Wednesday, July 20, 2016
“Change IS a Position”
Dr. Hyles was at times criticized for his hesitance to change things. He was always very careful and considered before making any kind of change. I remember him speaking about men who were changing the times of services for the convenience of their people. Some thought he was silly for his position, but Dr. Hyles explained why this concerned him.
It concerned him first of all because change is usually a sign of instability. Men who are unstable are looking for changes that they think will improve their situation. Many pastors change, hoping to find the secret to building a ministry. Dr. Hyles always said that change was a "position." He feared changing. He resisted changing. Typically those who began to change never know when to stop changing. He feared this.
He also taught that change was often an indication of a shift in purpose. Many people thought that I was stubborn. Well I am to a certain degree. However, there were certain things that I refused to change because I did not want to shift the purpose of that particular item. For example, I refused to change my Sunday night service time. For years we had Sunday night church at seven o'clock.
I am not saying all who alter their times of services are sinning. I am saying there is a potential for danger anytime we make changes. In my opinion there are two words we need to be aware of; one is "improvement" and the other is "change." One is a battle against the current stream of thought and dealing with it to overcome it. The other is the law of thermodynamics at work where left alone everything automatically deteriorates. My thought; it is a battle between the flesh and the spirit.
REASONS FOR CHANGE
Whenever men would explain or excuse their decision to change their service time they would use one of two reasons. They would say it was a school night so they wanted to get their people home earlier for the sake of their kids.
The second reason was so that the people would have more time to fellowship. My Sunday night service was not designed for either of those purposes. I was not seeking to make life more convenient for my people, nor was I seeking more time for my people to fellowship. The purpose of Sunday night service was to build Christians.
I am not saying that six o'clock is worse than seven o'clock. What I am saying is that I was not going to emphasize something so superfluous that would distract our people from the main purpose of Sunday night church. I did not want them to feel that they were doing God some kind of favor by being at church on Sunday evening.
Those of us who kept our service at seven did not seem to have a problem getting a crowd because the crowd knew why they were coming. They were not coming to church so they could have more time for fellowship. They were not coming to church with the concern of their children getting home sooner. In fact the inconvenience was often better for their spiritual well-being. They learned to make sacrifices. Change should not be "purpose" changing. Most of the time we change and it sends a signal that something else has changed. The change is merely an indicator of something else.
Change is often a sign of influence others have upon us. I can usually tell who is influencing someone by the changes that they are making. They go to a conference or read a book by certain persons and they change things because that is the way that particular person does things. Be careful who you emulate. If you emulate them on those things which seem insignificant, you are more likely to emulate them on things that are of greater importance.
Change is often a sign of uncertainty or insecurity. Men who are given to change are typically men who were trying to find their identity. They are insecure with who they are and they are trying to change things hoping to gain some type of security. Men who change often create instability in others because of their own instability.
For many years I preached for a pastor in the state of Florida. I dearly loved this man. There was not a pastor in America I felt a closer relationship than I did with this particular man. I preached for him often. When I had Texas Baptist college I bestowed an honorary doctorate upon this man. He was rock solid in everything. His children, as they grew older began to have more influence on him. He began to make changes.
At first these changes were insignificant on the surface. They seemed to not really matter. But the changes continued. What was a trickle became a stream. What was a stream became a flood. Eventually that flood washed away almost everything the man once believed. Today he is not a Baptist, nor fundamental, nor separated. He condones most of the things that he once preached against. In fact he condemns the very people with with whom he once associated.
How did that happen? He became careless about change and the law of thermodynamics came into play in his home and ministry. We should never be careless about change. We must convert the word "change" into "improvement." Things must be done on "purpose." We must make sure that change truly has a purpose that coincides with our main purpose.
Our main purpose is not to create more convenience for our people. Our purpose is not to satisfy or pacify their families. Our purpose is to get the Gospel to the world and build a church that has a vision for the lost. Once the change begins the purpose will eventually change as well.
Recently I was with a man who I have known for many years. He said to me, “Dr. Gray, one of the things I admire most about you is that you have not changed.” I would beg to differ. I have changed a lot, but my change could be defined as "improvement."
