It is becoming tougher and tougher to be an Independent Fundamental Baptist preacher in this day and time. At every level, we are under attack, but the attacks are coming from our own Bible colleges. When a college declares war on a certain type of preaching, they are crossing into territory that is none of their business.
I, for one, cannot sit idly by allowing our young men of God to buy into such critical assessment of preaching. I receive multiple calls from preachers who are concerned at what their young preachers are taught at these Bible colleges. One pastor said to me his own son came home and attempted to scold and correct his own pastor-father for preaching a certain style of sermon. This is sad!
Let me begin by saying to all of us use your heads! Come on, brethren, smarten up. How in the world do we fall for silly observations such as those espoused by some of these so-called scholars of preaching? My poodle could see through some of these nonsensical, nonspiritual attacks!
We need to develop some skills that will help us figure out and clearly teach our own young preachers the value of all types of preaching for appropriate moments.
That said, here it is. Are you ready for this? One professor told his young preachers in his class that “topical” preaching is what led to the climate that created the fall of some recent preachers. Now there is a logic of which MSNBC would be proud! That is a blatant lie, a stupid accusation, and nothing more than human speculation.
TOPICAL PREACHING HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE JESUS
Topical preaching has been around since Jesus walked this earth. It has been a part of preaching in every generation and has been used by many of the great men of God throughout history.
These Bible professors are giving their unproven and improvable opinions. They obviously are predisposed to dislike Dr. Hyles. They were using a tragedy to further an already established argument they espouse. They cannot argue their opinion without discrediting a man whose shoelaces they could not tie. They are listening to the wrong crowd, the critics of Dr. Hyles, and the enemies of our movement.
I know we were all taught that there are three styles of preaching, and that fits so perfectly into a class taught by a man who had never built a work for God. Preaching is not that tidy. It is a messy proposition.
There is not some little tidy, cute way to compartmentalize real preaching, the kind that built this country and that most of us cut our teeth on.
You younger, soft, new-fangled Independent Baptists missed it. You missed the old time preaching of Bob Jones, Sr., Sam Jones, John R. Rice, Lester Roloff, Lee Roberson, R. G. Lee, Tom Malone, and last but not least Jack Hyles.
HOW ABOUT CALLING IT BIBLE PREACHING
Here is a new term for you: Bible Preaching. I am not sure I ever heard the words expository preaching or textual preaching used in a Sword Conference in the old days. You were either a Bible preacher or you weren’t.
I have poured through sermons in the past few months and I am trying to find where any of the greatly used Independent Baptist men of God discussed preaching styles. I will tell you what they did preach and talk about … Bible Preaching. I think we ought to just go back to that word and stop scrutinizing the stylistics.
Did the great men of old preach expository or textual sermons? Sure, they probably did, but I promise it was not a style they were thinking about; it was a message from God. I will tell you another thing; they did not sit around and critique each other’s preaching style.
They listened with the fullness of the spirit looking for God to speak to their hearts. They had one concern and that was if a man was a Bible preacher, not whether he was topical or textual or expository.
Goodness gracious, no wonder we have no revival with some of the stylish minded preaching going on today and the Bible colleges pushing it as the only style of preaching. Please explain why men of God are going to preaching ‘style shows’?
Preach the Word, brethren! Reprove, rebuke, exhort and stop letting somebody tell you that the style of the real men of God of the past somehow creates an environment for scandals. That is almost laughable it is so silly. No, it is a sad indictment of anyone who would say or believe it.
Since when did Independent Baptists tell each other how to preach? The giants didn’t and the few left today don’t. They just loved Bible preaching. Camp meeting preaching may not be my favorite, but I love to hear preaching. I love to hear the breathy and rhythmic preaching of our black brethren. I enjoy the monotone style of old Dr. Henderson. I loved the “howdy neighbor” style of Bill Rice when he almost always built a truth (usually topical) around a story of hunting elephants in Africa or the antics of a Great Dane named Super.
