Devil in the Baptist Church: Bob Gray’s Unholy Trinity By Tim Gilmore JaxbyJax Literary Arts, 2016, 333 pp.
Four decades ago, the “Sword of the Lord” bi-weekly newspaper was the standard of the independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement and I was a loyal subscriber. Transcripts of Pastor Bob Gray’s sermons were regularly featured in the Sword along with a photo of Gray and his distinctive, black-rimmed glasses. Gray took over pastorship of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida in 1954. Trinity eventually became the first mega-church in Florida and one of the largest churches in America with a membership of approximately 6000. The fiery Gray was considered one of the preeminent leaders of the IFB.
But rumors began spreading of Gray’s sexual abuse of children at Trinity. In the early-1980s, Gray was secretly sent to the Narramore Christian Foundation in Arcadia, California for counseling. He returned back to Trinity and the abuse continued. In 1992, Gray was allowed to…or rather encouraged to resign the pastorate and take the role of Trinity’s missionary to faraway Germany. Thirteen years later, in 2005, Gray returned to the United States, but was arrested the following year on charges of sexual abuse of multiple children. Eighty-one-year-old Bob Gray died in jail in November 2007 while awaiting trial.
Former Trinity member, Tim Gilmore, wrote this self-published exposé. To say the book is amateurishly written and that Gilmore has an ax to grind against Christianity would be understatements, however the information is important. The IFB culture of pastoral authoritarianism and arrogance, and the total lack of any pastoral oversight afforded a creep like Gray to run roughshod for almost forty years. The church’s “leadership” was complicit in Gray’s crimes by attempting to silence the victims, whisking Gray away to Germany in order to diffuse the escalating controversy, and denying his culpability even at the side of his grave. Read the glowing tributes to Gray in his 2007 obituary here.
Christians tend to want to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to these types of “improprieties,” which helps to enable and to perpetuate the abuse. Church leaders sought to “deal” with scandal “internally,” rather than contact civil authorities, which they thought would bring ignominy to the cause of Christ. The leadership at Trinity coddled the predator and threw his young victims under the bus.
While today’s Sword of the Lord regularly features sermons from IFB pastors of yesteryear, it understandably does not publish sermons from Bob Gray. There is no honest transparency at the Sword of the Lord in regards to preachers who were once put on pedestals, but fell (Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, Truman Dollar, Gray). They just disappear with no comment.
My old blogging routine was to post articles Monday thru Saturday, but when I returned back to work in early-January I cut back to only four days per week. A recent cold meant A LOT of couch duty and time to ruminate and write some extra posts. So, in order to relieve the “glut,” I’ve decided to publish today and Friday.
I was a Roman Catholic for my first twenty-seven years, until 1983 when I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. The Lord then put it in my heart to earnestly study my former religion and the many incompatible, irreconcilable doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity. Over the past five-and-a-half years of blogging, I’ve published many posts examining those differences. The prime difference between Catholicism and Gospel Christianity is in regards to how a person is saved. The Catholic church teaches that salvation is obtained by participating in its sacraments, whereby graces are allegedly received, supposedly enabling the Catholic to better obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!), in order to hopefully merit eternal life at the moment of death. Gospel Christians believe in salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The theologies are diametrically opposed and cannot be reconciled. One is right and one is wrong. They cannot both be right.
One of the most disturbing things I’ve seen over the past thirty-eight years is how Gospel Christians have increasingly embraced my former religion, the false Roman Catholic church, as a Christian entity. Sixty-years ago, evangelicals rightly knew that the Roman church taught a false gospel. Since then, accommodators and compromisers within have chipped away at theological discernment. A consensus emerged and grew that proclaimed that, although the RCC had some quirky, un-Biblical beliefs, they got the basic Gospel right because they also talk about Jesus, “grace,” and “faith.” The rising tide of secularism motivated many undiscerning believers to dismiss doctrinal distinctives and to embrace Roman Catholics as “brothers in Christ” in an effort to present a semi-united “Christian” front in the culture/morality wars. Some evangelicals were also attracted to Catholic “intellectualism” and the false church’s ornate ritualism and ceremony.
These days, it appears* that the majority of those who identify as “evangelical” embrace “practicing” Roman Catholics as fellow-Christians. The consensus is that those who do not support ecumenism with Rome are akin to embarrassing, repugnant, anti-intellectual, backwoods, bigoted, unsophisticated, hillbilly fundamentalists of a bygone era. But Rome has not changed any of its major doctrines since 1960 and Catholics unabashedly admit that their church teaches salvation by (sacramental) grace and works. So what is the problem? Why did evangelicals cave when it came to Roman Catholicism, but still resolutely (at least for now) reject the Latter Day Saints and the Watchtower Society as false churches? Accommodating evangelical apologists (e.g., Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Josh McDowell, etc.) readily admit that Roman Catholicism teaches a heterodox view of justification, but still dichotomously embrace it as a Christian entity. For ecumenical evangelicals, it is easier on their psyche to hold to a totally incongruous view (i.e., works-righteousness Catholicism is Christian) rather than swim against the tide and be thought of as an anti-Catholic fundamentalist.
In summary, a general consensus developed within evangelicalism over the past sixty years that says that Roman Catholicism teaches the genuine Gospel or something “close enough” EVEN DESPITE the RCC’s own unapologetic testimony to the contrary and despite evangelical theologians’ and apologists’ acknowledgement that Rome’s version of justification (baptismal regeneration, works righteousness) is heterodox and does not lead to salvation.
Because I point out that Rome teaches a false gospel, many evangelicals who visit my blog are embarrassed by my content, which doesn’t agree with the popular consensus/paradigm. In their eyes, I am a bigoted, anti-Catholic fundamentalist. They have been conditioned to be repulsed by those who say anything critical of Roman Catholicism. Warning Catholics and Christians of Rome’s false gospel is now viewed as distasteful and something akin to forcing people to sit at the back of the bus.
“If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.” – Council of Trent, Canon 14
“None of us can say…I am already saved.” – pope Francis, December 11, 2015
I’ve published several posts over the years that referred to “The Sword of the Lord.” The bi-weekly newspaper was once an important resource for a large faction of the independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement here in the United States. The Sword of the Lord was first published on September 28, 1934 by evangelist John R. Rice, who edited the paper until his death on December 29, 1980.
The first Gospel-preaching church my wife attended after we were saved in 1983 was an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church that offered complimentary copies of the Sword on its information table. I subsequently subscribed to the Sword and enjoyed the sermons, editorials, columns, and news bites. The Sword heavily promoted Christian nationalism, a VERY popular viewpoint within the IFB movement and conservative evangelicalism, then and now.
We gradually became exasperated with the teaching at our IFB church and finally left in 1991. The legalistic harangues from the pulpit were beyond burdensome. I had also let my subscription to the Sword run out several years previously for the same reason.
This past summer, I wrote several posts about the IFB that rekindled my “arms length” interest in the movement (although I could never again attend an IFB church). I even resubscribed to the Sword of the Lord. I enjoy most of the contents, although I consume editor Shelton Smith’s columns and news bites propagating Christian nationalism with a very large grain of salt. The principle of “chewing on the meat and spitting out the bones” applies each time I read the Sword.
On page 10 of the October 2, 2020 issue of the Sword I noticed the annual circulation statement that’s found in all periodicals. The statement said there were currently 41,774 subscribers to the paper. Hmm. Interesting.
The biography, “John R. Rice: Man Sent from God” (1981), featured a table on pp. 130-131 showing the circulation of the Sword peaking in 1974 with 288,184 subscribers. There’s now only 42K subscribers? Wow! That’s quite a decline. That’s an indicator not only of the growing unpopularity of print media, but also an indicator of the decline of the IFB.
As I was writing this post, I asked myself if I would rather attend an IFB church where the Gospel is clear, but members must contend with the legalistic harangues and shamings from the pulpit or attend a hipster, seeker-sensitive mega-church, like the one we attended from 2015 to 2019, where the Gospel is shrouded by the laser light shows and amplifiers? Ach. That’s an impossible choice, like asking yourself which poison you would prefer.
New Neutralism II: Exposing the Gray of Compromise By John E. Ashbrook Here I Stand Books, Second Printing, 2002, 110 pp.
I’ve recently reviewed a couple of excellent books about the sad history of evangelicalism’s slow and steady journey towards compromise and accommodation with Roman Catholicism and other errors. See my review of “Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism” by Rolland D. McCune here and my review of “We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics” by Neil J. Young here.
Fundamentalist pastor, John E. Ashbrook (d. 2011), expanded upon the themes of the 1958 booklet, “The New Neutralism,” written by his pastor father, William Ashbrook, to produce this short book, which was first published in 1992. By “neutralism,” the author is referring to compromise with error and religious unbelief. As with “Promise Unfulfilled,” Ashbrook examines the rise of “New Evangelicalism” and its wayward journey. New Evangelicalism was the brainchild of Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry, and Billy Graham. They determinedly broke from fundamentalist separatism in the late 1940s and plotted a course that would be more accommodating in relationship to modernists and Catholics. The initial idea was that “dialogue” would win more souls than confrontation, but, as might be predicted, accommodation with error gradually turned into acquiescence to error.
Ashbrook names many names and doesn’t pull his punches. His tone is angry, strident, and sometimes even sarcastic as befits a fundamentalist pastor with an ax to grind, but it’s hard to argue with much of what he’s written here. One need only turn on TBN to see the heterodox bitter fruit of Ockenga, Henry, and Graham’s “New Evangelicalism” vision.
Why the New Neutralism?
Separatism, Acceptance, and the Social Gospel
The NAE, the WEF, and Camels
Fuller Seminary – Exhibit A
Billy Graham – The Mouthpiece of New Evangelicalism
Billy Graham’s Catholic Connection
Mr. Revolutionary (Bill Bright) and Campus Crusade
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.
By Dr. Jeff Farnham
Sword of the Lord Publishers, 2019, 139 pp.
I saw this short book advertised in “The Sword of the Lord” recently and thought it might be interesting to read independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) pastor, Dr.* Jeff Farnham’s (formerly of LaGrange Baptist Church, LaGrange, Indiana) views on IFB churches that he contends have compromised their status from being fundamentalist to “fundamental-ish,” i.e., still teaching the fundamentals of the faith, but compromising on important secondaries.
In his opening section, Farnham rebuts the appeal to “Christian liberty” as an excuse to compromise fundamentalist principles. He argues that wise and mature fundamentalists must continue to uphold their convictions even more strongly so as not to be stumbling blocks to the weaker, less mature brethren.
Farnham then gets into the meat of the book; the specific areas where he believes compromising fundamentalists have become fundamental-ish:
Worship Music – Farnham is distressed that some compromising IFB pastors are incorporating Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and drums into their worship music. Farnham notes that CCM music employs “a syncopated thumping that accents the off-beat and diminishes the downbeat and creates agitation.” He judges all such music to be “spiritually oppressing and sensually provocative” (p.61). Farnham notes that IFB pastors in the past commonly referred to such music as “jungle music,” and while he acknowledges that many would find that term to be “racially insensitive,” he believes it is accurate.
Attire – Farnham judges that compromising IFB churches are allowing and encouraging people to wear inappropriate clothing. Amidst some other, superfluous examples, the PRIMARY issue for Farnham boils down to whether women should be able to wear pants. Farnham doesn’t believe so, citing Deuteronomy 22:5. He attempts to rebut all opposing rationale.
Education, Entertainment, Employment – Farnham contends that fundamental-ish compromisers allow their children to be educated at godless public schools and that they prioritize worldly entertainment and employment (working on Sundays) over God, church, and an obedient Christian lifestyle.
Church Names – Farnham bemoans the fact that some IFB churches have removed “Baptist” and/or “Church” from their names, opting instead for such compromised, culture-pleasing titles as “The Potter’s House” or “Messiah Fellowship.”
As Christians, we all have beliefs and opinions regarding these secondary issues. The IFB movement no doubt represents the most conservative of viewpoints. I attended an IFB church from 1983 to 1991 and the focus and constant brow-beating over the “dos and don’ts” is a bitter memory. The IFB is no doubt in steep decline compared to those days and this book testifies to the increasing squabbling and infighting as the movement struggles to survive and an ever-growing number of IFB pastors fail to “hold the line.” Some readers of this review may be surprised that pants and short hair on women are still issues. Yup, they are in the IFB. Farnham doesn’t mention it in this book, but another disturbing characteristic of IFB churches is their idolatrous propagation of American Christian nationalism. Whether IFB pastors like it or not, the term, “fundamentalist,” is resoundingly understood as a pejorative by the general public these days. The movement’s prideful loyalty to that other-era term is a stumbling block to the Gospel it professes to desire to sow.
Farnham has a few good points. As Christians we can rationalize and become too chummy with the world. But the IFB’s extremism and “majoring on the minors” breeds a “bunker mentality” that pits the Christian against the world rather than fostering an emissarial approach to the world.
Recommended only for those curious about the current state of the IFB movement.
*IFB pastors stereotypically love to append their honorary doctorate titles to their names.
Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism
By Rolland D. McCune
Ambassador International, 2004, 398 pp.
At the onset of the 20th-century, the old, mainline Protestant denominations were drifting into Bible-denying, theological liberalism. In reaction to the growing apostasy, Bible-believing theologians and pastors produced “The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth,” a series of ninety essays, published between 1910 and 1915, that affirmed the five fundamentals of the Christian faith that were being attacked by theological liberals and modernists, those being:
The inerrancy of the Bible.
The literal nature of the biblical accounts, especially regarding Jesus Christ’s miracles and the creation account in Genesis.
The virgin birth of Christ.
The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ.
The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.
Understood to be included along with the five fundamentals was the Biblical mandate of ecclesiastical separation from churches and denominations that denied the basics of the Christian faith. Theologically-orthodox Christians* rallied around “The Fundamentals” and the movement gained momentum and advanced the genuine Gospel message throughout the United States and the world.
However, in the late-1940s, some fundamentalist theologians and pastors began to bridle against the separation principle. Their thinking was that fundamentalism had become fanatically insular and partisan and that they needed to be more accommodating with the unbelieving world. The founders of this self-dubbed Neo (or New) Evangelicalism, Carl Henry and Harold Ockenga, enlisted evangelist, Billy Graham,** as the public face of the movement and also established Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California as its intellectual/academic base. Edward John Carnell oversaw the early years of Fuller. In contrast to fundamentalists, who had openly disparaged academia and intellectualism, the Neo-Evangelicals craved academic respectability.
Neo-Evangelicals and fundamentalists were initially uneasy allies, but Graham famously broke with fundamentalism completely when he cooperated with Bible-denying, liberal clergymen in the organization of his four-month-long, 1957 New York City crusade. Graham defended himself saying, “I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the gospel of Christ.” However, fraternity and dialogue with apostasy is a two-way street and Neo-Evangelicalism gradually strayed from foundational Biblical principles and found itself enmeshed in debates over Scriptural inerrancy and the other basic tenets of Christian orthodoxy. Former restraints were gone, leading to the following:
Billy Graham blazed ecumenical trails with Roman Catholicism. Ernest Pickering accurately wrote in 1994, “Much of the current theological confusion with regard to the Roman Catholic Church can be laid at the feet of one man; Billy Graham.”
Pentecostal/charismatic beliefs and practices rapidly spread throughout evangelicalism. Pentecostalism got its start in 1901 at Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas.
The divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible have been increasingly contested. These days, Bible-believing students at apostate Fuller Theological Seminary must constantly parry attacks against their faith by the faculty.
Secular marketing methods have replaced traditional church.
Most evangelical Protestant churches have cut ties with the church history, avoiding any mention of the Reformation or the Five Solas.
Baptist fundamentalist scholar, Rolland McCune (1934-2019), does an excellent job of tracing the rise and decline of Neo-Evangelicalism. The first half of the book is devoted to the history of the movement, which I found most interesting. The second half focuses on the theological disintegration of Neo-Evangelicalism, which was challenging reading for this layperson, but not impossible. I’d been hoping to find an American counterpart to Iain Murray’s excellent “Evangelicalism Divided” (see my review here), and this book comes close.
*The Fundamentalist movement was comprised largely of Arminian-leaning conservative Baptists and Wesleyans. Mainline Presbyterianism had also begun drifting into liberalism in the 1910s and 1920s, just like the Arminian mainline denominations. In response, J. Gresham Machen and others founded the breakaway Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Firebrand pastor, Carl McIntire, was also a leader of the fundamentalist movement within Reformed churches. It’s interesting that both Baptist and Presbyterian fundamentalists revered the previous interdenominational leadership of D.L. Moody (1837-1899). As Neo-Evangelicalism has generally devolved into varying degrees of heterodoxy, the Baptist fundamentalism represented by McCune has declined steeply in numbers and influence.
**Billy Graham began his evangelistic career as a Baptist fundamentalist under the mentorship of John R. Rice and William Bell Riley.
Postscript: My wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist church from 1983 until 1991 after we were first saved. I enjoyed several aspects of the experience, but the pastor exemplified some of the stereotypical negative characteristics of IFB preachers including arrogance, pridefulness, leadership via coercion, majoring on the minors, conflating faith and nationalism, and an emphasis on guilt rather than on God’s grace. McCune understandably does not mention any of the problems within Baptist fundamentalism.
p.s. If you don’t think “evangelicalism” is in major trouble these days, just sit down on your couch and watch a day’s worth of TBN.
Part 1: Historical Antecedents
The Rise of Theological Liberalism
The Great Controversy
Part 2: The Formation of the New Evangelicalism
Four Crucial Issues
Part 3: Ecumenism
Ecumenical Church Councils
Ecumenical Accolades and Ecumenical Journalism
The Charismatic Movement
Part 4: Ecclesiastical Separation
The Rationale of Evangelical Non-Separatism
The Biblical Idea of Ecclesiastical Separation
Part 5: The Bible and Authority
Biblical Inspiration and Inerrancy
Further Issues, Events, and Publications Related to Inerrancy
The Aftermath of “The Battle For the Bible”
Part 6: Apologetics
The Development of New Evangelical Apologetics
An Analysis of New Evangelical Apologetics
Part 7: Social Involvement
New Evangelical Social Activism
The Biblical Idea of Social Action
Part 8: Doctrinal Storms
The Status of the Unevangelized
The Destiny of the Finally Impenitent
The Open View of God
Part 9: Conclusion
Evaluation and Prospects
Addendum 1: Review: The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World
Addendum 2: Major Events in the New Evangelical Movement: 1942-2003
Profaned Pulpit: The Jack Schaap Story
By Jerry P. Kaifetz, Ph.D.
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012, 192 pp.
Argh! How many times do I need to buy a self-published book before I wise up?
Recently, I’ve been delving into some of the history of the independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement and have posted some critical articles on former IFB leaders, John R. Rice (see here) and Jack Hyles (see here).
I stumbled upon the Kindle edition of this book about another IFB celebrity pastor, Jack Schaap (pronounced “skop,” rhymes with “pop”), a few years ago and finally got around to reading it.
Jack Schaap was a student at Hyles-Anderson College and after graduation became a teacher there of sermon homiletics. Schaap caught the eye of Cindy Hyles, Jack Hyles’ daughter, and the two married, an important career move for Schaap. Jack Hyles was both pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana (FBCH) and founder and chancellor of Hyles-Anderson. After Hyles died in 2001, Schaap succeeded him as pastor of FBCH, which boasted of a weekly attendance of 15,000 and a membership of 50,000, making it the largest IFB church in the country.
Schaap took homiletics into new territory, even by IFB standards, with his screaming and bullying from the pulpit. The arrogance was palpable. Members of FBCH cowered in fear of their pastor. How stunned they all must have been when the 55-year-old Schaap was arrested in 2012 for transporting a 16-year-old girl he was “counseling” across state lines for the purpose of having sexual relations. In March 2013, Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. In hindsight, Schaap had time and time again interwoven God-dishonoring, perverted sexual themes into his sermons (see here) and into his books (see here), but nobody spoke up. The FBCH deacon board had been cowed into submission by autocratic Jack Hyles decades prior and were nothing more than ceremonial “yes men” and bobble heads.
FBCH continues on under the pastoral leadership of John Wilkerson. Were lessons learned after the Hyles and Schaap scandals? I imagine many members and attendees of FBCH dropped away. What became of them? Did they look for a solid church or did they allow pastoral malfeasance and scandal to draw them away from the Lord and shipwreck their faith? Been there, done that.
Author Kaifetz was a student at Hyles-Anderson in the early and mid-1980s and had associations with both Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap. When evidence of Hyles’ extramarital affair began surfacing in the late-1980s, Kaifetz initially defended the pastor (he began the “100% for Hyles” counter-scandal campaign), but he left FBCH in 1989 when the proof had become undeniable.
Kaifetz boasts that after learning about Schaap’s arrest in 2012, he sat down at his PC and banged out this book in only five days. I’m surprised it took him that long. Structurally, it’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Kaifetz does share a few memories of his personal encounters with Hyles and Schaap, but most of the information that’s presented can be gleaned off of the internet. This book is deceptively mis-titled. There’s actually very little information about Jack Schaap. Mostly, it’s just Kaifetz’s meandering criticisms of the IFB in general. IFB pastors are arrogant. Yup. There’s very little humbleness in IFB preaching. Yup, I get it. Save yourself the money, time, and effort and avoid “Profaned Pulpit.”
The bottom line of this post is to pray for your pastor and encourage him in his ministry.
Today, we continue our series on the (very) inaptly named “Christian Hall of Fame” located at Canton Baptist Temple in Canton, Ohio, as we review inductees 55 through 81. See the links far below for the first three posts in the series.
The names below are hyperlinked to their respective Wiki articles (in cases where a Wiki article was not available, a substitute is presented).
Jeremiah McAuley (1839-1884) – Ireland-US – Founder of America’s first rescue mission, Water Street Mission in Lower Manhattan.
Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) – Florence, Italy – Dominican Friar famous for opposing the corruption of the papacy of Alexander VI aka Rodrigo de Borja. Some evangelicals cite Savonarola as a “pre-reformer,” but the friar was a defender of Catholic sacramentalism and certainly did not preach the Gospel of grace.
Tomorrow, we’ll complete this series with a review of inductees 82 through 108.
This entire series can be accessed via the links below:
The Hyles Effect: A Spreading Blight
By David Cloud
Way of Life Literature, 2012, 157 pp.
Caution: Sensitive readers may be offended by some of the information below.
I attended an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church for eight years (1983-1991) after I was saved. While IFB churches were independent in principle, there were loose alliances based upon leadership and secondary beliefs. Our church loosely identified with the “Sword of the Lord” and Baptist Bible Fellowship networks. On the information table of our IFB church was always a stack of the latest issue of the “Sword of the Lord” newspaper, which was founded by evangelist, John R. Rice, and edited by his successor, Curtis Hutson, by the time I subscribed to it. A large percentage of the IFB churches followed the leadership of “The Sword.” In the pages of the bi-weekly newspaper one could find sermons and articles from notable pastors such as Lester Roloff, Lee Roberson, Bob Gray, Hyman Appelman, Tom Malone, Truman Dollar, and Hugh Pyle. These were all influential pastors with big churches, but perhaps the biggest star* of the “Sword” IFB camp was Jack Hyles, who pastored First Baptist Church (FBC) of Hammond, Indiana (24 miles from Chicago city center).
Jack Hyles (1926-2001) took over the pastorate of FBC Hammond in 1959 and built it up into the largest church in America with weekly attendance averaging around 15,000.** Yup, 15,000! Hyles was widely admired, but also had his critics. In this book, IFB gadfly, David Cloud, examines the controversial 42-year tenure of Hyles at FBC Hammond.
