In the first half of the twentieth century, there were several Baptist “groups” that were having a great impact on the spiritual temperature of our nation. Such conventions, associations, and fellowships as the American Baptist Association, Northern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Bible Fellowship, Missionary Baptist Association, Conservative Baptist, General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and World Baptist Fellowship are just a few. During Jack Hyles’ childhood (born September 25, 1926) he attended two Baptist churches—Fernwood Avenue Baptist Church during his grade school years and Hillcrest Baptist Church during his teen years. Both of these churches were on the south side of Dallas, and both were in the Southern Baptist Convention. He attended with his mother and one living sister Earlyne. His father, who was an alcoholic, never attended with them. In 1948, being recently married, Jack Hyles decided to go to college to seek the training to fulfill what he considered to be God’s calling on his life—preaching the Gospel and pastoring a Baptist church. Naturally he chose a Southern Baptist college since he had not only attended Southern Baptist churches but had also been converted (at age eleven), called to preach (at age seventeen), married, and ordained in the same two Southern Baptist churches.
Throughout that era, most of the mainline Baptist churches placed very little emphasis on personal, one-on-one, face-to-face, or in-the- home soul winning. Most of the churches that did place any emphasis on getting out the Gospel did so by inviting visitors to church in order for the visitor to hear a salvation message preached from the pulpit followed by an invitation to accept Christ as Saviour.
Through God’s mercy and grace, He allowed me to be saved at age fifteen in one of those types of services. God’s leading in my life has allowed me the privilege of serving for 38 years in the ministries of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. For 26 of those years, I worked closely with Dr. Jack Hyles—on the church staff, school administration, college administration, and Pastors’ School committee. Nearly every week of those 26 years, I attended an average of nine different staff, administrative, and committee meetings conducted by Brother Hyles.
My main duties involved serving as an assistant pastor overseeing bus ministries, Sunday schools, and children’s churches. However, I also had opportunities to help Brother Hyles with the church’s summer camp, a Christian day school for “bus kids” (grades 1-12, with approximately
400 students), and by serving as the executive vice president of Hyles- Anderson College during the last eleven years before Brother Hyles went to Heaven. I also traveled with Brother Hyles 15-25 times a year in order to help plan, conduct, and speak in conferences throughout America and in several foreign countries during those same years, 1990 to 2001.
The First Baptist Church of Hammond hosted and conducted a week-long pastors’ conference each year known as Pastors’ School. It was attended by approximately 4,000 to 7,000 people each year. I served as one of the six members of the Pastors’ School committee, which helped Brother Hyles plan and conduct the conference.
On at least two occasions, that committee chose from Brother Hyles’ correspondence files a few of the letters which had been written to him by well-known people. Those letters were printed in small booklet form to be distributed to the delegates as a souvenir from the conference. Many of the delegates found the letters interesting.
Off and on for several years thereafter, I attempted to persuade Brother Hyles that much of his correspondence would be not only interesting, but also very helpful to many people, especially to anyone who was striving to be more effective in the ministry—both “full-time servants” and volunteer helpers. Finally, about a year before he died, Brother Hyles agreed to allow me to sort through and use all of his correspondence files for the purpose of this manuscript. I was shocked to discover there were over 55,000 pieces of his correspondence which had been preserved in his files. Most of these were letters and memos he had generated. Only a small portion were letters to him from others. Although he received letters from thousands of people, he chose to keep the letters which he received from only a few people (few in comparison—a few hundred people) who were nearly all men who had been greatly used by God. Yet it seems that he kept a copy of every letter he sent to others.
Brother Hyles’ correspondence was filed alphabetically by the person’s last name. I went through all but about a dozen of his correspondence files. As I read at least a portion of each of the over 55,000 lettters or memos, I chose the ones which I thought might:
- Teach a valuable lesson.
- Help to chronicle the phenomenal blessings of God upon Brother Hyles’ ministries.
- Add to the flow of “the story” of Brother Hyles’ adult life.
- Be of interest to people who knew, or wished they had known, Dr. Jack Hyles or any of the people with whom he associated.
- Help to explain the history of the fundamental movement in the
second half of the twentieth century.
- Be used as a tool by pastors and other laborers in God’s harvest. For example, one can gain much insight as to how to word letters of different purposes—letters to encourage, to express appreciation, to advise, to comfort, etc.
After six years of diligent work, I was somewhat surprised to realize I had chosen 15,846 letters to be at least considered for inclusion in these volumes. Yes, I actually read at least a significant portion of each of the over 55,000 pieces of correspondence. When mining for gold, silver, or precious gems, one often has to move tons upon tons of earth in order to uncover the valuable minerals or jewels. As I chose those 15,846 letters, I placed them in chronological order. Then I went back to the beginning and began to carefully read every word of each of the 15,846 letters, in order, by date, selecting the exact letters or portions of individual letters to be included in these volumes. As I progressed through the first several years of “the journey” presented by those chronicled letters, I eventually came to realize that within each succeeding year of letters, there were more and deeper lessons to be gleaned from these “epistles” (to use the common British language of the 1600’s). However, the first several letters (“epistles”) are also needful in order to lay a foundation of background information, which will allow for clearer understanding of the lessons and examples set forth in the later letters. Thus, Volume I includes at least a portion of 261 different letters written between 1948 (the year Brother Hyles enrolled in Bible college) and 1959 (the year he left Texas to move to Hammond, Indiana). Please read carefully each letter in sequence, even when that individual portion of this manuscript does not seem to be contributing any immediate significance.
It was obvious to the throngs who heard Dr. Hyles preach and teach during his lifetime that much wisdom was to be gained as it was shared by Brother Hyles through his sermons, lectures, and books. The only other means by which his wisdom was recorded was through his extensive correspondence—over 55,000 letters and memos personally dictated by him. Now that I have spent an additional seven years of diligent research and careful editing (of the 15,846 letters that I had originally spent six years selecting), I am hopeful this Volume I will be both helpful and interesting to many.
My desire is that you will not only enjoy the reading of these pages as you learn more about God’s marvelous workings through the life and ministries of Dr. Jack Hyles but that you will also take the time to study, analyze, outline, benefit from, and use the vast store of helpful resources contained within the correspondences between these historical and greatly used servants of God.
I have included some “timeline facts” throughout the manuscript in order to help the reader accurately place the events in Brother Hyles’ life and ministry within the framework of history.
Example: The Berlin Airlift begins on June 26, saving West Berlin from the Soviets.
There is one thing that I would ask you to keep in mind as you enjoy and benefit from your “journey” through the life and ministry of Dr. Jack Hyles by way of his correspondence: realize that nearly every letter that I have included in this project is but a mere sample of dozens, scores, or hundreds of other similar letters to and from dozens or scores of other people.
The reader will notice a few cases where I deleted a name (or some other detail) by an insertion such as Name. In most cases, this is an attempt to avoid the possibility of causing anyone to feel uncomfortable.
The reader will also notice that a few of my comments are a bit redundant. Think not that the repetition is by accident. These cases of repetition are on purpose for two reasons:
1. For emphasis (Brother Hyles repeatedly said repetition was one of the best forms of teaching and learning).
2. In order to expound on the original thought.
The careful observer will notice that I allow the letters themselves to tell “the story” as much as possible in the early portions of this manuscript in order to allow for as much of a quick and easy flow of the underlying story as possible. More and more detailed teaching is revealed as “the story” of Brother Hyles’ greatly blessed life develops.
Even though it has taken me this long, 13 years, to publish Volume I of Pastor of the World’s Largest Sunday School—Dr. Jack Hyles—A Lifetime in Letters, I believe I have done enough groundwork (“moving tons upons tons of earth”) to make it possible to publish Volume II in fairly short order.
With Heartfelt Appreciation
I want to acknowledge that several people have contributed in a significant manner to the completion of this project, including:
Rachel Alonzo Ali
Bill Burr Jr.
Karen Tutton Mendez