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Jack Trieber, North Valley Baptist Church, Santa Clara, California
“[Pastor and Mrs. Wilkerson] are incredible people ... GREAT MAN of God ... To the members, I want to thank you for walking with God ... We love First Baptist Hammond. ... We believe the greatest days could yet be ahead.”
Clarence Sexton, Temple Baptist Church, Powell, Tennessee
“We are excited about First Baptist Church of Hammond ... I didn’t think [Wilkerson] would leave that GREAT CHURCH that he pastored. ... I’m excited for you and praying for you. I want you to know that you have friends in Knoxville, Tennessee. ... Keep working together for the glory of God. ... May the greatest days for First Baptist Church of Hammond be the days that lie ahead.”
Pastor Warren Johnson, Grace Baptist Church, Flower Mound, Texas
“My how excited we are to watch and see what the Lord is going to do in the months and years that lie ahead. ... Congratulations on this historic Sunday.
Paul Chappell, Lancaster Baptist Church, Lancaster, California
“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. and Mrs. Wilkerson and your family as you begin ministry at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, and I want to congratulate the church, as well. ... I want to encourage you to stand together with your pastor and to strive together for the faith of the gospel. Congratulations.”
Pastor Doug Fisher, Lighthouse Baptist Church, San Diego, California
“I want to congratulate Pastor and Mrs. Wilkerson and First Baptist Church of Hammond for their recent decisions. Many, many people in our country are excited about what God is doing there at First Baptist. ... Congratulations. We look forward to what God is going to do in the future. ... I’m excited. Our church is very excited.”
Pastor Ezequiel Salazar, Montecito Baptist Church, Montecito, California
“I’m thrilled for the First Baptist Church of Hammond. ... I really believe the best days for First Baptist are ahead.”
R.B. Ouellette, First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Michigan
“Congratulations Brother Wilkerson. When I heard that God had called you to First Baptist Church of Hammond, I was thrilled. Every day I pray at the same time I used to pray for Dr. Hyles ... and since I heard you were going there I began to pray for you as well. I’m so glad that you have been entrusted with the leadership of a place that has had so much happen, so many things of historic importance for independent fundamental Baptists.”
Pastor Johnny Pope, Christ Church Baptist Fellowship, Houston, Texas
“We believe that First Baptist Church of Hammond is still one of the GREATEST CHURCHES in the whole wide world and now you have one of the GREATEST PASTORS in the whole wide world. ... First Baptist is blessed to have you [John], but it is win, win. I believe that you are blessed to have First Baptist. .... Have a great Lord’s Day on this welcoming day for Pastor Wilkerson. Yes!!!”
BRINGING CHRIST TO PUBLIC REPROACH
What is glaringly absent from these testimonies is even a hint about the sin that First Baptist Church is guilty of in the sight of the whole world.
The sin is great and cannot be atoned by ignoring it, by the fact that the former ring leaders are either dead or in prison, and by going on as if everything is fine now.
Instead of praising First Baptist of Hammond and standing by it through thick and thin, prominent independent Baptist pastors should produce a video entitled “We Renounce the Sin of First Baptist of Hammond” and publish it on YouTube for all the world to see.
First Baptist of Hammond, which has called itself a great church and has been called great by countless preachers, has brought great reproach upon the name of Christ across the nation, yea, across the world.
Magazines and newspapers and television networks have mocked Christ and the Bible because of the sin of First Baptist of Hammond. It is true that they mock even when they have no excuse, but the Bible very plainly teaches that to give them a real excuse is a great sin before God.
“But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters” (1 Pet. 4:15).
God’s people are to live holy lives “that the word of God be not blasphemed” and so that “he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” (Titus 2:5, 8).
We are to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10).
The pastor is to have “a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7).
God’s prophet rebuked king David because his sin gave “great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2 Sam. 12:14).
WHAT IS THE SIN OF FIRST BAPTIST?
