Church Leaders (Nobles) Not Soul Winners-
An Enemy of Soul Winning
by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 6 from Dr. Hyles book, Enemies of Soul-Winning)
Nehemiah 3:1-5, "Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri. But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana. And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord."
My ministry has spanned two generations. I have preached in the great churches of both generations. I have preached in the great fundamental colleges and Bible institutes of both generations. I have watched the deterioration of churches and colleges and Bible institutes. I have wondered what caused it. I have studied the cause, and in this chapter I present at least one thing that has aided the deterioration of our churches and schools.
When I became Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Hammond over 33 years ago, I inherited an unusual situation for an old-fashioned, hellfire-and-brimstone preacher such as I. I inherited a church with 22 committees. It seemed to take five people seven days to put flowers on the communion table, and it seemed to take seven people seven days to plan the music for Sunday.
I inherited a church where my predecessor preached in formal attire with striped pants and a scissor-tail coat. The church would not allow the piano to be played on Sunday morning. They allowed only a pipe organ for accompaniment. They would not allow a congregational song leader on Sunday morning. Sunday morning was the formal worship service. Sunday night was an informal service, attended by a handful.
When I went to the First Baptist Church as Pastor, my Associate Pastor, now Evangelist Jim Lyons, went with me. Shortly after we arrived, Brother Lyons went to his office on Sunday morning to find a picture taken from his wall. This picture was one of his wife and children. A note was placed beside the picture from one of the trustees saying that he could not hang a picture on his wall without permission from the Board of Trustees.
In the church there was a constitution committee. Every adult Sunday school class was required to have a constitution. Each constitution was submitted to the constitution committee for approval.
Shortly after I arrived we had a missions conference. Dr. John R. Rice and Dr. Walter Wilson were scheduled to preach. The missions committee came to me and said, "You can't have the missions conference without permission from the missions committee." (They soon found out that they were wrong on this!)
At the first service of the missions conference we took an offering, whereupon I was advised by the finance committee that I could not take an offering without permission form the finance committee. (They soon found out that I could take an offering without permission from the finance committee!)
It wasn't long until we had a deacons' meeting, whereupon the deacon chairman asked, "Pastor, do you have any speaking engagements that you want us to approve? The deacons must vote to approve where you speak." (They soon found out that this would not work either!)
Soon the deacon chairman said, "We would like to have a list of all the organizations where you serve as a board member so we can approve them." (Of course, I would not submit to this either.)
There are many other things that would simply enlarge upon the situation that I inherited which are unnecessary to be mentioned. What I'm saying is that this church, at that time a member of the American Baptist Convention, had become what so many other churches are now becoming. Now this wasn't the way the church was first organized. Nobody starts a new church with this kind of super-organization and unnecessary baggage. What caused this deterioration? What is causing a similar deterioration in many of our churches today? Such deterioration has brought formal worship services, a paralyzed pulpit, weak pastoral leadership, an over abundance of unnecessary committees and a de-emphasis on soul winning.
When a church is started, it is an exciting time. Especially is this true of an independent, fundamental Baptist church. These churches are started on street corners, in vacant lots, in storefront buildings, in basements, in tents and in many other places. When a church is started, there is a fervor of soul winning; people are getting saved. No one ever thinks about a music committee, educational committee, a missions committee, a flower committee or a finance committee! They are simply interested in getting people saved and down the aisle and building an old-fashioned, New Testament Baptist church. Notice the step-by-step deterioration of a convert in a young church.
1. The period of spiritual infancy. During this time there is usually a period of adjustment while learning the songs, some Bible, and the Christian vocabulary and manner of life.
2. The period of enthusiastic work at the church. The people become excited about the work. Though awkward, they attempt to win souls; they are zealous. This period continues for some time.
3. The period when the work becomes a ritual. After a while, some get adjusted to the work. They keep on teaching a class but are not too excited about it. They keep on working on the buses but have lost much of their enthusiasm. However, during this time, they become known in the church. They come to a place of great respect. Perhaps at one time they had the biggest bus route or fastest-growing Sunday school class. This made them highly visible in the church. Everybody knows them, and they are becoming, to an extent, church leaders.
