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Preface to the Jack Hyles Story
Jack Hyles was an enigma most of his life. Born in the little town of Italy, Texas (about 30 miles south of Dallas, just off I-35E today) on September 25, 1926, he departed this world on February 6, 2001 at Chicago University Hospital, the victim of a failed heart operation. He was 74 at the time of his decease.
As far as "numbers" in the ministry, his start was very inauspicious. He attended the East Texas Baptist College (SBC) in Marshall and was a student pastor while there. His first three churches – all small ones in Texas – were Marris Chapel Baptist in Bogata, Grange Hall Baptist in Marshall, and Southside Baptist in Henderson. He next went to the Miller Road Baptist in Garland, where his success was not only hailed by fellow Southern Baptists, it came to the attention of Dr. John R. Rice through his advertising manager at the time, Miss Fairy Shappard. I was present when she returned from a business trip to Texas and heard her report with great enthusiasm her visit to his church. Dr. Rice started using him in Sword Conferences and, as a result, he eventually became nationally known. I had known him from my own ministry in Texas.
After Garland, he held a long pastorate at the First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana – starting his ministry there in August of 1959 and remaining until his decease. In the latter two churches thousands professed faith and were baptized. In Hammond he had a huge Sunday school and church attendance, reputedly the largest in the world at the time. On August 21, 1972 he opened Hyles-Anderson College in Schererville, a Hammond suburb.
In his early days – and we are speaking here from the standpoint of personal feeling and personal observation – he preached and served God with power. Later in his ministry, starting at about the same time as his fascination with Jenny Nischik – and again we are speaking personally, giving a personal judgment – his ministry began to lose that power. He pounded the pulpit just as hard, hollered just as loud, saw many walk the aisles – but something was missing. Because of his following and his teaching about what we have called "decision salvation," the numbers kept right on going, even increasing, thanks to the dedication of his tremendous group of paid and volunteer workers, especially among his loyal (approaching cult-like devotion) college students.
I think it would be right to say that Dr. Hyles and I
were friends, probably because of our mutual friendship with Dr. John
R. Rice, although never close. I preached at Miller Road during his
pastorate there and at First Baptist in Hammond (as well as his radio
broadcast when in meetings in the area), although he never preached
in any of the evangelism conferences I sponsored or in a church I briefly
pastored in those days. I think it would, again, be safe to say we had
different worldviews on evangelism. I put stress on receiving Jesus
Christ as Lord as well as Savior, and he very definitely promoted decision
The time eventually came – and today, about a decade-and-a-half later, I still think I made the right decision – when I became so alarmed at what he was doing I felt some sort of action needed to be taken. The first thing I did was to write an editorial in The Biblical Evangelist, without naming him, titled "One of the Blights of Bigness." While it didn't do what I wanted – put the brakes on Hyles' antics – it nonetheless resulted in people contacting me from all over America, telling me Hyles horror stories. Many of them came from Hammond, including correspondence from Victor Nischik, the leading victim in this sickening tale of spiritual tragedy. I did not know him until that time.
When I finally wrote and released "The Saddest Story" it was with no little fear and trepidation. I knew Hyles. I was aware of the tremendous influence he welded in Fundamentalist circles and how my ministry could be permanently ruined. As a psychological motivator he could implant horrendous thoughts about my character and about my ministry in the minds of thousands upon thousands. On one occasion he preached about Moses and wrongly called him a murderer (killing someone is not always murder, obviously, or thousands of our finest military lads are murderers) and said that sometimes some people need to be murdered. His followers take such statements seriously.
Evangelist George Godfrey, a 16-year-professor at Hyles-Anderson (called by Dr. Hyles in print "a loyal friend, a thoughtful pal and a faithful servant") had for years gone to the alley adjacent First Baptist, put his arms on the wall of the building, cradling his head on his arms, and prayed with tears for his beloved pastor and the fresh anointing of God upon him during that day's ministry. Yet even he had gone eventually to Hyles and begged him, again with tears, to remove the door between the two offices (in his "Open Letter" he gives the testimony of a man in the office after my articles were published, who verified that the door was still there at that time).
We mention him in connection with the paragraph above about murder because after the story broke a skit took place in the H-AC chapel in which Godfrey, Nischik and Sumner were gunned down by the Mafia (what is called thought suggestion by those familiar with mind control). Dr. Godfrey, who lived in the area, had his house splattered with eggs while he and his wife were off seeking to win the lost to Christ in evangelistic meetings, received all kinds of threatening phone calls, had his lawn tampered with to read "100% Hyles," and obviously had reason to fear for his life and the lives of family members.
Hyles' people knew him better than I did and were literally paranoid with fear for their welfare in documenting things to me. That is one reason I named so few names even though I had factual evidence their testimonies were true – the main criticism of my articles was in this area. However, I left out any part of the story where I couldn't verify the facts. I spent months gathering material, getting statements, documenting evidence, and when I eventually went into print I was confident of the story's accuracy. I think time has justified my confidence.
This CD tells the story and we have put it in this form primarily as a record for history. Hyles is gone. The controversy about his life and ministry is fading. However, historians will appreciate a factual record and this is it. We have been very careful to give both sides of the debate, printing his defenses to our charges exactly as he sent them out. We have not changed a word of his defense. After my articles appeared in 1989, Hyles preached a sermon, "Tell the Generation Following." While this is not what he meant, obviously, this CD is telling the generation following.
I am grateful to my legal friend, Voyle Glover, for the Introduction he has written. He, at the time of my articles, had been a faithful member and active worker in Hammond's First Baptist Church, a loyal Hyles supporter, having moved his family from Arizona to Indiana just to sit under his ministry. When he read my first article he was vitally interested because questions had been rising in his own mind. He was disturbed at the accusations and eagerly awaited Pastor Hyles' response, knowing that by his answers he could be pretty certain as to the accuracy of my charges. He said, "After I read Hyles' answers, I became convinced of the truthfulness of the Sumner article in virtually every area." We think you will come to the same conclusion. Incidentally, you will notice that Hyles was selective in my charges that he answered (ignoring most of them), but I answered every single objection he raised!
Some well-intentioned people said, "Let God take care of it," ignoring such biblical commands as I Timothy 5:20, "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." Others argued, misrepresenting the Scripture, "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm" (I Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15). Still others said, "We shouldn't laundry our dirty linen in public" (forgetting that God laundered His publicly in the case of some of His best and most faithful servants). We like what Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., who gave his students so many pithy phrases, said about this: "It is better to wash dirty linen in public than not to wash dirty linen at all. A little public dirty linen washing would do this country good!" (Quoted by Dr. George Godfrey, a BJU grad, in his "Open Letter to Jack Hyles.")
Two years after the articles came out, we wrote a brief editorial. We are including that as a Postscript. To help the reader, we have numbered the articles in this CD in a way that will give the story continuity. My second 1989 article, the answer to Dr. Hyles' defense, was the longest and most devastating, perhaps, but it will probably help you get the full story in all its impact by reading things in their proper sequence. It is as follows: