This Book that I have in my hands, I read each day. When I stand to preach, I preach this Book – this is the Bible!
It is the Word of God. It is a Book so special that we treat it with the utmost respect. We hold it dear and precious to our hearts.
It is not a Book like any other books which men have written. This Book came to us in a unique way. God Himself gave it to us. When I read its message, it is not the mere musings of a sage, a prophet or an apostle. It is instead the revealed Word of God.
It [the Bible] is not the words of men but the Word of the Almighty God, who is the Creator of the world. The human penmen were employed of God to write His very words.
When we say it was given by inspiration of God, we mean that God Himself gave us His own words. That is why we use the terms verbal and plenary to describe what it is. Verbal has to do with His actual words. It is not just His ideas or concepts, but His words. When we say plenary, we mean inspired fully. It is not somewhat of God with the rest of it being man-made. It is in every sense a God-made Book.
…. Is the King James Bible the Word of God? Absolutely! Let us stop the quibbling. Either you have the Word of God or you do not. If your Bible is the Word of God, then you have something totally unique and very, very special.
What is your problem? Why do you feel the necessity to dismember, dissect and dilute the text? Why can you not just say, “My Bible is the Word of God; I believe it, I trust it and I honor it to the fullest?”
God has preserved His inspired Word for us. It is preserved in the Hebrew Masoretic text and in the Greek Textus Receptus. It is also preserved for us in the English in the King James Bible. What He at first inspired, the Lord God has now preserved. Therefore, when I hold the King James Bible in my hand, I hold the inspired text. It was inspired and now that inspired Word has been protected, preserved and provided for us!
What Is It That God Preserved? It is His Word, nothing more and nothing less! Remember Psalm 12:6-7 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shall preserve them from this generation for ever.”
Is the King James Text Reliable and Trustworthy? It is indeed! About your King James Bible you can say it is authentic, accurate and authoritative. It is God’s Word preserved for us in English. It is true and trustworthy. The inspired text has been preserved for us; therefore, it is inerrant and infallible.
Last November, I posted a short video clip of a worship service at Middle Tennessee Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Middle Tennessee Baptist is pastored by Tony Hutson, the son of the late Curtis Hutson, the one time editor of the Sword of the Lord — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist newspaper and publishing house.
Several days ago, a member of Middle Tennessee Baptist Church left the following comment on the original post:
There is bible for everhtbing [sic] that went on in the video. You have no right to get on here and go against Brother Tony Hutson and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church. Those girls are not brainwashed, they are bloodwashed. If you would repent and be saved by the grace of God, you wouldn’t mind the shouting and praising that you call yelling and screaming. If you didn’t like that…you will not like what happens in Heaven when we praise Jesus Christ our Lord.
Where, oh where, do I begin.
First, I have every right to go against “Brother Tony Hutson and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church.” It’s called freedom of speech. Personally, I think Tony Huston is a bully and a thug. In other words, he is a great example of an IFB preacher.
Second, I have already repented, and I have been gloriously saved by the grace of God. Surely, you believe in once saved, always saved? I’m a Christian, brother, according to your theology. Of course, I don’t claim to be a Christian. I am an atheist. But, I was a Christian for 50 years, so I know just a little bit about Christianity — especially your flavor of the one true faith.
Third, I know screaming and hollering when I see it. I also know culturally conditioned religious expression when I see it too. The behavior shown in the video is typical for southern Baptist churches. I have attended camp meetings in the south, and watched grown men act like drug addicts on meth. Such behavior is culturally learned. In the north, such behavior is rare. Why is that? And the northern churches that are more expressive? They have a pastor who was raised — drum roll, please — in the south.
Fourth, have you been to Heaven? If not, how can you possibly know what is or will be going on in Heaven? You don’t. All you are doing is projecting your personal religious experiences on to what the Bible says about Heaven (not that Heaven exists, it doesn’t). By all means, provide Biblical proof texts for your assertion that the culture in Heaven will be just like the one found at Middle Tennessee Baptist Church. I’ve read the Bible a time or two or fifty, and I don’t recall reading anything that remotely sounds like Sunday night church with Tony Hutson and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church.
Fifth, I do like the cliché, they are not brainwashed, they are bloodwashed. I might use that for a new blog post.
Have a good day. Thank you for commenting.
Bruce, a sinner saved by reason
The man then sent me the following email:
You said that I was using the Bible to express my beliefs about Heaven? That’s what a Christian is supposed to do. There are numerous verses about shouting with a loud voice unto the Lord. You were never saved by the way. If you can say that you received Christ and then say that you are an atheist…you are lost. It takes more faith to believe He does not exist. At the end of the day Brother Tony and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church are winners. I must add that I do attend the church and I am proud of it. We get to praise God and come to a place to worship and be cleaned and refreshed to serve God. If God is not real ( which He is of course), and you live your life the way you want that is all well and good. I’ll live mine the way I want by going to church all the time and worshipping Him. We both win in that situation. Yet, if He is real..and we live like I stated before, I win. You’ll spend eternity in hell and I’ll be in Heaven. Who really wins in the long run? You can make fun of my pastor and my church all you want to sir. You are just proving the Bible to be true that “the fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” God’s going to judge you and all of your little friends on your blog. Get a job and a life, and stop making fun of people who have one.
I want to conclude this post with my public response to this man’s email.
First, I did not say you were using the Bible to express your beliefs about heaven. In fact, I said the opposite; that you will search the Bible far and wide for justification of the practices shown in the videos and come up empty; that what you consider “Biblical” worship is actually culturally driven religious expression, the result of generations of immersion in southern Baptist Fundamentalism.
Second, how can you possibly know if I was saved or not? Are you God? This is the point where I get into a Baptist version of a dick measuring contest. Would you like to compare your present life with my past life? Would you like to compare sincerity, faith, or good works? Would you like to compare my devotion to preaching, evangelicalism, prayer, and Bible study to yours? I am confident that you will find that I had a John Holmes-sized Christian faith, and that critics such as yourself have what I would call a Donald Trump-sized faith.
I was part of the Christian church for fifty years. I pastored Evangelical churches — including IFB churches — for twenty-five years. I was, in every way, a sold-out, on-fire, devoted follower of Jesus Christ. You will search in vain to find a congregant or ministerial colleague who thought, at the time, that I was not a Christian. Everyone thought I was a committed believer. Either I deceived thousands of people or your judgment is wrong.
I realize that you cannot square my present unbelief with your IFB belief in the security of the believer — once saved, always saved. That’s not my problem. All I know is this: I once was saved, and now I am not. And I am not alone. Countless readers of this blog were once Holy Ghost-filled followers of Jesus Christ, and now they are atheists, agnostics, Pagans, and a plethora of other non-Evangelical beliefs. You can deny this all you want, but we exist and we are not going away.
The argument you use to justify me believing in your God despite a lack of evidence for his existence is called Pascal’s Wager. Please do some study on its usage and why it is not the slam-dunk argument you think it is. I am sure Pastor Hutson teaches his church to use Pascal’s Wager when talking to unbelievers, but it is an ineffective argument and it actually makes a mockery of Christian faith.
Should non-Christians believe Christianity is true just because there is a slim bettor’s chance that the Christian God exists? Should the motivation of non-believers converting to Christianity be the threat of hell after death? And if people are to get saved “just in case,” shouldn’t they also become Muslims, Hindus, Catholics and Buddhists or embrace any of the thousands of other religions concocted by human imaginations? If the objective is for people to cover all their bases — and their asses — why have you not done the same with other religious faiths? Surely, you don’t want to risk going to an Islamic or Hindi hell, do you? Wouldn’t it better to praise Allah AND Jesus, and not risk worshiping the wrong God? If you want me to do this, shouldn’t you do the same?
Who is the fool here, Tim? I have followed the path wherever it leads, and it has brought me to a place where I am confident that the Christian God does not exist. Have you thoroughly investigated the claims of Christianity? Have you read books by authors who are not Fundamentalists? Have you read any books about the nature of the Biblical text; that it is not an inspired, inerrant, infallible book? Do yourself a favor. Read up on this subject. Let me recommend a few books by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman for you to read:
You need to understand that calling me a fool and threatening me with your God’s judgment and hell have no effect on me. I have weighed Christianity in the balance and found it wanting. (Please read Why) I have read the Bible from cover to cover dozens of times and spent thousands of hours studying and preaching its words. My loss of faith stems from me taking the Bible seriously. I came to a place where I finally realized that the Christian narrative no longer made sense. (Please read The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense) I hope you will invest serious time in truly understanding the Bible. Read a couple of the books mentioned above, and then we can talk.
Again, thank you for commenting.
