’s awesome cooking and cookies. (and it is a real bummer I don’t feel like eating) It is a day when grandchildren get to open the crazy gifts Nana and Grandpa bought for them. It’s a day for laughter and reminding ourselves of how good we have it.