However, my so-called change is not noticeable because it is within the purpose that I have always maintained. I have not changed my standards. I have not changed my zeal for soul winning. My changes or improvements can barely be seen by most people because I have kept my focus on the same things while making minor adjusting. I did not spend my time trying to change my ministry in order to satisfy the whims of people. I spent my time trying to improve Bob Gray Sr. in order to be more effective in the work God has given me to do. The work stayed the same, but the man changed or improved. That kind of so-called change is not noticed, but it is felt.
Monday, July 18, 2016
In every group there are certain soundbites or talking points that are a part of that group's position. For example, the Tea Party has often been defined by various talking points which are a part of their platform. Those talking points are not the substance of all they believe. They are merely issues which, at that moment, are important to them. Those issues may change because times change. Rhetoric is most often based upon the immediate issues that concern a group of people.
Enemies often take these talking points or, as we are calling it rhetoric, and seek to confine a person or a group with certain definitions. They twist those talking points to discredit that person or group. They despise what that person believes, so they want to create a narrowness about that person or group. Liberals take the talking points of the Tea Party and make those people sound very small or redefine what they mean. The result is that if you are a conservative who believes in the principles of the Tea Party, you are deemed a racist. Now that is ridiculous, but it is how the enemy fights against what they cannot counter with truth.
Certain issues were at the forefront in the last years of Dr. Jack Hyles’ life. Those issues became talking points in the independent Baptist world. However, those talking points did not fully represent all that Dr. Hyles stood for or believed. The King James Bible issue was one example. The enemies of that position sought to confine Dr. Hyles inside those talking points as though that was the extent of what he was or believed. The vastness of his beliefs and positions were ignored in an attempt to define him in a way that accomplished their purpose.
Unfortunately, even good people often start believing what the enemy says. Anyone who listened to the vast preaching of Dr. Hyles during the last five years of his ministry would understand the extent of his knowledge and the depth of his faith. The issues that defined him were not truly representative of all he was. However, a man who chooses to be a spokesman or a statesman must also carry the burden of being labeled by those talking points. He knew and accepted that.
We see it happening in the political arena. A conservative politician arises and soon the liberals are seeking to define him by the rhetoric while ignoring his commitment to our constitution in which he believes. Cause oriented leaders are defined or misdefined by those who seek to limit their influence and castigate them as fringe.
That was true of Dr. Hyles. Time and time again he has been mischaracterized by the various issues that were important to him. These talking points did not limit the scope of his beliefs. An example of this is pants on woman. Dr. Hyles did not believe that a woman who wore pants was lost or even necessarily a bad Christian. He did believe she could be a better influence, example, and testimony if she chose to wear skirts or dresses.
However, this was not a litmus test of her Christianity. The issue of pants became more and more a topic of attack by enemies or by Christians who decided that they were going to take a position different than his. They attacked his right to believe in pants as an issue and thus misrepresented his belief. They would call him a legalist because of his position. They took his talking points and turned them into a confining and defining definition of who he was.
Brother Hyles wrote a book on separation. In Dr. Hyles’ book the word pants is mentioned exactly one time, and even then it was not an attack on women wearing pants. Pants to him represented his right to have standards. The issue really was not pants as the attackers would claim. The issue was standards, direction and pants was just a talking point. He was not condemning women who wore pants. His greater concern was those who fought against the right to set standards. However, he was mislabeled by those who didn't like the standard. Sometimes his fight was for the right to believe as much as it was in the belief itself.
A few years ago a fuss made over a television show called Duck Dynasty. I am not in particular a Duck Dynasty fan. I can take it or leave it. (Mrs. Gray would prefer to take it because she finds it to be funny.) The patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family spoke out about men engaging in homosexual sex. He was stating a belief, but in that statement he gave a broader message and that message was we are all sinners and we all need a savior. The world did not want to characterize him in that broader spectrum because they do not want to admit we are all sinners and they certainly do not want to admit that we need a savior. So, they accused him of attacking homosexual men.
Obviously the patriarch is against homosexuality, but the bigger issue was the right to speak out about what he believes to be right and wrong. The issue was calling sin by its name. He was defined by the rhetoric rather than by the bigger picture of what he was trying to accomplish.
Let me delve into another very controversial subject, that being the King James Bible. Dr. Hyles was far more tolerant on that issue than most people would understand. For a long time his position was that it is possible that other versions of the Bible could be used effectively. As the Bible was being read, translated, or rewritten, we began to increasingly see the truth being perverted. He was slow to make his decision as to his position, but realized he had to take a position. To say the King James Bible was not inspired was to say there was no inspired Bible. He saw the weakness of that position. After listening to others and weighing everything carefully, he made his decision.
Because of his influence that decision was going to affect those who followed him. He chose to come out strongly for the King James Bible, but he did not condemn all of those who used other versions. He carefully grew and developed that position and his talking points were often misrepresented by those who wanted to misrepresent him because they did not agree. They labeled his position based upon his talking points rather than upon his true position. He had a very reasoned position.
However, they used his rhetoric in an attempt to make him seem to be an extremist. But are not all conservatives and fundamentalists labeled as extremists? It is hard to believe that those of us who believe what most Americans believed fifty years ago are now extremists in the society. It is also hard to believe that those of us who believe what most Christians believed fifty years ago are now extremists in the Christian world. They have taken our talking points and turned them into a caricature of all that we really believe.
Let's take another example. In my lifetime I have seen freedom of speech decimated by the liberals. Those who defend freedom of speech are characterized as being haters, even racists. I do not believe I am a racist because I believe a person has the freedom to say something that is offensive to someone of another race, even though I do not think they should do so.
If someone uses the word “fat” I could say it offends me because, well, let’s just say I'm not skinny. I am not a racist because I use talking points that defend the right of someone to say what they believe. I have a right to say homosexuality is wrong. The Liberals would say that I have no right to say what I believe and that makes me want to speak it even more, merely to exercise my freedom and to prove to them I have the right to say it.
Sometimes it is not the fact of what we say, but the right to say that fact that causes us to need to take a stronger stance. Tell Dr. Hyles he couldn't do or say something, and he would do or say it even more. So, when they attacked his talking points he talked more and louder. That is what's leaders do. The problem is followers then take it and make it the basis of the movement. The leader speaks it because his right is being threatened, then the followers hear him and turn it into the major platform of their cause.
The major cause to Dr. Hyles was the souls of men. That never changed. Some of his followers took the rhetoric that he used in defense of the attacks being made upon the movement and turned them into the major purpose of the movement. He spoke against denominations because independence was being attacked. Southern Baptists were questioning the right for us to be independent, so he used the rhetoric against the Southern Baptists. He loved Southern Baptists, but many of his followers made the Southern Baptists the enemy. Satan is the enemy.
I am not suggesting that he did not believe everything he said, but I am saying that what he said did not constitute everything he believed. There was far more to him than the soundbites attributed to him or that were used to confine and define him. When a man speaks something that offends another who does not agree, they attempt to define him as being not compassionate, when in reality his statements were based upon a certain belief but not confined to that belief.
Once again let me illustrate. When I say that I believe homosexuality is horrible, do not confine me to that statement. I also believe that homosexuals are loved by God and can be saved just like any other sinner. Just as the world tries to confine us by our statements, so did many of the people who disagreed with Dr. Hyles try to confine him by his statements.
We must understand that we are always going to be misrepresented by those who oppose the truth. Instead of fighting it we must remember that our main cause is to reach the lost for Christ. Do not fear the attacks against our positions, but do not allow these positions to take our eyes off of the big picture of reaching this world for Christ.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Dr. Hyles was a good example in many areas. Mrs. Gray and I have been married for 51 years. As we were facing the empty nest syndrome we wanted to make certain that we entered these new years with the right mindset. As always Dr. Hyles was a great help to us.
One of the most neglected areas for those who followed Dr. Hyles was missing some of the comments that he would make in sermons and Bible studies that gave us a little one sentence philosophy. He was the master at inserting a truth that could be applied to different areas of our lives. Such was the case in regards to this subject. He gave us glimpses of differences that transpired after his children were gone.
One of the most neglected areas for those who followed Dr. Hyles was missing some of the comments that he would make in sermons and Bible studies that gave us a little one sentence philosophy. He was the master at inserting a truth that could be applied to different areas of our lives. Such was the case in regards to this subject. He gave us glimpses of differences that transpired after his children were gone.
For some marriages this can be a very difficult time. In fact many divorces take place after the children are grown. Pastor’s homes are no different. He must prepare he and his wife for this new era in their lives. Although I emphasize the pastor, these principles could apply to all couples. As I study his teaching here are some of the thoughts and ideas I learned from him.
