A Question of Loyalty
Loyalty is a subject that is often misunderstood. People love to assign labels to loyalty such as idol worship, hero worship, man worship, and others. It just shows how little they understand true loyalty. Recently I have had my loyalty questioned and it has caused me to give much thought to this subject. I have done what I often do and studied the Scriptures and the principles I learned from my mentor Dr. Jack Hyles.
There are three types of loyalty that I want to discuss in this article. I believe that each of these types of loyalty needs to be understood properly. They are positional loyalty, principled loyalty, and personal loyalty. Allow me to explain each one and then compare them to each other.
Principle loyalty. I am loyal to the Scriptures and to my principles derived from those Scriptures. I do what is right. If you ask me to violate my principles I cannot do so because I am loyal to the principles which I believe. For example I am loyal to the Constitution of United States because I believe in the principles of the Constitution. I am loyal to the principles of God’s word. There are principles to which I have given my loyalty. This is a learned loyalty.
Positional loyalty. We are called upon to be loyal to a position. For example I am loyal to the position of President of United States of America. I am loyal to that position because I am a citizen of this country. Thus, I am positionally loyal. I may not like the man in the office, but I am loyal to the position and plan on staying in the USA. I may not agree with the man in the office, but I am loyal to the office. Positional loyalty is a loyalty that is not earned. It is a loyalty we give because of our loyalty to the institution represented. If you are a member of a church you should be loyal to the position of pastor. He may not be your favorite pastor, but you should be loyal to him. Churches and church leaders are sinners saved by grace who still sin and do make wrong decisions at times.
Personal loyalty. This is a loyalty to an individual. It is an earned loyalty. I am loyal to someone because they have earned my loyalty. Personal loyalty cannot be demanded or coerced. It can only be earned.
Let me apply these three and compare them. I am loyal to the Constitution of the United States, which is principled loyalty. Thus, I am loyal to the position of President of United States which is assigned loyalty. I can be loyal to both the principles and the position, but not be loyal to the person. I am not loyal to the man in the office of President because he has not earned my loyalty. I am loyal to his position. I will defend his position. I will fight for his position. I will not however be loyal to the man. I will not vote for him. I will not defend his policies.
He has my loyalty as President because of his position, but he does not have loyalty personally because he is disloyal to principles, which I believe are important. I can not defend his policies because they violate my principles. This is the reason many independent Baptist people are said to have “blind loyalty.” Bless their hearts they left their brain and Bible at the door of the church house.
Many years ago I heard Dr. Jack Hyles and Dr. John Rice preach. I was drawn to these men because of their Scriptural principles. They were Biblical principles in which I believed. Later I enrolled as a student in Hyles-Anderson College. I gave my loyalty to Dr. Hyles position. He was my pastor. He was the chancellor of my college. My loyalty had gone from principled to positional.
Over the years I watched Dr. Hyles serve his people and serve me. I watched as he led the church to take care of former pastors who served First Baptist Church. By the way, those pastors were not even close to what FBC believed, but Dr. Hyles knew he would not have what he had without those men of God.
Dr. Hyles never demanded personal loyalty from me. He gave his loyalty to his people and as result I gave my loyalty to him. He earned my loyalty. What began as principled loyalty, turned into positional loyalty, and eventually became personal loyalty.
Let me make an important statement. Many pastors think their people owe them the same kind of loyalty that other pastors have earned merely because they have the same position. That is not the case. I may be loyal to a leader because of their position, but not loyal to them because of their principles and not loyal to them personally because they have not earned it.
When Dr. Hyles died, First Baptist Church called new pastor. I was loyal to the principles that Dr. Hyles had taught. I was loyal to the position to which the new pastor had been given. However, I did not give him my personal loyalty. I reserved for him the right to earn that loyalty. Over time I saw principles to which I had been loyal violated. My loyalty was tested because of that.
That particular man attempted to buy my loyalty by offering me large sums of money to come and identify myself with him. I sent back to him a $10,000 check with my name on it because I was not for sale. That man tried intimidation and threats, but I could not give him my personal loyalty because he had not earned it.
I was criticized by some for remaining loyal to the position, while at the same time being criticized by others for not being loyal to that person. Eventually I separated myself from the position because I could no longer be loyal to the principles. My separation was not personal because I had never given my loyalty to the man.
Dr. John Rice earned my loyalty. Dr. Rice was never in a position of authority over me. In fact my loyalty to Dr. Rice was first based upon principle. As I got to know Dr. Rice he earned my personal loyalty. When I heard Dr. Rice teach on a certain doctrinal subject with which I disagreed I did not withdraw my personal loyalty to the man. He earned that. Nor did I change my beliefs regarding my principles.
Sometimes we must be loyal to someone with whom we disagree because they have earned that loyalty. Dr. Rice has earned my loyalty both principally and personally. When a disagreement arose I did not remove my loyalty from him because we still agreed on most principles and he had already earned my personal loyalty.
