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What Changes a Church

By Dr. Jack Hyles
(September 25, 1926 – February 6, 2001)

I have
seen great churches all across this nation totally change after the pastor who
built the church to its greatest days went off the scene, or passed away. That
may happen at First Baptist Church, but I have done my best to prepare my
people for the pitfalls ahead. I have preached in the great churches of the
last generation. I have seen many of those churches decay. I have seen the
change that has come in those churches. I have watched carefully what has
caused that change, especially in the case of the pastor passing away or

first time that I met Dr. Lee Roberson, he was forty-three years of age. Dr.
Roberson stayed for many years at the Highland Park Baptist Church in
Chattanooga, but the day came when Dr. Roberson felt he could no longer do the
job because of his age. He was around seventy-five years of age, and he felt
that he should turn it over to somebody else. One Sunday night he and Mrs.
Roberson walked out the center aisle together, and his ministry there, after
over forty years, was over. I had the privilege to preach over 125 times at the
Highland Park Baptist church at Chattanooga.

When I
met Dr. G. B. Vick for the first time, he was about forty years old, but the
years came and went. He pastored the largest church in the world at the time,
the Temple Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. I was preaching in Rock
Springs, Wyoming. I called my secretary, Mrs. McKinney, and she told that she
had just received a phone call from the Baptist Bible College at Springfield,
Missouri, where Dr. Vick was speaking. Dr. Vick was at his desk and suddenly
fell over dead. He had pastored there for over thirty years.

forty-two years I have watched a generation of churches rise and fall. I doubt
there is a man in this generation who has preached in more churches in America
than I have. I doubt there is a man who has counseled more pastors than I have.
I have watched a generation of churches decay. I am going to do everything I
can to see to it that fifty years from now the First Baptist Church of Hammond
will still have the altar full every Sunday and still be the same as it is

Change is a state.

Change is constant.

Dissatisfaction is a

If you
are not satisfied with what you have, you will not be satisfied with what you
get. If you are not satisfied with the job you have, you will not be satisfied
with the job you get. If you are not satisfied with the house you have, you
will not be satisfied with the house you get. If you are not satisfied with the
car you drive, you will not be satisfied with the car you get. Change is a
you change, you never get where you are going, because when you get where you
thought you were going, you do not want to stop, so you keep on changing. What
starts the change? What causes a church to change?

* What causes a church
to change? *

1. A pastor change.

The people want a change.
Something in people causes them to want a
different kind of man. It is like politics. When the Republicans are in, they
get blamed for everything. When the Democrats get in, they get blamed for
everything. The same thing happens in a church. It is easy for the people to
get enamored with a man who is totally different than the preacher they had
before. Suddenly you have change almost just for the sake of change.

The people will not follow the new pastor even if he is what he ought to be.
former pastor did things a certain way, and the people will not follow the new
pastor because he does them differently. They are accustomed to the way things
were done rather than to following the man of God.

The people call a good speaker or a good personality.
Preaching is the
most important thing in the church, but the best preacher in America could not
operate a church like First Baptist Church, unless he knew something about
business. A church should not call a pastor just because he has a personality
with charisma, or because he is a good preacher. Too often churches make the
calling of a pastor more of a personality or popularity contest.

I have
known some great soul-winning churches which have gone down because the church
called another kind of preacher. Some have changed because they called a good
man the people would not accept. Others have changed because they called a
pulpiteer only, and a not a man who could operate the business and
administration of the church.

Some churches change because the church falls in the hands of a few people who
are either wealthy or influential.
I knew of a church that lost its
soul winning because it allowed seven wealthy men to choose the pastor. They
changed its entire direction and practically destroyed everything that the
great pastor before had built. Most of the people wanted an old fashioned
fundamental preacher, but the control was in the hands of those seven men.

2. The pastor changes. 

Churches change
because of what is behind the pulpit. I am not the best Christian in the
church, but I am the Pastor-Bishop-Builder of the church. I keep my hands on
everything that goes on in the church. I go out to the college to keep the
direction right there. I meet every week with the administrators of all our
schools to see to it that they keep on the right track. Every ministry of the
church must be watched, or something will creep in that could change the

cannot imagine the pressure of an independent, hell-raising, barn-storming,
window-rattling, shingle-pulling, temperamental, fundamental Baptist preacher.
There is more pressure on a man who preaches the truth of God’s Word than there
is on any other single profession in the world. The greatest leaders in this
world are not in White Houses and in palatial mansions; they are in the
parsonages of America.

are several ways that a preacher can change.

