Friday, May 26, 2006

Soulwinning: The Thermometer for True Ministry...?

As we have endeavored to make plain in the past, we are not trying to stir up unnecessary strife. Before this blog was born, we anticipated that some would view any post we made to be "gossip", "slander", or "outright lies." We viewed negative opinions about FBCH and HAC in this very same manner in years gone by. Notwithstanding, that is not our present desire. More than anything else we would like to promote independent and Biblical thinking on the part of the impressionable future blogger who may stumble upon Bread and Circuses. We are FOR Cross-centered, Holy Spirit-led and enabled, Biblical witnessing. I want so much for that to be made clear before we receive a verbal onslaught from those who wish to discredit our claims and/or opinions.

Now then, I think it is appropriate at this particular time to explore the concept of what is commonly called "“soulwinning"” in IFBx circles, especially in light of recent comments made by a well-meaning fellow blogger in response to the recent Mike Hess editorial.

One of the most defining characteristics of Hyles-Anderson College and First Baptist Church is their purported soulwinning zeal and personal evangelism.

From the Hyles-Anderson College website:


All faculty, staff, and students are required to go soul winning weekly. Students participate in the evangelistic ministry of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, which builds its ministry around personal soul winning. An average of over 10,000 new converts were baptized each year for the past several years."
Unfortunately, this very characteristic becomes little more than a man-made methodology. I regret to say that these two institutions have become the benchmark for (un)biblical witnessing for churches turning in the IFBx orbit.

Do I have to ask it? Sir(s), if an average of 10,000 new converts were baptized each year for the past several years, could you not plant churches with these converts and in effect change the spiritual landscape of greater Chicagoland? These folks are evidently seeing better "success" than our LORD did during his earthly ministry(tongue in cheek)! Why do they boast of such a number while simultaneously advertising that their new auditorium has a capacity for 7,500 people? I sense a tremendous disconnect.

I myself know from personal participation, that HAC has basically become the proverbial beast of burden for FBCH to achieve her pie-in-the-sky numerical goals. I also would like to note that they have categorically made their version of "“confrontational soulwinning" a litmus test for fellowship with other ministries. I digress.

From my experience there, the only Scriptural support offerred for their concept of soulwinning is taken from Proverbs 11:30 "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise." Hyles used to use this proof text as his basis for drawing all church members into his office for counseling--he had won the most souls so he was the wisest person to seek counsel from (that is another post for another day). In retrospect, it seems hermeneutically dishonest to beat this particular passage into the ground while neglecting to even attempt to elaborate upon the great commission as given by our LORD and recorded in the 28th chapter of Matthew's gospel. In my estimation, the Great Commission does not necessarily square with their methodology for witnessing and quest for numbers. Can we equate "door-to-door soulwinning" with Christ's directive to make disciples of all nations and teach them to observe ALL that He has commanded us? My answer to that question from the standpoint of a HAC alumnus is an emphatic "NO".

Let us take Northland Baptist Bible College, in Dunbar, Wisconsin, for example. It is my understanding that although they share some Baptist distinctives in common with HAC, the two have very different definitions of and approaches toward witnessing to the lost. Other Christian colleges and universities that don'’t hold to the same methodologies regarding numeric goals as HAC are usually labeled as "“cold"”, "“dead"”, "“liberal"”, or even "“hyper-calvinistic"”. Oddly enough, one would not have to be a Calvinist to be labeled as such by FBCH/HAC. I am willing to bet that the majority of our readership here at B&C would be calvinistic as compared with them.

Detractors, allow me to beat you to the punch: we were probably never real soulwinners while there, just critics...we probably couldn't even run a hot dog stand, let alone FBC Hammond...we are bitter and are capitalizing on this blogging opportunity to grind our axes, ad nauseum.

The truth of the matter is that we are trying to re-focus on what the scripture says about this matter of "soulwinning". Should "soulwinning" be the cornerstone of our philosophy of ministry? Is the book of Acts our blueprint for the church age? Should Proverbs 11:30 be our central battle cry as Christ followers? Why would Jesus seemingly refuse to "draw the net" as many "great soulwinners" have taught us to do? Would Jesus meet the typical IFBX convert at the church altar and share words with them that would cause them to walk away in sadness? Is true saving faith something you can try like a new pair of running shoes to see if it "works" for you? Is someone who gladly "accepts" Christ "into his heart" but refuses to follow the LORD in baptism truly saved? Is it possible to turn from darkness to light without a radical change in one's life? Are we truly a new creation after the new birth? Does God give us the option of bearing Christian fruit? Is discipleship an optional item as well? These are all questions worthy of engagement--why should IFBs be shallow and unbiblical? Why are IFBs content to allow the silly thinkers and exegetically illiterate in their movement to speak for them on such issues? What do you think the Bible teaches?

