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Monday, October 13, 2014


(Dr. Bob Gray Sr.)

Dr. Jack Hyles

A preacher called me one day to ask my advice on a matter. His question was regarding how to better market several books he had written. He is a good and sincere man and I know that his main goal is to help as many people as he can by getting out the message. However, when I hung up the phone from speaking with him, I could not help but realize the difference between the majority of Independent Baptist preachers of today and Dr. Jack Hyles.

The word that primarily caught my ear was the word “market.” I cannot help but wonder if that is really what some of us have become, and if it is the result of a desire to expand our influence. Perhaps we do not really understand the matter of influence and the principles Dr. Hyles taught and believed.

Now, to suggest that Dr. Hyles was not a master of marketing would be foolish. Perhaps, in some ways, he was as good as there was. However, exactly what was he good at marketing and why? Well, he was a master at marketing soul winning and Sunday school. He was great at using various means to get people under the sound of the Gospel. His Sunday school campaigns are legendary. He was used of God to build two of the fastest growing Sunday schools in America; in large part because of his ability to market the Sunday school.

What he was not keen on marketing was himself, or should I say his influence. Dr. Hyles knew how to gather a crowd, but he was not striving to garner a following. He was interested in influencing people, but not becoming influential. There is a vast difference between the two. Influencing people means that you take every opportunity placed in your path to try to have a positive influence on someone's life. Expanding one's influence is a type of shortcut to acquire influence without necessarily earning it.

Far too many men attempted to expand their influence before they learned to use the influence they already possessed. As a result, they started national conferences and ministries before they should have, and the outcome was limited influence at their own church. Unfortunately, they stretched too far too soon. That was something Dr. Hyles did not and would not do.

1. Influence is personal. What creates influence? Let me tell you how it is done. Personal soul winning creates influence. Win a soul to Christ and you will have influence on that person. Pastors want to influence a nation, but they never win a soul to Christ. If you really want to expand your influence, pastor, put down your pen and pick up your New Testament and go soul winning. Dr. Hyles gained incredible influence not only from his preaching, but also because he won many souls to Christ personally.

Personal discipleship creates influence. Teach someone the Bible and you will build your influence. Go build a Sunday school class and take care of teaching a new convert the Word of God and your influence will increase.

Personal counseling will increase influence. How do we become so big so fast that we do not have the time to counsel our members? People need guidance and Dr. Hyles was never too big to give it to them. He counseled more people than any preacher I have ever known.
Personal examples expand influence. People watch you, and when you set a good example for them you have the chance to influence them.

Personal giving creates influence. No one gave so much to so many as Dr. Hyles. He was a conduit between God and the needs of people. There was never a more generous man, and one who did it for more unselfish reasons than he. No wonder he had such great influence. He gave.

Personal attention expands influence. Whenever I was with Dr. Hyles I felt his love and care. I never felt that I was just one of a herd of people. He spoke to me with genuine concern and influence. He showed an interest in my family, my church, my needs, my struggles, my life, and me. I loved him and allowed him more influence in my life than anyone because of that reason.

Personal integrity expands influence. Dr. Hyles treated people with the type of respect and honesty that earned influence in his town. He did not demand influence, yet he experienced great influence because everyone in town knew that he paid his debts on time, he was honest, and you could trust him and he would do what was right.

Personal kindness expands influence. Have you ever thought what a smile and a kind word could do for others? Dr. Hyles was a generous tipper in restaurants because he wanted to treat people well and make them happy. He always spoke to and smiled at people. He was cheerful to strangers and was never too big to lend a helping hand. He went about doing "good."

Personal prayer expands influence. Dr. Hyles did not just tell you he would pray for you. He prayed for you. Many times he would call or write a note to tell me he had just prayed for me. If someone asked him to pray he would often do it on the spot or he would take out a piece of paper and make a note to remind himself. He considered it a lie to say he would pray for them and then not do it.

Personal correspondence expands influence. It is amazing how many letters Dr. Hyles wrote in a week’s time. He would take meticulous notes to remind himself to write someone a note or letter. He dictated thousands of letters a year, but they were personal letters that showed thoughtfulness and concern. He returned phone calls. As busy as he was, he was not such a big shot that he would not return phone calls to people. I know preachers who seem to be born big shots and cannot return phone calls.

