I did not belong to an Independent Baptist Fellowship nor did I ever pastor an Independent Baptist Church; yet I was at heart an independent Baptist preacher for the first twelve years of my ministry from 1956 to 1968.
During those years I devoured John R. Rice’s weekly paper, The Sword of the Lord, and gave gift subscriptions to as many homes as possible in those early years of my ministry. Its primary emphasis was three-fold: 1. proclaiming the Gospel, 2. encouraging Christians to share the Gospel with others and 3. warning against false doctrine and identifying false teachers and movements.
I had first been introduced to The Sword in the ministerial class at Bob Jones University from 1952-56. During that time I often heard Dr. John R. Rice speak to us and I was moved by his genuine love for Christ and for winning lost souls to Christ. I never saw him preach without tears.
After John R. Rice died the Sword was led by others who espoused the “King James Only” heresy, a heresy John R. Rice warned against. You can read more on this in my King James Only post in my Separation series.
One of the leading soul winning Baptist pastors associated with The Sword was Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana.
He wrote a weekly column in the Sword entitled “Let’s Go Soul Winning”.
In that column he told of the many people he had led to Christ each week, giving us his instructions as to how to do it.
Jack Hyles also hosted an annual Pastor’s School in his church. About 1967 or 68, my wife and I attended one of his week-long Pastor’s School in Hammond. I had my classes with Pastor Hyles and his staff. My wife had her classes with Mrs. Hyles and with ladies on the church staff. There we learned his psychological methods of giving an invitation and of winning souls to Christ. I would never dare to judge him nor any other Bible preaching preacher as to his effectiveness. That is for God alone to judge. All I know is that as we drove home from that Pastor’s School, my wife and I shared with each other our impressions of the School. Both of us were very uneasy as to how the entire church elevated him to an almost god-like status. We agreed that Hyles was not a man I wanted to emulate.
Several years later rumors were flying in Christian circles that Jack Hyles had gotten sexually involved with a woman in the church. That rumor persisted to his death.
For the last number of years, First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana has been pastored by Jack Schaap, Jack Hyle’s son-in-law. Just today, August 1st, 2012, I was saddened to learn on the Hammond, Indiana television news that this son-in-law is now involved in a moral’s issue. I know none of the details, nor am I interested in knowing. My heart grieves again that another servant of God has fallen.
What lesson do I learn from all of this? The importance of Elder Rule in a church, rather than the sole rule of a pastor. Paul’s Epistle to Titus teaches this truth. When a pastor rules without accountability to Elders, power can go to his head leading to great damage to the church. I thank God for the Elders of Alameda Bible Church here in Albuquerque, New Mexico who helped me lead this church from 1990-2011. Together we sought God’s will in prayer for every major decision, and though I did not always have my way, God’s will was done and our church was blessed. I’m thankful that Pastor Peter Lee, my successor, is presently teaching the importance of Elder rule in his expository series in Titus.