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Tag: Sword of the Lord

The Legacy of IFB Pastor Jack Hyles

Jack Hyles Through the Years

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 having sex with a teenager he was counseling, and his later criminal conviction in March 2013. Evidently, these people have a short memory or live in denial. First Baptist has a long history of pastors and other church leaders 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 a long-running illicit sexual relationship with his secretary. The evidence against Hyles was overwhelming, yet the church rejected this 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 First Baptist Church, had numerous sexual relationships with women in the church. The church quietly sent him away to pastor another church, not telling the new congregation 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. (Please see Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, 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 ten-foot hill to get into the church.

In general, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement abhors scandal and its members do everything they can to cover it up. More important than the sin itself or the victims is the church’s “testimony.” The church’s testimony must be protected at all costs, even if a pedophile in their midst is ignored, as was the case with Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida and its pastor 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 the depth of the scandal. Gibbs is considered a “fixer” in the IFB church movement.

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 him. 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 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.

In 1973, First Baptist saw attendances exceeding 25,000 people. At the center of this huge church was its pastor, Jack Hyles. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Jack Hyles was, as many of us described, the pope of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. He authored numerous books with titles such as Let’s Go Soul Winning, Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church, Enemies of Soul Winning, 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.

jack hyles 1973
Jack Hyles, 1973

There is a hard-and-fast rule in the IFB movement: the greater the church attendance, the more authority the pastor is granted and the more weight his words carry. 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 baskets 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 with me people from the churches I pastored. 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 him and his mother are legendary.

Over time, as I became more and more dissatisfied with the IFB church movement, I paid closer attention to the substance of Hyles’ sermons. In particular, I focused on the stories 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” questions. 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, Tom Malone, 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. (Please see One, Two, Three, Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style.) I used to label the methodology of the IFB church movement this way:

  • win them
  • wet them
  • work them
  • waste them

(Please see IFB Church Movement: 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 soul winning and less time studying in preparation to preach on Sunday. All that mattered to him was the number of souls saved.

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. IFB churches are notorious for membership churn — especially when a pastor leaves and a new one comes in.

The Hyles gospel focused on praying the sinner’s prayer. (Please see The Top Five Reasons People Say the Sinner’s Prayer.) Pray this prayer and you are saved. Good works? They were desired and even expected, but if saved people never exhibited any change in their lives they were still considered “saved.” This gospel is prominently on display in the preaching of David Anderson and the writing of “Dr.” David Tee. (Please see Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona.)

If a pastor dared suggest that new life in Christ meant a change in 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.

The Hyles gospel filled churches with people who had made a mental assent to a set of propositional beliefs. 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 names, but for who their pastors are. IFB church members routinely say, when asked about what church they attend, say: I go to Pastor So-and So’s church.

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 he goes 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.

The church members revel in the cult of personality. They love having a name- brand preacher. They watch Christian 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 days writing about IFB pastors who have abused their place of authority and committed heinous acts against the people they pastored. (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.)

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 pastors or famous preachers could ever commit crimes 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 we are! Praise Jesus! Such thinking should sicken all of us.

Here is what I know about the IFB church 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 their churches. Until the IFB church 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 their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility 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.

Posts on Jack Hyles

Posts on David Hyles

Posts on Jack Schaap

Posts on Bob Gray, Sr.

Posts on the IFB Church Movement

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Questions: Bruce, Is the IFB Church Movement a Cult?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Anne asked:

Is the IFB considered to be a cult in America?

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is a group of autonomous local churches that trace their lineage back to the liberal/modernist vs. Evangelical/Fundamentalist controversy in the 20th century. Thousands of churches left denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and American Baptist Convention, to name a few, and establish independent churches. Many of these churches “fellowshipped” (grouped) around IFB and other Fundamentalist colleges (Bob Jones University, Maranatha Baptist College, Midwestern Baptist College, Tennessee Temple, Pensacola Christian College, The Crown College, Hyles-Anderson College, Baptist Bible College, Massillon Baptist College, Trinity Baptist College, West Coast Baptist College, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and others) IFB missions groups, pastor’s fellowships, and IFB fellowship groups such as the Sword of the Lord and the Southwide Baptist Fellowship. Some IFB churches were/are fiercely independent, choosing not to fellowship with anyone. (Please see Let’s Go Camping: Understanding Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Camps.)

