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In the SWORD OF THE LORD issue dated August 17 a column “FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS,” written by a friend Dr. Jeff Amsbaugh, was entitled “HOPE FOR HAMMOND.”  I would urge everyone to read this article and allow the author to help us learn from the recent situation at the FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH of Hammond, IN. 

99.9% true, BUT not quite ALL true!

I had no problem with the article until I came to his point number three.  “Third, preachers must be careful to preach the entire counsel of God and do so in an exegetical fashion.”

It is becoming tougher and tougher to be an independent Baptist preacher in this day and time.  At every level we are under attack, but when we are told that only ONE style of preaching is acceptable I MUST answer.

This seems to be a repeated theme lately and I am wondering why? I cannot sit idly by and allow this distortion about preaching be perpetuated without a reply. This is an incursion into the absurd.

Are you ready for this?  The assertion seemed to be that “topical” preaching is what leads to the climate that creates a fall like Jack Schaap’s fall.  Now, there is a logic MSNBC would be proud of?  That inference and assertion is a nothing more than a man’s conjecture and speculation.

“Topical” preaching has been around since Jesus walked this planet.  It has been a part of preaching in every generation and has been used by many of the great men of God throughout history.  

If we are to preach “every word of God” then pray tell whether it is “topical” or “expository” or “exegetical” the issue ought to be is it Biblical preaching?

I know that we were all taught there are three styles of preaching.  That fit so perfectly into a class taught by a man who had never built a work for God. 

Preaching is not that tidy.  It is a messy proposition.  There is not some little neat & cute way to compartmentalize real Bible preaching, the kind that built this country, and that most of us cut our teeth on.

The soft, young, and new fangled independent Baptists missed it.  They missed the old time preaching of Bob Jones, Sr., Sam Jones, Bill Rice, John R. Rice, Lester Roloff, Lee Roberson, R.G. Lee, Tom Malone, and Jack Hyles.

I am not sure I ever heard the words “expository preaching” or “textual preaching” or “exegetical preaching” used in a SWORD CONFERENCE in the old days.  You were either a Bible preacher or you were not!  

I have poured through sermons in the past few months and I am attempting to find where any of the greatly used independent Baptist men of God discussed preaching styles.

I will tell you what they did preach about…BIBLE PREACHING!  I think we ought to just go back to those words and stop scrutinizing the “stylistics.”

Did the great men of old preach expository or textual or exegetical sermons?  Sure, they probably did, but I promise it was not a “style” they were thinking about, for it was a message from God they were concentrating on. 

They also never called out any man of God whose “style” was different.  They just let God speak to them through the preaching of the Word.

I will tell you something else about these great men, they did not sit around and critique each others preaching style.  They listened with the fullness of the Spirit looking for God to speak to their hearts.  They had one concern and that was whether or not a man was a Bible preacher, not whether he was “exegetical”, “topical” “textual” or “expository.”

Goodness gracious, no wonder we lack revival with some of the “stylish” minded preaching emphasis we have today.  Please explain why men of God are pushing the preaching ‘style shows’ of today any way?  

Preach the Word brethren!  Reprove, rebuke, exhort, and stop letting somebody tell you that the “style” of the real men of God of the past somehow creates an environment for “scandals.”  

I can hear you now saying, “Brother Gray you sound like you are upset?”  YES!  YES!  A world dying and going to Hell and we want a certain type of preaching only! Hogwash!


If you take a city of 20,000 population you would find far more so-called immoral acts than FBC  of Hammond has had or will have when there were 20,000 in attendance at FBC.  No group of God’s people have more sin in the camp than another group.  The problem is a individual flesh problem not an individual group problem. The reason Satan is after the independent Baptists is because they are   leading the way for soul winning.  

Any group of God’s people that become aggressive soul winners will have their followers’ sins shouted from the house tops through forums.  

The truth is we turn molesters into the police.  The first phone call that is made is to the police, so quit the distortion over the fact of one or two who do not do the right thing!

Since when did independent Baptists tell each other how to preach?   The giants didn’t and the few left today don’t.  They just loved Bible preaching.  

Camp meeting preaching may not be my cup of tea, but I love to hear it.  I love to hear the breathy and rhythmic preaching of our black brethren.  I wish I had some black blood in me myself! Ha!

I enjoy the monotone style of old Dr. Henderson.  I loved the “howdy neighbor” style of Bill Rice when he almost always built a truth (usually topical) around a story of hunting elephants in Africa or the antics of a Great Dane named Super. 

I loved the gravely voice preaching of Tom Malone.  I loved the off the wall, erratic preaching of Lester Roloff.  I never knew where he was going, but I knew the Holy Spirit of God was guiding him.  I loved hearing the steady and statesman like preaching of Lee Roberson.  AND, I LOVED hearing the folksy, relate to people style preaching of my friend and man of God, Jack Hyles.