Joshua Z. Richards

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fundamental Gimmickry

Mike Hess and I (Phineas) attended Hyles-Anderson College at the same time during the early 1990's. We did not know each other very well during those years since I was an off campus student and he was living in the dorms. We both worked in the bus ministry--he worked on the Chicago routes and I worked on the local "A" bus routes in East Chicago. We became re-acquainted over the last year through the Sharper Iron website--I am so glad that we have been able to share some wonderful fellowship and look forward to much more of the same for many years to come. Mike used to share blog duties at "The World From Our Window" and now has his very own blog called, "Extreme Fundamental Makeover". I asked him when we first started if he would make a guest post for us here at Bread and Circuses and he graciously accepted our invitation--so without further adieu, enjoy!

"When one does not adhere to the doctrines of grace you are forced to allow your methodology to transform your theology. Hence, we have First Baptist Church of Hammond and Hyles-Anderson College. To this day, they lead the world with their pragmatic "“do anything for numbers" tactics.

It was a summer day in 1996 shortly after I had been married. I was called into Ray Young'’s office (then bus director) and was to be asked to be a division leader. A division leader was the highest position that any student at HAC could hold as a non-staff member. Having been totally enamored with position and loyalty, thanks to a steady dose of that teaching being pumped into me every day of the week for two years now, I would do anything that the "“man of God" told me to do. I accepted the call to duty and became director of nearly ten different bus routes on the south side of Chicago. Ready to take on the world and get Bro. Hyles'’ attention, I was eager to find new and innovative ways to coerce people to ride our buses and win the latest gimmicky contest that displayed the glory of man and his ability to impress God by not being "“mediocre"”. I had already won trips to Gatlinburg TN, the Canadian Boundary Waters, and several other keepsakes that were once owned by Young and Hyles (e.g. suits and ties). This kind of sounds like the methods that were used during the early apostolic church period to encourage Christians who were being tortured and beaten to death for their faith in Christ…..right???

Now began the numbers race. I would do anything that I could to win over the respect and admiration of Young, Hyles, and the rest of my college cohorts. One of the main tactics used by those at HAC is motivation by recognition. Those who "“produce"” numbers are the ones who are elevated to the status of rock star and celebrity. Here are some examples of what Young told me in regards to my new position:

"You are being brought on to produce. You have produced in the past and that is what is expected of you now."” Now I wonder...Produce what??? People who are passionate followers of the Lord Jesus Christ or people who are simply another "notch in my belt"?

"The attendances need to grow in an immediate time frame."” Now I wonder...Why? To produce Christ-like holiness in the lives of those who ride the buses? Which is more important numerical growth or the growth of Christian fruit in the lives of God's people?

"There should be no question as to where your loyalty resides in regards to Bro. Hyles. Your division and your loyalty personally should be public and intentional."” Nothing about uplifting, exalting, and treasuring Christ--that took second place to lord Jack--always has and still does at FBCH.

"Make sure that special attention and rewards are given to those who produce."

Much of this was during our campaign to baptize 10,000 converts (circa 1995-96). I now see that this has been more than doubled by Pastor Schaap. I shudder to think about some of the methods that have been used to coerce this number of unsuspecting souls to enter the baptistery waters without any grasp whatsoever of the Gospel. In order to accomplish these kinds of goals, Hyles and Young would call for "Baptism Saturdays"”. These were Saturdays where we would go into the African-American neighborhoods in Chicago (blacks were not allowed to ride the buses on Sundays--only on secluded bus routes that came in the afternoon when most of the church was gone). Normally, we would rent a black church on the south side of Chicago with a baptistery and use it to baptize scores of black children. This would produce several thousand baptisms a year. These would also be included in the count that went out nationally at Pastor’s' School and would also be added to the 100,000 member church roll. Sounds like a good way to go about doing church, right? Sounds like the pattern laid out in the New Testament, huh?