Bruce, a sinner saved by reason
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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John R Rice. editor of The Sword of the Lord and Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana
The late John R. Rice, editor of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) newspaper titled The Sword of Lord, is revered as a demigod by IFB preachers and churches. Rice and a cadre of Sword of the Lord affiliated preachers would travel across the country holding pastor’s conferences. These conferences were used to inspire the troops to do big things for God — build big churches, win lots of souls, and collect large amounts of money. In the 1970s and 1980s, many of the largest churches in America were IFB congregations. Rice’s newspaper and publications were widely read by IFB preachers and their congregations. Rice’s Puritanical, Fundamentalist view of the world made a huge impact on several generations of Christians.
Rice died in 1980. Curtis Hutson took over the Rice empire, but never achieved the success of his mentor. Shelton Smith is currently the newapaper’s editor. Today, the Sword of the Lord — much like most IFB churches — is a shell of what it was during its heyday. According to Wikipedia, as of September 2012, the Sword of the Lord newspaper has a biweekly circulation of 100,000. The Sword of the Lord masthead states:
An Independent Christian Publication, Standing for the Verbal Inspiration of the Bible, the Deity of Christ, His Blood Atonement, Salvation by Faith, New Testament Soul Winning and the Premillennial Return of Christ; Opposing Modernism (Liberalism), Worldliness and Formalism.
David Hyles is the son of the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for many years. During his younger years, David Hyles was the youth pastor at First Baptist. While there, he sexually preyed on women, resulting in his father quietly, in the dead of night, shipping him off to pastor an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Church that knew nothing of David’s philandering. As sexual predators are wont to do, David Hyles continued his whoring ways, leading to his expulsion from the church. If you are not familiar with the David and Jack Hyles story, please read:
In recent years, David Hyles has been showing up at IFB churches and events, acting as if what happened in the past is ancient history and no longer relevant. Praise Jesus! He has been forgiven! It’s time for people such as myself to move on and give the guy a break. Yes, he was a serial adulterer. Yes, he preyed on women. Yes, he was a despicable human being. But, “Brother Dave’ has played his “washed-by-the-blood, get-out-of-jail-free card. As far as he is concerned, his sin account has been settled and he is free to move forward in the fullness and wonder of God’s mercy and grace. Never mind the fact that Hyles has NEVER given a public accounting of his very public misconduct, and as far as I know he has not contacted nor made restitution to the countless people he has harmed. Doing so, of course, would require him to admit actions that still could be criminally prosecuted.
David Hyles was, as the following comment shows, in attendance at least one of the conference days. A Fighting Fundamental Forums commenter using the moniker Twisted posted a comment a friend of his made on Facebook:
While on a trip in North Carolina with one of our church men, we attended three evening services of the annual National Sword of the Lord Conference on Revival and Soul-Winning. One of the pleasures for me at the conference was to get to see Brother David Hyles, who has been a good friend and encouragement on Facebook. His dad, Jack Hyles, was my favorite preacher. Brother David’s wife, Brenda, took this photo. I thought she did a great job considering the subject matter.
After a period of waywardness, Brother Hyles (David) appears to have been on the right track again for some years now, and he has been trying to use his own restoration to encourage others who need the same. I count him as a friend! For any of you who might have a problem with that, I want to remind you that he is no longer out in a far country nor in the field feeding swine, but he is back at the Father’s house. Stay outside and pout if you want to, or you can come in and enjoy the Father’s celebration of restored fellowship!
Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men
Sorry, but I want to puke. According to the aforementioned Facebook friend, it’s time for people to forgive Hyles and move one. First, I have no need to forgive David Hyles. He never did anything to me, so there is nothing for him to apologize for — not that there is any evidence that Hyles (like his father) has apologized to anyone. My goal is to hold a man who was considered one of the “greatest men on earth” accountable for his abuse of countless trusting Christian women. Until Hyles gives a public accounting of his past actions and makes appropriate restitution, I intend to continue to smack him over the head every time I hear of him sticking his bald pate out of the hole he crawled into.
1st Corinthians 11:3-15 tells us that since the man is the head of the woman, and there is a fundamental difference between men and women, that difference should be symbolized in the ways men and women wear their hair. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head …For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. … For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels…Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
Throughout the Bible it is stressed that men and women are different. A man is not like a woman. A woman is not like a man. It is a sin for a woman to try to appear like a man. God has one place for a man and a different place for a woman. For this cause, in Deuteronomy 22:5 we are commanded: “A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” It is a sin for women to appear masculine. It is equally a sin for men to appear effeminate. In fact, 1 Corinthians 6:9 names some of the unrighteous that “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” And among the adulterers and fornicators and drunkards and thieves and covetous and extortioners, God put the effeminate. To be effeminate is a horrible sin in God’s sight.
