All Things to All People

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The older he became the more Dr. Hyles was conscious of his ability to relate to people. I remember him bemoaning that he was not young and dashing enough to relate to teenagers. He was believable in his doubts and I was amazed that this great man could feel the same kind of insecurities that others of us “normal” human beings had. Then I would watch him stand in front of thousands of teens at the Annual Youth Conference and hold their attention in the palm of his hand. They loved him and responded to him.

How many times have we all stood in front of a crowd with self doubts and wondered if we really were the right one to be there trying to help these people. If you have never had those doubts then you probably are not and never will be a great communicator. Dr. Hyles could speak at college chapel service, a ladies conference, a meeting of pastors, a vacation Bible school assembly, a teen convention, or any type of group imaginable and somehow he clicked with the crowd. Young or old, men or women, rich or poor, pastors or laymen, it did not matter. He related to them.

I have seen many “novelty” preachers as I like to call them who could entertain a crowd, but could not “fit into” situations like he could. These one dimensional speakers were predictable and depended on the people adapting to them. That was not Dr. Hyles. He was unpredictable. He was multi dimensional. Any crowd became his congregation.

Many a famous youth speaker met his match when the elder Dr. Hyles stood to speak at a conference at which they were also speaking. That is what the great ones do. They know how to take their fears and channel them into opportunity at hand. Too many preachers copy a style but fail to copy the substance. They see one dimension but miss the others. The Dr. Hyles I knew preached for the moment. He did not just throw comfortable sugarstick messages at his audience. He was a tailor who carefully fitted each sermon for the crowd before him. He was a dietician who was able to adapt each menu to fit the needs of the ones he was feeding.

He was not a one message fits all preacher. He knew that every time he stood to preach he had a responsibility to be what they needed him to be in order to help them. He was not a one trick pony. He was the whole show. What made him able to adapt so well with the people to whom he spoke?

1. He loved them consciously. Do we love people merely because we say so? Love is a conscious decision and one cannot say they love anyone without deciding to do so. If God knows each of us intimately and loves us individually then should not a preacher do the same thing. We often stand before a crowd with a generic love that feels cheap and disingenuous. The reason is we did not take time to love them on purpose.

I have watched Dr. Hyles love people and I never saw him do so without knowing that he was consciously deciding to do so. His love was not a generic love of one who was used to saying so without deciding to do so. He studied his audience and worked on loving them. When he said, “I love you,’ you believed him. Love was not a feeling to him but a command from the Lord to be obeyed. Obedience without effort is not obedience at all. He did not assume that he loved everybody. He worked on making certain he did and then depended on the Holy Spirit to confirm it in people’s hearts.

When I preach a funeral, I try to drive by the house of the family and sit outside of their home and hurt for them.  Those people need me to comfort them, so I must be in the emotional state where I can do that.  

2. He liked them purposely. Like is a unique word. It means to be attracted to something or someone. In our day we often mistake attraction as being love when in truth love is not a feeling but rather a choice as we have already mentioned. We can choose to love someone that we do not feel attracted to. We may decide to love a homeless person but we may not initially like them. Dr. Hyles learned how to find the attraction in people. He purposed to do so.

There are times when we find ourselves not only not attracted to certain people but we find that we really do not like them. That feeling will come through in our communication. People want to be loved but they also want them to be liked. Dr. Hyles knew how to find something in everyone that he could like. He was not one dimensional in his attitude towards people. Liking people will attract people to you. Often you would hear him tease with people and you could sense that there was a connection going on between them. Every Sunday morning he would connect with the truck drivers who sat on his far right and with the sailors who sat in the right middle section. His ability to connect with them was the result of his decision to like them.

3. He wanted to help them primarily. There are times I stood to speak to a group when I know my main concern was doing a good job or of preaching a good sermon. Whenever that was my main goal I usually fell flat on my face. The main reason we speak should always be to help those to whom we are speaking, yet the flesh often finds its way into our sermons almost like it was written in the outline before us.

Dr. Hyles goal was always to be a help those to whom he was speaking. His goal was not to get something off his chest or to impress the audience with his message but rather to make a difference in their lives. The pulpit was not a whipping post or a punching bag. He scolded but he did not vent. His sermons were corrective not punitive. Even when he traveled he would question the pastor about the church and the people so that he could preach a message that would be a blessing to the people.

4. He forgot himself totally. One of the greatest ways to connect with anyone is to forget yourself and put them first. Dr. Hyles knew that he could not caught up in his own problems and issues and adequately help the people. He learned to put his feelings, his hurts, his battles, his sickness and his trials aside in order to concentrate on others. That is an important quality of any good communicator.

Never set out to be a good anything.  Set out to be what the other person in a relationship needs you to be.  The by-product will be success in that area.  The success is not in being labeled good, but in being what the other person needs you to be.  This is a truth that could change your life.  Forget about whether you are a good anything, and start working at being what others need.  

5. He studied them diligently. Dr. Hyles was a student of many things. He was a student of the Bible. He was also a student of people. He purposed to know us as individuals. He wanted to know what was going on in our lives, our minds, our hearts, our families and in any other area that would help him do a better job of helping us.

I often watched him stare out into the audience when he was preaching in a conference and I knew exactly what he was doing. He was studying the crowd to get any hint he could of who these people were. He would find some man in the audience who may have been a blue collar worker and he thought about the effort that man made to get to the meeting that evening. In The Science of the Christian Life he said the following.

There are times when those who depend on us need us to be angry.  Too often we get angry because we are frustrated or aggravated, rather than because those who follow us need us to be angry.  That is selfishness.
There are times my people need me to be encouraging.  
There are times my people need me to be angry.
There are times my people need a scolding.
There are times my people need sympathy.
If I am going to give my people what they need, I must be in control of my emotions rather than allowing my emotions to be in control of me.

6. He prayed for them earnestly. When Dr. Hyles prayed there was a sense that he really was reaching to Heaven for that group of people who were there to hear him preach. There were times when I almost felt it was just he and I praying together and then I would open my eyes and remember we were in a service. His prayers were genuine.

7. He adapted to them willingly. This is something that I will explain more in other places throughout this book. Please understand that the greatest communicator who ever lived, our Lord, adapted to the people around him in a marvelous way. Why did they respond to Him as they did? It was because He came to walk among them and to adapt to them so that He could reach them. That was the philosophy of Dr. Hyles. He could adapt to any person, place, culture, age, race or personality without compromise. People related to him because he related to them.

8. He prepared for them intelligently. Preparation was not a careless or one dimensional aspect of Dr. Hyles life. Every sermon was an attempt to relate to people who needed him and that was a diverse group. He did not merely prepare a sermon and expect everyone to relate. He thought out his sermons to make certain he was speaking on every level. He was able to move the heart of an intellectual with a sermon as well as a simple laborer. The Senior citizen and the little child were both stimulated by his sermons. Even as he sat on the platform to preach in a new place it was as though he was mentally preparing himself for this audience of people. He was studying them and getting to know them.

9. He lost himself for them unselfishly. Preaching can become mechanical especially when you are preaching the same message for the twentieth of even fiftieth time. Imagine a man who week after week spoke to thousands of people every Monday and Tuesday night year after year standing in front of crowds of hundreds. He could have easily taken the route of just being there should be enough for these people, but he never did. I am certain that many of us had him in our churches just so we could say we did, yet that was not how he approached it. He was there to help us and our people and he was not going to allow himself to ever go through the motions. He poured himself into every sermon no matter where or how big or small the crowd.

I was preaching in a church several years ago, and the pastor had set up his auditorium for an overflow crowd.  They normally have seating for 800, but he had put in an extra 400 seats to handle the crowd.  The first night only 400 people showed up for the service.  The pastor was devastated.  Weeping, he apologized to me for the crowd.  He thought that I was going to be disappointed.  I told him that big crowds do not make me happy.  I was just as saved and just as happy in the Lord with that crowd of 400 as I would have been had there been standing room only.  I preached just like I would have preached had there been a bigger crowd.

10. He adapted to them gracefully. Watching him stand in front of a group of people was like watching a master conductor lead a giant orchestra. He knew how to adapt himself to any congregation and in any type of situation. I never saw him uncomfortable in the pulpit and I never saw a group of people that he could not make feel comfortable with him. A nervous layman would arrive at the hotel to pick us up and from the second he got in the car the conversation turned to the one driving. A nervous pastor would introduce him wondering if everything was to his liking and he would make that pastor feel like a hero in front of his people. A congregation would relax as he spent a few minutes not so much getting to know them as allowing them to get to know him. Soon they were as one.

There was never a situation when I saw Dr. Hyles unable to adapt to a person, a group of people or a crowd. Someone once asked him how he managed to make everyone feel so close to him. He gave this answer, “Every morning I ask the Lord to prepare me for those with whom I would come in contact that day and to make me sensitive to their needs. I asked him to allow me to be a vessel to transfer God’s care to them. I think God not only prepared me. I think He prepared them as well and when that moment came whether in person or on a platform, God brought our hearts together so that I could be a blessing to them. He knew that was all I wanted to do.”

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