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This is one of the reasons why I predict that most IFB churches will be well down the emerging path within a generation. (See Why Most Independent Baptist Churches Will Be Emerging, which is available as a free eBook from Way of Life -- www.wayoflife.org).
The correction that is needed will not be received because reproof is not allowed in the context of these exalted men.
The Grand Poobah of poobahs among IFBaptists was the late Jack Hyles.
In the early 1990s, when a pile of evidence was published, including multiple eyewitness testimonies, exposing Hyles’ improper relationship with his secretary and the rampant immorality in the church that had been covered up and not disciplined (including the adulteries of Hyles’ son Dave when he was on staff), instead of a loud chorus of voices reproving the man, the largest chorus supported him unquestioningly and blacklisted the “critics.”
In fact, from coast to coast his fans donned buttons that announced “100% Hyles.” The very fact that he didn’t condemn that idolatrous practice in no uncertain terms, and allowed the buttons to be distributed at Hyles-Anderson College, proved that he was more akin to a cult leader than a biblical pastor.
I have felt the lash from Hyles’ fans ever since 1998, when I published an article entitled “Pentecost vs. Hylescost.” This report analyzed the man’s braggadocios claim that more people were saved at his church (First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana) on May 3, 1998, than were saved on the Day of Pentecost or on any other day in church history. (That article can be found under the Evangelism section of the Article Database at the Way of Life web site.)
The following e-mail was is of many that I have received through the years from Hyles’ fans:
“Mr. Cloud, I don’t know if you will personally read this e-mail, but I read your article on Pentecost vs. Hylescost. What kind of ‘Christian’ is a man that would critique a man of God? How could you possibly say such horrible things about a man of God that is serving the Lord and doing exactly what God put him on this earth to do? Until you pastor the Worlds Largest Sunday School, and see over 5,000 people saved in a day, you have no right to speak as you did about Dr. Jack Hyles. No decent Baptist would say negative things about another Baptist preacher. Therefore I don’t believe that you are a Baptist. I can’t believe that I even allowed myself to even read such a disgusting article. I attend Hyles-Anderson College, and First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. I WILL STAND FOR JACK HYLES, AND EVERYTHING HE PREACHES, I will not let anybody put him down. If you say that you are who you really are, you would too. If I let people know about this article, you will have thousands of people against you. Jack Hyles is doing far above more for the cause of Christ than you can ever do.”
This concept of not allowing “criticism” of influential men and organizations within the IFB movement has spread widely, and I am reminded of this fact every time I dare to mention anything negative about them.
I could print similar letters and e-mails that I have received in blind support of Clarence Sexton, Bob Jones University, Jack Schaap, Peter Ruckman, and many others.
Consider the following e-mail (January 2012) that is typical of dozens I have received last year in defense of Pastor Paul Chappell of Lancaster Baptist Church, Lancaster, California, after I warned about his extensive use of Contemporary Christian Music:
“Please stop judging and criticizing our Brother in Christ Paul Chappell. You cannot judge the brothers and sisters in Christ. If you see something wrong, then just pray to God that He will take care of it. YOU BETTER KEEP YOUR BUSINESS OUT OF THEIR LIVES. ... You need to repent of what you have done to Paul Chappell and to others. I feel that you bring shame to the gospel and the principles of God. Repent and ask for their forgiveness for hurting or criticizing them for no reason. ... God is the JUDGE. Remember that. You are not a JUDGE to Christian friends. ... Repent yourself and send letters to say that you are sorry and it will not happen again. I WILL KEEP AN EYE ON YOU IN EVERY MOVE.”
This is nearly a mirror image of the 1998 e-mail defending Hyles.
REPLY FROM BROTHER CLOUD
The following reply that I sent to the Hyles’ fan in 1998 is as applicable and needed today as it was then. In spite of the dreadful downfall of so many of the overly-exalted IFB heros over the past 20 years, it seems like we haven’t learned anything.
Hello. I am sorry that you feel that way, but I have the responsibility before God to judge preachers and their message by the Word of God, and I intend to continue to do that in spite of the opposition by those who blindly follow men (which is idolatry).
I realize that I am nothing and I am nobody. I am simply a man that the Lord saved by His grace and called to preach. I am not worthy of the calling, but God doesn’t call worthy people; He calls whomsoever He pleases to call, typically the weak as opposed to the strong, the nobody as opposed to the noble.
No one likes to be criticized and no one likes to hear his pastor or some spiritual hero criticized, but there is no reason to get angry and to lash out at those who are issuing the criticism. There is no reason to go on the attack against the messenger and blacklist him. We do well, rather, to weigh the criticism by God’s Word rather than respond to it in a carnal way like a junkyard bulldog.
We see from the following Scriptures that the believer has the responsibility to test everything by God’s Word:
“Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way” (Psalms 119:128).
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
“Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge” (1 Corinthians 14:29).
“Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).
The following Scriptures authorize the preacher to proclaim God’s Word with reproof and rebuke and exhortation.
“And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14).
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).
“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:15).
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God...” (1 Peter 4:11).
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
I have never seen anything in the Bible that would limit a ministry of testing and reproof so that certain influential pastors are not subject to it. And I have never seen anything in the Bible that requires that a preacher can give reproof only in a private context.
The prophets of old reproved even godly kings for their spiritual compromise.
“Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 20:37).
Paul publicly reproved Peter for his hypocrisy.
“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 2:14).
If Peter’s friends had been like a lot of independent Baptists I know, they would have lashed out at Paul for his audacity at reproving “the man of God,” and especially for reproving him before others. Why didn’t Paul talk with Peter privately instead of making a public issue of it, they would ask? Was he jealous of Peter? Yea, that must be it. Who was Paul compared to Peter? When Paul won 3,000 to the Lord through one sermon and pastored a church of tens of thousands, then he might be qualified to reprove the great man, but not before. Why, when Paul preached on Mars Hill only a handful of people responded, probably because he made too much of an issue of repentance! Who does Paul think he is to reprove Peter for hypocrisy? Does he think he is the epitome of Christian perfection? Yea, he is probably puffed up with pride and besotted with jealously. Further, Paul is nit-picking. Peter’s little “hypocrisy,” if you want to call it that, is no big deal. Why doesn’t Paul aim his guns at real errors instead of shooting the wounded? Doesn’t Paul realize that it is wrong to be divisive? Further, Paul wasn’t even a member of the Jerusalem church, so he needs to mind his own business. If he wants to reprove someone, let him reprove the Judaizers and the Gnostics and leave the man of God alone.
This is the thinking of large numbers of IFBaptists, but the attitude of unquestioning loyalty to any man is not scriptural but rather is cultic. No preacher is above being tested by the Word of God. Any preacher is liable to compromise and error. And if his compromise and error is public and has a public influence, the reproof should be public.
A godly preacher does not desire “unquestioning loyalty.” While no man enjoys reproof, a godly man knows that reproof is necessary.
“Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish” (Proverbs 12:1).
Like Paul, any godly preacher is pleased when the people judge him and his message and his ministry properly and graciously by God’s Word (Acts 17:11).
I’m not talking about a critical, nit-picking spirit. I’m not talking about carnal gossip. I’m not talking about criticism based on personal opinion or ignorance.
I’m talking about a godly critique issued with wisdom in a compassionate attitude and based solidly upon the Scripture rightly divided by people who love Christ and have His glory in view.
The Bereans are not called “noble” in Scripture because they gave blind loyalty to Paul; they are called “noble” because they tested Paul’s preaching by God’s Word. Not only were they right in doing so; they were exercising an essential and fundamental spiritual ministry.
A preacher’s only authority is the Bible, and when he strays from that he has no authority whatsoever. Consider the following exhortation:
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (Hebrews 13:7).
Here we see that qualified spiritual rulers are those who speak the Word of God. That is their authority, and that is their sole authority, and they are to be tested by that same Word. Their conversation or manner of life is also to be tested as to whether it conforms to God’s Word and as to whether they are qualified to hold the office of pastor as given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
The Bible describes a man like Jack Hyles in the first churches. His name was Diotrephes, and the apostle John warned about him in no uncertain terms.
“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who LOVETH TO HAVE THE PREEMINENCE among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, PRATING AGAINST US WITH MALICIOUS WORDS: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God” (3 John 9-11).
Diotrephes had a HEART problem. He was a proud man. He was puffed up in his own estimation, loving to have the preeminence.
Diotrephes had a WILL problem. He ruled the church by his own will, but the pastor’s job is to rule by God’s will. The qualified pastor is not “selfwilled” (Titus 1:7). The church is God’s flock, God’s building, God’s husbandry. The pastor is not to be lord over God’s heritage (1 Pet. 5:3).
Diotrephes also had an AUTHORITY problem. He obviously felt that he was an authority unto himself; whereas the pastor’s sole authority is the Bible. The Christian leader who attempts to lead the church by human thinking and man-made tradition and philosophy is to be rejected.
No independent Baptist preacher that I know of prats directly against the apostles, but some of them prat against those who try to test them by the apostles’ doctrine and practice. And they “forbid” their “critics” just like Diotrephes did, sometimes even casting them out of the church.
THERE ARE MANY DIOTREPHES IN THE INDEPENDENT BAPTIST MOVEMENT WHO HAVE BEEN INFLUENCED BY JACK HYLES.
You can tell that a man is a Diotrephes when he forbids “criticism” and when he prats against his “critics” with malicious words and pretends that those who speak against him are actually speaking against God.
My friends, beware of the spirit of Diotrephes.
Preacher, don’t let that spirit light on you.
Brethren, don’t be caught up in the cultic clutches of such men. They will try to usurp the place of Jesus Christ in your life and will rob you of your God-given right of private interpretation and spiritual judgment.
At the same time, I would exhort God’s people to submit to godly authority. If you are not a pastor, you don’t have the authority of a pastor and your job is not to lead the church. When every church member thinks of himself as a shepherd of the church and considers himself or herself able to determine the direction of the church, there is confusion. Obedience to God-called pastors is a very important spiritual discipline and is necessary for peace in the church and for blessing and progress in God’s work in this needy world. We must learn that We will never agree with any pastor in all matters. The final decisions are his to be made before God, as he is the one who will give account.
“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
God-called, qualified pastors have real spiritual authority that God has given them and they are to be obeyed as they obey God’s Word (Heb. 13:17), but a Diotrephes exceeds this authority and lords it over God’s people in a carnal, self-willed manner.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (1 John 5:21).
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