In the 1960s-1980s, many of the largest churches in the United States were IFB congregations. Today, many of those churches and colleges are in numeric decline or have closed their doors. From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Established by Tom Malone, the pastor of a nearby IFB megachurch, Emmanuel Baptist Church, the college churned out scores of pastors, evangelists, missionaries, Christian school teachers, and pastor’s wives. Today, the church is dead, the college campus has been turned into efficiency apartments and a senior center, and the college continues to hold classes for a handful of students at Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan. Midwestern’s website hasn’t been updated in a year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the college closed its doors.

While at Midwestern, I married the daughter of Lee Shope, an IFB pastor and graduate of the college. After our marriage in 1978, Polly and I spent the twenty-five years pastoring IFB and other Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Both of us were raised in IFB homes and attended IFB churches. Our lives were deeply shaped (and marred) by the IFB church movement. Both of us are unbelievers today, but the IFB beliefs and practices still lurk deep within the recesses of our minds. That’s what religious indoctrination will do to you.

Anne asks if the IFB church movement is a cult. The short answer is yes. (Please see One Man’s Christianity is Another Man’s Cult and The IFB Blood Cult: I’m Not Brainwashed, I’m Bloodwashed.

In January 2021, Dr. Steven Hassan, a mental health professional and former member of the Unification Church, published a dissertation titled The BITE Model of Authoritarian Control: Undue Influence, Thought Reform, Brainwashing, Mind Control, Trafficking and the Law. Using Hassan’s BITE model, it is apparent that the IFB church movement is a cult, as are many other Evangelical sects and churches.

The following describes the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people. Note that it is not necessary for a group to engage in all the behaviors mentioned below to be considered a cult:

Behavior Control

1. Regulate individual’s physical reality
2. Dictate where, how, and with whom the member
lives and associates or isolates
3. When, how and with whom the member has sex
4. Control types of clothing and hairstyles
5. Regulate diet – food and drink, hunger and/or fasting
6. Manipulation and deprivation of sleep
7. Financial exploitation, manipulation or dependence
8. Restrict leisure, entertainment, vacation time
9. Major time spent with group indoctrination and
rituals and/or self indoctrination including the
Internet
10. Permission required for major decisions
11. Thoughts, feelings, and activities (of self and
others) reported to superiors
12. Rewards and punishments used to modify
behaviors, both positive and negative
13. Discourage individualism, encourage group-think
14. Impose rigid rules and regulations
15. Punish disobedience by beating, torture, burning,
cutting, rape, or tattooing/branding
16. Threaten harm to family and friends
17. Force individual to rape or be raped
18. Instill dependency and obedience
19. Encourage and engage in corporal punishment

II. Information Control

1. Deception:
a. Deliberately withhold information
b. Distort information to make it more acceptable
c. Systematically lie to the cult member
2. Minimize or discourage access to non-cult sources of information, including:
a. Internet, TV, radio, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, other media
b. Critical information
c. Former members
d. Keep members busy so they don’t have time to think and investigate
e. Control through cell phone with texting, calls, internet tracking
3. Compartmentalize information into Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
a. Ensure that information is not freely accessible
b. Control information at different levels and missions within group
c. Allow only leadership to decide who needs to know what and when
4. Encourage spying on other members
a. Impose a buddy system to monitor and control member
b. Report deviant thoughts, feelings and actions to leadership
c. Ensure that individual behavior is monitored by group
5. Extensive use of cult-generated information and propaganda, including:
a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audiotapes, videotapes, YouTube, movies
and other media
b. Misquoting statements or using them out of context from non-cult sources
6. Unethical use of confession
a. Information about sins used to disrupt and/or dissolve identity boundaries
b. Withholding forgiveness or absolution
c. Manipulation of memory, possible false memories.

III. Thought Control

1. Require members to internalize the group’s
doctrine as truth
a. Adopting the group’s ‘map of reality’ as
reality
b. Instill black and white thinking
c. Decide between good vs. evil
d. Organize people into us vs. them (insiders vs.
outsiders)
2. Change person’s name and identity
3. Use of loaded language and clichés which
constrict knowledge, stop critical thoughts and
reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words
4. Encourage only ‘good and proper’ thoughts
5. Hypnotic techniques are used to alter mental states,
undermine critical thinking and even to age regress
the member
6. Memories are manipulated and false memories are
created
7. Teaching thought-stopping techniques which shut
down reality testing by stopping negative thoughts
and allowing only positive thoughts, including:
a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful
thinking
b. Chanting
c. Meditating
d. Praying
e. Speaking in tongues
f. Singing or humming
8. Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking,
constructive criticism
9. Forbid critical questions about leader, doctrine, or
policy allowed
10. Labeling alternative belief systems as illegitimate,
evil, or not useful
11. Instill new “map of reality”

