“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Several years before Dr. Hyles went to Heaven, there was a season he reevaluated his future and the future of his ministry. He asked many of those closest to him who they thought should succeed him as pastor of First Baptist Church. For a time he thought of naming a successor, which he never did, contrary to some people’s mistaken notion. I remember him talking to me about his future. He considered retirement. He considered handing the church off to a younger man. He had been under great attack and felt that maybe his best days were behind him.
One Sunday morning Dr. Hyles announced that he was going to preach a sermon that night on who his successor was going to be. Word spread throughout the country. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas begin to take odds on who would be named. Well, they didn't but we all begin to predicting who we thought it would be. I am glad I did not place any bets, although Tom Neal tried to get me to.
When Dr. Hyles stood to preach that Sunday night everyone eagerly waited to see who would be named successor. The moment had come. Who would it be? It was………...Jack Hyles. He had decided not to retire and hand his ministry over to another. He decided to “re-enlist.” We were all happy he did. As a result he enjoyed several more years of great ministry blessings.
I am now a few years older than he was at that time. Some think that I am at the end of my ministry. Others assume that my best days are passed. However, I do not believe that. In fact, I believe God has just begun to use Bob Gray, Sr. Critics and enemies, I am so sorry to have to tell you, but I have decided to re-enlist. By the way don't count me out of pastoring again, quite yet. But, that's another subject altogether.
Yes, I have decided to start over. You are hearing from the NEW and Reinvigorated Bob Gray, Sr. I am like the kid preacher who is more excited about the future than the past. While I am certainly grateful for all that God has allowed me to do in the past, the past is the past. I am more grateful for what God is allowing me to do today and will allow me to do in the days ahead. I am re-enlisting and with that comes some new exciting opportunities.
By the time you read this article I will have joined a new church. Many months ago my path crossed with a younger man to whom my heart was knit. That young man took a great interest in learning from me as well as being a help to me. Now, I am no John Rice and this young younger preacher would not claim to be a Jack Hyles, but he saw the same thing in me that Jack Hyles saw in an older and much maligned John Rice. He saw value while some ready to put us out to pasture.
That young man is building a vibrant and exciting church in Jacksonville, Florida. I have joined the Immanuel Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida under the dynamic leadership of Pastor Greg Neal. I have studied this young man over the past year and a half. I have watched him and examined him closely. I find him to be the kind of pastor I need at this point in my and my wife's life.
Jacksonville will become the headquarters of Bob Gray, Sr. and his ministries. Many exciting plans are already in the works. I am proud to be a member of Immanuel Baptist Church and for Greg Neal to be my pastor. The naysayers of Greg Neal have had their day and their say, but God is blessing his ministry in a wonderful fashion.
I have a new college. Less than two years ago a small group of men met with me and we discussed the possibility of starting an online college. I cannot claim that I thought we would be where we are at this point. As of today we have 596 enrolled in our college. That is not 596 who have taken a class at some point. That is actual enrollment, and we are growing on a daily basis. Dr. Jeff Smale, President of IBOC, will soon be going full-time and we will work closely at continuing to build both an online college and eventually a campus college.
I am going to be conducting Soul Winning Clinics throughout the country. Yes, that Soul Winning Clinic. Many of you remember when we championed soul winning at our Soul Winning Clinic in Longview, Texas, for three decades. With Dr. Greg Neal’s support and help we will conduct Soul Winning Clinics in churches across America. Once again we will teach just as we did back in those days. I cannot tell you how much this excites me.
A new book has just come off the presses in MN, Introducing Jack Hyles to a New Generation. I decided that the next and future generations needed to know the truth about Jack Hyles. They needed to understand things that had been misrepresented by so many, including some who worked with and for him. Careful work has gone into this book and it is now ready to be shipped. This will be my third book about Dr. Hyles.
I am happy to announce that a fourth book is now in the works. With Mrs. Hyles blessing we have written three and will now be writing a fourth entitled, The Young Jack Hyles. For those who wish he would go away, well I've got news for you. He's not going away and I am going to make sure that his ministry continues to influence this nation and this world.
The final project I will mention now is that I plan to be here to irritate the critics of old-time fundamentalism until I die. I am not going to get soft on a generation that finds nothing but fault with older men. I'm grateful that a younger man like Greg Neal sees the value of older men. He realizes that we have something he and our country needs. I have no intention of going away. For those who have heard that Bob Gray, Sr. retired let me make it official, the reports of my retirement are greatly exaggerated.
I can only imagine the gossip that will be buzzing on the internet by lazy backslidden Christians who have nothing better to do than to criticize and slander those of us who are still doing what we have always done. It kinda invigorates me more. Have at it critics. I am ready. Bob Gray, Sr. "ain’t going nowhere." I plan to win more souls, preach more sermons, send out more tweets, and even upgrade my website. Yep, I am re-enlisting to do all I can for the cause of Christ.