What was their style?  Real men have their own style.  They are not so insecure as to follow trends.  Actually they did have a style.  It was a Spirit filled style.

Dr. John Rice in his sermon on preaching said, “I believe that some preaching ought to be topical preaching, that is, preaching on a subject.  But, in such a case, the subject ought to be found in the Scriptures, and then the points the preacher makes under that subject ought to be proved, everyone, from the Scripture itself.”

I listen to preaching every week of my life and this is the kind of preaching I hear from most of our men.  This matter of labeling preaching has become a trend and the clueless young men are biting the bait. 

Some Bible colleges are misleading young men about preaching.  They mock “pentecost” campaigns in their leadership conferences and “topical” preaching in the same conferences. It appears to be a slap at aggressive soul winning for some reason.
Dr. Hyles may have been the most balanced preacher I have ever known. I dare you to go back and listen to his sermons from his last 30 years and tell me he was not a Bible preacher.  

His Bible studies on Prayer, the Holy Spirit, Psalms, Proverbs, Revelation, Justice, the Beatitudes, and I could go on and on were full of Bible truths.  He spent over a year going through the Bible chronologically with his people.  
  • The problem with our preaching is not the lack of “style,” but the lack of power
  • Maybe our problem is more with the topics being preached rather than the style.  Maybe we want to skirt preaching on standards and with more “textual” or “exegetical” preaching we can avoid such issues. In my experience compromise and changing “styles” often go together!
  • Maybe we have conveniently forgotten how  Jesus taught.  Jesus used Scriptures to expound on a topic.  He told human stories and used parables to teach the truth.
  • Maybe we are embarrassed at being thought of as less “intellectual” than some.  Hummmm…could that really be it?  Maybe we don’t like the idea of the “foolishness of preaching” so we want to dress it up in the tuxedo of “style.”
  • Maybe we have forgotten the purpose of preaching
  • Maybe we just don’t want to be a Hellfire and brimstone preacher any more.  Maybe you are not one of us any longer.  If you don’t like it here…leave, but keep your nose out of our business and our preaching.  Leave our preacher boys alone!
  • We are listening to the patients instead of treating them.  Sure your wife likes Sister Joel Osteen’s “style.”  That in itself ought to tell you somethings wrong!  Sure your people would rather be taught than challenged unless they are spiritual.  If they are spiritual they want Bible preaching.  If they want to study the Bible more than I suggest they do so.  They have Bibles at home, don’t they?  Stop coddling the flock!


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I could go on and on to prove that most of these men regularly preached topical style sermons, but I promise you they were not fixated on “style” like we are becoming today.  

They WERE fixated on preaching the Bible to address the needs of the hour. They would  quickly rebuke anyone who did not preach the Bible.  They were concerned with whether it was  Bible preaching and not “style.”

Where did this emphasis on “style” come from?  Did it come from Dr. Rice, Dr. Bill Rice, Dallas Billington, Lester Roloff, Lee Roberson, Carl Hatch, Curtis Hutson, Joe Henry Hankins, Billy Sunday, Spurgeon, Moody, Jack Hyles, etc.? Maybe we have been influenced by Evangelicals?

However, may I say there is something going on here, in my opinion, that is deeper than just the “style.”  Obviously there is here an obsession with Dr. Jack Hyles and FBC.  If you delve a little deeper into these men who are pushing a certain “style” of preaching you find a simple dislike that has grown into a distain that has become a distraction from simple Bible preaching. 

Satan has played a bait and switch on independent Baptist preachers who WANT to find a scandal to back up what they have always believed and not what really exists.  If you are President Obama then you will say, “It all is George Bush’s fault.”  Of course it is all Jack Hyles fault because he preached “topical” messages.

Now, were there expositors in every generation?  Yes, there were and these men recognized and loved each other as long as it was Bible preaching. I could name you men of that era who were great expositors and they were great men, but again, these men did not sit around and critique the “style” of the others.  

I enjoy hearing a soul winning sermon, from someone who calls himself an expositor, bring out the truths of the Word of God, but I call it Bible preaching.  I refuse to join those influenced by Evangelicals who bring division to the brethren and really are in favor of watered down pulpiteering.  

I am not interested in hearing an expositor preach in a church where no one is getting saved. It appears the young ones are looking for an easy way to do the work of God.  They are looking for one solution. The premise appears to be if we preach exclusively “expository” or “exegetical” sermons God will meet with us in power once again.   Silly logic!