He loses his motivation.
Dr. Elmer Towns said that hardly any pastor
continues to see his church grow after his fortieth birthday. Why? Because the
pastor loses his motivation. It is easy for a young preacher who is pastoring
his first church to be excited with the newness of the challenge. Just the idea
of being a pastor and the opportunity to preach are enough to keep him
motivated for a while. That is some of the best preaching he will ever do. His
entire motivation is to preach what he believes is right and what the people

awhile, the difficulties of the ministry begin to wear on him. The honeymoon
with the people begins to wear off. The newness is gone, and people start to
get upset with him for not doing things the way they think things should be
done. Soon, he starts to get discouraged or disillusioned. It is not much fun
to him any more. That is what happens to pastors.

I work
incredibly hard to stay motivated because I want to go out with the same zeal I
had when I started. I want to go out hating the Devil just as much as I did
when I started. I want to go out hollering as loud as I did when I started. It
is not an easy thing for a preacher to keep himself motivated.

He loses his vision.
Proverbs 29:18 says, Where there is no vision, the people perish. That means when a
leader has lost his vision for the members, the members perish. It does not
mean that if I have no vision for myself, I will perish, but if I have no
vision for my people, they will perish.

I have
visions for my church. I have visions for the young people. My heart is broken
when the young people do not fulfill the visions I have for them. I have
visions for the kind of young ladies that our young men will marry. I have
visions for the kind of young men our young ladies will marry. I have visions
for Hyles-Anderson College. I have visions for Hammond Baptist Schools. I have
visions for the First Baptist Church of Hammond. I have visions for the kind of
Christians I want my people to be.

It is
so sad to see preachers who have lost their vision. The motto for my ministry
has always been: I will not use my people to build my work; I will use my work to build
my people.
When I stood outside and watched our building burn to the
ground back in 19641 did not shed one single tear, but I have sat in my office
and wept for hours because of a person in the church who went astray. My vision
is not for buildings; it is for my people.

happens is the work becomes more important to the preacher than his people. His
prestige, or his standing in the ecclesiastical neighborhood, becomes more
important than his people. Money becomes more important than the people. I
never dreamed my church would become as big as it did, but I had a vision that
the young people would turn out right. The older a preacher gets, the more
difficult it is to maintain the vision.

The pastor loses his bite.
A preacher needs to be able to keep on
preaching hard even as he grows older and begins to mellow. The older I become,
the more difficult it is. The more I love my people, the more difficult it is.
I do not want to scold my people because I love them. A preacher has to keep
his bite. A preacher without a bold streak will not amount to anything. Too
many preachers start getting soft, and, before they know it, they have changed.

The older people settle down.
I preached at most of the greatest
churches in this nation over the past forty years. I have also gone back and
preached in many of those same churches after they changed. Here is what
happened to them. They started out with a group of young people who were
excited about building the church and winning the lost. They had the bus
routes, went soul winning, and built the Sunday school classes. Over the years,
they retired to the pew. They are fundamental people, but they are not busy for
the Lord like they used to be.

best way for a church to change is for the older people to quit the choir, quit
their soul winning, quit their bus routes, quit their Sunday School classes,
quit bringing folks to church, and quit getting excited about big days. I have
seen it happen. I have seen those older people settle down. I have seen the
people that used to go soul winning not go soul winning anymore. If you want
your grandchildren to have a great church, you have got to keep it great until
they get there. How important it is not to allow the people to retire from the
work of God!

No new families come to replace the older ones that settle down.
secret of the First Baptist church of Hammond, Indiana, rests in the new, young
couples and families that come to the church. Many years ago I started a young
couples class with forty-seven people. That young couples class is now the
class that meets in our auditorium. A few years later we started another
couples class. Brother Colsten now teaches that couples class that used to be a
young couples class. Most of the people are in their fifties or over. A few years
later we started another one, and now Brother Moffitt is teaching that class of
middle-age people. Then we started another one, and another one, and we kept on
starting them as the years went by.

That is
the secret. We always have several hundred new people in the church who came in
with the new wave, and I am always on a honeymoon with that new wave.

I am
concerned about having a crowd that is red-hot for God, the Bible, the Gospel,
and soul winning. Fifty years from now I want there to be a man in the pulpit
of the First Baptist Church who is still preaching against mixed swimming;
against women wearing shorts and pants in public, and that if you are not a
soul winner, you are not right with God. As long as I live, I am going to do
all I can to keep it that way.

I love our children. I want them to have First Baptist Church like my
generation has had. If that is going to happen here, or anywh

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