IV. Emotional Control

1. Manipulate and narrow the range of feelings – some emotions and/or needs are
deemed as evil, wrong or selfish
2. Teach emotion-stopping techniques to block feelings of homesickness, anger,
doubt
3. Make the person feel that problems are always their own fault, never the leader’s
or the group’s fault
4. Promote feelings of guilt or unworthiness, such as
a. Identity guilt
b. You are not living up to your potential
c. Your family is deficient
d. Your past is suspect
e. Your affiliations are unwise
f. Your thoughts, feelings, actions are irrelevant or selfish
g. Social guilt
h. Historical guilt
5. Instill fear, such as fear of:
a. Thinking independently
b. The outside world
c. Enemies
d. Losing one’s salvation
e. Leaving or being shunned by the group
f. Other’s disapproval
6. Extremes of emotional highs and lows – love bombing and praise one moment
and then declaring you are horrible sinner
7. Ritualistic and sometimes public confession of sins
8. Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about leaving the group or
questioning the leader’s authority
a. No happiness or fulfillment possible outside of the group
b. Terrible consequences if you leave: hell, demon possession, incurable
diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations, etc.
c. Shunning of those who leave; fear of being rejected by friends and family
d. Never a legitimate reason to leave; those who leave are weak,
undisciplined, unspiritual, worldly, brainwashed by family or counselor, or
seduced by money, sex, or rock and roll
e. Threats of harm to ex-member and family

Freedom of Mind Resource Center

One of the difficult things I had to come to terms with is the fact that I was raised in a cult, and attended this cult’s churches and college. I would then marry a woman also raised in this cult, and we would spend most of our married life pastoring cultic churches. My life was dominated by cultic beliefs and practices until I was in my 40s. Simply put, I was a cult leader.

I am sure IFB pastors and church members who stumble upon this blog will object to being labeled a cult. The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Moonies are cults, not us! We are “Biblical” Christians. We pastor New Testament Churches. We can trace our lineage all the way back to Jesus. And on and on it goes. However, using the BITE model, it is clear the IFB church movement is a cult; that its pastors are cult leaders; that its colleges continue to train the next generation of cult leaders.

If it walks, talks, and acts like a cult, it is a cult.

I have written 451 posts about the IFB church movement and its colleges and pastors. Here’s a selection from these posts:

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

How Fundamentalist Christians Ruin Christmas

candy cane
The Legend of the Candy Cane

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Now that I am no longer a Christian, I really enjoy Christmas. I know this might be hard for Evangelical Christians 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. As a pastor, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, there were services to prepare, food drives to coördinate, and season-themed sermons to preach. Much like the Easter season, Christmas was a high-stress, lots-of-work time for me. Quite frankly, I found it exhausting. Rarely did I have the time to just relax and enjoy the holiday.

Christmas was also that time of year when it was my duty to focus on and harass relatives, friends, or neighbors who did not know the Evangelical 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, Big F Fundamentalist Christianity.

Consider these words from the late John R. Rice, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB)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.”

For the John R. Rice type of Christian — and I was one for almost 20 years — Christmas can never be just about sitting back and enjoying the food, gift-giving, and family connections. Every non-Evangelical family member is viewed as a Hellbound sinner needing salvation. Desiring to make sure the Heavenly family circle is unbroken, Fundamentalist Christians will diligently attempt to evangelize non-believing family members. Instead of chatting up atheist Uncle Ricky, pagan Bobby, or Catholic Aunt Geraldine about family and football, the souls for Jesus is my battle cry Christians will, with little delay, attempt to witness to their heathen relatives. To Jesus-loving soul winners, putting in a good word for Jesus is far more important than the familial bond. Having been told that Jesus came to split families asunder and that their “real” family is their fellow church members, Fundamentalist Christians will insufferably badger anyone they consider unsaved. It matters not that Uncle Ricky and Aunt Geraldine have been witnessed to countless times before. In the Fundamentalist’s mind, this might be the day, the very moment, when the Holy Spirit comes over their lost loved ones and causes them to repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus. It matters not how unlikely this is: as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker sighting. Every breathing non-Fundamentalist Christian family member is a prospect for Heaven. And like relatives who shamelessly use family holiday gatherings to peddle Amway or Tupperware, Fundamentalist Christians will seek every opportunity to badger family members into buying a lifetime membership to Club Heaven.

