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