Hyles built his attendance through his revolutionary bus ministry. 1000 workers in 230 buses ferried thousands from Greater Chicago to services in Hammond every Sunday. Numbers predictably became king. Contests were held with prizes for members who brought the most visitors. Reported conversion numbers, based upon responses to the invitation/”sinners prayer,” were spectacular if mostly only short-lived. Cloud blames Hyles for popularizing shallow, “quick prayerism” conversions as the standard throughout the IFB. It became all about numbers, numbers, numbers. In 1972, Hyles founded Hyles-Anderson College to train future pastors in his methods. Every young IFB pastor’s dream was to become the next Jack Hyles.
As potentate of a large and growing church empire, Hyles became increasingly authoritarian. Absolute loyalty was demanded of his deacon board and his membership. When visiting pastors came to FBC Hammond, Hyles would occasionally entertain them by selecting a deacon and having the person sit and stand at his command to demonstrate their unhesitating fealty. Hyles once ordered associate pastor, Johnny Colsten, to drink from a bottle labeled as poisonous after the deadly contents had been replaced with a harmless substitute. Hyles began many of his sermons by quoting a few Bible verses and then instructing the congregation to “close your Bibles and listen to me.” The membership loved Jack Hyles, but also greatly feared him. Hyles attacked noncompliant members from the pulpit.
In this climate of authoritarian control, Hyles succumbed to temptation. Hyles became romantically involved with one of the church’s secretaries; the wife of his best friend and FBC Hammond deacon, Vic Nischik. The deacon knew of the relationship, but reluctantly acquiesced to it for over a decade because of Hyle’s absolute control. Incredulous? Remember, David Koresh and Jim Jones also took control of their followers’ wives. When the relationship became public in the late 1980s, Hyles, of course, denied it. A “100% For Hyles” counter-scandal campaign was launched within the church. However, a decade after Hyles’ death, one of his daughters, Linda Hyles Murphrey, publicly corroborated the allegations. During Hyles’ tenure, his son, David, had been promoted to head of FBC Hammond’s youth ministry, but after several adulterous relationships were exposed, he was whisked away to Hyles’ former church in Texas where he continued his behaviors until his expulsion. Hyles’ son-in-law, Jack Schaap, became pastor of FBC Hammond after Hyles’ death in 2001. Schaap mimicked Hyles’ authoritarian style, directing his wrath from the pulpit at anyone in the congregation who was not giving him their 100% undivided loyalty. Schaap’s tenure came to an end in 2012 after the fifty-five-year-old was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old female member of the congregation. There are a few extant videos on YouTube of Schaap’s absolutely unacceptable behavior behind the pulpit prior to his arrest (e.g., see here), but the members of FBC Hammond had been conditioned decades ago by Hyles to NEVER question anything about their pastor’s conduct.
This book is not a breezy read at the beach. Some would criticize author Cloud for throwing stones at “God’s anointed,” but all churches should be above-board and transparent, which FBC Hammond definitely wasn’t. Secrecy is the enemy of godly ministry. Many IFB churches, like FBC Hammond, were cultish because of leadership idolatry and unquestioned fealty to the pastor. The pastor of the IFB church we attended back in the 1980s was also a megalomaniac who controlled the congregation through intimidation and fear.*** His son succeeded him as pastor in 2011 and brought the church down two years ago when he was charged with sexually abusing four young women and was subsequently convicted on one count as part of a plea deal.
The IFB movement has definitely declined since its heyday back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. IFB missionary, David Cloud, who wrote this stinging examination, has carved out a following with his hard-hitting, controversial literature, but I would be hard pressed to name another IFB pastor besides him and extremist, Steven Anderson. I wouldn’t recommend Anderson and his hateful venom to anybody. It comes as no surprise that Anderson attended Hyles-Anderson College for several years.
*Jerry Falwell would eventually eclipse Hyles as the most famous of the “Sword”-affiliated IFB pastors.
**FBC Hammond claimed a membership of 50,000, although “only” 15,000 people attended each week.
***After my 8-year experience in an IFB church, I walked away from the Lord for 23-years. I have heard and read the testimonies of other believers who had attended IFB churches in the past who similarly felt that they had been steamrolled.