THE PRINCIPLE OF CHANGE
It was not that he was against computers, nor did he consider screens in the auditorium to be a sin. Glass pulpits were not a sign of the antichrist and lapel microphones were not out of hell. He was, in many ways, a thoroughly modern man. He was progressive in many areas of his life, yet, he always possessed a certain fear, or shall we say reluctance, towards change and preferred to view it as “improvement” and not “change.”
Now we know that change is inevitable. I do not look the same in my sixties as I did in my twenties. My neighborhood has changed. The cars we drive have changed. Change is a part of life, but some people make changes drastically and carelessly and make terrible mistakes as a result. For example, if a family gets upset at the pastor and changes churches, that change could have a devastating effect on their children. If a politician changes parties, that change will have a monumental effect. Dr. Hyles allowed things to change and people to change but he, himself, was slow and deliberate when making changes.
1. He was very slow to follow trends. Trends come and trends go. Dr. Hyles never wanted a trendy church but a consistent church. He was not a trend follower. In many ways, he set trends that were baptized in principle. Far too often those who attempted to emulate him failed to wrap their minds around this principle, for they themselves were trend followers.
Dr. Hyles supplemented and never substituted! As I travelled the nation in these thirty plus years, I would hear one year “per-capita giving” then the next year “missions” and then the next year “number of bus routes” then the next year “baptism numbers” and then the “enrollment figures” of the Christian school, and then “Bible College building.”
Dr. Hyles had his face set like a flint! He would often supplement, but never did he substitute! He would add to what he was doing and not substitute what he was doing through the church he pastored. He never neglected one ministry for another ministry. There is no one solution to the fulfilling of the “Great Commission.” Trout line fishing is the trademark of Dr. Hyles. He would flood the river with multiple hooks and not just one big hook.
2. He saw change to often be the predecessor to compromise. Where does compromise begin? It often starts when we are seeking an idea that will help us grow, but then leads us to other ideas that are not scripturally based. An idea is not pure merely because of what it is, but also from where it came. Some very dangerous teaching regarding tithing came from the charismatics. While some of the ideas may have been fine, the pastor who follows them does not stop until he has moved into some serious accompanying error.
Far too often men of God underestimate their people! These dear church members have the same Holy Ghost living in them and they talk to God and God talks to them. When the leader introduces “change” for the sake of growth he is introducing something into the spiritual system of that dear church that does not compute! The people are not dumb! This is a dangerous practice to garner things from a poisoned field to feed the souls of God’s people! It begins to zap and quench the Spirit of God among the people. Many times there is poison in the pot. There is something wrong, but no one has yet put his or her finger on it!
3. He saw change as a fickle attempt to find something new that would work. Dr. Hyles was creative, but he was not all about growth. Growth seemed to follow Dr. Hyles wherever he went, basically, because he had a heart for God and God’s people. He did not desire to enter into a race with anyone other than himself. He was his own competition, thus, he did not entertain “change” for growth’s sake. Rather, he emphasized “improvement” for the people’s sake. Change is akin to the Law of Thermodynamics where everything, if left alone, automatically deteriorates! It takes work to “improve” anything while it takes nothing to “change” everything!
4. He recognized change often upset the continuity of what was already working. There was security in the presence of Dr. Hyles. The reason was very simple because it was the simplicity of his activity and his actions that created an atmosphere of security. He was “predictable.” The church services, the music, the order, the organization, and tempo provided continuity, which allowed the people to fellowship and relax their spirit so the Holy Spirit could work. It brought about a harmony of spirit that became conducive to fulfilling the very definition of “church” being a “called out body of baptized believers.” Thus, it became a people of one place, one mind, and one accord!
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” This statement is still ringing in my ears years later after a plane ride with Dr. Hyles to a Bible Conference. “Never break stride!” I have this written in front of one of my Old Scofield Bibles at the insistence of Dr. Hyles.
