He was the greatest church builder of our day. He did not attract a throng of people through the human methods of today’s megachurches. He employed the Biblical methods that allowed the Lord to build His church through him. We saw what God did through him and we admired him for it. We came to hear him and to identify with him. We vicariously lived through his successes and through the blessings on his ministry. We listened to his tapes, attended his Pastors’ Schools, read his books and even preached his sermons, but one question that we need to ask ourselves is this. Did we get his mind?
Three months before Dr. Jack Hyles died he seemed to have a premonition of the fact that his ministry was drawing to a conclusion. He asked this very poignant question. “When I am gone, who is going to think for our guys?”
He knew! He knew that we were his followers, but he wasn’t sure we were his students. He knew that we copied what he did, but he was not sure we studied why he did it. He knew we listened to his words, but he was not sure we delved into his mind. He knew we were students of his methods, but he was not sure we were students of his philosophies. He knew that in life we would not be dissuaded from following him, but he wasn’t sure that in death we would be astute enough to follow his principles. Yes, he knew, and he was troubled by the realization that we had not learned to think for ourselves like he thought.
We are in danger of becoming like sheep in the independent Baptist ranks. We follow men, but we are poor at following thoughts and principles. We think with our hearts, but far too seldom with our heads. Now that our leader is gone, we are looking for another leader to think for us because we failed to learn to think for ourselves from a master of thought. But, what is to become of us if these new leaders are not right? We are destined to follow them as blindly as other groups of the past that also failed to learn the true greatness of their leader, which was his ability to think.
Thinkers follow principle, thus, they follow men of principle and become principled thinkers as they study that one who leads them. As they follow that man of principle, they learn to think as he did, thus, being able to go on without that leader when he is gone. Dr. Jack Hyles followed a great thinker and man of principle, Dr. John Rice. He sat at the feet of Dr. Rice not just to learn all that Dr. Rice did, but also to learn how he thought. When Dr. Rice died, who took his place in Dr. Hyles’ life? Dr. Hyles did. He merely had become the thinker Dr. Rice was. He did not need a replacement, for he had become a man with the mind of Dr. Rice. He was loyal to the man who filled the position Dr. Rice once held, but it was Dr. Rice and his mind he followed not that position.
If you look at the life of Dr. Hyles, you will discover that his mind was a compilation of the minds of all the men he had chosen to follow throughout the years. Who were these men? Proven men. Steadfast men. Consistent men. Men whose minds had been honed through years of principled decision making and leadership. When these men passed off the scene he transferred his loyalty, but not his followship to those men who took their place.
What’s the difference? Loyalty means that he remained a friend to those men, but followship is something quite different. Followship says, I am transferring my thought development to you. But wait That will lead to certain failure, for when that chosen leader has passed off the scene, should we not have learned to now think for ourselves?
Did Jesus leave others to think for His disciples when He was gone? No. He trusted that they had learned to think as He thought. They were not only disciples of His actions, they were disciples of His truth or His mind. Their success or failure would now depend on their ability to put into action the ability to think like Christ did.
A good English student is not one who follows an English teacher in conjugating a sentence and then when that teacher is gone finds another to follow. No. A good English student is one who eventually learns how to conjugate a sentence for himself. A poor student is one who must perpetually be taught, for they cannot think for themselves.
We all need teachers, but are we merely allowing those teachers to think for us or are we allowing them to teach us how to think? If we were good students of Dr. Jack Hyles, then at this point we ought to be able to think for ourselves. That does not mean we do not allow other men to influence us, inspire us or instruct us. What it does mean is that we don’t give the mantle of thought to another.
Dr. Tom Wallace, Dr. Rice, and Dr. Hyles
Dr. Bill Rice, Dr. John Rice, and Dr. Hyles
Dr. Jack Hyles picked his leaders very carefully and never based his choice upon their position. He studied men and how they thought. Early in his ministry he found the men of thought from whom he wanted to learn to think. He followed those men, studying the why of their actions and not just the what. He wanted to learn the greatness of their minds and not just the greatness of their accomplishments. Accomplishments cannot truly be followed for God has differing accomplishments for each one of us. However, the mind of great accomplishment can be emulated, which can lead us to our own accomplishment.
Why did so many of Dr. Jack Hyles’ followers not experience great accomplishment and, in many cases, even encountered great failure in their ministries? Was it because they were so busy copying the answers that they were not formulating the patterns of thoughts that would allow them to answer the questions for themselves? We are like the failing student who wants to sit close to the straight “A” student so that we can copy their answers and get an “A” too. But, what will become of us when the “A” student is no longer there so we can copy them?
Would it not be better to learn to think for ourselves?
Maybe we will only get a “B,” but at least we learned to think. The difference in the “B” student and the “A” student is merely a slight difference in their ability to apply the thought processes to the problem. We are copycats whose grade is determined by who we copy rather than students who can think for ourselves.
When Jesus left His disciples, He did not fill His position with another to lead His disciples, but rather He left them with a challenge to take what He had taught them and reach the world. These followers of Christ were now left to think on their own. What did they do? They thought for themselves based upon the principles they had learned from their leader.
Dr. Hyles is gone now. Are we thinking or just following? Are we acting on impulse or are we acting upon the principles we learned from him? Are we thinking for ourselves or are we searching for another from whose paper we can copy? Are we employing the patterns of thought from our leader of the past or are we blindly looking for another to lead us and think for us?
For years, those who loved Dr. Hyles would often jokingly say things like, “If I want to know what I believe about something I just get one of Brother Hyles’ tapes and find out.” It was innocent and cute, but maybe it was also dangerously true. Maybe we studied the answers, but forgot to learn the principles that led him to his conclusions. All compromise and change comes from extending followship, rather than loyalty, to the position of a leader. We change because we never learned to think for ourselves.
Jack Hyles did not learn what to think by his chosen leaders as much he learned how to think from them.
He was independent in his thinking, but principled. He even disagreed with the conclusions of some of those men, but still he was their student in learning how to think. A part of thinking independently and by principle is being able to not only disagree but to disagree with principle. He never used his conclusions to hurt those who taught him to think.
Dr. Hyles often prayed these words before a meeting, “Lord, give us the mind of Christ.” Thus, his thinking was never guided by thoughts of his own reputation in his decision making. He thought of what was right even if it caused others to be angry with him. He would rather have been justly wrong than unjustly right in dealing with matters.
He was guided by the principles of thinking rather than by what it would bring to him. He did not go into meetings and wonder how he would look or how others would perceive him. His thinking was not guided by those self-serving ideas, but rather by thoughts of what was just and right.
One of the great attributes of his mind was the deliberate nature of how he thought. Principle was his ruler. Opinions were always judged by those principles. Within the boundaries of his principles he valued the opinion of others, but when they strayed outside of those boundaries he quickly let principle take over again.
Personalities could not defeat principles. Persuasiveness was subject to them as well. Thus, a well-crafted argument was no match against those principles in his mind. Principles were the police force that arrested all other thoughts that tried to trespass into his mind.
It has often been said that Dr. Hyles had a great mind, which is probably true. But, there have been many others with perhaps greater minds whose influence never came close to his. It was not the greatness of his mind that made him great; it was the greatness of his thoughts that made him great. Great minds have great ideas but great thinkers make great decisions.
An idea is not great in and of itself, but only under the control of principled thinking, which can make the proper decision regarding that idea. Many great ideas have gone awry because they were not well thought out. He never reacted to an idea for he knew that ideas were creations of the imagination. One’s imagination had to be held accountable to the full processes of his thinking and never allowed full freedom of its own. Before an idea could be acted upon it had to stand before the scrutiny of his principles.
Why did Dr. Hyles spend so little time in idle chatter?
Was he anti-social? Did he not enjoy conversation? To the contrary, Dr. Hyles was a great conversationalist, but he was careful not to fill his mind with that which would block his ability to ponder and reflect properly. What if he had ever been careless in his thoughts? Countless lives could have been destroyed.
One unprincipled decision could have ended a man’s ministry or ruined a person’s life. His value on people helped him place a greater value on guarding his mind. Again, he had the mind of Christ because he took upon himself the form of a servant and was obedient to that which God had called him to do.
He is gone now. He went to heaven far sooner than any of us expected. We weren’t ready for it. Tragically, he knew we weren’t ready for it mentally. He tried to let us into his mind, not to show us what to think, but how to think. He loved our diversity. He wanted us to be ourselves, but with the ability to think in a principled manner.
He taught us his principles, but we were too busy gawking at his accomplishments to understand that his accomplishments were by-products of those principles. We were too busy seeking his approval to pay attention to that great mind that would soon be taken from us. We missed so much as we waded in the shallow waters of our insecurities while he longed for us to cast our nets into the depths of his mind. Tragically many did not do it.
So, is it too late?
He is gone, so what are we to do if we failed to study his mind as we should? Fortunately, he left us much of his mind in many of his books. If we would take the time to study those books, possibly we could also study how he thought. Perhaps, if we would even just reflect back a little, we could remember all that he taught us about the principles that guided his thoughts.
The one thing we must do is to realize that the greatness of the man was not just in his deeds. The greatness of his deeds were mere reflections of the greatness of his mind. His actions were the results of his thoughts. His thoughts were a result of his principles. His principles were a result of his decision to study great men of thought and learn how to capture their mind.
The challenge for each of us is to realize that thinking requires work and diligence. We must decide what the principles are by which we will live and build our ministries and then allow those principles to guide our thoughts. We must no longer blindly follow men or popular opinion. We must quit allowing the phone and other outside influences to guide so many of our thoughts and get alone and decide what is right. Our minds are more than a copy machine; they are a calculator. We must use our minds to calculate by principle our actions. Let this mind be in you which was also in Jack Hyles. Think by principle and think for yourself.