Why I Am Suspicious of Young Men Who Criticize Men Like Jack Hyles.
Most of us wish we could point to some politician and say there is another Ronald Reagan or that man has the integrity of one of our forefathers. It is not to say that in retrospect some of the leaders of our day will not prove to be great. It is possible they will. However, we will not know until they have proven themselves over many years of ministry. If they have the stature and the greatness of the great leaders of our country’s past perhaps they will.
It is not that we do not support them. It is not that we do not see their potential. It is not that we do not cheer for them. It is not that we don’t want them to have success. However, we know that they have not yet proven themselves like others before them. This is why we point backwards to the greatness of past men as a standard for those who are in leadership in the present day.
It is interesting that in ministry many do not use the same standard. They think that we should ignore the men of the past while lifting up the men of today. In fact, when we criticize great men of the past it seems we are less concerned when the same thing is being done in todays political and religious arenas.
However, the principle is the same. These younger men have not yet proven themselves, nor do they have the right to attack and question proven men who went before them. Often, by finding fault in those men they make changes that water down the purity of Biblical positions.
It’s strange that we want a Ronald Reagan in the White House, but not a Jack Hyles in the pulpit of God’s house. It is interesting that we want great political leaders like we had in the past, but seem to not care to have great spiritual leaders like we had in the past. We accept watered-down versions and criticize those who notice the weakness and try to call it out. Are we not to call out the changes that will move us away from that which we have believed and fought for?
Young men should be careful to criticize men who have gone before them. And when those of us who knew those defend them, we should not be attacked because we question the young man’s motives and methods. I am not fighting younger men, but I do question the integrity of a younger man who tries to find fault in great men who have gone before them.
Typically the reason we find fault is because we have something we want to change. Attacking those men is often used as a defense for the changes they are making. Don’t ask me not to call men out on this. Don’t ask me to sit idly by while they criticize Jack Hyles and criticize things that he stood for without truly understanding the principles of why he fought for them. Don’t ask us to accept their label of legalism on what was not legalism.
I am suspicious of young men who question men like Jack Hyles. It is not because I think Jack Hyles was perfect. It is not because I believe that everyone must do everything the way he did them. It is because in their criticism of him they’re trying to justify something in themselves. I question what and I questioned why.
I never tried to be like Jack Hyles in every area of my ministry. However, I did not need to criticize Jack Hyles in order to be different. I operated in the manner in which I felt God wanted me to, but I didn’t feel I needed to criticize Jack Hyles or John Rice to justify my differences. In fact most of the times when I did something different I questioned myself first. Before I veered from there their methods or their philosophies I carefully considered if maybe they knew something I didn’t know.
A younger preacher told the story of reading a book by Dr. Hyles. He adamantly disagreed with something Dr. Hyles taught. After a time being in the ministry he became aware to him how right Dr. Hyles had been. You see, he did not know yet what he did not know. He did not understand what he had not yet experienced. He had walked a block and Dr. Hyles shoes rather than a mile. He had put on the same shoes in the shoe store but he had yet to go out and prove that he could walk in those shoes.
1. Be very careful when criticizing a proven man. Don’t be too quick to think you know better. Don’t scrutinize the men who God blessed in the past. Learn from them. They arrived at their destination while others struggle over their own direction.
2. Be careful about following a man who criticizes proven leaders. There is a reason they don’t like them. There is a reason they question them. Forgive me for saying this, but there’s a reason Dr. Hyles successor questioned Jack Hyles’ methods and why he deflated Jack Hyles’ numbers. We couldn’t see it then, but we see it now.
3. Don’t judge old men by the young men. Does not the Bible teach that it is unwise to take the Council of younger men over older men? Would that not include older men who have passed off the scene and who are now in Heaven? Neither do I compare the young men to these older men, UNLESS they criticize those men.
4. Don’t lose the old-time values while accepting the modern methods. It is easy for us to take modern methods and lose the integrity of our message. It is easy for us to lose our separatist position while trying to embrace the modern methods of our time. Modern methods can be good, but let us not lose the proven positions of those who went before us
5. Study the older men. Go ahead and attend conferences, but read the books by the older men. Go ahead and attend church growth conferences. You will learn something. But read Jack Hyles books on church building and Sunday school as well. Dr. Hyles forgot more than these younger men have yet to learn. Be a student of the past. It would be wise for a 2 to 1 ratio of reading to attending.
6. Give the young men time to prove themselves, but beware of those who criticize and find fault in their heritage. One of the sins of America’s liberal institutions is the way they have altered history to demean our forefathers.The Scripture says to pay attention to the “end of their conversation.” Souls saved and baptized is still the barometer not transfers. Growth by attraction is different than growth by attacking the gates of Hell. Many Southern Baptist churches with spectacular growth are merely sapping the strength out of area churches via “attraction.”
7. Don’t blame the older men for the current state of things. This is a popular method of some younger preachers. They credit men like Dr. Hyles for good he did and then add a BUT to their commendation. Usually the BUT indicates a drift in their own position. It also is usually a mischaracterization of the man. Most of the criticisms I hear of Dr. Hyles ministry are blatantly inaccurate.
I do not want to attack younger preachers. However, if in defending an older preacher or a preacher of the past from the attack of a younger preacher makes me an enemy then I’m an enemy. Often time defending someone causes people to attack you when all you’re doing is defending those under attack. If a preacher writes a negative article about Dr. Hyles don’t get upset with me if I choose to defend Dr. Hyles. Let us not forget what these men did and what they could teach us from their experience