And the first sin with which God chided Adam, after the fall, was this: “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife…”
I say, God has given man one position and woman another position and this difference in their position should be shown by men having short hair and women long hair. “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven” (1 Corinthians 11:4,5). And verse 6 continues: “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.”
Man is made in the image of God. God is a masculine God. The masculine pronoun is used of God everywhere in the Bible. That foolish and unscriptural title given by a woman preacher, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, “Our Father-Mother God,” dishonors God. God is not effeminate. God is not feminine, but masculine. And man is made in the image of God. On the other hand, a woman is not made so much in the image of God, but in the image and as a mate to man. So the Scripture says: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.”
Blessed is the woman that remembers this; her glory is in being a help to a man, and in submission to her husband or her father. And long hair is the mark of this submission, the mark of this femininity.
A man should not pray or prophesy with his head covered. That would dishonor his head, says the Scripture. Men instinctively know that it is shameful to wear hats in public service, and reverent men remove their hats when they pray. Likewise, men instinctively know that they ought not to have long hair. A man has short hair, and this symbolizes the fact that he can approach Jesus Christ freely and that he takes the responsibility as the head of his home.
On the other hand, a woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. Now look at verse 15 and you will see plainly that God is not talking about a woman wearing a hat or veil. Verse 15 says: “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” A woman, when she prays, should have a covering, some symbol that marks her as an obedient and surrendered wife or daughter. Her long hair is given her for a covering, and a woman who does not have her head covered in that way dishonors her head. And verse 6 says that it is a shame for a woman to be shorn, and she ought to be covered. This symbolic covering or veil for a woman is long hair. Long hair is a mark of a woman’s womanliness in God’s sight, and is plainly given her for that express purpose, as verse 15 says.
In the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians we find a remarkable teaching which ought to stir the heart of every woman. The Lord says, “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” The word power here means authority. A woman ought to have a symbol of her husband’s authority or her father’s authority on her head. That is, a woman should wear long hair to indicate that she is submissive to the authority God has put over her. And this special reason mentioned here for a woman having long hair is that angels look on, and for their sakes a woman needs to have long hair.
So angels are all round about us. And they are surpassingly concerned about our lives. Our eyes are blinded! We think that the other world, the unseen world and spirit beings are far, far away, but that is not true. And how angels do listen when a woman kneels to pray! For the sake of angels who always are near, Christian women should especially be careful to have long hair–“because of the angels,” the Scripture says.
How are angels concerned about a woman’s hair? I think that not only would angels be grieved by this mark of rebellion against husband or father and against God, but angels would be tempted, likewise, to rebel.
We know that some angels are fallen. I understand the Bible to teach that Satan himself was Lucifer, an archangel who became ambitious and rebellious and said, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:13). He wanted to be like God (Isaiah 14:14), and was not willing to be subject, just as many women want to be equal to their husbands instead of being subject to them. And Satan fell. So a great group of angels fell, too. Rev. 12:4 may suggest that a third of the angels fell. I do not know how many. But actually, these angels are now chained in darkness, awaiting judgment (2 Pet. 2:4). Angels can fall, and in the past angels have fallen into sin.
This is especially sad when we remember that Christ never became an angel and did not die for angels. There is nothing said in the Bible about the redemption of fallen angels. If God has any plans for saving angels, He has not revealed them to us.
What sins did angels commit when they fell? They did not get drunk. They did not commit adultery, for it seems that angels are sexless beings who neither marry nor are given in marriage (Matt. 23:30). We suppose that heavenly angels, accustomed to the beauty and glory of Heaven, are never covetous. No, the sin of angels is the sin of rebellion.
Thus, when a woman with bobbed hair and a rebellious heart comes to pray, angels who are near and see her head and see her heart are tempted to sin; are tempted to commit the sin which such women commit, the sin of rebellion against authority. Because of the angels, every woman should wear long hair and be careful that she does not have a rebellious heart lest she should be a curse to the angels God has sent to be our ministers and guardians.
From this Scripture it becomes evident how hateful is the symbol of bobbed hair to God. And how it reveals the stubborn self-will of the modern woman who is no longer willing to take the place God assigned to godly women. I beseech the reader that if you are a woman you consider how God must feel toward this mark of rebellion, bobbed hair. No wonder that 1 Corinthians 11:5 says that every woman with a bobbed head has a dishonored head. And 1st Corinthians 11:6 says that it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven and that she ought to have a covering. And 1 Corinthians 11:15 says that long hair is given her for this covering.
The modern woman wonders why now she must chase a beau down, as her mother never did. The modern woman wonders why men do not rise up on the bus or streetcar to give her a seat. The modern woman wonders why some men feel so free to curse in her presence, and to use language that no respectable woman of the past generation ever heard. Yes, the modern, masculine, pants-wearing, cigarette-smoking, bobbed-haired woman has fallen from her pedestal. She is not reverenced by men as her beautiful and modest mother was.
These days men have come to feel that if a woman will not fill a woman’s place, she shall not have a woman’s protection and respect. Men desert their wives as never before in the world. Very few men nowadays feel reverently about a woman’s body. Boys who have dates with these bobbed- haired, smoking, strong-willed, modern girls, expect to kiss them and fondle them as they please, or to kick them out of the car to walk home. The man who marries a modern woman marries a woman who expects to vote like a man, smoke like a man, have her hair cut like a man, and go without restrictions and without chaperons and obey nobody. A man who marries such a woman, I say, does not expect to support her. The modern girl is very often expected to work and help make a living.
In 1 Pet. 3:7 husbands are commanded to give “honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel.” When women cease to admit that they are the weaker vessels as God’s Word says they are, then they lose this honor that men through the centuries have delighted to give to women. I say, the honor, the deference, the courtesy, the protectiveness that practically all men, good and bad, once offered to good women, has almost disappeared!
Oh, women, what have you lost when you lost your femininity! When you bobbed your hair, you bobbed your character, too. Your rebellion against God’s authority as exercised by husband and father, has a tendency, at least, to lose you all the things that women value most. If you want reverence and respect from good men, if you want protection and a good home and love and steadfast devotion, then I beg you to take a woman’s place! Dress like a woman, not like a man. Have habits like a woman. And if you want God to especially bless you when you pray, then have on your head a symbol of the meek and quiet spirit which in the sight of God is of such great price.
On the matter of submitting to authority, there are frequently those who “seem to be contentious.” Self-will dies hard, even in a Christian. We want our own way. Some of the Christians who were servants and slaves thought that now they were Christians they need not obey their masters. And children felt that now they were saved, they were equal to their parents. Citizens felt that they now need not obey their heathen rulers, and wives naturally felt themselves equal to their husbands. Were they not saved just the same way? Were not all members of the body of Christ alike? But to such people the Lord plainly gave command as you see in Colossians 3:18-25, Ephesians 5:22-6:9, and elsewhere.
No doubt some wives wanted now to cut their hair and act like men. And perhaps some men encouraged it. Some men do now. But to all such Paul said, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” No custom of bobbed hair was allowed for women in New Testament churches. Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, who had more to do with founding churches and their control than any other man who lived, plainly said that this custom was never recognized and never allowed. Bobbed hair is unscriptural, and the idea of it was utterly repugnant to New Testament Christianity.
After all, dear woman, if you are a Christian, if you love the Lord Jesus, if you acknowledge Him as the Master of your life, then His command ought to settle the whole question. To please Him, trusting Him to make it worth while, I would start out to be the kind of woman that this Scripture pictures. I would, with a surrendered heart, submit myself to the authority God has placed over me, whether of husband or father. I would have a symbol of my femininity on my head, long hair picturing my submission to the will of God. When I prayed, I would not be a temptation to the angels nor an affront to God. And I would have the glory, the feminine beauty, that every true and godly woman has when she is wholly submitted to the will of God and when that pure heart and meek and lovely spirit are indicated in the way such a woman dresses and speaks and lives and wears her hair.
Is it really hard to decide when you know exactly what the Bible says you ought to do?
Here is a video of the six daughters of John R. Rice singing at the Sword of the Lord National Soul-Winners Conference, Cobo Hall in Detroit, 1978. I was in attendance at this conference. I was a student at nearby Midwestern Baptist College.
Now that I am no longer a Christian, I really enjoy Christmas. I know this might be hard for fundamentalist 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. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, 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. Rarely did I have the time to just relax and 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, Big F Fundamentalist Christianity.
