Saturday, November 7, 2009

Refusing to Face The Truth

During the 1960's and 1970's, Jack Hyles pastored the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, which was the world's largest Sunday School. I graduated from their college, and they were running 40,000 in Sunday School when I left.

His son David had an extremely large and successful youth ministry, but reports kept coming in of Dave's wide-spread immorality. Looking at David's strict obedience to the church's lengthy list of man-made rules, Jack didn't believe the charges. When he finally accepted that they were true, he tried to cover things up while he worked on getting David to repent. Finally, everything blew up in his face, and the scandal became public.

And then Jack preached one of the most important sermons in Christian history: "Logic Demands the King James Bible." A strict fundamentalist who had cracked under the strain of his son's wickedness, Jack rejected God's Word in favor of a man-made translation, but he did keep the man-made rules.

Did it work?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Does God Bless? His Word, or Our Rules?

Independent Baptists hit their heyday during the 1960's and 1970's. At one time, the largest church in 17 states was independent Baptist, and in another 17 states, the largest non-Catholic church was independent Baptist. They had a fast-growing number of Christian schools. Through their bus ministries they were reaching more new lost people than every other Christian church in the US combined. Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist Convention, representing over half of America's Baptists, declined steadily.

The independent Baptists offered two explanations for why God was blessing them more than the Convention: their loyalty to God's Word, and their obedience to man-made rules. And, to put it bluntly, they had the numbers to back up their claims.

Today, only one of those 17 independent Baptist churches is the largest in its state. Most of their schools have closed or merged, and their bus ministries have dropped heavily. Many of their churches have joined the Southern Baptist Convention, which has shown good growth since the "fundamentalist take-over," when Christians managed to oust most non-Christians from leadership.

What went wrong?