God raises up men for HIS purpose.  Please hear me brethren! God is not a cookie cutter God.  The same God that raised up a man like Lee Roberson raised up Lester Roloff.  Now there was not much similarity in their styles, but there was a whole lot of similarity in their power from on high.  They loved each other and gladly had each other preach for them, without any strings attached.

Quit attempting to be who you are not.  These great men did not try to be what someone else was.  Can you imagine Bill Rice attempting to preach like Lee Roberson or John Rice attempting to preach like Brother Roloff?  

These men were unique in their “style” of preaching and God used them all in unique ways.  These young men of our day if they are to be consistent would have to criticize a Bill Rice, a John Rice, a Brother Roloff, and do criticize a Jack Hyles whose shoes they are not worthy to shine!

Let me use my own preaching as an example.  I am known for preaching on soul winning and there are many who define my style that way.  Truth be known for many years I was invited to churches because they wanted me to preach on soul winning for it was a need in their church.  However, go back and listen to my sermons over the 33 years of pastoring and you will see I preached many types of sermons and in many different ways with a rare emphasis on soul winning.

I could call the name of a well known pastor and most of you would think of a specific thing about that man.  Why?  Typically we know more about a man for a national purpose for which God raised him than the man he is in his own realm.  I sat under Dr. Hyles preaching for 29 years.  God used him to not only teach me the Word of God, but how to live the Christian life.  He was a Bible preacher!

Another mistake we make is we know someone who came up under a man’s ministry and who misrepresents the truth of that man.  I witnessed it with men who were Lee Roberson’s “products.”  These mimickers copy a certain aspect of the man and miss the rest.  

Again, this is the minority and it is unfair to blame the man for the few poor copies. Truth be known there are Bible preachers all across this world who came up under Dr. Hyles. Each one is unique, but they all have a little of Dr. Hyles in them.  

Please do not judge all of us who hate abortion by the quack who burns down a clinic and do not judge a man of God by a preacher or two who are extremes of him.

Many years ago there was a pastor in Southern California who entered into a fight in his church over the Masonic Lodge.  He became obsessed with it.  For years he could not preach a sermon without it coming back to that subject matter.  He was a good man, but he went off on a tangent.  All of us must be careful that we are not tangent preachers.

Dr. Hyles counseled more people than any pastor I have ever known.  Often he would see a trend in his counseling and would decide he needed to speak on that dangerous trend.  So, he had a topic without a passage.  He taught me to read my Bible and spend time in God’s Word and the Holy Spirit would point out the answer to any particular need of the people.  All pastors have allowed God’s Word to give us answers for our people.

If Dr. Hyles, or myself or you, attempted to see what the Bible said about an issue so he could address it Biblically, then that was NOT WRONG for him or for us.  The following is an excerpt from Dr. Hyles’ book on preaching.

“A sermon is a tool.  It is not an end in itself. It is a tool with which to fix something.  For a number of years Evangelist Jim Lyons worked with me as an associate.  When he left me to enter the field of evangelism, people asked him to appraise my preaching.  He very kindly said that the key to Jack Hyles’ preaching was that a sermon was not a sermon to Brother Hyles, but rather it was a greasy wrench with which to fix something.  

I have never heard a better explanation of what preaching ought to be.  A sermon is not a painting in an art gallery to be admired and complimented; nor is it a relic in a museum to be examined. It is, as Brother Lyons observed, like a greasy wrench! It is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. The end is to fix something. This means that a good sermon should never be the goal of preaching; it should simply be a ‘greasy old wrench.'”

I realize that just because you use the Scripture does not mean it is Bible preaching.  Sincere men at times take a passage out of context to preach their own ideas.  I warn all of us to be cautious not to preach opinion over truth.  

However, I also fear when these “expositors” take the word of so-called theologian commentators and use their often misguided opinions and preach them as truth it is worse.

Hear me, there is far more error preached by deeper life Bible teachers than old fashioned Holy Ghost filled Bible preachers.  Give me the doctor with 10,000 patients and less degrees than the professor who can teach the medical textbooks, but who has never treated a single patient.  Dr. Hyles was more than a preacher for he was a practitioner.

To my dear brother who penned this article I strongly suggest you rethink your idea of “…preach the entire counsel of God and do so in an exegetical fashion.”

A good sermon like Dr. Rice’s on Bible preaching would serve far more as a good reminder of our responsibility as preachers than the jaded opinions of these young pups who appear to be disgruntled with time tested Bible preaching.  It would serve our LORD much better if we lost the fancy study of “styles” any way and just go back to being Bible preachers.

Allow God to “style” you and not a professor or a left leaning pastor who is seeking approval from Evangelical groups Brother Roloff and others would care less about what they thought!

II Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.”


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