I wrote a large book on this before the fall of Jack Schaap, but I want to remind my readers of the exact nature of the sin of First Baptist of Hammond. This is public sin that has never been confessed or repented of.
And all of the praise and huffing and puffing by influential independent Baptist preachers cannot change the truth of the following Scripture:
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Every church member who did not speak out against these sins, who stayed and continued to support the church, is a partaker of these sins.
Every preacher who has praised First Baptist instead of speaking against its sins is a partaker thereof.
THE SIN OF BOASTING
Pride is no small sin. The Bible says God hates pride. It was the first sin of the devil. For pastors and churches, which are to be examples of humility to this haughty world, to walk in pride is a great sin.
Boasting about Preachers
When I was a student at Tennessee Temple in the 1970s, I was a new Christian in my mid-20s, and not having grown up in “Hyles circles” I was amazed and shocked at the way that prominent preachers were treated. They were called “GREAT men of God” who pastored “GREAT churches.” There were times that the introductions were so glowing that one would think that Jesus Himself was going to be the next preacher!
And none were praised more than Jack Hyles. He was nearly worshipped wherever he went, and by all appearances he loved it. Of the times I heard him speak personally, I never heard him reprove those who were treating him like an ecclesiastical rock star.
Where in the Bible do we find such language as “great man of God”?
If any of the pastors of the early churches should have been called “great” and should have been exalted by the other churches, it would have been the leaders of the church at Jerusalem, the “mother” church. But speaking of these men, Paul said,
“But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me” (Gal. 2:6).
In fact, far from treating Peter like an untouchable ecclesiastical rock star, Paul singled out Peter to rebuke before them all for his hypocrisy, for the simple reason that he was the most influential personality in that situation.
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I SAID UNTO PETER BEFORE THEM ALL, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews” (Galatians 2:11-14).
As for “the great” Paul--and he was truly greater than any 500 of the preachers who are calling one another great today--Peter rather called him “our beloved brother” (2 Pet. 3:15), and Paul called himself “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
As Elihu wisely said: “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away” (Job 32:21-22).
We should have godly respect for authority figures. Godly church leaders should be honored. They are to be “esteemed very highly in love for their work’s sake,” but they should be honored within the bounds of Scripture and not be exalted in a carnal manner, after a worldly fashion, above the example of God’s Word.
This boasting about preachers is a great sin.
Boasting about Churches
First Baptist’s former pastor, Jack Hyles, carried on shouting matches with the congregation, crying out, “Which is the greatest soul-winning church?” with the crowd screaming in reply, “First Baptist Church,” and, “Who is the best-known preacher that stands for soul winning?” with the shouted reply, “Brother Hyles!”
This spasm of boasting would end with, “WE ARE THE GREATEST!”
Hyles boasted, “This is the greatest church in the history of Christianity; we must protect it at all cost; without us, America is gone.”
What cheap, carnal boasting!
Where in Scripture do we find churches called “great”?
The church at Jerusalem was never called “the great church,” nor was the church at Antioch.
When Jesus addressed seven of the early churches, He did not call any of them great. He mentioned good traits and encouraged them in those areas in which they were walking in obedience, but he didn’t go “on and on” in that line. He did not exalt them as “great.” In fact, He did far more reproving than exalting!
The “great” thing appears to be the language of men who puff each other up because they love to be puffed up.
Or it is the language of men who have learned the carnal way of praising and are deceived into thinking that it is right and godly, not being men who test everything carefully by God’s Word.
It is the language of man-centered men, who have their eyes on man and are not walking in the fear of God. No man walking in the fear of God, who knows the plague of his own heart and who knows how unworthy he really is and how terribly far he falls from pleasing God in all things, would allow himself to be called “a great man of God.”
No man, knowing how frail and lacking in true holiness the people of God are in this present world, would allow his congregation to be called “a great church.”
Boasting about Numbers
Speaking of pride, what about the boasting about numbers, which First Baptist has been terribly guilty of?
