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Monday, July 7, 2014




(A 384 page hardback book with 33 chapters)

Truth is not that difficult nor is it all that complicated. Now, that is not what many preachers would have you believe. They think that if they can take you around the block enough and point out enough scriptures, they can impress you with a truth. However, truth was not given to us to impress us. It was given to us to leave an impression on our lives.

If you went to your doctor to be treated and your doctor decided to peruse the medical books with you attempting to impress upon you the truth of what he studied that week, you might be inclined to find another doctor. Yet, this is exactly what many preachers attempt to do when they preach. They seem to feel they are giving a lecture on theology rather than a prescription for living the Christian life.

Dr. Hyles was often criticized for being a practitioner rather than a lecturer, yet when people heard him preach they were moved to change something. Every sermon was an attempt to make a difference in some area of their lives. Call it topical or call it Biblical, I don't care. What I do know is that I never heard him preach without being moved to do something.

When Dr. Hyles preached he did something very few men do, and if they do it they do not fully understand why they do it. They may merely be doing it because they saw Dr. Hyles do it, which is not altogether a bad reason. I have heard him say literally thousands of times, “Put your pens away, put your Bibles under your seats, and look right up here at me while I’m preaching.” If he was preaching with me he would add, “Now when Dr. Gray is preaching I recommend you take notes, but while you have a good looking man up here you need to look at him.” It never failed to make people laugh and relax.

At First Baptist Church the people were trained to not take notes while he preached. At Hyles-Anderson College he did not have the students take notes on his sermons. No matter where he was, he was adamant that people listen to him preach rather than take notes. I cringed when I saw someone writing while he was preaching. I knew if he saw them he would ask them to stop.

Before I explain the why of this, I want to comment that having heard thousands of sermons by many wonderful men over the years of my ministry, I remember with greater clarity more sermons preached by Dr. Hyles than all the others combined. I have heard many masterpieces of oratory in my years, but the sermons I remember most were the ones he preached. He always impacted me. Now, why did Dr. Hyles want everyone to put their pens away while he was preaching?

1. He was not lecturing. Dr. Hyles was a wonderful teacher, but he was not a lecturer and did not strive to be. He was a preacher and he believed there was a grand difference between preaching and lecturing. On Wednesday nights he might have used more of a teaching type of lesson where people could take notes, but on Sundays and in conferences he was a preacher.

He was not invited week after week to come to a church and lecture. Could he have done so? Yes. Dr. Hyles had one of the most brilliant minds of any man I know. I have had discussions with him where I thought that he could have been the “most influential” professor. His mind was very organized and calculated. However, that was not what God called him to do. God called him to preach and that is what he focused on.

2. He was not an expositor. He did not criticize men who were, but he admitted that he was not. He often said he considered himself more of a general practitioner. I NEVER heard a person ask Dr. Hyles about a passage of Scripture that he could not explain it and illuminate it. He was a brilliant Bible student, but that was not what he felt would allow him to influence the most people for God. He was not going to change what he believed God called him to do just because people were critical of topical preaching. He was in the business of changing lives, not imparting information.

3. Dr. Hyles had one end in mind for every sermon. His goal was not to see how much information he could impart during his time in front of the audience. He was not there to get across a volume of information. He was there to get across a single truth. I remember sitting next to him while a good man was preaching one Tuesday morning in a conference. When he was finished, Dr. Hyles leaned over and said, “That was three of the best sermons I ever heard.”

He wasn't being critical of the man. He loved him and he truly was impressed with all the thoughts he gave, but that was not Dr. Hyles’ purpose with his own sermons. That preacher had left all of us with much to think about and ponder, but that was not what Dr. Hyles sought to do when he preached. He wanted people to leave the service not with a smorgasbord of thoughts or ideas, but with a single thought, which brought about the right decision.

4. Dr. Hyles knew he had just a short time to accomplish what he came to the pulpit to accomplish. When he stood to preach he was the most time conscious man I ever knew. He confined himself into a self-imposed time schedule. From the moment he stood to preach he was watching the goal line, and he knew how much time he had to accomplish what he felt God wanted him to accomplish.

He was like a basketball player who was bringing the ball down the court. He knew the goal was to score a basket in an allotted amount of time. He had his eyes on the basket. He had his eyes on the play clock, and he had his eyes on the play he was about to run. From the moment the basketball comes back in bounds, the players are aware of those three things. Dr. Hyles was aware of them as well. He knew that his goal was to run a certain play and to accomplish a certain goal, in a certain amount of time. Less than that meant he had failed to do what he was there to do.

5. He never tired of the beauty of a single thought. A basketball team has a basic play they run over and over again. The purpose of that play is not so that people will leave the arena and say, “Wasn’t that a great play they ran tonight? The purpose of the play is to score a basket. If a team ever becomes tired of that they would lose every game. Dr. Hyles never got tired of scoring baskets. In every sermon he knew that he had to score a basket or accomplish one purpose. The sermon was merely the play he ran to accomplish that purpose.

6. Dr. Hyles knew that the beauty of Jesus' teaching was the way Jesus could make a single truth come alive. That was what he chose to do. Jesus was not walking around trying to impress people with His knowledge of Scripture. In fact, the Bible never said He came to explain the law but rather to fulfill it. Jesus taught very little of the Bible from the standpoint of teaching types and meanings, and I highly doubt that he ever referred to a commentary.

