Jack Hyles: The Fundamental Man

Jack Frasure Hyles: The Fundamental Man
By Cindy Hyles Schaap
Hyles Publications, 1998, 528 pp.

Having started out at an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church as a new Christian back in the early-1980s, I have a continuing interest in the movement and its history.

Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001) was one of the biggest names in the IFB back when I was a new believer, with his First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana (23 miles from Chicago) being one of the largest churches in the nation at the time (15,000 weekly attendance). Hyles became a widely sought-after speaker and IFB pastors across the nation studied and emulated his methods. Hyles was the face of the IFB in the 1980s and 90s.

Cindy Hyles Schaap (photo left) wrote this adulatory tribute to her father three years before his death with Hyles’ full cooperation. God’s Word certainly exhorts us to honor our pastors, but this very handsomely-bound, 538-page, coffee-table book exemplifies the kind of leadership idolatry that’s prevalent within the IFB. Jack Hyles gets 95% of the glory in this book and Jesus Christ gets the scraps. I can imagine the apostle Paul’s reaction if someone tried to memorialize him in a similar fashion.

This lengthy biography presents an incredible amount of the detail from Hyles’ life, from his birth in Italy, Texas, to pastoring several small churches, to his break with the Southern Baptist Convention and his affiliation with John R. Rice and the IFB camp, to moving to Hammond and growing the largest church in America. As one might expect from a biography written by his daughter, this book is unabashedly hagiographical. Hyles most assuredly accomplished much good for the Lord as pastor of FBCH for 42 years, but there were also serious problems:

  • Hyles perpetuated and further popularized a preaching and pastoral style that was marked by arrogance, authoritarianism, intimidation, and bullying. Hyles was an absolute dictator at FBCH. There were very cultish aspects to Hyles’ pastorate at FBCH.
  • Hyles’ crusade to have the largest church in America turned conversions and baptisms into a numbers contest. Disingenuity and numbers-padding abounded.
  • Hyles promoted the popular and misguided notion of America as a Christian nation. His self-professed focus toward the end of his life was to “save America.”
  • Hyles’ arrogance and authoritarianism engendered an attitude of recklessness and entitlement. Scandal caught up with Jack Hyles in 1989, which Cindy Schaap refers to only briefly and without detail. She also circumspectly alludes to the scandal that brought down her brother, David Hyles, who had held a leadership position at FBCH. Cindy Schaap’s husband, Jack Schaap, succeeded Jack Hyles as pastor of FBCH in 2001 and emulated his predecessor’s arrogance and authoritarianism, but he was brought down by scandal in 2012, after which Cindy divorced him.

I enjoyed portions of this book despite its “rose colored glasses” perspective. I especially enjoyed the accounts of Hyles’ associations with John R. Rice, G.B. Vick, Lester Roloff, Bob Jones, Sr., and other prominent figures in the history of the IFB movement. Hyles’ history is a history of the IFB.

See my review of a book that took a much more critical view of Hyles here. One of Hyles’ other daughters, Linda Hyles Murphrey, presented a totally different view of Jack Hyles in this video.

I would recommend this idealized biography only for its revelations with regards to IFB history.

21 thoughts on “Jack Hyles: The Fundamental Man

    1. Thanks, David! Hyles was definitely THE MAN back in IFB circles forty years ago. The sad thing is much of his energy went into acquiring and sustaining his position as THE MAN. All believers must battle with pride, but in the IFB it was almost as if pastors were encouraged to be megalomaniacs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your comments. Yes, it was disturbing reading Cindy Schaap’s loving remarks about her husband in this book, knowing their marriage would be destroyed fourteen years later. The exaltation of these IFB pastors bred arrogance and a sense of entitlement.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow I see our post are related to mine but of course with different emphasis, AKA good and bad leadership. Going to have to read this in a bit. Just prayed a quick one right now for your wife’s health

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, the people in IFB churches are regularly brow beaten by their pastors. They think that’s normal. Of course I’m speaking in generalities. Not every IFB pastor is a screamer.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A met a beautiful sister in Christ in Seminary. I call her my baby sister. Maggie has 8 brothers and sisters. 7 of them went to Bob Jones and 6 of the transferred. No one from BJU contacted Maggie or her family to find out why 6 of them left/transferred. The one sister who graduated from BJU has very little contact with the family. What they went through was heartbreaking. There is strict and then their is beating people into conformity. I don’t know what is worse RCC or IFB both twist the Gospel and put sanctions on people that man was not meant to carry. Jim, I agree I am also glad I’m not IFB after what I learned from Maggie and from the host/missionary family I stayed with in Sierra Leone.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thanks for your comments, Mandy.

        RE: beating people into conformity.

        The IFB church we attended for eight years would be considered moderate compared to Bob Jones U., but the favored methods of motivating people were also guilt, shame, and humiliation. God’s grace was rarely spoken of. The genuine Gospel was preached, but there was little joy in the Lord after that. I finally snapped and walked away from the Lord for 23 years, but finally returned to Him 6 years ago. There’s a bit of a PTSD thing going on and my periodic posts about the IFB are therapeutic.
        I’m sorry your friend and her family went through the IFB ringer and are still dealing with the aftermath. I totally understand.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Wow something tells me I was spared a lot from IFB and cultural fundamentalism (I make distinction between theological fundamentalist versus cultural fundamentalists). Thanks for sharing that Mandy

        Liked by 2 people

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