(Dr. Bob Gray Sr.)
A preacher called me one day to ask my
advice on a matter. His question was regarding how
to better market several books he had written. He is a
good and sincere man and I know that his main goal
is to help as many people as he can by getting out the
message. However, when I hung up the phone from
speaking with him, I could not help but realize the
difference between the majority of Independent
Baptist preachers of today and Dr. Jack Hyles.
word “market.” I cannot help but wonder if that is
really what some of us have become, and if it is the
result of a desire to expand our influence. Perhaps we
do not really understand the matter of influence and
the principles Dr. Hyles taught and believed.
master of marketing would be foolish. Perhaps, in
some ways, he was as good as there was. However,
exactly what was he good at marketing and why?
Well, he was a master at marketing soul winning and
Sunday school. He was great at using various means
to get people under the sound of the Gospel. His Sunday school campaigns are legendary. He was
used of God to build two of the fastest growing
Sunday schools in America; in large part because of
his ability to market the Sunday school.
himself, or should I say his influence. Dr. Hyles knew
how to gather a crowd, but he was not striving to
garner a following. He was interested in influencing
people, but not becoming influential. There is a vast
difference between the two. Influencing people means
that you take every opportunity placed in your path to
try to have a positive influence on someone’s life.
Expanding one’s influence is a type of shortcut to
acquire influence without necessarily earning it.
influence before they learned to use the influence
they already possessed. As a result, they started
national conferences and ministries before they
should have, and the outcome was limited influence
at their own church. Unfortunately, they stretched too
far too soon. That was something Dr. Hyles did not
and would not do.
influence? Let me tell you how it is done. Personal
soul winning creates influence. Win a soul to Christ
and you will have influence on that person. Pastors
want to influence a nation, but they never win a soul
to Christ. If you really want to expand your influence,
pastor, put down your pen and pick up your New
Testament and go soul winning. Dr. Hyles gained
incredible influence not only from his preaching, but
also because he won many souls to Christ personally.
someone the Bible and you will build your influence. Go build a Sunday school class and take care of
teaching a new convert the Word of God and your
influence will increase.
How do we become so big so fast that we do not have
the time to counsel our members? People need
guidance and Dr. Hyles was never too big to give it to
them. He counseled more people than any preacher I
have ever known.
Personal examples expand influence. People
watch you, and when you set a good example for
them you have the chance to influence them.
so much to so many as Dr. Hyles. He was a conduit
between God and the needs of people. There was
never a more generous man, and one who did it for
more unselfish reasons than he. No wonder he had
such great influence. He gave.
Whenever I was with Dr. Hyles I felt his love and care.
I never felt that I was just one of a herd of people. He
spoke to me with genuine concern and influence. He
showed an interest in my family, my church, my
needs, my struggles, my life, and me. I loved him and
allowed him more influence in my life than anyone
because of that reason.
treated people with the type of respect and honesty
that earned influence in his town. He did not demand
influence, yet he experienced great influence because
everyone in town knew that he paid his debts on time,
he was honest, and you could trust him and he would
do what was right.
you ever thought what a smile and a kind word could do for others? Dr. Hyles was a generous tipper in
restaurants because he wanted to treat people well
and make them happy. He always spoke to and
smiled at people. He was cheerful to strangers and
was never too big to lend a helping hand. He went
about doing “good.”
did not just tell you he would pray for you. He prayed
for you. Many times he would call or write a note to
tell me he had just prayed for me. If someone asked
him to pray he would often do it on the spot or he
would take out a piece of paper and make a note to
remind himself. He considered it a lie to say he would
pray for them and then not do it.
is amazing how many letters Dr. Hyles wrote in a
week’s time. He would take meticulous notes to
remind himself to write someone a note or letter. He
dictated thousands of letters a year, but they were
personal letters that showed thoughtfulness and
concern. He returned phone calls. As busy as he was,
he was not such a big shot that he would not return
phone calls to people. I know preachers who seem to
be born big shots and cannot return phone calls.
his office for the last time on Friday January 26, 2001,
was to my dear wife, Lee Ann. He went home to be
with the Lord on Tuesday February 6, 2001, ten days
later! Here is that letter and an example of his
thoughtfulness and concern for others!
Mrs. Bob Gray
c/o Longview Baptist Temple
2200 West Loop 281
Longview, Texas 75604-2597
Dear Mrs. Gray:
letter and somehow I have just procrastinated.
who to me are what we had in mind when we started
Hyles-Anderson College. I often mention this. One day
it dawned on me that not only did we train preachers,
but we train preachers’ wives. Immediately I thought of
you as being the perfect example of a preacher’s wife
to one of our graduates. Maybe that’s because you
remind me so much of Mrs. Hyles. To me you are an
example of what a preacher’s wife ought to be. Not
only is this my opinion, but Mrs. Hyles voiced the
same thing to me. So on behalf of her, I wanted to tell
you our feelings and how proud of you we are. You
have been through an awful lot. Your husband has
been through an awful lot, but you have stuck with him
loyally and faithfully and lovingly, and we are proud of
you. God bless you.
received a personal visit from Dr. Hyles over the
years of his ministry. Although it became harder and
harder to visit every absentee, someone visited each
absentee because he had set the example of caring.
Are you getting the idea? We have
opportunities every day to expand our influence, but
we miss them, yet we are out marketing ourselves so
that we can have more influence. We are missing the
point that Jesus influenced the entire world by
establishing a one-on-one influence among those with
whom he came into contact.
expanded influence is not the right of being right. You
can be the right person with the right message at the
right time and never have much of an influence. You
must earn that right. How do you earn the right to
retain an expanded influence?
you do the right things long enough and consistently
enough your influence will grow. Dr. Hyles earned his
influence over time. He praised pastors who stayed at
a church in a small town for numerous years, and as
a result had become influential in their town. Some
pastors of small churches actually have more
influence than their larger counterparts because they
have stayed faithful in that spot for so long.
battle scars has earned his right to have his opinions
heard. Too many men want the influence of a veteran
warrior without earning it. There is certain
pretentiousness in that.
over time. When I became a pastor, I spent years earning the influence my position allowed me. Being
voted in as pastor gave me some influence, but I still
had to earn the right to it by serving my members.