I wonder how many of those 10,000 people who were baptized that year can tell me the name of one deacon at that church today. I would venture to say less than a dozen of these 10,000 could. What about the 25,000 who were baptized last year? The saddest part about this is the fact that I once fell for this hook, line, and sinker. Why? Was it for the glory of God? Was it for the pursuit of personal holiness to the glory of Christ? Was it for the glory of Christ to be spread to the far reaches of the Chicagoland area? No...simply put (and I take personal responsibility for this) it was all for the praise of man and the recognition of others. This was our motivation and the tactics used by the abusive leadership at HAC to produce their "“numbers"” and to get their recognition for the glory of Jack--nothing more and nothing less."

Mike Hess
Extreme Fundamental Makeover

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Smoke and Mirrors

Jeremiah 48:29-30 ASV "We have heard of the pride of Moab, [that] he is very proud; his loftiness, and his pride, and his arrogancy, and the haughtiness of his heart. I know his wrath, saith Jehovah, that it is nought; his boastings have wrought nothing.

As a kid growing up smack in the middle of hysteric fundamentalism I never realized that FBCH was not a mainstream IFB church--I cannot imagine that now, but it is still very true among current members of FBCH. We heard Bro. Hyles preach so much about Hammond being the center of it all and all the thousands of pastors that looked to Hammond for encouragement and guidance. We heard stories from Bro. Hyles about all the people that uprooted their families from across the fruited plain in order to move to Hammond and be under his preaching and ministry. We heard about all the other churches in our area and across the nation that were selling out and changing and turning away from Fundamentalism. We heard about the weekly speaking engagements that Hyles had all across the nation and even the world to "help save America" and to "keep this nation free"! We saw his entourage of body guards and security guards armed with guns to keep "preacher" safe. We heard week in and week out about the plots on his ministry and even some death threats on his life because he was preaching the truth.

I can still remember as a kid thinking that Bro. Hyles was some sort of famous movie star or celebrity. We were given glossy pictures of him, coffee mugs with his face looking up from the bottom, and even a cardboard cutout of his face to wear as a mask--maybe someday he would remember my name--maybe someday he would mention my family from the pulpit during a sermon--maybe someday he would say "hi" to me in the hallway--maybe someday he would send me a letter he wrote with his own hand!

Recently I heard some chatter from some current members of FBCH about how Dr. Schaap was invited to the White House for a meeting with the POTUS. I also read about this and saw a picture of Pastor Schaap with President George W. Bush in an issue of "The Voice". The same shock and awe that Hyles' stories and image created in me years ago were evident in the glimmering eyes of those who regaled me with tales of a Baptist preacher going to Washington to set things right! It brought back memories of times when Hyles would talk about actually refusing a meeting with either Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan when he was President--Pastor Hyles was far too busy to meet with any mere President--he was carrying a nation and a world on his shoulders!

Adoring fans, bodyguards, and tall tales--all the ingredients for a hyper-fundy superhero! This was my relationship with my pastor for over 20 years--now you know why I am so wacky.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Relevance By Numbers????

"Mediocrity is not very impressive to Jesus Christ."”
--Dr. Jack Schaap

Most IFBxers have an insatiable desire for numbers--of converts, baptisms, buildings, budgets, attendees, etc.--this is one of the many warts they typically wear as a badge of honor. The response to this observation is most often one of attack asking how many people you have "gotten saved" over the last week or month. We could probably make scores of posts about First Baptist of Hammond's touting of buildings, budgets, and buses as validation of "God's blessing" their ministry--at this point I would like to simply draw attention to something I received in the mail a while back and is still available for your perusal in its entirety at the official First Baptist Church website under "The Voice" December 2003 tab.

There is always a greeting from Pastor Schaap in each issue of "The Voice" which is their official church paper edited by Robert E. Auclair. This was the first edition of the paper and definitely sets the tone for all of the rest that have followed. Here are some snippets from Pastor Schaap's pen in that particular issue:
"For over a century, First Baptist Church has been a fixture of downtown Hammond. Through the years, the church's influence has increased as literally thousands of Christian leaders around the globe look to our church for inspiration and example. We host three major national yearly conferences, operate the largest independent Baptist Bible College, and baptize upwards of 10,000 converts annually. Researchers tell us that we are the largest church of our kind in the world."
"Presently we are constructing a new multi-million dollar auditorium complex that will seat over 7,000 and provide much needed space for our Bible-teaching program which includes more than 600 Sunday School classes."

"Our public services are built around the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. For 23 years I taught Bible in our college and seminary. I love to take the truths of God's Word and present them in a practical and helpful way to strengthen the marriages, families, and individual lives of our congregation. I believe with all my heart the Bible is relevant for today, and the 10,000 plus people who come each Sunday are a testimony to that."