The last letter Dr. Hyles dictated before he left his office for the last time on Friday January 26, 2001, was to my dear wife, Lee Ann. He went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday February 6, 2001, ten days later! Here is that letter and an example of his thoughtfulness and concern for others!

January 26, 2001
Mrs. Bob Gray
c/o Longview Baptist Temple 2200 West Loop 281 Longview, Texas 75604-2597

Dear Mrs. Gray:

For many years I have been intending to write this letter and somehow I have just procrastinated.

There are several preachers, including your husband, who to me are what we had in mind when we started Hyles-Anderson College. I often mention this. One day it dawned on me that not only did we train preachers, but we train preachers’ wives. Immediately I thought of you as being the perfect example of a preacher’s wife to one of our graduates. Maybe that’s because you remind me so much of Mrs. Hyles. To me you are an example of what a preacher’s wife ought to be. Not only is this my opinion, but Mrs. Hyles voiced the same thing to me. So on behalf of her, I wanted to tell you our feelings and how proud of you we are. You have been through an awful lot. Your husband has been through an awful lot, but you have stuck with him loyally and faithfully and lovingly, and we are proud of you. God bless you.

Jack Hyles

Personal visits expand influence. Many people received a personal visit from Dr. Hyles over the years of his ministry. Although it became harder and harder to visit every absentee, someone visited each absentee because he had set the example of caring.

Are you getting the idea? We have opportunities every day to expand our influence, but we miss them, yet we are out marketing ourselves so that we can have more influence. We are missing the point that Jesus influenced the entire world by establishing a one-on-one influence among those with whom he came into contact.

2. Influence is not a right - it is earned. An expanded influence is not the right of being right. You can be the right person with the right message at the right time and never have much of an influence. You must earn that right. How do you earn the right to retain an expanded influence?

Influence is earned by time and consistency. If you do the right things long enough and consistently enough your influence will grow. Dr. Hyles earned his influence over time. He praised pastors who stayed at a church in a small town for numerous years, and as a result had become influential in their town. Some pastors of small churches actually have more influence than their larger counterparts because they have stayed faithful in that spot for so long.

Testing and battles earn influence. A man with battle scars has earned his right to have his opinions heard. Too many men want the influence of a veteran warrior without earning it. There is certain pretentiousness in that.

Influence is not voted on by a body, it is earned over time. When I became a pastor, I spent years earning the influence my position allowed me. Being voted in as pastor gave me some influence, but I still had to earn the right to it by serving my members. Too many pastors take the position of pastor as a mandate of power rather than a call to service.

Influence is earned by being unselfish. Nothing is more dangerous than someone who wants influence for their own selfish interests. I fear that many are more interested in the ego boost of being influential than they are for the good they can do for the cause of Christ.

3. Influence is limited and differs in its scope. Look around the church. You will see people who go to the workplace every day and work a job. They come home at night and minister to their family. They never do much more than that, but they have an amazing godly influence on their children. Is that one of lesser importance than the man who has a national ministry?

Dr. Hyles had a greater respect for the godly influence of laymen than any man I have ever known. Our churches need more people who take the influence they have and use it as unto the Lord instead of coveting more. Some will influence a church, some a city, some a state, some a nation and some the world. All are important in God's plan. Think not of yourself as being small because your scope is less than another. Before you try and influence all the preachers in America, have you thought of just encouraging the ones around you?

We need people who want to take what they have and use it before they acquire more and waste what they have. Accept your influence as that which God wants you to have. Rejoice with others whose influence may be greater than yours if it means getting the message out in a greater way. We are not in a competition, we are in a war and we need to play the role God has allowed us and accept the influence we have at this moment with joy.

4. Influence is given by God, not by one’s self. You can start a national ministry, but that does not give you a national influence. God raises men up and God takes men down. Too many are self- promoters, whereas the Bible clearly states that God is to promote us. Dr. Hyles’ influence was almost endless, yet he did not seek it. God raised him up and he responded by doing the right thing.

If you are busy acquiring influence you may become too busy to have influence. Many a person with a fortune of influence is wasting the fortune while trying to get more influence. Why not influence the people God has entrusted you with and stop worrying about how much influence Pastor Jones next door has? Let God decide if and when he is going to expand it.

5. Your amount of influence cannot be calculated with human calculations. Coystal Hyles had a very tiny scope of influence, one daughter and one young son named Jack. How much influence did she have? I am an accountant by previous trade, but it will take divine calculators to come up with those figures. She only influenced two, but really how much influence did she have?

Many a preacher may have lost a chance to influence more people in his mad rush to create more influence. You have no idea who that child is you are teaching in your Sunday school class. It may be a D. L. Moody or John R. Rice or a Jack Hyles. It may just be a Sunday school class, but you have no idea who you are teaching. Quit trying to use flawed human calculations to compare your influence to others.

6. Influence is a dangerous tool in the wrong hands and the desire to expand it can be destructive. The desire for influence can lead to covetousness, jealousy and even a lust for power. Many a local ministry has been destroyed when a pastor attempted to expand the influence beyond the church’s capacity and took them into financial troubles. Many wars and fights have been started between men seeking to compete for power, even though they would say influence.

If you are fighting for influence, you are not fighting for influence at all. You are struggling for power. Dr. Hyles did not want more influence. He wanted to help more people and often gave up the chance to have more influence for fear it would prevent him from helping more people.

7. Some influence can be a distraction for a better influence. Dr. Hyles wanted to help as many people as he could, but he did not accept every opportunity of influence that was given to him. He could not serve on every board, but he could serve his brethren. Many times he was offered a chance to be a board member of a ministry that could have given him prestige and even power over the direction of that ministry, but he would turn many such opportunities down because he had no need for the power and no desire to control another person's ministry.

He preferred servant influence to control influence. Many good men are so busy being influential that they have no time to have true, profitable influence. One of the things I admired most about Dr. Hyles was his ability to avoid power plays or control opportunities. It takes a lot of character to turn down power for influence.

8. The purpose of our influence should be to seek and to save the lost. Herein lies the secret. Jesus did not come to influence the world. He came to seek and to save that which was lost, one coin at a time, one lamb at a time and one son or person at a time. He changed the world because his purpose was right. More influence should always lead to more souls or it is not the right influence.

Dr. Hyles weighed his opportunities in proportion to the souls he felt could be reached. I was preaching at a God Save America Conference and I preached a sermon entitled, “I Don't Want to Save America.” It caused a furor, but I was not trying to demean the purpose of these good men or their conference. My point was that I want to win souls one at a time. God save Billy. God save Johnny. God save Mary. If we use our influence to win souls, a nation can be spared according to Jeremiah 5:1.

9. Opportunities do not create influence: influence will increase opportunities. Go out and do good with the influence you have and your opportunities to influence will increase. Keep looking for opportunities and your influence will decrease. Many men have had great influence, but as they grew in power they lost their purity of purpose and, eventually, lost their influence.

Just because you force open a door of influence does not mean you will have the ability to have influence. Men, be slow to open new opportunities for yourself. The temptation to start national conferences can blind you to your true purpose and calling.

10. You can market a product, but you cannot market influence. My dear preacher friends, if you want to sell more books help more people. The more people you help the more people will want to read what you write in a book. Dr. Hyles was a great motivator. He could motivate people to bring their friends to Sunday school or church, but his influence came from serving, not from marketing. We should take the time we are spending trying to market our books, conferences and ministries and spend it touching lives. God will market us in His time.

Dr. Hyles sold many books in his lifetime, but no one, including himself, ever marketed them for him. So, who bought these books? The people he influenced bought them. Some people are authors and spend their lives writing, while some are servants and spend their lives touching others.

I attended Dr. Hyles’ funeral. I saw the people and I heard the stories of individuals he influenced. Let me tell you what I did not hear. I did not hear people say that he was the greatest preacher, or greatest college chancellor, or greatest school administrator, or greatest conference speaker.

What I did hear was story after story after story of people he had helped in a personal way. Dr. Hyles was not great because he had influence. He had influence because he was a great man, perhaps the most influential Christian I have ever known. A man may speak well, but that does not mean he has spoken well!

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