Too many pastors take the position of pastor as a
mandate of power rather than a call to service.
is more dangerous than someone who wants
influence for their own selfish interests. I fear that
many are more interested in the ego boost of being
influential than they are for the good they can do for
the cause of Christ.
scope. Look around the church. You will see people
who go to the workplace every day and work a job.
They come home at night and minister to their family.
They never do much more than that, but they have an
amazing godly influence on their children. Is that one
of lesser importance than the man who has a national
influence of laymen than any man I have ever known.
Our churches need more people who take the
influence they have and use it as unto the Lord
instead of coveting more. Some will influence a
church, some a city, some a state, some a nation and
some the world. All are important in God’s plan. Think
not of yourself as being small because your scope is
less than another. Before you try and influence all the
preachers in America, have you thought of just
encouraging the ones around you?
have and use it before they acquire more and waste
what they have. Accept your influence as that which
God wants you to have. Rejoice with others whose
influence may be greater than yours if it means getting the message out in a greater way. We are not
in a competition, we are in a war and we need to play
the role God has allowed us and accept the influence
we have at this moment with joy.
self. You can start a national ministry, but that does
not give you a national influence. God raises men up
and God takes men down. Too many are self-
promoters, whereas the Bible clearly states that God
is to promote us. Dr. Hyles’ influence was almost
endless, yet he did not seek it. God raised him up and
he responded by doing the right thing.
become too busy to have influence. Many a person
with a fortune of influence is wasting the fortune while
trying to get more influence. Why not influence the
people God has entrusted you with and stop worrying
about how much influence Pastor Jones next door
has? Let God decide if and when he is going to
calculated with human calculations. Coystal Hyles
had a very tiny scope of influence, one daughter and
one young son named Jack. How much influence did
she have? I am an accountant by previous trade, but
it will take divine calculators to come up with those
figures. She only influenced two, but really how much
influence did she have?
influence more people in his mad rush to create more
influence. You have no idea who that child is you are
teaching in your Sunday school class. It may be a D.
L. Moody or John R. Rice or a Jack Hyles. It may just
be a Sunday school class, but you have no idea who you are teaching. Quit trying to use flawed human
calculations to compare your influence to others.
wrong hands and the desire to expand it can be
destructive. The desire for influence can lead to
covetousness, jealousy and even a lust for power.
Many a local ministry has been destroyed when a
pastor attempted to expand the influence beyond the
church’s capacity and took them into financial
troubles. Many wars and fights have been started
between men seeking to compete for power, even
though they would say influence.
fighting for influence at all. You are struggling for
power. Dr. Hyles did not want more influence. He
wanted to help more people and often gave up the
chance to have more influence for fear it would
prevent him from helping more people.
better influence. Dr. Hyles wanted to help as many
people as he could, but he did not accept every
opportunity of influence that was given to him. He
could not serve on every board, but he could serve
his brethren. Many times he was offered a chance to
be a board member of a ministry that could have
given him prestige and even power over the direction
of that ministry, but he would turn many such
opportunities down because he had no need for the
power and no desire to control another person’s
influence. Many good men are so busy being
influential that they have no time to have true,
profitable influence. One of the things I admired most
about Dr. Hyles was his ability to avoid power plays or control opportunities. It takes a lot of character to turn
down power for influence.
to seek and to save the lost. Herein lies the secret.
Jesus did not come to influence the world. He came
to seek and to save that which was lost, one coin at a
time, one lamb at a time and one son or person at a
time. He changed the world because his purpose was
right. More influence should always lead to more
souls or it is not the right influence.
proportion to the souls he felt could be reached. I was
preaching at a God Save America Conference and I
preached a sermon entitled, “I Don’t Want to Save
America.” It caused a furor, but I was not trying to
demean the purpose of these good men or their
conference. My point was that I want to win souls one
at a time. God save Billy. God save Johnny. God save
Mary. If we use our influence to win souls, a nation
can be spared according to Jeremiah 5:1.
influence will increase opportunities. Go out and
do good with the influence you have and your
opportunities to influence will increase. Keep looking
for opportunities and your influence will decrease.
Many men have had great influence, but as they grew
in power they lost their purity of purpose and,
eventually, lost their influence.
influence does not mean you will have the ability to
have influence. Men, be slow to open new
opportunities for yourself. The temptation to start
national conferences can blind you to your true
purpose and calling.
cannot market influence. My dear preacher friends,
if you want to sell more books help more people. The
more people you help the more people will want to
read what you write in a book. Dr. Hyles was a great
motivator. He could motivate people to bring their
friends to Sunday school or church, but his influence
came from serving, not from marketing. We should
take the time we are spending trying to market our
books, conferences and ministries and spend it
touching lives. God will market us in His time.
no one, including himself, ever marketed them for
him. So, who bought these books? The people he
influenced bought them. Some people are authors
and spend their lives writing, while some are servants
and spend their lives touching others.
and I heard the stories of individuals he influenced.
Let me tell you what I did not hear. I did not hear
people say that he was the greatest preacher, or
greatest college chancellor, or greatest school
administrator, or greatest conference speaker.
of people he had helped in a personal way. Dr. Hyles
was not great because he had influence. He had
influence because he was a great man, perhaps the
most influential Christian I have ever known. A man
may speak well, but that does not mean he has