Monday, March 27, 2006

The Making of a "Classic" Sermon


Great Preachin' Hammond Style

Joshua's post about pop-psychology vs. Biblical exegesis in preaching got me thinking. While growing up at FBCH, major staples of our spiritual diet were topical and personal illustration-saturated sermons. Here are some thoughts on the topic.

It has been said that the more things change the more they stay the same--this is certainly not always the case, but this statement did come to mind as I listened to a recent sermon from the First Baptist Church of Hammond. It was the Sunday morning sermon from March 12, 2006 entitled, "The Breakaway Moment". I have been told time and time again by current members of FBCH that the church is heading in a fresh direction and that many things are changing for the better. I certainly pray that this is the case, but a simple listen to many of the Sunday services broadcast from Hammond will quickly quell any glimmer of hope that these assertions are valid.

Jack Hyles was the infamous pastor of this church for over 4 decades and he created an insatiable appetite in his church members for "story hour" in place of weekly sound Biblical preaching.

I recently read a sermon Hyles preached on a Sunday evening entitled "Inferior Churches" and was reminded why he was so entertaining to listen to as a young and impressionable lad--his stories were second to none and his comedic timing was fabulous! In the aforementioned sermon he berates churches in the Bible as "inferior churches" because they did not win souls as Hyles thought they should. He goes on to brag ad nauseum about how FBCH was winning the lost like none other--thus the conclusion that FBCH was in fact NOT an inferior church but truly a superior church! One scripture is alluded to briefly and the rest of the 45 minute diatribe is nothing but personal illustrations and criticism of those who do not see things his way. The lack of scripture was tragic, but sadly I was not surprised.

Fast forward a few decades to the sermon I referenced earlier preached by Jack Schaap on March 12, 2006. I listened to this sermon desperately longing to hear something different--alas I found much of the same ingredients that were commonplace on Sibley Street during the Hyles era. The sermon begins with 12 minutes of fluff about personal situations before a scripture passage is even mentioned. Of course they all read a text before the performance began, but the scripture he mentions 12 minutes in isn't even from that text. I heard about all the marriage counseling that Dr. Schaap does on a weekly basis, I heard about all the teens in the youth group that come by his office on Saturday and "cut up" with him, I heard about all the negative influences we have in our lives (speeding tickets, angry drivers, terrorism, etc...), and I even heard a very familiar refrain when Schaap asks some "Brother Brian" who is sitting on the platform to stand on the stage and hold a glass half-full of water for his object lesson.

Some may say that this is just the style of preaching that these folks have chosen so get over it--I couldn't disagree more. Herein is one of the ways that the "image machine" works every week in Hammond. Preacher is an expert on everything--he is an expert on which churches are inferior and which churches are superior--he is an expert on marriage counseling and has pieced together scores of marriages--he is an expert on politics--he is an expert on how to deal with teenagers--he is an expert on everything that you struggle with and he will never tire of telling you just how wise he is! Here are my questions for you:

1. If he is an expert why does he have to keep reminding you about it?
2. Is he really an expert or is he a "self-proclaimed" expert?
3. Wouldn't you rather have the Word of God preached in a systematic and expository manner than hear favorite proof texts taken out of context wrapped neatly with silly personal illustrations?

I know which one I choose! How about you?

2 Timothy 4:2 KJV "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."

Matthew Richards

14 comments:

JLS said...

"3. Wouldn't you rather have the Word of God preached in a systematic and expository manner than hear favorite proof texts taken out of context wrapped neatly with silly personal illustrations?"
yep, I surely would.

PT Barnum said...

thanks for visiting our blog. I think I made it clear which side of the fence I fall down on. Makes you wonder the problems that could be averted if our churches would follow the Biblical pattern for ministry as opposed to the "Hyles philosophy of church building." I am encouraged by your answer.

Grace,

Matthew

Mike Hess said...

Great points Matt! Having been absent from that place for eight years now, it is difficult for me to believe that this is the kind of preaching that I heard on a daily basis. Sadly, many have become numb over the years and have simply turned a blind eye.

Keep up the good work. Lord willing, some sort of seed will be planted in the hearts of some discerning people at FBCH who truly long for exegetical expository preaching and Scriptural evangelism that glorifies God and not man.

James Spurgeon said...

Truly delightful. Thank-you.

Fundamentally Reformed said...

Great blog! Thanks to James Spurgeon at the Underground for bringing it to my attention.

I grew up in IFBx circles where Hyles was a hero (where wasn't he one, at one point?). I probably only heard him in person six to ten times. One thing that I cannot forget, though, is how virtually every illustration centered on him. He was the good illustration to bolster every good point of his sermons! It is sad, now, thinking of this in hindsight.

Let me point you to another blog, of a web acquaintance of mine who is busy trying to cut the "x" off of IFB for himself personally. The Underground, my blog, and others have been helping him escape from a rabid Hyles-worship form of IFBx-ism. He gives a good post summing up a typical IFBx sermon. It is worth the read, and sadly it is extremely accurate.

Thanks, and I look forward to staying tuned to your blog in the future. God bless.

Bob Hayton

**striving for the unity of the faith for the glory of God (Eph. 4:3,13 Rom. 15:5-7)

Ryan said...

I identify with your pain matthew. I was forced to attend these kind of churches when I was young and didn't know better, but thank God I can look back on it and laugh (even if it is mostly sad). You cannot deny that the IFB "preechers" are the source of tons of great comedy relief, as James Spurgeon can attest. Keep up your good fight brother.

PT Barnum said...

fundamentally reformed,

thanks for the kind words. We are excited about our little blog and hope that it will be used to help free some others from the world of IFBxdom. I did have a chance to visit your blog last night and enjoyed reading your story--from Roger Voegltin to John Piper is certainly coming full circle! Our paths have not been identical, but there are certainly many similarities between our stories. I am looking forward to reading more of your blog as well!

Matthew

PT Barnum said...

Mike,

thank you for reading our blog. I love reading your posts because our background is so similar and we were both at HAC at the same time. I praise God that He has brought you out of all that mess and set you on solid ground! You and Ken were part of the reason Josh and I tackled this as a team--I think it would be very difficult to keep up with a blog all by yourself. I hope that we can continue to shed some light on the errors in Hammond and Crown Point!

Matthew

PT Barnum said...

Ryan,

the most painful part of the whole story is that this kind of foolishness still goes on week after week and multiplied thousands are held in its grasp! I know that God can change hearts and minds without any help from the blogworld, but I would love to just spur some good debate and thought about the errors in IFBXdom. As long as the Hammond lobotomy has not been performed there is still hope for these folks!

Matthew

Jeri said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Neal Wheeler said...

I have never posted to a blog in my life, so bear with me. I only attended HAC for a summer session and studied The History of the King James Version with Al Lacey. I don't remember the year -- it was probably in 1993. I believed everything I was taught there. I have certainly changed some of my views since then. I look forward to reading this blog and seeing what happens. Thanks to Mike Hess for telling me to have a look.

biblebelieverbb said...

Having been hoodwinked from a distance by the Hyles-Schaap train, those sermons sound awfully familiar. I, at one time had about 3000 sermons on tape, CD, downloaded, and video, from JH, JS, or Dr. Jeff Owens, a HAC grad. Looking back at those tapes, it is amazing how little Bible is taught in that church. It seems as though, not so much now in the Schaap era but in Hyles day, that he was always the triumphant hero, or was under attack from the devil through preachers who were out to get him.

biblebelieverbb said...

Just noticed a blunder. That should have been "around 2000 sermons"
I mistyped

Ben said...

Matthew,

Would you mind shooting me an e-mail @ paleoevangelical@gmail.com?

Feel free to delete this comment once you get it.

Thanks,
Ben