When Dr. Hyles was accused of wrongdoing I was personally loyal to him. Of course enemies will always attack you for that loyalty. He had earned my loyalty which meant he earned the right for me to give him any benefit of the doubt. I have learned that when you give someone the benefit of the doubt you have a greater chance of exonerating them then you will if you give their accusers the benefit of the doubt.
The Chicago Tribune interviewed me and asked what I was going to do with my association with Dr. Hyles when his ministry went down. I asked the reporter what was he going to do when Dr. Hyles did not go down ministry wise, but went up ministry wise. By the way, that reporter was later fired.
The accusers had not earned my loyalty. I did not give them the benefit of the doubt. I gave them doubt. I gave Dr. Hyles the benefit of the doubt because he had earned my loyalty. Time proved to me his innocence.
There have been times when I have removed my personal loyalty to someone. Even then I did it slowly. I gave them the benefit of the doubt until I was proven wrong. I give my loyalty to the person who has earned it before I give my loyalty to someone who wants me to believe their story, but who has not earned my loyalty.
The accusers of Jack Hyles had never earned my loyalty. I had seen his life. I had benefited from his goodness and his ministry. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he had earned my loyalty not because he was in a position of loyalty. I could not give his accusers this same loyalty because they had not earned my loyalty principly, positionally or personally have not earned my loyalty.
May I give a word of advice to pastors. Quit demanding loyalty. Yes, people should be loyal because of principle and position. But, stop demanding people personally be loyal to you. If you want me to be personally loyal to you, earn my loyalty.
Dr. Hyles did not demand that I be loyal to him. He never threw the title “Pastor” or “Man of God” in my face.When I started a college in 1982 he did not question my loyalty to him. He sent Dr. Wendell Evans to help us get started. In fact Dr. Hyles would remain loyal to people who truly were disloyal to him. Over the years Dr. Hyles earned my loyalty and I returned it to him.
Now let me share an interesting concept. Eventually loyalty becomes reciprocal. Let me explain. There have been people that attacked Dr. Hyles because he was loyal to some of his friends they felt were out of line on some things. What they do not understand is he was returning loyalty that had been earned by these men.
Dr. Hyles was loyal to me because I earned that loyalty by being loyal to him. There came a time when our loyalty was reciprocal. He was loyal to me and I returned that loyalty and visa versa. I was loyal to him and he returned my loyalty. Good men recycle loyalty.
Never in the entire time that I knew Jack Hyles did he throw his position at me. In fact he never threw his principles at me. He was loyal to his people therefore his people were loyal to him. He earned their loyalty. He did not demand it. He did not demand that people do for him personally even though he expected them to be loyal to his position. He did not confuse the two.
David expected his mighty men to fight battles for the nation. David did not expect his mighty men to fight to bring him a drink of water. The first was positional loyalty. The second was personal loyalty that David had heard.
People followed David because they saw the life of David. Then they followed David because they saw the position of David. Finally, they followed David because they saw the man David. They kept following him after he sinned because of all three. The position God gives you demands loyalty. But, the greatest loyalty will be the loyalty you earn.
I love my two pastor sons. I gave my life to raise those boys. I worked hard to be a good father and to earn their loyalty. When they were young I expected them to be loyal to the position I held as their father. Over the years I’ve invested a lot into my two boys. I was not a perfect father and neither are they perfect parents. I do not want from them merely a loyalty to my position. I want a loyalty to my person. I want them to be loyal to me as a man because of what I have done to earn their loyalty. Will they agree with everything I do? Of course not.
However, my position is not the question now. It is the personal loyalty that I earned over the years I hope they will give me and then I will in turn reciprocate that loyalty to them. I believe they owe me that loyalty because I earned it, but I will not demand it. It is their choice. But, it is not a reflection on my character if they do not give me that personal loyalty. It is a reflection on theirs.
Let me be very personal. Fifteen years ago this Saturday, February 6, 2001, my heart broke at the news that my hero, Dr. Hyles had died. For these past 15 years I have often thought of the things that I said and did that I believe probably disappointed Dr. Hyles. I am very serious when I say this. I think I embarrassed him at times. I think I probably stepped out of line at times. I think there were times when in my zeal I probably made him go back to his room and shake his head and say, “When will Bob ever learn?”
However, I can honestly say that there was never one ounce of doubt as to his loyalty to me nor mine to him. I am certain there were some people who worked for him that did not like Bob Gray, but they had no question in their mind as to his loyalty to me.
You see, when someone has earned your loyalty, no one should ever need to question your loyalty to them. There were some who might have thought Dr. Hyles was crazy to be loyal to Bob Gray and some who thought Bob Gray was crazy to be loyal to Jack Hyles, but there was no one who doubted that we were loyal to each other. May God give us a revival of true loyalty. I am nearing the end of my ministry. I have fought a good fight but I implore Church leaders to please be careful that you do not demand something you have not earned. Do not use your title to get your way. Earn it!