4. The period of becoming noblemen. Now one is a deacon, a trustee, church clerk or church treasurer. He can be called a "nobleman" in the church. Perhaps he is Sunday school superintendent or treasurer. Then he becomes so busy in the organization and business of the church and in his place of leadership that his Sunday school class is neglected. His bus route is low on his list of priorities, and his soul winning has diminished. After a while, he quits his soul winning, resigns his bus route, and makes only a token effort in his Sunday school class. He has too much to do as a deacon or a trustee or as a church officer, until finally he resigns his Sunday school class.
While he does this, there is another group of people who have not been saved for long. They are building the church while he is running the church. The new, zealous Christians are
doing the work, so we have a cast system that has developed. The older, seasoned Christian has traded the building of the church for the running of the church. The younger, less-experienced Christian is building the church. This will eventually lead to its destruction. One group builds the church and another group runs the church; the commoner does the work while "their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord."
Every deacon ought to be a soul winner. Everyone who sings a special ought to be a soul winner. Every church officer should be a soul winner. The same people who lead in the church should build the church. There are hundreds of churches in America who have a group of nobles whom the people respect and follow while a bunch of commoners are doing the work! After a while, the church is controlled by the non-builders, and those who are building the church have no part in the running of the church. The builders become second-class citizens. No bus worker or soul winner is a second-class citizen! There should be no division between the work of the church. Every person should be a soul winner. No one has a right to lead the church who is not taking part in building the church, winning folks to Christ, building bus routes and building Sunday school classes.
Sometimes the nobles even get involved in some other project outside the church -perhaps some interdenominational organization which is a parasite off the New Testament churches. The greatest child evangelism in the world should be in the local church. The greatest youth for Christ program should be in the local church. All across this nation there are men who once built the church who have become nobles and stopped doing what they once did in soul winning, Sunday school building, passing out tracts, street preaching, etc. They have become nobles who run the church while another group builds the church.
The same thing happens in colleges. While in college, the student is a soul winner. He brings folks down the aisles, he passes out tracts, he witnesses on the street corner. He may even preach on the streets. Perhaps he builds a bus route. When he graduates, he has impressed the administration, and he is hired on the faculty. Far too many times, he thinks he no longer has to be a soul winner. He has graduated from the production end. He is now on the faculty. He is now a nobleman. Certainly you wouldn't expect a nobleman to do the work of soul winning! So, the result in many colleges, seminaries and Bible institutes is that the students do the work and the noblemen teach the classes. This, of course, will lead to the spiritual destruction of a college. When the students obey the Great Commission, and the administration and faculty do not, the wrong people are doing the teaching!
This same thing happens in our day schools. Many of our Christian high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools literally ignore the local church. Every teacher in every Christian school in America should be actively involved in the local church, and more than that, each one of them should be involved in the production part of the local church. 'Tis sad but true, many Christian school teachers feel they are doing their job for God in the school and that their work for God ends there. Nothing is farther from the truth! The church is many times more important than the school, and no one is qualified or deserving to teach in a Christian school unless he is doing the work of producing, soul winning, church building in the local church.
Once again, we have arrived at the place where we do not think the nobles have to put their necks to the work of the Lord. The faculty is supposed to win souls just like the students. The administration is supposed to win souls just like the faculty and students. The staff is supposed to win souls just like the laymen. The deacons are supposed to win souls just like the custodian. The Ph.D. is supposed to win souls just like the illiterate. The old folks are supposed to win souls just like the young people. Nobody has a right to be a nobleman in a church unless he is participating in the carrying out and obeying of the Great Commission. Now how can we avoid this dreadful situation of the nobles who put not their necks to the work of the Lord?
1. The noble should keep working. This should be kept before the church constantly. I preached this sermon vigorously at First Baptist Church of Hammond, and the statements that have been made in this chapter have been made many times from my pulpit. No one has a right to be a deacon at First Baptist Church who is not helping to build the church and win souls to Christ. No one has a right to teach at Hyles-Anderson College who is not active in the soul-winning program. No one has a right to teach or be on the administration of our Christian schools unless he is winning folks to Christ, building bus routes, passing out tracts, witnessing on the street corner. Let the most zealous people in the church be the noblemen. Let the greatest soul winners in the church be the noblemen. Let the bus captains be the noblemen. The simple truth is, in the sight of God, these who are obeying the Great Commission are the noblemen!
Some nobleman is reading this chapter. You know who you are. There was a day when you were active in production. There was a day when you built a great Sunday school class. There was a day when you went soul winning. There was a day when you built a bus route. There was a day when you were bringing folks down the aisle receiving Christ as Saviour, but, you have become a big shot, affluent and "high brow." You have no right to remain a nobleman unless you remain in the ministry of obeying the Great Commission!
Our churches are filled with committee members who feel that is their job as a member of the church. We are incumbered by unnecessary, superfluous committees such as flower committees, Christian education committees, pulpit committees, music committees, youth committees, library committees, literature committees, etc. who do nothing to obey the Great Commission and are using these committees as shields behind which to hide, deceiving others and trying to deceive themselves into believing they can totally disobey and disregard
the Great Commission! Because they put petunias on the communion table once a week; or because they belong to the missions committee, the finance committee, the budget committee, the roof committee, the ceiling committee, the wall committee, the floor committee, the picture committee, the painting committee, the mashed potatoes committee, the "bother the preacher" committee, the "run the pulpit" committee or the "pester the pastor" committee, they think they are immune from obeying the Great Commission!
God pity these churches that are organized for everything but soul winning. Why not organize a tract committee, a jail-preaching committee, a street-preaching committee, bus committee, soul-winning committee, rescue mission committee, and obey the Great Commission instead of having a group of professors in some college who have never built a church, never had an altar call, never seen a mourner's bench, never preached a tent revival, never felt the breath of the Holy Ghost upon their lives but sit in their halls of ivy behind the shields of their desks training our young people and killing our churches as they fill our pulpits with their own clones!
2. Make the builders the most famous. This is why we at Hyles-Anderson College have no inter-collegiate athletics. The most popular person on the campus of our college is not the fellow who puts the ball through the hoop the most times. The most popular person on the campus of Hyles-Anderson College is not the fellow who makes the touchdown runs. The most popular fellow in Hyles-Anderson College is the one who has the biggest bus route, the one who wins the most people to Christ.
Let us make the soul winners the famous people in the church. Instead of boasting about "Mr. Big Bucks" because he gives a big offering, brag on the fellow who has the biggest bus route. So many of our Christian colleges have gotten to the place where we recruit athletes and give athletic scholarships and music scholarships, speech scholarships. Brother, why don't we give soul-winning scholarships and bus route scholarships and magnify those who do what God says to do!
3. Do not put the church or the school in the hands of the non-working nobles or intellectuals. Do you know what's happening to our schools? The churches are building schools that are not like the church! Our people go to church on Sunday and hear one kind of music and then go to school on Monday and hear another kind of music. Praise God, at Hyles-Anderson College, if we have a piano concert, we don't have a great deal of classical music. Let the high-brow schools do that. Let the old-fashioned, independent, fundamental schools use "Blessed Assurance," "At Calvary," "There's a New Name Written Down in Glory," "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood" and "Amazing Grace" at their piano recitals! Our churches are dying because noblemen have taken over the churches. Our schools are being destroyed because noblemen are taking over the schools. Church music is deteriorating because noblemen have taken over the church music and the training of our church musicians in our Christian colleges!
One of my deacons, who is a multi-millionaire, came to me one day and said, "Pastor, I'm resigning from the deacon board. I think you are the greatest preacher alive, but I do not agree with you on business. If I stay on the board, I'll get upset with you and leave the church. I don't want to do that. I want to come to this church. I want to hear you preach. I want to see people saved. I'm resigning the deacon board because I do not agree with you on business, and I do not want to cause you trouble." What he was saying was that he was afraid if he stayed on the deacon board he would become a nobleman and not keep on obeying the Great Commission. Praise God for a man like that!
All across America our churches are stocking deacon boards with the wealthy people and the businessmen, and the big shots are running the church while the soul winners are being run by the big shots. Now I'm not opposed to wealthy men being on the deacon board, but I think the deacon board and the
leadership of the church should be representative of the entire church. On our deacon board at First Baptist Church of Hammond we have professional men, we have businessmen, we have Ph.D.'s, but we also have men who are illiterate and can't write their names. We have deaf men on our deacon board because we have deaf men in our church. We have a blind man on our deacon board because we have blind men in our church. We have poor men on our deacon board because we have poor people in our church. We have businessmen on our deacon board because we have businessmen in our church, but because a man has money or formal training does not give him any more votes or influence than the fellow who can't write his own name.
When I came to the First Baptist Church of Hammond, one of the wealthiest men in town invited Mrs. Hyles and me to his house to eat. The food we ate was flown in from Europe. The house was a castle. The spoons and forks and knives were lined up like soldiers in pursuit. We sat down to eat, and in the midst of the meal, the wife of this wealthy man asked me if I were going to join the ministerial association. I tried to avoid the question, but she wouldn't let me. Finally, her wealthy husband said, "Pastor, answer my wife! Are you or are you not going to join the ministerial association?"
I put my silverware down, looked him in the eye and said, "Sir, you run a business in this town. If you ever need my advice about how to run your business, you ask me and I'll give it to you. I'm Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond. If I ever need your advice about whether I join a ministerial association or howl preach, I will ask you, but until I ask you, you keep your nose out of my business!"
God give us sense again. God give us some reasoning power again.
There is not a week passes but that I get a call from some pastor who is having trouble. As soon as he tells me he is having trouble, I can take it from there. Some influential people in the church want to run the pastor. Some fellow who is president of the corporation, president of the local civic club, chairman of the board, and whose wife presides at the local flower club, is so accustomed to running things, he wants to run the preacher. It's typical. It happens all the time, and the poor preacher who is faithful in his preaching the Gospel has his hands tied by some man who doesn't know any more about preaching than the preacher does about the man's business.
Sure, wealthy people in the church should be represented on the board. The middle-class people in the church should be represented on the board. The poor people in the church should be represented on the board. The highly, formally educated people should be represented on the board, and those who have little or no formal education should be represented on the board. No one class of people should be allowed to run a church, and, by the way, no one class of people is better than another class of people because of financial standing, prestige, political power or formal training!
I know a big church that was almost destroyed because when the pastor who had been there over 40 years resigned, the choosing of a new pastor was basically placed in the hands of seven well-to-do, wealthy men, and these men called a pastor that, in my opinion, practically destroyed the church. What a pity!
We have businessmen in our church; we have doctors in our church; we have lawyers in our church, but they sit side by side with everyone else. The poorest man in our church is as welcome as the richest, the least formally-trained person is as welcome as the most formally trained, the illiterate is as welcome as the Ph.D., and all are equally represented in places of leadership. The doctors, lawyers, the college-trained and the businessmen are humble, godly people who realize that whatever they have is by the grace of God, and they happily sit side by side with those who have less money, less formal training and less opportunity.
The vice president of a bank in downtown Hammond was on our deacon board. (Though he is now in Heaven, we remember him with gratitude.) One night I recommended something that he thought was unwise, but as a deacon he stood and said, "I'm the vice president of a bank, and what the Preacher suggested doesn't make sense to me, but I make a motion we do it because the Preacher wants to do it, and I think he knows best in this case." God pity the nobles who are trying to run their preachers, and God pity the preachers who let them do it.
When I first came to Hammond, the deacon chairman came to me and said, "Pastor, some of the deacons are concerned about your preaching. We want to have a meeting to discuss your preaching. Is that okay?" I said, "Why, of course it is." He said, "How about tomorrow night (Monday night) in the Frances Classroom?" I said, "That will be fine." He said, "Would 7:00 be all right?" I said, "Seven o'clock is fine." He said, "All right, then, we will have a meeting tomorrow night at 7:00 in the Frances Classroom to discuss your preaching." I said, "That's good." About 7:30 the next night he called me and said, "Where are you?" I said, "I'm at home. Where did you call?" He said, "I thought you said we could have a meeting in the Frances Classroom at 7:00 tonight to discuss your preaching." I said, "You can, but don't expect me to be there, because my preaching is none of your business." I told them they could have a meeting every Monday night at 7:00 in the Frances Classroom if they wanted to, but I was not going to be there.
