The Five Churches
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea ,and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself and his children, and his cattle? John 4:1-7, 11, 12
It is amazing that even after seventeen hundred years Jacob's well was still giving water. Occasionally, somewhere out in the woods, somebody will discover an old well which is over a hundred years old, but it is no longer giving any water. This lady in Sychar came to Jacob's well, and it was still giving water to drink after seventeen hundred years.
In verse twelve she says, .. Art thou greater than our father, Jacob, which gave us the well...? That statement leads me to believe that when Jacob dug that well he had in mind more than just the people who were alive at that time. Seventeen hundred years later there was still water being drawn from that well. For fifty-one generations that well kept on giving water.
When I was a young man there was a famous fundamental preacher in America who had the largest Sunday school in the United States. He was probably the most famous fundamental independent preacher of his day, and maybe in the history of our nation. When he passed away, his church made the mistake of not calling the right person to pastor. The church went from over 3,000 in Sunday school to about 200. Finally, the church sold its buildings and the few remaining people scattered to other churches. That church is now only history. It was at one time the outstanding soul-winning church of this generation.
There was another church that at one time had the largest Sunday school in America. The pastor died suddenly of a heart attack. The church was not prepared. They did not know the correct way to find a pastor. They once had about 6,000 in Sunday school, but now they have only about 1200 who still attend.
Not too many years ago, the pastor of what was at that time the largest in America resigned. Seven wealthy men took charge of the church and decided that they did not want the same type of pastor as before. They wanted more of a Bible student and less of a hell-fire and brimstone preacher. Those seven wealthy men controlled that church until it was only a shadow of what it once had been.
I have a desire for the First Baptist Church of Hammond to be the same one hundred years from now as it is today. If God will give me grace, I am going to see to it that it is prepared, not only for my death, but for the death of the good people who are there now.
For many years the First Baptist Church has been a well flowing to an entire nation. With all my heart I have tried to do more than just to have a wonderful ministry while I am alive. I have tried to see to it that the well would continue to run long after I am gone. I realize that if First Baptist Church were to die its work would never stop. Hundreds and thousands of preacher boys, missionaries, and converts all over the world are spreading the Gospel of Christ and building great churches, but, I want it to still be doing the same thing a hundred years from now as it is doing now.
Most of the great churches of the last generation are no longer useful to God. Most of them are liberal in their theology and are not busy reaching the lost world as they once did. I am convinced that the reason for this is that the pastor who built it to its greatest days failed to prepare the people for the next generation.
Abraham was a well-digger. There are three main wells that Abraham dug.
1. The well of Rehoboth, meaning fruitfulness or enlarging.
2.. The well of Beer-lahairoi, meaning the power and vision of God.
3. The well of Beer-sheba, meaning the Word of God.
The Philistines came and stopped up those wells. The Philistines of our day will do everything they can to see to it that the church does not continue to be useful.
Isaac came along and redug those three wells that had been stopped up by the Philistines. It would certainly be a wonderful thing if the Paul Rader Tabernacle in Chicago could once again be what it used to be for God. It would be a wonderful thing if Moody Church in Chicago started running buses all over Chicago and bringing poor people to church. It would be a wonderful thing if Spurgeon's Tabernacle could once again flow with living water. But rather than unstopping the wells that have been stopped up, would it not be even better if we kept the Philistines from stopping up the wells we have flowing now?
There are five different types of churches that a church can become.
1. The New Testament church.
This is our aim. Tragically, many great New Testament churches do not remain as such and eventually deteriorate to being like one of these remaining four.
2. The state church.
So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. Revelation 17:3
And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her. Revelation 17:7
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. Revelation 17:18
In these three verses we find something in common. Each tells us that in the end time, there is going to be a state church and a church state. The harlot, (the National and World Council of Churches) is going to yoke up with the United Nations. That union of nations and union of churches will unite and become a state church.
There is more to it than just the separation of church and state. There are two kingdoms involved. There is the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdoms of this world. The kingdoms of this world have no business operating the kingdom of God. It is more than the church not interfering with the state. It is also the state not interfering with the church.
All across America, the voices that once warned us of state accreditation for our schools are passing off the scene. There are very few men with a national voice today who have the courage to say anything about it anymore. We must not allow our schools to succumb to accreditation. God does not need the devil's approval to run His business. Superiority does not need the approval of inferiority.
Several years ago, the state of Indiana wrote to inform us that the laws of our state require that every college be accredited by either an accrediting association or the State Board of Education. We threw it away, so they sent us a second letter. We threw it away as well. Every drop of blood in my body will spill out before I will allow the state to tell Hyles-Anderson College how to operate.
There was a day we had many voices around the country telling us not to be accredited. There was a day when fundamental colleges told the state that they will not tell us how to operate. It is not the state's business what we teach in our college. It is not the state's business who teaches in our college. There is not one place in the Bible that gives the government the right to run the church. There are two different kingdoms, and neither has the right to run the other.
The next thing they try to get us to do is to appoint our own accrediting board. They will allow that board instead to be the policing force for our schools, so we begin to police each other. It is nobody's business what goes on in the church. There are two things wrong which must be said about that.
(1) The local church is the final authority about what goes on in the local church.
(2) It takes away our freedom. I do not want to lose my freedom to a liberal or a fundamentalist.
We form a system and as it deteriorates, we choose other men to replace the men now on the board of the accrediting association. Some of the greatest colleges of a generation ago have gone liberal because they allowed someone else to have control. Many parents want their child's education to be accredited. Why would any Christian parent want the school that teaches their child to be accredited by unsaved people, who are for abortion, for the gay rights ordinances, and for handing out birth control to kids in the schools? The state wants to be your god. We must warn the people in our churches of the danger, so that the next generation will know to stand against allowing it to happen to them. We must protect the well from being shut down when we are gone.
3. The denominational church.
We need independent churches to be able to fellowship and to cooperate with each other without becoming denominations, which will eventually seek to have control over each other. There is a new movement in America of independent, soul-winning, sin hating and Christ-honoring churches. It would be destructive if we decided to go out and start a new denomination. A church should stand with everybody who stands for right, and against everybody who stands for wrong, but it should not take the church into anything. Keep it independent.
I have many dear preacher friends across the country who are like-minded in their beliefs. I want us to be able to enjoy our fellowship without the constraints of becoming denominational. We do not try to meddle with their affairs. We do not try to tell them what to do. We do not send them their Sunday school literature, and if they do not take our literature, we do not black-list them. There is a pure, sweet, cooperative fellowship without any union, or without any organization.
That is the way the church should be and it is the way to keep it alive for many more years. We have the idea there is strength in a movement. There is not strength in a movement, and there is not strength in union. There is strength in unity, volunteer unity.
4. The invisible, universal church.
In an earlier chapter I mentioned the three groups in fundamentalism. I love group number one. I have preached in their churches throughout the years, but do not call one of them to be the pastor of a church in group number three.
I love group number two, but we should not call a group number two preacher to pastor a group three church.
One of the greatest preachers who ever lived in this nation resigned his church a few years ago. His church called a good man, but one who was a member of group number one. They called a formal pastor to pastor an informal church. They called a non-aggressive pastor to pastor an aggressive church. They called a so-called deeper-life pastor to pastor a hell-fire and brimstone church. His philosophy did not fit in group number three. That is what damages many of the once great churches and destroys their greatness.
When I went to First Baptist Church of Hammond, the pastor of a large, famous Chicago church called and asked me to meet him for lunch. We had lunch together one day, and he said, "Dr. Hyles, I want to have in Chicago what you have in Hammond. Tell me how I can do it."
I said, "Change your Sunday morning music. Fire your committees. Have a representative church government. Take the people who are on the committees and send them out on bus routes."
He did not want to hear those things. What he was really asking me was how to do what we were doing without doing what we were doing. You cannot do it. When D. L. Moody was in Chicago, that is not what he did. He had wagons and horses all over the Chicago area that were used in reaching people for Christ.
Do not allow the universal, invisible church people to take over the church. One of our young men attended a group number one college. He was a fine young man from one of our finest church families. I was talking to him one day about school, and I asked him where he was going to church.
He said, "I go to the college church."
I said "Do you have people saved there?"
He said, "I don't know."
I said, "Why do you not know?"
He said, "Whenever somebody comes forward, they always take them into another room to deal with them. We never hear if they were saved."
They are not the same as we are. When a sinner is saved, I want to rejoice for a while. They are good men, but they will not mix well in a church like First Baptist.
I do not believe a new convert should go before a church committee to allow them to decide whether or not he can be baptized. That is what they did when I first went to Hammond. Once a month they had a meeting with the new converts. One Sunday night we had a meeting ninety-one converts were there! They could not all get in the room. They were lined up down the hallway. The chairman of the 'judgment" committee walked over and said, "What are we going to do?"
I said, "Let's get some bigger nets, and we will get more fish." If we allow group number one and two to take over the churches, they will take away the soul-winning emphasis. They will become dominated by committees that snuff the life out of the church.
5. The synagogue church.
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Revelation 2:9
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Revelation 3:9
A church is not just an assembly. It is a called-out assembly. Called out of what? Called out of the world. If a church is a worldly church, it is a synagogue rather than an ekklesia. A worldly church is not a church. It may be called a church, but it is not a church. They say they are, but they are not. A called-out assembly dresses differently, lives differently, and sings differently. We do not walk the same beat the world walks.
The most dangerous thing churches face is taking a stand only against those sins which are specifically listed in the Bible. I am against sin if the Bible says it is wrong, but the Bible not only lists sins; it also lists principals by which we are to judge what else is wrong. That is not legalism. It is applying Biblical principles to the way we live, and thus avoiding becoming like the world. A church must be careful not to fall for a fancy Bible study that teaches the Bible without emphasizing the importance of specific applications in the way we are to live.
These are the types of churches that cause great, independent, fundamental, soul-winning churches to lose their greatness and fall from having the influence they once had for the Lord. A church will continue to be like Jacob's well, with living water flowing through it generation after generation, only as long as it avoids becoming like these churches.
We must stay clear of the state.
We must stay clear of denominationalism.
We must stay clear of the invisible, universal church crowd.
We must stay clear of just becoming a synagogue, by losing our convictions and standards.
I love the children in my church. For many of them I am the only pastor they have ever had. Someday, I will be gone, and they will be forced, for the first time in their lives, to find a new pastor. I want them to know what to look for and what to avoid. I want there to be the same kind of church for their children as there was for them. The next generation needs for those of us who believe in the New Testament church to prepare for those who will come after us. We must train others to keep the life in the church, so that the water will still be flowing long after we are gone.
Many great churches have lost their greatness after the first or second generation. It does not have to be that way. A hundred years from now, I hope that the well at First Baptist Church is still flowing.
Jacob did not dig that well just for his own family. When Jacob was digging that well, he probably said, "I am going to make it good. I am going to be sure that my children and my grandchildren can drink from this well." No wonder the woman at Sychar could say, "Jacob dug this well for us. "
I hope two hundred years from now some young person can come to First Baptist Church and find an old-fashioned fundamental church. I hope he will be able to say, "Many years ago a man named Jack Hyles dug this well for us."
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