Jack Hyles was a prominent promoter of the carnal philosophy that big is best. Everything he did was corrupted by this craze for numbers. He had to have the biggest church, the biggest Sunday School, the biggest conferences, and biggest Bible college, the biggest promotions, the largest numbers of salvation professions.
He claimed to have led over 750,000 souls to Christ.
Consider the following announcement by Hyles about a 1993 meeting:
“THE LARGEST GATHERING OF INDEPENDENT, FUNDAMENTAL BAPTISTS IN THE HISTORY OF AMERICA WILL TAKE PLACE THURSDAY EVENING, MARCH 18, 1993. I have reserved the 10,000-seat Amphitheater in Chicago for the closing session of Pastors’ School. I plan to have THE LARGEST INDEPENDENT, FUNDAMENTAL BAPTIST CHOIR IN HISTORY to fill our hearts with music.
I plan to have THE LARGEST BAPTISMAL SERVICE IN THE HISTORY OF INDEPENDENT, FUNDAMENTAL BAPTISTS in America, with five baptistries being used at the same time. Each delegate will receive a picture of this historic gathering and a souvenir with which to remember this amazing service. This is a ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME opportunity--do not miss it! Pastors, do not deprive your people of being present at this great gathering. They will always be able to say, ‘I was there.' THERE HAS BEEN NOTHING LIKE IT IN THE PAST; perhaps there will be nothing like it in the future. Pastors' School begins Monday, March 15, and closes with THIS GIGANTIC, SUPERCOLOSSAL HISTORIC GATHERING on March 18.”
I cannot imagine the apostle Paul making such a silly, braggadocios announcement!
Jack Hyles even had the audacity to claim that more people were saved in his church on May 3, 1998, than “at any church in the history of Christianity.”
Someone might argue that it is O.K. to report numbers because the Bible says 3,000 were saved on the day of Pentecost and 5,000 were saved some time later (Acts 2:41; 4:4). But these statistics were reported by the Holy Spirit rather than by some braggadocios preacher. You never see a preacher in the New Testament boasting of numbers or talking about numbers at all.
Further, the Lord is the only one who knows the spiritual reality behind the numbers and the numbers mentioned by the Spirit of God represented true spiritual REALITY!
Those who were saved on the day of Pentecost were really saved and gave evidence of this by the fact that they “continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
Judged by this immovable biblical standard, the active membership of Hyles’ church would have increased dramatically had 15,000 actually been saved on one day in May 1998, and had hundreds of thousands been saved over the years of Hyles’ ministry there, but the vast majority of the “converts” were phantoms who could not be found. They form an “invisible church,” for sure! For the most part, the big numbers always represented empty professions of faith.
Boasting about numbers is such a serious sin, because of man’s vanity, that God judged David when he set out to number Israel’s armies (2 Samuel 24:3-17).
In spite of the Bible’s warning, bragging about numbers is very much alive and well among Hyles’ fans.
Consider the following amazing statement in an advertisement for a Bible conference in April 2012 featuring Bob Gray, Sr. (of Texas) at Faith Baptist Church, Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The pastor, Dean Noonon, has an honorary degree from Hyles-Anderson College, and Gray is the author of the amazingly-titled book “When Principle Was King: The Life Principles of Dr. Jack Hyles.” The flyer reads as follows:
“THERE IS NOT A MAN ALIVE WHO HAS PERSONALLY WON MORE SOULS TO CHRIST THAN DR. BOB GRAY, SR. He has been in the ministry for 39 years and daily wins souls. Last year he personally led 404 folks to Christ with 107 of those following the Lord in baptism. HE HAS BEEN USED OF GOD TO SEE 1,116,887 SOULS COME TO CHRIST while pastoring the Longview Baptist Temple of Longview, Texas. It grew from a low of 159 to averaging 2,047 the last year he pastored, with his high days of 10,000. They ran 40 bus routes and had a large Sunday school program. He led the church to give $9,328,835.69 to missions.”
To win 1.1 million souls over a 39 year period would require leading 77 people a day to Christ. Yet the Gray’s Sunday School attendance averaged 2,000 rather than a million or even 200,000, and we wonder what the Wednesday evening attendance averaged? Truly, the million-dollar question is this: where are all of those souls?
The truth is that those statistics are devoid of spirituality reality, and the bragging is great sin.
The Boasting of Jack Hyles Himself
The boasting and self-promotion of First Baptist’s former pastor Jack Hyles is renowned.
The clear evidence of this was the fact that Hyles did not reprove those who wore “100% for Jack Hyles” buttons in the late 1980s. In fact, the buttons were distributed at Hyles-Anderson as well as elsewhere.
This is carnal idolatry, and it went on because Hyles liked it.
A godly pastor would have rejected such a thing in fear and trembling and would have reproved it publicly in no uncertain terms.
Hyles boasted that if he fell, “fundamentalism would fall with him.”
He claimed that God had given him the “steering wheel of fundamentalism.”
Hyles said, “You cannot understand me; no one in the history of America has ever stood in my shoes.”
Wayne Wall rightly observed:
“A cursory sampling of his [Hyles’] sermonic output betrays his hopeless propensity to make himself the hero of every story and illustration and depict himself in his sermons in the legendary proportions of his carefully crafted person around which he has built a personality cult rivaling that of Jim Jones” (“On Tootin’ One’s Own Horn,” Biblical Evangelist, July 1, 1992).
The students at Hyles-Anderson College were taught to treat Jack Hyles like a rock star. The following is a description of how he was treated by female Hyles-Anderson students at his own behest. This testimony is from a Hyles graduate who wrote to me in December 26, 2001:
“Have you heard about those meetings Jack Hyles had with the college girls on Thursday nights? Unbelievable, but true! He wrote little ditties for us to sing to him like, ‘Look at all that hair, look at all that hair/ It’s the answer to a college maiden’s prayer/ It’s no joke that I’m provoked/ But I’m not allowed to stroke those bushy locks of Boopsie-Woopsie’s hair.’ The Boopsie-Woopsie name came from a woman who supposedly called him that many years before and he seemed to enjoy having us refer to him as that. Before he came out at the meetings, we used to clap our hands and raise our arms in a straight-arm salute (Nazi fashion) while screaming/chanting, ‘Hyles! Hyles! Hyles!’ as in ‘Heil, Hitler!’ He never did anything to stop us from ‘worshipping’ him. He clearly enjoyed the hero worship. And it was literally worship. I can say that from my own experience, although I am ashamed to admit I did this.
“My husband and I thank the Lord all the time that He saw fit to deliver us from this cult. And I use that word in the strictest sense; it is a cult. I and legions of others held him up higher than God Himself. We would rather obey his word than anything, and he taught us that God speaks to us through our pastor, and that is what we believed.”
The late Dayton Hobbs rightly observed:
“When the Word of God in lives of men and women is replaced by the cultish power of some preacher with a super-ego, sound judgment is affected and all kinds of weird and unscriptural things go on under the guise of the work of the Lord” (Hobbs, “The Personality Cult,” The Projector, Spring 1989, p. 8).
The pride that has resounded from First Baptist Church of Hammond is a great sin.
THE SIN OF SERIAL IMMORALITY
God’s people live in a filthy world and they have an indwelling enemy, the “old man,” and sin will happen. The necessity of daily cleansing was depicted by the laver that stood outside of the Tabernacle.
But a church that becomes a byword for immorality cannot excuse its great sin by saying, “All of God’s people sin.”
A church that doesn’t discipline immorality commits a great sin and gives God’s enemies much ammunition against the cause of Christ, and that is exactly what First Baptist is guilty of.
They can say that they disciplined Jack Schaap’s adultery. Good.
What about Jack Hyles’ sin? And yes, it was proven that he committed ministry-disqualifying sins.
What about Dave Hyles’ sin? It was common knowledge at First Baptist that he was a serial fornicator when he was at First Baptist working with his dad and even before that when he was a teen. Common knowledge.
What about the sin of First Baptist deacons who committed immorality?
What about the sin of the preacher graduates of Hyles Anderson, with Dave Hyles at the forefront, who went to communities across the nation and even to other parts of the world in the name of Jesus Christ and the gospel and who abused the sacred trust of their office by committing grave sin with women and children in their own flocks?
We are not talking about one or two men. We’re not talking about five or ten, even. We’re talking about dozens. We’re talking about an absolute plague for fornicating preachers with close ties to First Baptist Church of Hammond and its college.
We have documented some of these frightful cases in the book The Hyles Effect.
In fact, you can see mug shots of some of these men in the January 2013 edition of the Chicago Magazine in the report “Let Us Prey,” but the nine men mentioned in that shocking report form only the tip of the iceberg.
Someone might say that these men were not members of First Baptist at the time of their sin and weren’t therefore under its authority, but they were known to be graduates of First Baptist’s school and followers of First Baptist’s renowned pastor. They proudly used the name of Jack Hyles and First Baptist of Hammond wherever they went.
When has First Baptist made public pronouncements against these men?
Instead, Jack Hyles repeatedly helped to move these men to other communities and to keep them in the ministry, and oftentimes, like in the case of his own son Dave, they repeated their sin in the new community with terrible moral and spiritual consequences. The consequence of these sins by Hyles Anderson graduates continues to this day.
First Baptist Church of Hammond supported Hyles in putting these foxes into various unsuspecting henhouses and did nothing to reprove this great sin.
THE SIN OF CULTIC OBEDIENCE TO A PASTOR
First Baptist of Hammond is also guilty of cultic obedience to a man, which is a great sin. It is the sin of popery.
One of Jack Hyles’ fundamental errors was that he didn’t teach his people to act as good Bereans by testing his life, teaching, and ministry by God’s Word. He demanded unquestioning loyalty. Questioning was treated as gossip and “critics” were treated as enemies. He taught the widely-held IFB principle that the pastor is God’s anointed, and no one is to touch him by “criticizing” him.
At least one year at Pastors’ School, Hyles had a deacon come to the platform and sit in a chair. Then, before a massive congregation of preachers, he repeatedly ordered the deacon, “Stand up” -- “Sit down” -- “Stand up” -- “Sit down” -- “Stand up” -- “Sit down.” Hyles did this to impress the visiting preachers with his power over people and to illustrate to them his cultic philosophy of pastoring, which is to demand of the people unquestioning obedience. (Among many other firsthand witnesses to this who told me their accounts, Pastor Tom Watson of Warren, Michigan, observed this while attending Pastors’ School in the 1990s, and he described it to me in May 2012.)
Did those preachers rise up and rebuke Hyles for this unscriptural, cultic ritual? To the contrary, most of them came back the next year for another dose of Hylesism.
Hyles said on more than one occasion, “If I told my staff to jump off a bridge and commit suicide, they would do it.” He said this, for example, in a sermon on March 5, 1989. He was probably right about that, because his staff were more the members of a man-centered cult than those of a spiritually-healthy New Testament church.
Jack Hyles’ own daughter, Linda, said, “Every member was in complete obedience to my father. They didn’t dare disagree or be disloyal, for fear of being publicly ridiculed or punished or banished for doing so” (Linda [Hyles] Murphrey’s testimony at the TEDxOjaiChange event in Ojai, California, April 5, 2012).
Consider the following rules that were required of Hyles-Anderson College students under Hyles’ regime. (I don’t know if they still are.) These were handed out every year in work scholarship meetings for the Dean of Women, and a copy was given to me in 2000 by a student who graduated from there in 1989 and today is the wife of a pastor.
LOYALTY TO LEADERSHIP - HYLES ANDERSON COLLEGE
1. ALWAYS THINK THE LEADER IS RIGHT. Never give your opinion when the leader feels strongly.
4. DON’T CORRECT THE LEADER ANYTIME! The people are better off hearing a wrong answer than to see the leader put down by a follower. I look at it as a putdown when a leader is corrected.