I loved the gravelly voice preaching of Tom Malone. I loved the off-the-wall, erratic preaching of Lester Roloff. I never knew where he was going, but I knew the Holy Spirit of God was guiding him. I loved to hear the steady and statesmanlike preaching of Lee Roberson. And, I loved hearing the folksy, relate-to-people style preaching of my friend and man of God, Jack Hyles.
What was their style? Real men have their own style. They are not so insecure as to follow trends. Actually, they did have a style. It was a Spirit-filled style.
Dr. John Rice, in his sermon on preaching said, “I believe that some preaching ought to be topical preaching, that is, preaching on a subject. But in such a case, the subject ought to be found in the Scriptures, and then the points the preacher makes under that subject ought to be proved, every one of them, from the Scripture itself.”
I listen to preaching every week of my life and this is the kind of preaching I hear from most of our men.
These critics must be on another planet if they did not catch the substance of Jack Hyles. He wrote Biblical Sunday school lessons. One Southern Baptist preacher recently said, “I got my Biblical grounding while teaching Sunday school at FBC in Hammond. Those lessons were chock full of basic Bible teaching.”
Dr. Hyles may have been the most balanced preacher I ever knew. I dare you to go back and listen to his sermons from his last 30 years and tell me that he was not a Bible preacher. His Bible studies on Prayer, the Holy Spirit, Psalms, Proverbs, Revelation, Justice, the Beatitudes, and I could go on and on were filled to the brim with Bible truth.
He spent over a year going through the Bible chronologically with his people. These professors did not know Jack Hyles and are no expert on him or on preaching. If I were a preacher boy, I would go myself to the potential Bible College and ask some of these professors what they believe about the styles of preaching. If they go on a tangent against topical preaching … run! I guarantee you there is a deeper problem.
- The problem with our preaching is not the style, but the power. We need to worry more about preaching with the power of God on our lives than what style we use.
- Maybe our problem is more with the topics preached than it is with the style. Maybe we don’t like the preaching on standards anymore, and if we get more textual we can avoid them. In my experience, compromise and changing styles often go together.
- Maybe we have forgotten how Jesus taught. Jesus used Scriptures to expound on a topic. He told human stories and used parables to teach the truth.
- Maybe we are embarrassed at being less “intellectual” than some. Could that be it? Maybe we don’t like the idea of the “foolishness of preaching” so we want to dress it up in the tuxedo of style.
- Maybe we have forgotten the purpose for preaching.
- Maybe some just don’t want to be a hellfire and brimstone preacher anymore. Maybe some are not one of us any longer. If you don’t like it, leave us alone, but keep your nose out of our business and our preaching. Quit misleading our young preachers because you have a hidden agenda against Jack Hyles.
- Maybe we are listening to our enemies too much. Most of the criticism within a movement that changes it first comes from outside of the movement and is brought in by a fence straddler. Beware of men who distance themselves from proven men like Dr. Hyles. They are probably listening to another crowd who want us to be like them rather than like us.
- Maybe we are too insecure just doing something the way we choose so we have to justify it by criticizing and demonizing another. If you want to preach a certain style, just do it. Quit telling us we all have to be like you.
- We are listening to the patients instead of treating them. Sure, your people would rather be taught than challenged, unless they are spiritual. If they are spiritual, they want Bible preaching. If they want to study the Bible more, then I suggest they do so. They have Bibles at home. Stop coddling the flock and challenge them.
Sometimes I think we need a good dose of true history to clear up the misconceptions of these who like to form it to prove their point. Let’s go back to the heyday of our movement in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. What a collection of giants we had. Have you ever listened to the preaching of the men in those days? Dr. Bob Jones was a good example of a man who preached the word, but seldom did he use expository preaching.
Let me remind you of some of the sermons Dr. Rice preached that changed many of our lives. They were a wide variety of styles, but all of them were Bible preaching.
- The Home
- Power of Pentecost
- Religious But Lost
- Godly Women of the Bible
- Jesus May Come Today
- Silent Night, Holy Night
- How to Come to Jesus
- Dear Catholic Friend
- The Unvarying God
- Bobbed Hair and Bossy Wives
- All Satan’s Apples Have Worms
- A Sermon From a Catholic Bible
- What Must I Do To Be Saved?
- The Fullness of the Holy Spirit
- Ecumenical Excuses for Unequal Yokes
- The Kind of Preaching We Need
- Drinking Alcohol: God’s Double Curse on Booze!
- Six Pressing Reasons Why You Should Be Saved Today
- Convicted Sinners Can Reject Christ
- The Holy Spirit, our Loving Friend
Was Lee Roberson an expositor or a Bible preacher? I never studied his style, but the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart through his preaching.
- Have Faith in God
- Faith for a New Year
- Tears Gone Forever
- Stir Up the Gift of God
- Keep On Rejoicing
- Faith and Five Smooth Stones
- Contending for the Faith
- Adventuring Faith
- A Mother’s Faith
- Little Faith and Hasty Answers
- The Dynamite of Faith
- The Shield of Faith
- The Victory of Faith
- Does Jesus Live At Your House?
- One Way Home
- The Detours of Life
- The Need of This Hour
- What Held Jesus to the Cross?
Well, how about Tom Malone? As I read his sermons, I see no specific style except Bible preaching, Tom Malone style.
- Can America Survive?
- A Heavenly Vision
- Let God be Magnified
- The Healing of the Waters
- The Cleansing Blood
- A Good Steward of God’s Grace
- Where There is No Vision the People Perish
- The Weapons of Our Warfare are Not Carnal
Let’s look at some of Curtis Hutson’s sermons. Again, we see just a good Bible preacher.
- Simple Salvation
- Salvation Crystal Clear
- The Greatest Christmas Gift of All
- The Danger of Delay
- Lifestyle Evangelism Refuted
- “As Many As Received Him”
- The Tongues Confusion
- The Healing of Two Blind Men
- Soul Winning: Every Christian’s Job
- Grapes, Giants, Grasshoppers and God
- The One Thing That Determines Salvation
- How to Know You Are Going to Heaven
- The Eternal Security of the Saved Believer
I could go on and on and prove that most of these men regularly preached topical style sermons, but I promise you they were not fixated on style like we are becoming today. They were fixated on preaching the Bible to address the needs of the hour.
These professors’ problem is deeper than just this one subject is and one of their problems is obviously with Dr. Jack Hyles and his contemporaries. I promise if you delve a little deeper, you will discover I am right. Please do not misunderstand me. If these professors are saved, they are my brothers and I love them, but someone needs to tell it like it is when this nonsense is perpetuated as truth.
Now, were there expositors in every generation? Yes there were. I could name you men of that era who were great expositors and they were great men. But again, these men did not sit around and scrutinize styles. I enjoy hearing a soul winning Bible expositor bring out the truths of the Word of God. I am not interested in hearing an expositor preach in a church where no one is getting saved.
God raises up men for His purpose. Please hear me, brethren. God is not a cookie-cutter God. The same God that raised up a man like Lee Roberson raised up Lester Roloff. Now there was not much similarity in their styles, but there was a whole lot of similarity in their power from on high.
QUIT TRYING TO BE WHO YOU ARE NOT AND MAKING OTHERS SOMETHING THEY ARE NOT
Quit trying to be who you are not. These great men did not try to be what someone else was. Can you imagine Bill Rice trying to preach like Lee Roberson, or John Rice trying to preach like Brother Roloff? These men were unique in their “style” of preaching and God used them all in unique ways.
Listen; you can go to college and take a course on basketball for credit taught by an expositor of basketball or you can join the basketball team and be coached to play the game. Both have their purpose, but what is your purpose; to be a professor of the Bible or a man of God? We need professors, but we desperately need men of God in this hour.
Sometimes I believe a man is labeled unfairly. Let me use my preaching for example. I am known for preaching on soul winning and there are many who define my style that way. Truth be known, for many years I was invited to churches because they wanted me to preach on soul winning. However, get my sermon tapes from 30 years of pastoring Longview Baptist Temple and you will see that I preached many types of sermons and in many different ways.