He was there to drive home truth. Jesus taught simply and with focus, yet He knew more about the Bible than anyone who has ever walked the earth. He is the Word. What did the disciples at Emmaus say about his teaching? They said, “Did not our hearts burn?I never heard Dr. Hyles preach, but what my heart burned.

7. He did not want people to leave with an outline in hand but a goal line in mind. He did not believe the outline was the end, but the means to the end, which was the goal line. Why should people write down the means rather than focusing on the end?. This is where he differed. He was not asking people to keep notes on the means to the end. He did not want them to become enamored with the outline.

He wanted them to see the goal line. Many a man preaches a memorable outline. Dr. Hyles' sermon outlines did not impress himself or even others in their simplicity. There have been times when my outline distracted me. There was so much written in the outline that I was focusing on, instead of focusing on the finish line. Dr. Hyles used an outline like the lines on a track to keep him in the correct lane to reach his goal. Many men chase rabbits, because they have an impressive outline to nowhere.

8. The sermon was not the purpose, but the tool. He called it a greasy wrench. One of the things I so admired about Dr. Hyles was his ability to judge a sermon not by the “response” but by the effect. Many sermons get a great response but have little effect.

I remember once many years ago preaching in a conference with Dr. Hyles. On the program was a man who could take you for a fast and wild ride through his preaching. We went to the mountaintop and had a wonderful time. People were shouting and having more fun than a thrilling amusement park ride. When it was over and Dr. Hyles and I were walking to our hotel rooms, I said, “That was one of the greatest sermons ever, wasn't it?” Dr. Hyles quietly replied to this still young preacher, “Yes, it was Brother Bob, and what exactly did you take from it that will change something in your life?”

We said good-bye and I was left to ponder what he was trying to teach me. In my room that afternoon, I learned a lesson that was more valuable than anything I had heard in that memorable “sermon.” I learned that the sermon is only as successful as the effect it has on people's lives. Many men can tickle the ivories, yet not accomplish a goal. Dr. Hyles was always purposed in his preaching.

9. He preached to keep people's attention on the truth that he was preaching. He knew that often when he listened to preaching he would become distracted by a thought and start to write down thoughts and ideas rather than concentrating on the message. He did not want to cause this distraction in his own preaching. He knew that if people heard a nugget they might be distracted and focus on the nugget and miss the goal line.

Few men were more quotable than Dr. Hyles. His one line thoughts are used by people everywhere, even some who did not follow his ministry. He had artistic ability in preaching, but he did not want someone noticing the stroke of his brush at the expense of getting the focal point of his painting.

10. He did not believe that the diligence of his study was evidenced by how much information he had transcribed to notes, but by how much of the truth had permeated his being. Many men get bogged down by their own preaching notes rather than consumed by the truth and the people. His outline was a servant to his purpose, rather than his master. He did not write down many thoughts in his outline and kept it simple enough so as not to distract him. Was that a sign of negligence in preparation? Not at all! It was a sign of how much he had committed the sermon within, rather than on paper.

11. Keeping your attention was Dr. Hyles main purpose when he preached. This is such an important principle. He could not teach you if he could not reach you. But first he knew he had to have God's attention. Many preachers are focused on a sermon for which they have so perfected it they do not even have their own heart and mind.  While some preachers may be perfecting their style, he was getting hold of God. Then he had to get his own attention. Then he worked on getting and keeping the attention of the individual.

I want to point out that I did not say anything about keeping the audience's attention. That was not how he preached. A good show can keep the attention of an audience but it takes thorough thought and planning to keep the attention of the man who worked all day and then rushed to hear him preach. He knew that if he could keep that man's focus on him as he preached, he could give that man something that could help him in his Christian life. The Harlem-Globetrotters can keep your attention, but they cannot change your mind.

12. The invitation was the point of finality. This is so important. Many times when we see people taking notes, they become distracted as to the reason they are there. Why are they there? In Dr. Hylesmind they were there to decide something. It may be to clear up something or start something, but there was a reason. It was the decision he was after when he began his sermon. When he was done there were no notes in their hands to put away, no pens to put away. All that was in their mind was what they had just heard. He then challenged the audience to make a decision. It was not point one, two, three, and now left to the congregation.  No, it was usually just one basic decision from that one truth he had just preached, from many different angles.

When I open my Bible I have very few notes from the sermons I heard him preach over the years. When I open my heart it is packed with God's truths that he impressed upon me in his sermons, one at a time. He would preach “Fresh Oil” for the hundredth time. With my pen in my pocket and my Bible under my seat, I would hear that Spirit-filled man point me to the goal line of getting a fresh anointing of the power of God. When the invitation came I would leave my seat...every time...and make my way to the altar. With tears in my eyes I would ask God to anoint me with fresh oil. Then I would go back to my seat, changed, once again.

No, I don't have many notes in my Bible from his sermons, but I thank God that he made me put my pen away so he could point me to the goal line rather than attempt to impress me with a many faceted, intricate outline that became just one of many outlines.

 Go to SOLVECHURCHPROBLEMS.COM and visit the STORE to order this and consider the other books I have written.  Also, you may download for free sermons.  Past issues of THE BAPTIST MAGAZINE are also available.

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