--Dr. Jack Schaap (emphasis mine)
Now I am not usually one to nitpick, but the tone of the greeting was very man-centered and most conclusions were arrived at by the exorbitant numbers and statistics cited. Beyond the numbers emphasis I am a little puzzled by the statement concerning the "researchers tell us that we are the largest church of our kind in the world." I know that "researchers" is a general term, but I would be interested to know who these researchers were--the impression is given that an actual study was done and FBCH was crowned as the "largest". I also was appalled at the declaration that the public services are "built around the preaching and teaching of the Word of God." I think even the biggest supporters of FBCH would have to admit that there is much more entertainment and pop-psychology in a typical service than true Biblical exposition.

What else did you notice in this article--you may want to check it out at the church's website before commenting--I don't have time to type the entire thing from the pdf file--I only posted the "highlights" so to speak.

If you draw attention to this kind of pragmatism does it mean you are just jealous and too lazy to get "busy for God"? Is God impressed by our numbers? Should the people of God be impressed by numbers? To take it a step further, is God impressed by anything done in a spirit of pride? Do our motives matter or does the end justify the means? Does this type of emphasis help create the "hero worship" that has been rampant in IFBxdom for decades? Should we not be concerned at all about numbers in our ministries? Didn't the Lord mention numbers on many different occasions? Should this fact not cause us to strive for big numbers? What do you think is the Biblical philosophy of numbers in ministry? Maybe there are other questions that come to your mind--please share them in a spirit of meekness.

James 4:6 KJV "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."

James 4:10 KJV "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

1 Peter 5:5-6 KJV "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:"

Philippians 2:3-11 KJV "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."


Monday, May 01, 2006

Red-Hot Preaching???

As I was cerebrating over Matt's post regarding the HAC website, I was reminded of my years there, and of the exorbitant emphasis that was placed on what was and apparently still is referred to as "red-hot preaching". The letter to prospective students from Jack Schaap on the HAC site seems to insinuate that this "red-hot preaching" is part of what has stayed judgment from falling upon our nation. I believe that "narcissistic" was the word that Matt used to describe the theme of the letter, and I do not believe that a more befitting word could have been chosen.

I would not want to communicate to the B & C audience that I never heard an encouraging word from the chapel pulpit there, but systematic sermons that stay true to the text were essentially nonexistent, hence I still would like to probe this IFBx concept of "red-hot preaching". What does "red-hot preaching" mean to you? What does it mean to the average Christian young person? I think I know exactly what HAC means by it, and I shudder at the very thought of it.

Since officially leaving Hammond two years ago, I am pleased to state that I have not heard any sermon that would fall into the category of "red-hot preaching". I have heard many sound Biblically expository sermons since then. I have heard many sermons inspiring me to a more passionate devotion to Christ and His Word since then. Consequently, I have heard far less stories about these sermons' pulpiteers' personal lives, feats, and exploits!

During my tenure at Hyles-Anderson College, I heard very few if any sermons that were Biblically systematic. I have stated this before but what characterizes the typical HAC chapel time they would like to describe as zeal, but can be identified as nothing short of unbridled, manic frenzy. Any kind of schismatic remark from the chapel speaker can elicit a chorus of hearty "AMEN"s regardless of how unscriptural it may be. All in the name of "old-fashioned fundamentalism." To take it further, I would speculate that most of them were largely man-centered and thus not glorifying the Lord. A brief listen to the average chapel sermon at the HAC website would certainly verify that it continues to this day. In my own homiletics class there, my prepared sermon was referred to as a "lecture" by the instructor, something clearly meant as a derogatory description of a sermon at HAC. I reckon that I didn't yell, spit, and foment enough during my discourse.

The attitude taken at HAC was always that the other "liberal" Christian colleges (Maranatha, BJU, Northland, Clearwater, Moody, Cedarville, Master's College, etc.) did not believe in this breed of "red-hot preaching" like we do. In retrospect, I realize what was meant by that was that these other schools aim for a Biblicist approach to homiletics and the ministry of the Word. They were often described as the schools that had "gone liberal" and "changed". The plain truth is that the aforementioned schools have stayed much closer to historic Christian orthodoxy than HAC has.

Again, what is "red-hot preaching"? What does it mean to you, and what do you think that it means to the HAC brass when they mention it? Is there a Biblical mandate for what they refer to as "red-hot preaching"? Furthermore, do the pragmatic results of this "red-hot preaching" at HAC make it acceptable fare?

May we all pray that God would free our brethren from man-centered preaching.

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