Sometimes, Evangelical family members can become so aggressive, argumentative, and pushy that their behavior ruins family gatherings. Many Christian families give a hat tip to Jesus being the reason for the season and then focus on the food, gift-giving, and enjoying each other’s company. Fundamentalist Christians see this as a betrayal of Jesus and the salvation he graciously offers to sinners. In their mind, it’s all Jesus, all the time.

Many evangelizing Fundamentalists have a pathological need to be perceived as right. They spend their lives hearing that only Jesus gives life meaning and purpose, and non-Christians have a God-shaped voids in their soul. They are reminded by their preachers that non-Fundamentalist Christians have horrible, miserable lives that will ultimately land them in Hell. Yet, every year they can’t help but notice that their unsaved relatives seem happy. Their Hellbound relatives often have great jobs, treat others well, and genuinely seem to enjoy life. Their observations should suggest to them that perhaps their view of family and the world is skewed, right? Nah, who am I kidding? Their non-Evangelical relatives? They are all, every last one of them, blinded by Satan, unable to see the TRUTH. Until Fundamentalists dare to consider that they could be wrong, there’s no hope of them seeing their lost family members as anything more than souls in need of saving.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Let’s Go Soulwinning

lets go soulwinning
Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soulwinning

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

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 in every generation, until Jesus returns to earth.

Why is it then that most Christians never verbally share the gospel with another person? I am not talking about inviting people 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 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 methods and techniques. Technique matters. IFB Evangelist 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 the late 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 1960s-1980s, 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 1970s, many 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 Pastor’s School, The Sword of the Lord no longer holds soulwinning conferences all over the country. Most of the IFB churches that made the Top 100 list in the 1960s-1980s are shells of what they once were. Some have even closed their doors. What happened?

In 1976, I enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan to study for the ministry. 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 they required to account for their soulwinning activities, by filling out a slip that detailed how many doors they knocked on, how many people they witnessed to, and how many people they led to Christ. Many students, myself included, lied about their soulwinning activities. Fake it till you make it, right?

Midwestern held a soulwinning contest while I was student there. 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 a chart that was used to track who was winning the most souls. In the mind of Tom Malone, soulwinning was all that mattered.

Today? Midwestern has sold off its buildings. A developer had turned the main school building into a senior center, and the dorm has been turned into an apartment complex. The handful of students who remain meet for classes at Shalom Baptist Church in Orion Michigan. Emmanuel, a church that once bragged about being a Top 100 church is no more. Its church facilities are up for sale.

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

If you ask IFB pastors this question, they will likely tell you that the WORLD is the cause for the attendance decline. People love 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 minds, they are the true church, preaching the true gospel. They seem unable to see that it is their theology and methodology that has led to their precipitous decline.

Instead of preaching a transformative, holistic gospel, many IFB pastors preach what is commonly called decisional regeneration — also known as easy-believism or one-two-three, repeat after me. Salvation became a simple transaction between a sinner and God — believe these propositional truths and thou shalt be saved. 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.

According to countless IFB churches and pastors, if people pray this prayer, they become, in that moment, born-again Christians. Millions and millions of Americans have prayed a prayer such as the one above. From Billy Graham crusades and Campus Crusade outreaches to Southern Baptist churches and IFB churches, the sinner’s prayer contained 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 certain formulas such as The Roman’s Road to lead people to saving faith in Christ. 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.

Soulwinners are told to stay on point, reiterating the points in the soulwinning plan. If unsaved sinners ask questions not related to salvation, the questions are to be ignored and sinners steered back to the soulwinning plan. They are to give sinners just enough information to get saved. Their 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! Don’t let them ask questions! 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.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

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

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Shelton Smith, the editor of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) paper, Sword of the Lord, sent out a tweet that said:

shelton smith tweet

 I responded:

bruce gerencser twitter response shelton smith

IFB preachers:

all thought Smith’s tweet was so wonderful that 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 pastor, when he was at the place, came and looked upon him, and said “is there not a rescue mission this man can go to?”

But a liberal Methodist, as he journeyed, came where the hungry man 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 next day when he departed, he took out $100.00 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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser