I apologize for leaving some of you hanging on this one--no doubt some of you were on the edge of your computer chairs just waiting with bated breath for the conclusion to our post from a couple of weeks ago--OK, maybe that was just Josh. Since that post, we have received some lively email and comments from people who obviously are taking things here at B & C very personally. I want to preface this post by saying again that we wish no ill will to anyone at FBCH--we truly believe that it is possible to disagree and not be disagreeable. We have been called "traitor", "deceived", "disloyal", and last but not least, "bitter". Nobody who knows us well would agree with any of those descriptors.
That being said, we are going to try and analyze Pastor Schaap's books sparingly--it becomes very tedious and time consuming to delve into these books--we could literally spend months looking at them, and those at FBCH would simply charge that we should write our own books if we do not like the ones they are producing--I partly agree and will not make this type of post the norm. Since we did begin looking at this portion of one of Pastor Schaap's books, I do want to finish it before jumping into some other topic. I believe I left off with the fact that FBCH believes that she is one of the last truly great churches in existence today--Pastor Schaap doesn't want her to go the way that Moody's, Finney's, and Spurgeon's churches have gone! FBCH believes she is "headquarters" or the "mother church" for "true" fundamentalism. The entire premise for this conclusion by those in IFBxdom distills down to one thing--numbers.
Here is another portion from Pastor Schaap's book, "Principles of Church Growth", on page 147 he compares FBCH to the church of Sardis in the book of Revelation--of whom Jesus said, "Thou hast a name that thou livest." He goes on to recount all of the great works that the LORD has done at FBCH over the years:
"First Baptist Church of Hammond has enjoyed a tremendous name through the years. What a name with 41 Pastors' Schools! What a name hosting our 31st Youth Conference! What a name in 1972 being called the "World's Largest Sunday School" and holding that title for many decades! What a reputation when Brother Hyles was pastor for 41 years and 5 months!"On page 148 he continues with:
"The influence First Baptist Church has, the missionaries and preacher boys we have, the college and the Christian schools we have, the preaching the First Baptist Church congregation heard under Brother Hyles' ministry--all these show that we were spoiled rotten and spoon-fed by a master pulpiteer."On page 149 he continues with:
"Wow! Hasn't First Baptist Church enjoyed a good life? How many times has the altar been jam packed! For over 44 years, there has not been a Sunday in First Baptist Church when someone has not been baptized in our baptistery. In 2002, twenty thousand folks walked an aisle at First Baptist Church trusting Christ as Saviour. That number doesn't include the 8,000 to 10,000 saved on special days like our Teenage Soul-Winning marathon. It doesn't include the 29,000 people our teenagers won to Christ on the streets in 2002 or all of the souls won by college kids while visiting on their bus routes on Saturdays. That number doesn't include the folks won to Christ by the Phoster Club or the Fishermen's Club or the Gospel League Home ministry and the homeless ministry and the nursing home ministry and the truck stop ministry and the sailor ministry. That number does not include the 48,000 who professed faith in Christ on one day in multiple services.Pastor Schaap goes on to tell a story about a group that he took to Oberlin College in Ohio and also the First Church of Oberlin where Charles G. Finney once pastored. Pastor Schaap and his group stumbled upon a man who told them that the church used to be packed full with 1,600 in attendance! Pastor Schaap proceeded to ask the IFBx million dollar question--how many you running now--the man answered that on a good day they would have 70! He went on to say that the group of men with him was saddened to hear this and they knelt around a pulpit and put their hands on Charles Finney's Bible and asked God to use them in a mighty way. They asked God to "do it again" and raise up some powerful preachers from among their group.
First Baptist Church has a great past. We have a past that Charles Spurgeon's Tabernacle once had. We have a past that the First Church of Oberlin, Ohio, had under Charles G. Finney. We have a past that Moody Memorial Church had when D.L. Moody graced her pulpit. Yet, if I know history, I believe First Baptist Church of Hammond has had a greater past than all three of these churches together. Charles Spurgeon baptized 700 in a great year. First Baptist has had days when we baptized 5,300 in one day. What a phenomenal past!"
Later on during that visit, Bob Marshall, a staff member at HAC, slipped away from the group and came running up to them later and told them about his having won a sophomore college student at Oberlin to the LORD. When Bob Marshall had asked the young lad if he knew he was going to heaven, the sophomore student grabbed him and told him that he had asked every student and every professor at Oberlin for the past two years how he could go to heaven and not a single one could help him. He was terrified of going to hell and had been waiting for someone who could tell him how to be saved. I digress.
Later on in the chapter on page 154, Pastor Schaap talks about a trip he and his father took to the Moody Church for a tour:
"There was a rock concert going on with a bunch of teenagers dancing around like animals in frenzy. We left the concert and walked down the halls to an old storage room. We could see through the window a picture of D.L. Moody. A janitor came walking by. I asked him, 'Is that a picture of D.L. Moody in there?' The janitor answered, 'Yes.' I asked him, 'Are you going to do anything with that picture?' He said, 'No. Nobody wants anything to do with that guy.'"These stories can speak different things to different readers--interesting at least to someone who can clear away the cobwebs of hysteric fundamentalism, but to the loyal fan they are stories and words that will stir up a certain amount of pride and arrogance as numerical statistics and teary-eyed illustrations are hurled about. What Pastor Schaap doesn't tell you is that you can actually find a solid independent fundamental Baptist church where Spurgeon once pastored--contrary to popular belief within the bubble of the cultural fundies.
Pastors Hyles and Schaap consistently forget/forgot to mention that Metropolitan Tabernacle was bombed in 1941 during World War II--in the 1970's attendance did drop--today the church is thriving and making an impact in England! We need to always keep in mind that a good illustration that pulls at the heartstrings trumps the truth more often than not at FBCH. To tell the whole story would destroy the strawman that they have created and the veneer of FBCH as the only mega church that can thrive after a famous pastor leaves. Although I could probably find something to disagree with Moody Memorial Church and her affiliated ministries , is there any doubt that they are still training some very fine Christian servants--missionaries, pastors, and teachers? Are they not still having an impact across America and the world with their radio stations that happen to carry some very good Bible preaching and teaching? The idea that any church that has less noses today than she had at some time in her past history equals the withdrawal of God's blessing is pure folly. The pride and arrogance that emanates from books and sermons where these assumptions are made is disturbing. As far as Oberlin College is concerned I do not have much to say--needless to say the aforementioned illustrations are a bit much for me to swallow. I do not hold Charles G. Finney as a hero or an example of what a pastor or preacher ought to be--these folks may hold him in very high regard--I will pass on this one for now--that is another post for another day.
The focus of all things in Hammond shines through at this juncture just like it always does--numbers, numbers, numbers, and more numbers. Their definition of success in ministry since the 1960's has been that simple--how many YOU got? This mentality was big during the years Pastor Hyles was at the helm, but I believe that this mentality is pushed even more under the current leadership--Pastor Schaap has an admitted infatuation with this thing of "church growth". This philosophy permeates the entire ministry model put forth in Hammond.
Micah 6:8: ESV "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
Some questions to ponder:
1. Is the LORD more pleased with large churches because they are large and less pleased with small churches accordingly?
2. Is it possible for a church to please the LORD and not have record attendance campaigns?
3. Where did this philosophy of ministry begin? When did programs and numbers become the standard by which certain churches measured themselves?
4. Is it possible for a church of 70 to please the LORD and be more God-glorifying than a church of say 1,600 or 18,000?