WHEN DO YOU GO TO WAR?
I shared the pulpit with Dr. Jack Hyles for the first time in December of 1978 in Memphis, Tennessee. I also preached with him at his last Bible Conference in Mexico in January of 2001. There were twenty-two years of sharing the same platform with him and thousands of conversations between the two of us.
Books could easily be written on the greatness and the completeness of this man of God. He was awesome at a distance; but the most interesting thing about this great man was how he did not lose his greatness up close. I was never disappointed because the qualities I observed at a distance became greater qualities up close.
There are so many one-liners spoken by Dr. Hyles that just seemed to sum up a subject matter in one sentence. He said to me one time, “Never break stride!” At another time he said, “Never undo in doubt what you started in faith!” He would tell me, “Don’t become a one-dimensional preacher!” However, there is one saying I would like to call to your attention in this article. That particular statement was, “Learn to live above the fray!”
Pastor’s School of March 2000, Dr. Hyles had to do some scolding of “his boys.” He said at the end of that week it was one of the hardest things he had ever done at one of his Pastor’s Schools. The next time I was with him I asked him if I had done something to cause him any grief or pain. I could not stand the thought of me causing him the least bit of hurt. His response to me was, “No you have not!” He said to me, “Brother Gray you have a great spirit, don’t lose it. I think you are beginning to learn how to live above the fray.”
In no way was Dr. Hyles teaching us to put our heads in the sand. He never ran from a fight in his life, nor did he start any fight. However, he did pick his fights concerning where to fight, what to fight, and when to fight. He was constantly reminding us to keep the main thing the main thing in our lives and ministries.
My wife worked for Dr. Wendell Evans, President of Hyles-Anderson College, as his secretary. One day she asked him at what point do I bring things to you? His response was, “When you think it affects the ministry, then bring it to me.” Great advice!
When skirmishes erupt and the storm clouds rise on the horizon, as a man of God, I had to make wise decisions. If I was not careful I would find myself being pulled down from the heavenlies and I would lose my walk with my God, finding myself engaged in a quagmire of useless bickering. There are several questions I was taught by Dr. Hyles when being faced with outside pressures and inside pressures. The questions were "what to fight, where to fight, and when to fight?"
WHAT IF IT IS ANOTHER MAN'S MINISTRY?
If it is not an issue that is distracting my ministry from doing what God put us here to do then I leave the issue alone. I had enough on my plate without going around looking for more to do. If someone comes to me for help then I help. I did not stick my nose into the lives of our people nor do I stick my nose into another man’s ministry. When a member came in for counseling and they began to talk and I perceive there is no question being asked of me I then say, “Are you asking me or telling me?” If they are asking me then I could help, but if they were telling me then all I could do was listen.
Whatever I am responsible for and have the authority over is the point of reference I used in dealing with problems. I only had to answer to my Lord for my ministry. I had several ministries brought to the two churches I pastored, but they were those men of God's concern not mine. They did not tell me how run my ministry and I likewise stayed out of their ministries. They came to my ministry because we were doctrinally compatible. I helped when asked. By the way, I would never allow my deacons to interfere nor tell me how to deal with another man's ministry. The deacons ONLY responsibility in Scripture is to take tatters of widows.
Sometimes folks would choose to leave our church. I still prayed for them and continued to have warm and fond memories of our time together. If they call back for counseling I would always tell them to gain permission from their current pastor, or else I could not counsel them. That did not mean I did not love them.
I had more to do than I could say grace over. I would give my time and energy to helping those who desire to be helped. I would invest my time in building up the folks who stayed and not spend my time lamenting or plotting against those who chose to leave.
If something happened on a national scene and it was disruptive to fundamentalism, but has not affected my ministry, I learned through the years to leave it alone. It has not always been that way with me, but through the passing of time it proved to be more productive for my ministry. I did not bring to my pulpit and my world extraneous issues. Many a man of God has caused more trouble by sticking his nose into ministry matters that did not matter.
If some man of God feels he must become involved in a national issue that is strictly up to him. In no way am I telling another man of God what to do or not to do. I can only speak for what I believe was best for me. I believe it is detrimental to a local church to enter into extraneous issues.
DOES THIS MEAN YOU ARE RUNNING FROM A FIGHT?
Dr. Hyles and I were preaching together at the Lavon Drive Baptist Church of Garland, Texas. At the noon question and answer luncheon Lindsey Terry, a staff member, asked Dr. Hyles if he had heard of John MacArthur’s statement concerning the blood of Christ dissipating at the foot of Calvary with only the death of Christ needed for payment of sins?
Dr. Hyles responded, “Lindsey have you ever misspoke?” He answered, “Yes!” Dr. Hyles said, “So have I and I would suggest until it is put into print that I would give him the benefit of the doubt!”
Dr. Hyles in 1990 felt he must answer Robert Sumner’s vicious and unfounded published hearsay on a Sunday night with his sermon, “TILL THE STORM PASSES BY.” Dr. Hyles’ had been attacked and maligned and he had every right to answer; not for his sake but for the sake of influence.
In my opinion, I dare not hide behind being a “good Christian” and do nothing, while allowing Satan to cripple the effectiveness of the ministry I have from God. There are times to speak out and times to be quiet. Knowing when to fight and when not to fight is crucial for a man of God.
If issues arise and fundamentalism is shaken, but it has not affected my ministry, I must leave the issue alone and let God sort it our. If it affects the effectiveness of my ministry then I will be compelled to deal with it, hopefully wisely, and then move on with the work at hand. Living above the fray does not mean you are running from a fight only you are choosing what to fight, where to fight, and when to fight if you must fight.