1. As the children grow older allow them to withdraw from you and you from them. Dr. Hyles often taught this philosophy. It is natural for a child to drift away from the parents. A parent should allow that drift and embrace it themselves. They should drift with the child in order to prepare themselves for life after the child has left home. This transition time helps prepare them as well as you.
2. Allow this time of transition to be used to enhance your marriage relationship. Rather than waiting until the child is gone, it is wise to begin new practices with each other, even before the children have left home. Rather than sitting around grieving over a child not being present, he suggested changing habits for those times. Those changes begin to prepare you for life after your children have left your home.
3. Embrace the time when you and your wife are together alone. Dr. and Mrs. Hyles enjoyed some of their happiest years together after the children left. Without distractions they were able to spend more time together. They embraced and cherished this time in their lives. They did not sit around waiting for the kids to come visit. They enjoyed the new opportunities they could enjoy together.
4. Give the children space after they have left home. When Dr. Hyles children left home he allowed them to be their own adults. He gave them space to live their lives. Mrs. Gray and I learned from this and did the same thing. We wanted our children to feel that we were there for them but not overbearing to them. We made ourselves available but we did not make ourselves pests.
5. After the children were gone Dr. Hyles allowed Mrs. Hyles to be more visible in the ministry. Although Mrs. Hyles never was seen as an “assistant pastor” type of wife, when the children were gone he encouraged her to take more active roles. In her case she taught more at the college after the children were grown and gone. She spoke more in churches after they were grown. He spoke more of her after the children were grown. Before, he was guarding her privacy. After, he was more comfortable talking about her publicly. By the way, he always honored her wishes in regards to this. Many husbands speak out of turn about their wives and do not take into account the potential hurt that it causes. He was careful to honor her wishes when it came to speaking of her publicly. When the children were at home, the wife’s main focus is the family, but afterwards she can expand that role.
6. Before the children were grown the emphasis was on the family, but afterwards it was on the marriage. Some pastors failed to make this transition. Brother Hyles did not try to keep his children as part of his own identity after they were grown. He promoted the marriage aspect more than the family aspect. This also allowed the children to branch out to be their own families. Mrs. Gray and I became more visible as a couple after the children were grown than we had been before.
7. Once the children were grown, he did not seek to control their behavior, rather to influence it. He knew that his children had to make their own choices. He also knew that while they were living with him he had to insist upon certain types of behavior. In other words he “ruled his house well” while his children were there. Once his children were gone it was no longer his responsibility to make their choices for them. He used the power of influence rather than the power of control.
8. He changed his pace as he grew older. This is something that many pastors struggle to do. I was forced to retire, not because I was burned out, but because of my responsibility to my wife. Her health demanded that I give her more time and attention and I gladly did so. However, some men retire rather than changing their pace. Dr. Hyles took more time off as he grew older to spend with Mrs. Hyles. He still worked hard, but he knew that he needed to pace himself differently. Most of us could not have kept up with his slowed down pace, however, if you study him carefully you will see that he did change his pace, which is why he did not feel the need to retire.
9. He developed traditions that involved only he and Mrs. Hyles. Some couples try to keep alive all the traditions they enjoyed while their children were growing up. They want to treat holidays and birthdays all the same as they used to. He and Mrs. Hyles developed their own traditions. If the children wanted to share these events with them that was fine, but they had already developed traditions that prevented a void in their lives. Many couples spend Christmas lonely because they want to relive the past. He chose to live in the present and make new traditions for he and Mrs. Hyles to enjoy without the children. If your happiness is dependent upon your children, then you will be a very unhappy empty-nesters.
10. He did not interfere in their lives. This is not easy for a parent, but it is important. He did not give them advice unless questions were asked of them. He did not snoop into their private business. He let them live their lives without his interference. In other words, he let them grow up and be adults. As our children got older we followed this example by allowing them to have privacy in their own lives. I am there for my children if and when they need me, but I refuse to interfere without being asked.
11. He allowed them to be different. We all want our children to live the way we always lived, but that is impractical. They will make different choices. Do not make them feel that your relationship with them is contingent upon them doing everything exactly the way you always did. Let them be their own individuals. Allow them their own identities. Be comfortable with the differences.
These are a few things that I learned from observation as well as paying attention to his teaching. There are things that made a difference in the way we lived our lives post children. I did not ride off into the sunset and live my life vicariously through my children. Mrs. Gray and I chose to live our own lives. In other words, we kept on living even after our children were gone.
Dr. Hyles experienced some disappointments with his adult children, as most of us do. When asked how he was able to stay strong in spite of these disappointments, he replied, “I never lived my life for my children. I lived my life for my Saviour. Every decision I made regarding my children was for His sake. Even when my children fell short of what I wished for them, my Saviour never did. I refuse to be disappointed when I know that God has never failed me. My children do not determine my happiness. They can enhance my happiness. But, my joy is in the Lord.”
Thursday, July 7, 2016
People who change their practices do so because they do not truly understood the reasons behind something. I am not saying that to be critical. It is merely an observation. Dr. Hyles changed very few things in his ministry. The reason is because he always knew why he did it in the first place.
When others went to Sunday unified services he continued to have Sunday school and church separately. When some went to large Sunday school classes he continued to have small Sunday school classes. When some changed their service time he kept his the same. He was not a man easily given to change. It was not because he was too stubborn to change nor too set in his ways. It was because he knew why he did what he did. There was a reason behind it and he understood that reason.
I am increasingly asked why Dr. Hyles did not have a Wednesday night prayer meeting rather than a Wednesday night Bible study. There are some today who are championing the cause of Wednesday night prayer meetings. Growing up we often called it Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. Dr. Hyles always used Wednesday night as a time for Bible study as well as a time to emphasize prayer.
First of all let me explain what he did. Dr. Hyles always made Wednesday night the time to discuss prayer. The prayer sheet was published every Wednesday night and distributed to everyone who attended the service. Time was taken during the service to highlight various matters on that prayer sheet. Various missionaries were highlighted as well as military men, college students, preacher boys, shut-ins, and others.
His goal was to encourage prayer on Wednesday nights. However, his main emphasis was on the Bible study. He wanted there to be a service each week where he could instruct his people rather than preach to them. Some men misunderstood his philosophy and made Wednesday night into another preaching service. He was never preachy on Wednesday night. He taught the Bible.
Let me discuss some of the why’s behind his method.
1. Wednesday night was built around the idea of teaching. He built his Wednesday night crowd with the teachers meeting. Hundreds of adults came early in order to attend this mandatory meeting. If you added their families to the count, several thousand people were in attendance because of the teachers meeting. Wednesday night was a preparation for Sunday morning. He built his Wednesday night crowd focusing on his Sunday school.
2. The graded choir program provided activity for the children during teachers meeting. Dr. Hyles strongly believed in a graded choir program. Unfortunately many churches have such programs during church time. Hundreds of children were involved in the music program by having choir practices during teachers meeting. If you went into the auditorium early on Wednesday nights you would see several hundred adults already in attendance because they brought their children to be in choir. They themselves were not yet teachers. This in itself encouraged them to be prepared to teach Sunday school if and when they were asked.
3. Dr. Hyles encouraged corporate prayer as a part of a service or an activity rather than as the purpose in and of itself. It is not to say that he did not have prayer meetings. He did. In fact he prayed with others more often than most, but it was usually in private. It is interesting to note that Jesus was never seen conducting a corporate prayer meeting. He prayed alone mostly. Dr. Hyles was a man of prayer, but he did not encourage or emphasize corporate prayer meetings. They took time to pray on Wednesday nights for those on the prayer sheet. At soul winning meetings they would often spend a season in prayer before going out. Prayer was often a part of these events but it was not a main event in and of itself.
4. Like anything else prayer meetings will become passé after a time. I have been to Wednesday night prayer meetings and seen the lackadaisical attitude of people because it was a repetitious practice rather than spontaneous activity. Great prayer meetings typically take place when a group of people spontaneously feel the need to pray together. Many churches who use the prayer meeting concept find it difficult to draw people in on Wednesday nights.
5. Dr. Hyles had a desire to teach his people God's Word. He preached on Sunday, but he took time to instruct his people on Wednesday nights in the Word of God. He often told preacher boys to use Wednesday nights to take their people into the depths of God's Word which in turn forced the young man to spend more time in study himself.
Dr. Hyles did more verse by verse studies as a younger preacher. However, when he was older he often taught principles from the Bible. He wanted his people to understand the practicality of studying the Bible. He would take an area of life and use the Bible to teach his people what the Bible has to say about a certain subject.
Although Dr. Hyles did not use Wednesday nights for corporate prayer, he did not find it necessary to criticize those who did. Some of those who are championing the idea of prayer meetings instead of Bible studies have found it necessary to be critical of the Bible studies rather than simply telling why they are doing what they are doing. In fact rather than criticizing others, why don't you do it for couple of decades and see how it works out.
It's amazing how a young man can take an idea he thinks he invented and after a couple of months decide that he is the voice of wisdom regarding that method. My recommendation is do it for couple of decades and then tell us why it's best.
There are those who are critical of those who use Wednesday night for Bible studies and that is foolish. It is equally foolish for us to be critical of those who want to have prayer meetings. It is your church and I recommend you do what you feel is best for your church without claiming that everyone who doesn't do it your way is doing it wrong.
When you can build a crowd of 6,000 on Wednesday nights to come and hear you pray then tell me why your method is better. The Bible does not clearly tell us either one is right. I trust that this will help some to understand why Dr. Hyles did what he did rather than listening to those criticize and who have no understanding whatsoever.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
The Fallacy of Fellowship
I preached with Dr. Hyles for many years. I never met a man who loved people more than Jack Hyles. I never met a man who enjoyed spending time with people more than Jack Hyles. He was fun to be around. He enjoyed being with others. Yet, in all the years I was with him I never once heard him placing an emphasis on fellowship for fellowship's sake. In fact he in many ways feared fellowship. He felt it was highly overrated, overused, and misunderstood.
I spent much time in the company of Dr. Hyles, but very little of that time would be considered as fellowship by most people. He often talked about the importance of walking and working together in agreement. He found his fellowship in serving with others not sitting around gabbing with others.
Do not misunderstand me. There were times that he went out to eat with me and others. However, even at those times he was careful that we did not over fellowship. The purpose of those times was not fellowship, but refueling for the work. Fellowship was not an end, nor was it even a means to an end. It was a byproduct of working together.
Any commander of an army will tell you that the most dangerous time for a soldier is when they are off duty and out with their fellow soldiers. They do not get in trouble when their marching together. They get in trouble when they going to town together. They don't get into trouble when they are in the foxhole together. They get into trouble when they're out on the town together.
Any coach will tell you that the most dangerous time for his players is when they are not playing or practicing. Many a player has been disqualified from playing in a big game because during his free time he got into trouble with his fellow players. You don't get into trouble on the field. You get in trouble when you are fellowshipping off the field.
Most trouble is caused by fellowship away from the battle. I am not saying there should not be times we spent together, but those times should be planned and purposed. Dr. Hyles said that gossip was usually the byproduct of people hanging out without a purpose. In fact, most church problems are caused by people fellowshipping without a purpose.
A pastor once questioned about the apparent lack of fellowship in Dr. Hyles church. He said, “Dr. Hyles, it seems that you do not encourage fellowship among your people. Don't you think your people need to get to know each other better?”
Dr. Hyles replied, “I have a closer relationship with those with whom I work than I do with those with whom I play. I would rather get to know a man better by serving with them than going to a ballgame with them. I am not against going to a ballgame. I am against careless and meaningless fellowship.”
The pastor said, “But how can people get in trouble by merely fellowshipping with other church members?”
Brother Hyles replied, “Sir, there are several ways to get in trouble. The first way is they get to know each other too well. The mystique between each other is torn down and lost. That is always dangerous. The things that we do wrong are usually done when we let our guard down. Leaders who fellowship too much away from service lose the respect of their people quicker than those who fellowship in service. That is why commanders in the military do not go out with their troops. Too many pastors want to be their people’s buddies rather than their leader. When you lose the mystique and mystery you lose the power of the purpose.”
“The second danger is that they become more enamored with fellowship than they do service. The way to get to know each other is to serve together. People who work together create a purer bond than those who merely play together. We emphasize fellowship as a way of developing friendship, but the strongest friendships are developed by those who fought side-by-side in a battle. The purest fellowship one can have with Jesus is to suffer with and for him”
“The third danger is that it distracts people from the purpose. My goal is for people to know each other in service not away from service. Jesus walked with his disciples for three years serving. Their fellowship was purposed. They ate and rested together as they worked not to distract them from the work. Often fellowship takes the eyes off of the main purpose which is ministry. My desire is to have a church that fellowships in service not to get away from service. Too many preachers think that their people will be closer if they have more fellowship together. I have learned that people are closer when they work together. Show me a church that is serving and I will show you a church that has unity. Show me a church that is playing and I will show you a church that has problems.”