5. He knew that change was often difficult for followers to digest. God’s people are referred to in Scripture as “sheep.” Jesus is the shepherd while God’s men are the under-shepherds. It behooves the pastoral leadership to exemplify Jesus’ care and gently lead in the lives of the sheep. Dr. Hyles taught us that one of the attributes of the pastor is being the “overseer.” This has two definitions, one being the responsibility of “oversight” and the other meaning the ability to “over see” or see further down the road. Decisions affect, and many times in a “domino” manner! The ability to see the end from the beginning, and methodically move, with consistency, toward that end and do it by leading softly helps remove the element of fear for the follower.
The follower needs to be able to serve without the associated fears that accompany the role of the leader. Change is a scary thing for anyone, but especially for God’s people as they grow older. Dr. Hyles knew all of the intricacies that went into decision-making or policy-making and the necessity of them being as smooth as possible. It had to be viewed as “improvement” and not “change” in order to not spook the follower.
Change for change’s sake is living on the sensual side of life. This diversionary lifestyle has no spiritual life in it! Those in love with the cause of Christ easily accept improvement for the cause of Christ.
6. He knew that innocent change was often accompanied by other negative influences. That which appeared to be an innocent change was often birthed in a race for numbers and developed a competitive spirit among churches rather than a competitive spirit for the unsaved. This ego led Mega- Church mentality has created an appetite for change for quick, visible results. The scripture says “considering the end” which is how we are to move forward by faith.
Too many are attracted to the numerical success and, thus, emulate and embrace “change” in order to justify the end result. The end does not and never will justify the means in life, especially in God’s economy! Numbers are important because of the individual souls they represent. Pastor Bill Hybels, who built one of the largest Mega-churches in America, said after doing an internal study that he was successful in producing crowds, but unsuccessful in producing Christians.
For example, Dr. Hyles had 800 plus Sunday school classes in his church. Most of those classes averaged twenty or less with a few other larger adult classes that averaged anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand in attendance. This is why he was able to have over 20,000 in Sunday school. However, in today’s Independent Baptist world, we want the 20,000 without the 800 plus Sunday school classes. That is because we are often numerically driven rather than being driven by the desire to reach “every creature.”
Dr. Hyles labored to create the lowest common denominator by organizing Sunday school classes, teachers, staff, classroom, lessons, etc., and while others admired the cumulative result, he toiled for the “every creature” concept.
7. He saw change to often be a peer pressure action rather than a principled decision. The pressures are great on any man of God who endeavors to do a work for God. However, principled decision-making must engage all of the elements in an organized fabric to which external motivation must bow to internal motivation. No man can escape external motivation, but he must learn to harness it for the right cause.
When the Apostle Paul saw the city wholly given to idolatry, then he was pressed in the spirit. He was motivated externally, but drew from internal motivation. King David “encouraged himself” and this pressure to succeed must be from within and fueled by that which is without, namely for a lost and Hell- bound world in need of the Saviour. To shortcut the work is to shortcut future works!
No man ever outgrows peer pressure. The Apostle Paul said in the Galatians, “Who hath bewitched you?” He did not say “what” but “who.” It is always a personality that draws the sword in opposition to truth. The church at Galatia put their car in reverse doctrinally because of peer pressure. A little leaven does leaven the whole! To be expedient and reckless in order to stay up with the “Jones” religiously is dangerous for the generations to follow. Abraham did get out of Egypt bringing Lot with him, but Egypt never did get out of Lot!
Principles, and not popularity, are the glue that will hold together a work. We use the world and the world will use us!
8. He sought improvement by making minor adjustments rather than major changes. I still recall a Tuesday afternoon in Cheyenne, Wyoming, when he said to me, “Do not jerk the wheel when making adjustments!” He went on to say that slow, deliberate improvements would create an atmosphere of security. The little things can make or break! Minor adjustments which improve are far superior to major changes which destroy! I can still hear Dr. Hyles say, “Keep your eye on the prize of ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant!’”
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