“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 re-connections. Every non-Fundamentalist family member is viewed as a hell-bound sinner in need of salvation. Desiring to make sure the heavenly family circle is unbroken, Fundamentalist Christians will diligently attempt to evangelize non-Fundamentalist family members. Instead of chatting up atheist Uncle Ricky, 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 the Jesus-loving soul winner, putting in a good word in 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, Fundamentalist family members can become so aggressive, argumentative, and pushy that their behavior ruins Christmas. 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.
I suspect some evangelizing Fundamentalists have a deep need to be perceived as right. They spend their life hearing that only Jesus gives life meaning and purpose, and that every non-Christian has a God-shaped void in his 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 hell bound 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-Fundamentalist Christian 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 a soul in need of saving.
In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, no one was bigger than Jack Hyles. IFB churches and pastors measured success by:
In these three areas Jack Hyles and First Baptist Church were the king of the hill.
Jack and Beverly Hyles statue
Like most IFB churches, First Baptist Church was owned and operated by Jack Hyles. No, Hyles didn’t literally own the church, but there was no doubt about one thing, this was the house Jack built. Hyles had unlimited power to rule the church as he saw fit, and even when caught in an inappropriate sexual relationship with his secretary, he was able to wiggle free, and remained pastor of First Baptist Church until he died on February 6, 2001. A statute of Jack and Beverly Hyles can be found in the church courtyard, an ever-present reminder that First Baptist Church owes its existence to Jack Hyles.
People not raised, schooled, and indoctrinated in the IFB church movement often have a hard time understanding how Jack Hyles could wield such power over people. It seems so “cultic” to them, and truth be told, there are elements of IFB belief and practice that are “cultic.” While the IFB church movement is not a cult in the classic sense, it does have beliefs and practices that are harmful to people emotionally and mentally. Because it is a movement built on a foundation of anti-intellectualism, pastors are given an inordinate amount of power over people. The pastor becomes the resident intellectual, even though he is likely no more educated than the people in the pew. The pastor is considered God’s chosen man, the man of God who speaks on God’s behalf. He is uniquely called by God to the ministry and he is to be obeyed. Failure to obey will bring judgment from God, at least according to IFB preachers. (Sermons on pastoral authority are quite common in IFB churches.)
Jack Hyles was considered a god in IFB church circles. He was also revered by many outside of the IFB church movement. People read his sermons in the Sword of the Lord, and cassette recordings of Hyles’ sermons made their way around the globe. He was the Big Kahuna, and when he spoke everybody listened. It is important to understand how popular Hyles was. People would drive hours to hear him preach at a Sword of the Lord Conference. They would hang on his every word. After all, look at the size of his church. This is PROOF that Hyles and God were on a first name basis. When it came time for the invitation, hundreds of penitent Baptists would stream down the aisle to the altar and prostrate themselves before Hyles, praying that God would forgive them of their sins and give them Holy Ghost power to do whatever Hyles was telling them to do.
It is hard for me to admit, even to this day, that I was a part of this; that the churches I pastored participated in this. (I left the IFB church movement in the late 1980s.) It is hard to admit that I was caught up in a religion that encouraged worshiping men as gods. Hyles, like Bob Jones, even had a college named after him: Hyles-Anderson College.
Granted, any time a group of people gather together under a common belief or ideal, there is the tendency to elevate certain people to god-like status within the group. IFB churches do it, Evangelicals do it, and yes, even atheists do it. Look at the typical Atheist/Humanist conference and you see the same speakers over and over. To some degree, it is human nature to fawn over those we think are in some way unique, successful, or who have some sort of special insight.
It has been thirty years since I heard Jack Hyles preach. I heard him preach many times during the heyday of the IFB movement — the late 1960s to the late 1980s. I would attend Sword of the Lord conferences whenever I could . Sometimes, I drove several hours just so I could sit at the feet of great IFB luminaries such as Jack Hyles, Lee Roberson, Lester Roloff, Bob Gray of Florida, Curtis Hutson, John R. Rice and Tom Malone. (Malone was the President of Midwestern Baptist College, the college I attended from 1976-79. Lester Roloff was accused of promoting child abuse, and Bob Gray of Florida was arrested for molesting children.)
A poem written by a devoted follower of Jack Hyles
What was it about Jack Hyles that drew people to him (and God is not the right answer)?