I could call the name of a well-known pastor and most of us would think of a specific thing about that man. Why? Typically we know more about a man for a national purpose for which God raised him than the man he is in his own realm. I sat under Dr. Hyles’ preaching for years. God used him to not only teach me the Word of God, but how to live the Christian life. He was a Bible preacher.
Another mistake we make is that we know someone who came up under a man’s ministry and who misrepresents the truth of that man. I saw it with men who were Lee Roberson “products.” These mimickers copy a certain aspect of the man and miss the rest. Again, this is the minority and it is unfair to blame the man for the few poor copies.
Clearly, there are Bible preachers all across this world that came up under Dr. Hyles. Each one is unique, but they all have a little of Dr. Hyles in them. Do not judge all of us who hate abortion by the quack who burns down a clinic. In addition, don’t judge a man of God by a preacher or two who are extremes of him.
Do I have some concerns about the preaching of some men? I fear that at times we all get off on tangents. I fear pet issues obsess us. Sometimes it happens to all of us. We typically preach about those things, which have our attention.
Many years ago, a pastor in Southern California got into a fight in his church over the Masonic Lodge. He became obsessed by it. For years, he could not preach a sermon without it coming back to that subject. He was a good man, but he got off on a tangent. We must be careful that we are not tangent preachers.
At times, we all get an idea and try to back it with Scripture. The way we approach it will determine if that is a problem or not. For example, Dr. Hyles counseled more people than any pastor I have ever known. Often, he would see a trend in his counseling and would decide he needed to speak about it.
Therefore, he had a topic without a passage. Who has not done that? Nevertheless, if he tried to see what the Bible said about it so he could address it biblically, then that was not wrong. And that is exactly what he did. Dr. Hyles shared this in his book on preaching.
“A sermon is a tool. It is not an end in itself. It is a tool with which to fix something. For a number of years Evangelist Jim Lyons worked with me as an associate. When he left me to enter the field of evangelism, people asked him to appraise my preaching. He very kindly said that the key to Jack Hyles’ preaching was that a sermon was not a sermon to Brother Hyles but rather it was a greasy wrench with which to fix something. I have never heard a better explanation of what preaching ought to be. A sermon is not a painting in an art gallery to be admired and complimented; nor is it a relic in a museum to be examined. It is, as Brother Lyons observed, like a greasy wrench! It is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. The end is to fix something. This means that a good sermon should never be the goal of preaching; it should simply be a “greasy old wrench.”
I realize that just because you use the Scripture does not mean it is Bible preaching. Sincere men, at times, take a passage out of context to preach their own ideas. I warn all of us to be cautious not to preach opinion rather than truth. However, I am alarmed when these “expositors” take the word of so-called theologian commentators, use their often-misguided opinions, and preach them as truth.
Hear me; there is far more error preached by deeper life Bible teachers than old-fashioned Holy Ghost filled Bible preachers. Give me the doctor with 10,000 patients and fewer diplomas over the professor who can teach the medical textbooks, but who has never treated a single patient. Dr. Hyles was more than a preacher. He was a general practitioner. Here are a few of the styles I see in preaching:
Expository topical preaching.
Textual Topical preaching
Topical Textual preaching
To my brethren Bible professors who say there is only one style of preaching, I strongly suggest you rethink your ideas. The ideals of our movement are already under attack from without; let’s not allow slanderous attacks from within. A good sermon like Dr. Rice’s on Bible preaching would serve far more as a good reminder of our responsibility as preachers than the jaded opinions of apparently disgruntled critics called professors.
It may be good if we lost the fancy study of styles anyway and just went back to being Bible preachers again. Let each of us be the man God raised us up to be. Allow the Spirit of God to “style” you. Let me simplify this and put an end to the discussion. Quit scrutinizing men’s preaching styles and just …“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” II Timothy 4:2.
by Dr. Bob Gray Sr.