Years ago at a deacons' meeting at First Baptist Church, a deacon was discussing a little problem that had arisen. He was a good man, and this meeting did not keep him from continuing to serve on the deacon board, but he mistakenly stood and said, "Pastor, if you hadn't said something in your sermons recently about a certain thing, we wouldn't have this problem." I left the front of the room, walked to the back row of the deacons where he was sitting, and in front of all the deacon board I said, "Sir, when we paint these walls, you get one vote. When we build a building, you get one vote. When we borrow money, you get one vote, but when I walk in the pulpit, you don't get a vote!"
I am not in any way trying to cast reflection on the highly trained or highly successful, but I like what the old fellow said when he said, "The only difference in the educated and uneducated is that they are ignorant on different subjects." I am not fighting for diminishing the importance of the educated and wealthy; I am for putting everybody on the same level.
In another generation, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes was moving his membership to a Baptist church in Washington, D.C. Numbers of people joined the church that Sunday. Charles Evans Hughes was on one end of the line, and a very, very poor person of another race was on the other end of the line. When the pastor read the names of those who had come for membership, he started with Charles Evans Hughes, whereupon Justice Hughes said, "Pastor, start at the other end of the line. The ground is level at the foot of the cross." He was right!
Several years ago a very wealthy couple visited First Baptist Church of Hammond. She was sitting there with her furs and diamonds, and he was sitting there with the best of apparel. Across the aisle from them was a little Mexican boy who had a hole in his pants. He reached down and with embarrassment put his hand over the hole in his pants. The very wealthy lady looked at her husband and with a tear in her eye said, "Honey, do you know what makes this church great?" He said, "What?" She replied, "That little Mexican boy over there covering up the hole in his pants is just as welcome here as we are." She was right. It could also be said that she was just as welcome as that little poor boy was. Praise God, the ground is level at the foot of the cross!
4. Nobles and common men should share the leading of the church. At this writing, we have seven doctors and three lawyers in our church. We have numbers of businessmen. I doubt if there is a church in America who has more college graduates than the First Baptist Church of Hammond. Praise God, I also doubt if there is a church in America that has as many poor little bus kids as the First Baptist Church of Hammond, and there is not a church that has as many Spanish-speaking people as we have in the First Baptist Church of Hammond, and there is not a church in America that has as many deaf people as we have in the First Baptist Church of Hammond, and there is not a church in America that has as many poor people as we have in the First Baptist Church of Hammond, but here is one church where the ground is level! No one is better than anybody else because of the house in which he lives, the car that he drives, the ring on his finger, the clothes on his back or the degrees hanging on the walls of his office. Together every class financially, every class educationally, every class socially should have representation in the leadership of the church; that is, if all are participating in the obeying of the Great Commission.
5. The pastor should preach these truths sternly and lovingly to his people. God has a way of protecting such a pastor. When I took my stand in the early days at Hammond, we lost over 400 people. Some people threatened to take the buildings away from us, but how God has blessed through these years! Put a guard around your church. Walk guard around it yourself. Watch for every little place that you can see a danger point. Keep the church in the hands of the soul winners, the street preachers, the bus captains. Don't even check to see what the balance is in their bank accounts. I have no doubt in my mind but that American Baptist Churches started their decline when they put the building of the church in the hands of the common people and the leadership of the church in the hands of the noblemen. The same could be said about thousands of Southern Baptist churches, Baptist Bible Fellowship churches, Southwide Baptist Fellowship churches and strictly independent churches.
Practically all of these churches were started by workers. That's why the churches grew, but over the passing of the years, the inevitable happened. Hard-working people become successful people. When they become successful, they often cease to become a part of those who build the churches.
Such was the case in our text. The people were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem after the 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Nehemiah had returned to help with the rebuilding of this wall. People were working hard, but sad to say, "their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord." Let this not happen in your church and mine. Let us love everybody equally and give everybody equal opportunity! Do not look down on somebody because he is poor or because he is rich. Do not look down on somebody because he is unlearned or learned, educated or uneducated. Let the ground stay level at the foot of the cross!