Under the leadership of Jack Hyles, beginning in 1959 in Hammond, IN, First Baptist Church became the largest attended church in the world. Before he died, he made sure his successor would be his son-in-law, husband of his daughter Cindy, Jack Schaap. For that reason among others, it was world-wide news, especially religious, when Schaap got caught at having done the despicable. Hyles and Schaap took a twisted brand of fake Christianity to new lows with a perversion of the gospel, several other doctrines, preaching, leadership, and church methods. They were copied all over the United States and other countries because of their numeric success.
The exposure of Schaap's abhorrence has brought a stream of analysis and posturing on the internet, attempting to work his situation for a perceived advantage, so motivating me to comment now. Take your pick on the cliche that describes how hard it is to figure out what occurred in Hammond---low hanging fruit, a high lob for an easy overhead slam, a slow pitch right in your wheelhouse. It isn't complicated, so there is no need to make it so.
I think that the best description of what went on at First Baptist Church in Hammond (FBC) comes from the mouth of one of Hyles' daughters, who appears on a youtube video speaking about her childhood, in which she says that the institution operated "under the guise of an independent, fundamental, Baptist church." Key word: guise. For anyone who wished to probe the least bit below the surface there, he would find it not to function as a church. It was the "guise of a church." I never visited FBC, but from the very first times I heard Hyles, I knew he was wrong. The only thing that kept me from completely repudiating him then was that the leadership I was under did not. Those men at Maranatha were in a position to understand and warn, but they did not. It was not until after the most major and outlandish abuses that places like Maranatha tentatively drew away from Hyles and Hammond. It was never while I was there.
The church, the true one, the only one, started in the earliest New Testament times over 2000 years ago. Since then there have been good churches. We have the Bible to judge whether a church is and has been regulated by Scripture. We can judge whether something is biblical or not; we're not shut off from history to know that.
There is nothing wrong with independent and Baptist. The idea of independent is obvious. Baptist is a historical position. There have always been churches that believed and practiced the Bible---separatist, congregational form of church government, soul liberty, believers baptism by immersion, no state church---and they were finally called Baptist. Where the Hyles and Schaap movement goes awry is with the "fundamental" part of the description. "Fundamental" represents its own movement, which has been tribal, political, and hierarchical.
Fundamentalists are not the only ones of what I'm describing. Now you've got all sorts of movements that control people in their own and different ways. They use various worldly and secular methods, not operating by faith, knowing how these means will sway their constituents. They make major decisions that relate to how to manipulate, even doing research into this like poll testing. It is not all what people would describe as "right wing," but most of it is "left wing" today. Much of it has turned church into a farce in the United States. Some of the most guilty are those lining up to criticize Schaap, some of whom have their own giant skeletons in their closets, and yet are constantly pointing out in great detail those of others. We should especially watch out for these who are quick to shine a bright light especially on the sexual activity---this is exactly what Schaap himself was doing in his speeches to his group before he got caught. I've noticed a reveling in it that smacks of Pharisaical, self-righteousness. It is well documented now that Schaap did this for a long time. Others are doing to Schaap like he was doing to others. There are strong similarities here between him and them. You see a lot of what Schaap did all over evangelicalism today, including those who are well accepted by some of his harshest critics.
The major issue with Schaap and Hyles was that they preached a false gospel. They preached a gospel that purposefully excluded biblical, true repentance and the Lordship of Christ. This perversion is all over evangelicalism, not just among Baptists. When people are unconverted, not born again, they can't live the Christian life. They can't stop from sinning. They can't change their hearts. All they can do then is paint on an impersonation of some skewed version of Christianity. That's what they did at Hyles. They were a false front city, attempting to appear like something legitimate, when they were a fraud.
The Hyles and Schaap preaching was characteristically unbiblical. They used the Bible, but they were the actual authority with crazy interpretations and predominant story-telling. Their sermons were propaganda, crowd control.
Hand-in-hand with Hyles and Schaap false gospel and this preaching that justified it or validated was their skewed understanding and presentation of sanctification. You were judged as to whether you were a good Christian by extra-scriptural expectations. It was a form of Keswick sanctification that was all part of the overall strategy to build the institution. Actual church discipline didn't occur. It was all about creating events and crisis to produce experiences that replaced the actual every day struggle that sanctification is. But how would you expect so many unbelievers actually to be sanctified? When they were not positionally sanctified, they couldn't be practically sanctified.
The root theological errors are the basis for the bad behavior. This is the message you will see all over the New Testament from all the authors, especially from the Apostle Paul. You have wrong doctrine and you will have wrong practice. Hyles and Schaap started with a presupposition. They wanted to get glory, to be great, to be successful, and be big, and then they developed a theology and practice that would fit into that. It tore up biblical Christianity. You still have this happening today all over evangelicalism and fundamentalism. This is to what we need to point and separate from more than any other thing.