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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 work. 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 circles many do not use the same standard. In the ministry many think we should ignore the men of the past while lifting up the men of today. In fact, when some criticize great men of great past ministries the same people are appalled when some do the same thing in the political arena. 

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 are endorsing changes that water down the purity of what we have believed and believe.

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 if we 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. We enjoy spiritual benefits because of the blood, sweat, and tears of our mentors. They fought the battle we have not had to fight. Yet, we are wasting past victory by besmirching the past victors.

Typically the reason young benefactors find fault is because they have something they want to change to ease the sacrifice for themselves. Attacking those men of old is often used as a defense for the changes the young leaders are making to serve their carnal followers.  

Do not ask me not to call men out on this. Do not 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. Do not ask us older followers to accept their label of legalism on what was not legalism.

I am suspicious of young men who question men like Jack Hyles, Tom Malone, Lee Roberson, and John R. Rice. It is not because I think those men were perfect. It is not because I believe that everyone must do everything the way they did them. It is because in their criticism of them they are trying to justify something of lesser spiritual value found in themselves. I question what and I question 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 in 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.

May I make several observations here.

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.

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.

6. Give the young men time to prove themselves before imitating. Beware of young men 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.

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 the 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

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