Over the years I have learned that these are truths that many pastors do not understand. Our job is not to create fellowship. The truth is fellowship is neither a means nor an end. Fellowship is a byproduct. The end is to serve our Lord. The means is the work we do to accomplish that end. The byproduct is fellowship and closeness.
A soldier does not join an army to fellowship. A soldier joins an army to fight for a cause. A football player does not join a team for fellowship. He joins to win games. In fighting for a cause relationships are built as a byproduct not as a means nor as an end. May God help us to understand the true purpose and reason for fellowship. May we understand that it is not play or idle time that creates closeness. It is when we walk together in agreement of purpose that our relationships are built to be the strongest.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Many pastors of the past have worked wonderfully well with ministries that were not started by a local church. Men like Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Jack Hyles, Dr. Tom Malone, Dr. G. B. Vick, Dr. John Rawlings, Dr. Dallas Billington, and others worked with The Sword of the Lord, Bill Rice Ranch, Bob Jones University, BIMI, Youth for Christ, Word of Life, Gideons, Salvation Army, Pacific Garden Rescue Mission, Christian Law Association, Revival Fires, International Board of Jewish Missions, Gospel Tract Society, etc. All of these were para-church ministries. John 10:16, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold..."
“Oh,” you say, “But look at the direction many of the ministries have gone." Yes, and we could easily look at the direction many of those churches have gone.
Dr. Hyles often taught that we all use para-church ministries in one way or another. He loved the idea that the local church could do it better, but he never black balled those who provided helps to the local churches whether in or out of the local church. One time he told us that all of us drew the line of using para-church ministries at different levels, but at the end of the day we all use para-church ministries.
If we are not careful, we hypocritically oppose men of God led of God who start ministries. These are men of God in their own right and are just as led of God. There may be a disagreement of the thought of should they be started by the local church or a man of God. Good men may disagree, but that does not seem to stop God from leading men to start such ministries.
Logic with me. If they were started by the local church obviously they would budget that ministry in their church budget. Many local churches have ministries brought to them with the membership transfer of a man of God. These men of God who join never ask to be put into the church’s budget, for that ministry lives by the faith of that man of God. These men of God choose independent Baptist churches because that is who they are in the faith.
Yet, to be consistent, no pastor should accept any ministry not started by that local church if they are going to be consistently opposed to para-church ministries. The pastor who takes this stand should start and finance every ministry. He should refuse to take a man of God into the church membership who has a ministry from God if the pastor cannot control and run it.
Throughout the years men with ministries would join churches I pastored, and I never stuck my nose into their ministry. They stayed out of my ministry I stayed out of their ministry. When they asked my opinion or counsel, I gave them my opinion and counsel.
The truth is, never in my thirty-three years of pastoring have I had a problem with a man who brought in or started a ministry as a member of my church. I was not opposed to them because I was not the final authority on what God was doing in another man of God's ministry. I simply made myself available to them.
I, like Dr. Hyles, preferred the local church start these ministries, but I quickly learned from Brother Hyles, and these other great men, that God moved on other men of God to start ministries to aid the cause of Christ. Also, I quickly learned that I could not finance everything I wanted to do.
I desired to have a camp, but the finances never materialized. However, we still went to summer camps whose ministries actually started the camp first, and the church second. It was not the way I would have done it, but I still used them. The wonderful thing is they have enough sense to be associated with an independent fundamental Baptist church of like faith and order.
The para-church ministries I’m talking about are not at all like years past , those whom I call “Protestant Baptist”, who had NO association with local churches. They were truly defined as “para-church” because they had no association with any local church. They fed off the church without being a part of a local church. That is just not the case today in independent Baptist circles. This is not your father's para-church.
I worry that we are not looking at the bigger picture and have become so small minded that we believe without us nothing can be accomplished for Christ. Again, I prefer the local church start everything, but if they cannot finance it they should not start it.
So, here comes a man of God who is doctrinally sound and is led of God to start a ministry to help win the world to Christ. He does not ask to be put into the church budget. He believes like the pastor doctrinally. He tithes and give offerings, he is a personal soul winner. He and his family live consecrated lives. He defends fundamentalism. He is King James only for the English speaking peoples. He is rarely there for he is traveling with his ministry. Should he not have the right to be a member and lead a ministry as God tells him?
The para-church ministries produced by the “Protestant Baptists” of yesteryear are different from the ones started inside of local churches of our day. Many today who are independent Baptist Evangelists, Periodicals, camps, etc., started their ministries while they were members of a local independent Baptist church. They would never have started their ministry outside of their membership in a local independent Baptist church.
These men were men of God in their own right and totally agreed with the independent Baptist church polity. To ostracize these men’s ministries and define them in the same definition as those of yesteryear is duplicity of definition.
These ministries are not at all like the ones of years gone by started outside of ANY local church; simply because those of old believed in the universal church. To compare those to these of today in independent Baptist circles is ridiculous.
There was respect in days gone for such because they understood the callings of God in various ministries. Our mentors never mistreated the men or the ministries of such who were members of their local churches or chose not to ask to be put into the church budget.
Dr. Hyles used to teach that if the church can do it, that is better, but if the church cannot do it, then we need these ministries to accomplish what the church cannot do. One of the reasons Dr. Hyles wanted to build a great church was to be able to provide as many ministries through the church as possible, but he never completely abandoned his association with para-church ministries.
Here are a few observations regarding these “para-church’ ministries
1. They come alongside the church to assist. Many of these ministries provide a service that helps many churches. Every church, without exception, uses ministries outside their church! To say ALL belong and are run by the local church is just NOT true.
2. They do not take the place of the church. This is important. As long as a ministry does not attempt to replace the church, I am for it.
3. They are not a substitute for the church. Nothing can substitute for the church, yet some ministries attempt to do so. The ministry I can support is one that understands that the local church is most important in the lives of the people.
4. They are not necessarily a ministry of the church and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes the church can actually limit the work of one of these ministries.
5. They are not to make the church subordinate to them. The church should never be second to a non-church ministry.
6. They are para not anti-church. This is important. If they do not see the value of the church, they will be in conflict.
7. They have been a part of the work of God since the New Testament. Christian publishers have traditionally been para-church as have many other ministries.
8. If a ministry is strictly under one church then all churches who submit to or use that ministry are submitting to that church.
9. Any ministry that provides a service to a local church is a para-church ministry, even if it is under the authority of one local church.
10. Para-church ministries should never solicit the tithes of a local church, but they should be allowed to generate funds from the services they provide. (If I bring my people to your conference and you ask for money you are soliciting money from my people.)
11. Every Christian college is a para-church ministry to you even if it is under another church. You are putting your faith in that church the minute you support that college.
12. Effective and Biblical para-church ministries strive to serve the church.
13. The danger for a para-church ministry is placing the welfare of the ministry above that of the local church.
14. Many para-church ministries began to fill a void the church was not filling. Most homeschooling is para-church and if not then the materials we use often come from para-church groups. Local churches who start Christian Schools use para-church educational material in their Christian Schools.
15. Having to pretend a ministry is of a local church just to appease other pastors is foolish and needless.
16. God started the home, yet we have many para-home institutions. If we strictly applied our para-church rules we would find we are a bit inconsistent in our position.
17. If a ministry is truly a ministry of the local church, then why do we support it when it picks up and moves to another local church? MANY of the ministries named above have relocated "under" a different local church. If they were truly under the church, they would not have the freedom to do so.
18. The leaders of a para-church ministry should all be active members of a local church and personally accountable to their pastor, without giving up accountability of their ministry.
19. It is not best when a church is under a ministry, such as a campus church or a church that is started by a Christian camp. However, even though it is not best, it is not necessarily wicked.
May I conclude by reminding us all that in all things we should maintain a balance. That is what made Dr. Hyles so unique. He believed in the local New Testament church as much as any man I knew, however, he never discounted the work of ministries which were started by a man of God rather than a local church. Ministries that are brought to a local church by a man of God are no less of a ministry than those birthed by a local church. Brother Hyles applauded the work of God even if it was not always done in the exact way he would have done it. May we too understand the importance of not excluding these good works merely because we do not directly control them. Independence is lost with dictatorial rule of ministries not started by the local church.