8. ALWAYS DO ANYTHING THE LEADER ASKS WHETHER IT IS RIGHT OR NOT. Why? a. I trust him to not ask me to do something immoral or sinful! b. If I do something I think will hurt someone, it is him who is responsible to God for it.
15. NEVER SAY ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT THE LEADER. Not even in a joke.
That is cultic! That is ungodly. That is man-worshiping idolatry!
When Hyles had been charged by many men of lying and covering up immorality, he went before his church and compared himself with God and instructed the people to trust him as they trust God! He said:
“It is impossible for us to understand God, so He does not require us to do so. We have never been God, so we cannot understand God. Because of this, all God asks of us is our faith, our trust, our confidence. You cannot understand me. NO ONE IN THE HISTORY OF AMERICA HAS EVER STOOD IN MY SHOES, SO I CANNOT ASK YOU TO UNDERSTAND. I CAN ASK YOU WHAT GOD ASKS; I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE YOUR TRUST, YOUR FAITH, YOUR CONFIDENCE” (Jack Hyles, cited from “Statement by the Indianapolis Baptist Temple on Breaking Fellowship With First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana,” February 12, 1992).
This is the ultimate in pomposity. In fact, it is wicked, idolatrous blasphemy!
And the church that heard these blasphemous, heretical words and accepted them blindly is the very church that Johnny Pope recently called “still one of the GREATEST churches in the whole wide world” (“Congratulations From Our Friends,” February 17, 2013).
God is indeed perfectly trustworthy, but every man is susceptible to error.
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” (Psalms 118:8).
“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalms 146:3)
“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5).
Hyles put himself above being tested by Scripture or reproved for sin and heresy, and he terribly abused the Scripture toward this end.
In the book Jack Hyles on Justice (Hyles-Anderson Publishers, 1992), which contains sermons he preached on Wednesday evenings, Hyles emphasized six points that would make it impossible for a church to effectively discipline a pastor and that grant preachers the liberty to live and teach above human accountability. These unscriptural principles, to various degrees and in various incarnations, have spread widely.
For example, Hyles blatantly taught that it is a sin to accuse someone and a sin to listen to accusation. Hyles made no difference between righteous exposure of sin and error and evil speaking or slander. It was all the same to him. In his opinion, accusation or reproof is almost always evil and the one doing the accusing is an evil person.
In fact, turning Scripture on its head, Hyles taught that the only sin that is to be reproved publicly is the sin of accusation.
(See the book The Hyles Effect for a review of Jack Hyles on Justice with excerpts from the book.)
And what did First Baptist Church of Hammond do in all these situations? What did they do throughout the years? They followed a man rather than God. They obeyed a man and blatantly disobeyed God’s holy Word.
And that is a great, great sin that has never been confessed and repented of. In fact, it has not even been acknowledged.
We could mention other great sins.
There is the sin of turning God’s house into a carnal circus. No church did more to turn God’s houses across the land into cheap, carnal circuses than First Baptist Church of Hammond through the influence of its books, college, and annual Pastors Schools.
There is the sin of accepting the heresies of Hyles and Schaap, some of which we have documented in The Hyles Effect.
There is the sin of the carnal emphasis on busyness and externals.
There is the great sin of Quick Prayerism.
There is even the sin of allowing their pastor to promote prayers to the dead.
All of these and more are documented in the book The Hyles Effect.
Every church member who did not speak out against these sins, who stayed and continued to support the church, is a partaker of these sins.
Every preacher who has praised First Baptist instead of speaking against these sins is a partaker.
As for me, I want nothing to do with this man-centered cult. I renounce its great public, Christ-shaming sins.
I would much rather endure the wrath of the entire IFB “old boys network” than keep my mouth shut in the face of the great sins that have brought such ruination to churches and reproach to the name of Jesus Christ.
(See also “Dear Chicago Magazine” and “Chicago Magazine and First Baptist of Hammond” at www.wayoflife.org.)
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