Jack Hyles was a superb orator. He knew how to use words, cadence, volume, and inflection to deliver sermons that most preachers could never deliver. As oratorical specimens, his sermons were flawless. His sermons rarely had much Bible in them since he typically preached textual or topical sermons, but his sermons were perfectly scripted, with each point and sub point in perfect harmony. When Hyles chased a rabbit down the rabbit trail, he did it on purpose. He was methodical and disciplined in his preaching.
Hyles told a lot of stories about himself, his mother, and his feats as a pastor-god. His stories often made up the bulk of his sermon. Young preachers such as myself hung on every word, every story. Here was a man mightily used by God. It was many years before I could divorce myself from my worship of Jack Hyles enough to see his sermons for what they really were; grandiose brag sessions of a narcissist. I also came to see that the stories Hyles told were often lies or distortions of the truth, though I am inclined to think that Hyles really believed his own narrative.
The IFB church movement prides itself on being anti-cultural. The movement is known for what it is against and not for what it is for. In his sermons, Hyles would rail against Southern Baptists, The National Council of Churches, Evangelicals, pants on women, alcohol drinking, sex, and any other ill he deemed “worldly” or contrary to the received truth of the IFB church movement.
When Hyles would preach against these things, his words elicited deep emotional and physical response. People would shout or say Amen or Preach it, Brother Hyles. People would stream down the aisles to confess their sin, their disobedience to God. The Sword of Lord would report the “number” of people who came forward. (The IFB follows a corporate model, dominated by numbers.) If you want to see how the numbers racket works, read Bob Gray of Texas’s blog. A Hyles disciple, trained at Hyles-Anderson College, he knows exactly how many souls have been saved under his ministry. He is the ultimate IFB bean-counter.
When preaching at a conference, Hyles would often have an afternoon Question and Answer time for preachers. Young, aspiring preachers, along with old struggling preachers, could ask Hyles questions about building a great church. I can’t tell you the number of times I saw Hyles eviscerate a preacher because he asked the wrong question. One time, a young preacher asked a question about how to choose a good youth director — not that Hyles would know since his son, serial adulterer, David Hyles was the youth director at First Baptist. Hyles asked the young man how big his church was and after the young preacher told him, Hyles belittled him and accused him of being lazy. The young preacher should have felt humiliated, but he more likely felt that “God” was speaking to him through Brother Hyles. Hyles, like many top shelf IFB preachers, could be a bully.
Hyles liked to give off an air of invincibility. His illustrations made him seem like a man who could charge into the flames of hell and come out without one hair singed on his head. He told illustrations such as:
There were two men playing tennis and at the end of the game, the loser graciously shook the hand of the winner.
Bro. Hyles, how do you handle losing (code for failure)?
Hyles would thunder, I don’t know, I’ve never lost.
And then he would preach forcefully and loudly about not being a loser, a quitter.
When you take all these things together, it is easy to see why Jack Hyles was, and still is, worshiped. Some consider him the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul. I understand how people become mesmerized by the Hyles mystique. However, when a person puts some distance between himself and the IFB church moment, he starts to see that the movement is a man-centered, man-worshiping religion. Are their good, decent people in IFB churches? Sure. For whatever reason, they cannot or will not take off their blinders so they can see things as they really are. IFB-preachers-turned-atheists such as myself have little influence over them because they see us as traitors and God haters.
I wonder what it will take to finally bring the IFB house crashing to the ground? Evidently, sexual scandal won’t do it. Maybe it is too much to ask for. After all, the Roman Catholic Church has pedophiles running amok, yet faithful Catholics still show up for mass and give their money to the church. It seems that we as humans quite easily ignore what is right in front of us.
Shrine built after Jack Hyles died, as always bigger than life.
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 was 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 as Ken Ham does. Since none of us was 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 that 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 more than 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 from 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’ 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 such as 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?
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.
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 Lordheld 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 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. 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.
Midwestern held a soulwinning contest while I was studied 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 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 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. As with the college, its facilities are up for sale.
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 IFB pastors 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 minds, 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 people prayed that prayer, they were considered born-again Christians. 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 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 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 soulwinners were told to stay on point, reiterating the points in the soulwinning plan. If the sinner asked 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 that which took place at Hyles’ 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.
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 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 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 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 its members 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 a pedophile in their midst is ignored , as was the case with Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. (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
In 1973, the church 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.
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 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 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 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:
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.
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 saved people 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.
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.
An IFB church is not known for their name but for who its pastor is. IFB church members routinely say, when asked about what church they attend, I go to Pastor So-and So’s church.
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 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.
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 their 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…