John Rice, Lester Roloff Preached Repentance From Sin
Enlarged December 4, 2019 (first published July 30, 2015)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
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Lester Roloff

In the 1980s, Jack Hyles and Curtis Hutson changed the historic Baptist definition of repentance, which was the biblical definition of repentance. I suspect that the motive was to justify the cheap, numbers-oriented soul winning methodology that was popular in that day. This was the methodology that was foundational to Big-itis (Jumboism) with its emphasis on “the largest ... the fastest growing... the greatest.”

I label the numbers-oriented soul winning methodology “Quick Prayerism,” because it is quick to run people through “the Roman’s Road,” quick to “get a decision,” quick to lead them in a sinner’s prayer, quick to give them “assurance,” and quick to pronounce them “saved” and record them as a statistic, even when there is no biblical evidence of regeneration.

“At least the gospel is being preached; what’s the harm?” some say.

The harm is that countless people have been given a false hope of heaven. It has inoculated multitudes of people to true salvation. In some parts of Chattanooga, Hammond, Longview, and many other places where this methodology has been pushed, a frightful number of people claim to be saved even though they live like the very devil himself. If you knock on their doors and try to talk to them about Christ, they respond, “I’ve done that,” and then shut the door and return to their godless lifestyles.

In the past,
The Sword of the Lord was at the forefront of promoting the theology of bigness and the kings of Quick Prayerism. I know. I was there. In the 1970s, I read practically everything the Sword published. I was never a John Rice disciple and never gave any man except Christ unquestioning loyalty, but I loved John Rice and appreciated many things that he stood for. I was a student at Highland Park Baptist Church in the mid-70s. I worked in the bus ministry and the chapel ministry, and I experienced the rat race of the push for “decisions” and the frenzy to report big numbers. I attended Sword conferences. I heard Hyles and Hutson preach. I witnessed the unabashed promotion of bigness. For evangelism class, we used Jack Hyles’ Let’s Go Soulwinning, published by The Sword of the Lord.

Every independent Baptist who lived then knows that this is true.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jack Hyles and Curtis Hutson changed the historic, biblical definition of repentance, and I am convinced this was for the purpose of justifying the Quick Prayerism methodology and the theology of Bigness. Consider the following quotes:

“The problem and confusion is not preaching repentance but attaching the wrong definition to the word. For instance, to say that repentance means to turn from sin, or to say that repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action, is to give a wrong definition to the word” (Curtis Hutson, Repentance: What Does the Bible Teach? Sword of the Lord, 1986, p. 16).

“What makes the wrath of God abide on a person? Believing not! So, from what must a person repent in order to be saved? He must repent of that which makes him lost. Since ‘believing not’ makes him lost, ‘believing’ makes him saved. The repentance there is a turning from the thing that keeps him from being saved to the thing that saves him. So, yes, there is a repentance from unbelief in order to believe. It is simply a change of direction. It means a turning around. You are going away from believing, and you decide to turn around and believe. You change your direction; you change your mind. With your will you believe and rely upon Christ to save you. In order to believe, you have to repent of unbelief. That which makes a man lost must be corrected” (Dr. Jack Hyles, Enemies of Soulwinning, 1993).

This was a dramatic change in the historic Baptist definition of repentance, as we have documented in the book
Repentance and Soul Winning, a book that many have condemned without reading.

Two of the Baptists that we quote in this book are John Rice and Lester Roloff. Both men preached exactly what Hyles and Hutson condemned.

“To repent literally means to have a change of mind or spirit toward God and toward sin. It means to TURN FROM YOUR SINS, earnestly, with all your heart, and trust in Jesus Christ to save you. You can see, then, how the man who believes in Christ repents and the man who repents believes in Christ. The jailer repented when HE TURNED FROM SIN to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (John R. Rice, What Must I Do to Be Saved? 1940).

“Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin. Repentance is a FORSAKING OF SIN. Real repentance is putting your trust in Jesus Christ so you will not live like that anymore. Repentance is permanent. It is a lifelong and an eternity-long experience. You will never love the Devil again once you repent. You will never flirt with the Devil as the habit of your life again once you get saved. You will never be happy living in sin; it will never satisfy; and the husks of the world will never fill your longing and hungering in your soul. Repentance is something a lot bigger than a lot of people think. It is absolutely essential if you go to heaven” (Lester Roloff, Repent or Perish, 1965).

Shelton Smith, the current editor of
The Sword of the Lord, will not own up to the confusion caused by the fact that his own publishing ministry and paper has faced two opposite ways on the issue of repentance, but this cannot be shoved under the carpet. It is an important issue, a doctrinal issue, a fundamental issue that will doubtless be dealt with at the judgment seat of Christ.


When pushed into a corner, Smith says he is opposed to “sloppy soul winning.” I was amazed when I first heard him say that. The editor of The Sword of the Lord is opposed to “sloppy soul winning”? What could this possibly mean?

It is The Sword of the Lord that published the most influential books on sloppy soul winning techniques:
Let’s Go Soul Winning by Jack Hyles, 1962; Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church, 1962; Winning Souls and Getting Them Down the Aisle by Curtis Hutson, 1978; etc.

These are the books that promoted the “do you want to go to heaven when you die, then pray this prayer” approach to “soul winning.” These are the books that taught soul winners to be brief in giving the gospel so as to get right to the point of getting the prayer. These are the books that taught soul winners to avoid answering questions. These are the books that taught shameless methods of psychological manipulation, such as leading with questions that require a positive response or pretending that you are going to pray for a man when in reality you are going to try to get him to pray a sinner’s prayer. Carl Hatch, who was exalted as one of the world’s greatest soul winners by Hyles and Hutson and the Sword crowd, invented the “Carl Hatch squeeze” as a slight improvement on the methodology. Instead of merely asking the individual to pray the sinner’s prayer and hoping he would do it after manipulating the individual into bowing his head, Hatch actually squeezed the man’s shoulder to give him a neat little psychological shove.

If that’s not sloppy soul winning, I can’t imagine what sloppy soul winning possibly could be.

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