Monday, October 05, 2015

Rampant Ideological Hylesism, pt. 3

Part One   Part Two

Many Christians would declare their dissatisfaction with the culture, but churches have more to do with the culture than any other influence, based upon what scripture teaches.  Churches decided to capitulate to the culture as a means of success.  Most do that today, to the extent that most don't even know they're doing it any more.  They now think that's just what churches do.  If you're not doing it, you don't know what you're doing.  You sort of don't know how to do church if you're not capitulating in some way to the culture.  It reminds me of what some people say about professional sports -- "if you aren't cheating, you aren't trying."

The number of people now exposing what's going on in churches, as it relates to these church growth strategies, is small and relegated to insignificance.  You'll hurt less from the critique than you will in not participating in the activities.  Men feel more the external pain of unpopularity than the internal pain of conviction over capitulation.

I have called this "Hylesism," defined as "using human means to attract a crowd for evangelism." Could there be a better name?  Many Southern Baptists and Presbyterians and Reformed and Evangelical Free and "non-denominational" haven't even heard of Hyles.  A lot of Pelagians never heard of Pelagius, but his views are still Pelagianism.  Why not Finneyism?  Doesn't this go back to Charles Finney, really?  I think there is a Finneyism, but it wasn't about church growth.  What about Fullerism, because Fuller Theological Seminary has greatly influenced the church growth movement? The talk of "church growth" in the 1980s was Jack Hyles.  Some evangelicals might argue that Fuller had more to do with the greatest of what we see today, according to the definition above.  Renee Ouelette last year wrote glowingly of Jack Hyles as a church growth innovator:

They are always looking for a better way to get the job done, a more efficient method of disseminating the truth, a vehicle by which they can get the Gospel to more individuals.  Dr. Jack Hyles was an innovator. He was largely responsible for the implementation of the bus ministry in many of our churches. He had a huge influence in encouraging us to engage in personal soulwinning. He used promotions in a way that had not previously been used. (Dr. Hyles gave free cruises as Sunday School prizes back in the ‘60’s!)

Hyles was at least at the headwaters of the church growth movement and no one did it better and faster and influenced more people in his day than Hyles.

Many different qualities distinguish Jack Hyles in a negative way.  He corrupted the gospel.  He was a revivalist, generating an atmosphere to persuade people the Holy Spirit was involved.  He brought an unbiblical style of leadership.  He dumbed down preaching.  His pastor's conference reinvented "the conference" and spread the methodology far and wide.  He popularized a unique brand of continuationist doctrine of the Holy Spirit.   Hyles was many things, however, I'm focusing on this ideology: "using human means to attract a crowd for evangelism."  I contend that focus to be the sine qua non of Hyles.  He boasted the world's largest church and the world's largest Sunday School, and even though not everyone embraced all things Hyles, his tactics for church growth traveled well.

Hyles is gone, but Hylesism continues all over.  Let me give one innocuous example that almost everyone today would say is harmless.  The nation, even the world, celebrates what is called "Christmas."  What is Christmas?  Christmas is an opportunity to put on a gigantic production to lure unbelievers.  The people in a church, who won't talk about Jesus, have the easiest time or occasion of the year to bring Him up in conversation at Christmas.  It is the red carpet of church mention. The world gives Christians a pass at Christmas.  The church designs an elaborate shindig of music so its church members, who won't even have to talk about Jesus, can invite people to the concert, a free concert and perhaps a dramatic production.  People who wouldn't darken the door of a church will come to one of these things.

Who doesn't use Christmas as a method?  Conservative evangelicals use Christmas.  They will say it's one of their main ways of reaching the lost in their community.  When they think the program through, they have the audience in mind.  The entire program centers on what the lost will think.  If they use Christmas, why not Easter?  Why do this twice a year?  Why not do it every week?  If it works with the incarnation, why not use for all things Jesus?  Jesus is turned into a commodity for church growth and especially His birth.  Who can't resist a baby in a manger?  It's a natural opportunity, they would say.  This is all Hylesism.

Hylesism replaces the simplicity of biblical methodology.  It is a form of deceit.  There is more than a bit of showmanship with the lights and stage and microphones and sound with the indications of a club or an act.  The acceptability now relates more to the degree, not the strategy.  It's permissible "if it doesn't go too far."  Is this right in the first place?  Did Jesus do this?  It's not what Jesus did.  The methodology the Apostle Paul confronted in 1 Corinthians 1-3 is far more innocuous.  He repudiated rhetorical techniques that would have still been less than the equivalent in the Greek culture.  He's saying, "Don't do these types of things."  Man isn't to receive glory for why everything works.  The model of Jesus contradicts Hylesism and the Apostle Paul renounced it -- all of it.


The Preacher said...

It is not Hylesism or any other "ism", but rather how does one truly abide in the body of Christ. The truth of the matter is summarized below:

“The most beautiful church buildings, with their parking lots full of expensive cars, and oak pews packed with carnal “Cretians” (Titus 1:10- 12), listening to “all kinds of music” (Daniel 3:5, 7, 10, 15); and silly dove sermons from hired men made ministers will never duplicate that treasure, or develop that character and “express image of God’s person” that you need within yourself. And “when He shall appear, you shall be like Him” and “shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2), “for as He is, so are we in this world” (4:17). Jesus Christ, nor “His body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24) is never going to change to suit your religious fancy, or carnal notion of what you and your minister think the church has to become to appeal to this world gone mad with “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). You have to change, and so does your falsely so called Christianity. You only see the expression of God in Christ’s face, and “the face of Jesus Christ” is only seen and found upon “the Head, from which ALL THE BODY by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Colossians 2:19).”


Jonathan Speer said...

Pastor Brandenburg,
Reading through this series, I kind of keep expecting you to name each new article "Part 3400" or something like that.

I guess if God were blessing your series, you'd have more articles in it.

Farmer Brown said...

Certainly a good reminder. It is so sneaky, this desire to be appealing to people. The Gospel is fairly unappealing to unbelievers. You cannot make it something it is not, even if you have the "bus captain" eat a goldfish. Your points about christmas are well made.

James Bronsveld said...

I think you could call it modified Corinthianism, or even hyper-Corinthianism. In this idea of church growth, you have all the elements of Corinthianism: the man-centred pride, the appeal to worldly growth philosophies to accomplish something spiritual by the use of fleshly philosophy, the ecstatic religion, and the interwoven thread of belief that something is spiritual, no matter how much it contradicts the Scriptures (e.g., cursing Jesus while being filled with the Spirit) because of the results it produces, be it professions of faith, baptisms, membership additions, or anything else. When you apply the reasoning Paul condemned in I Corinthians 1-3, you inevitably end up in I Corinthians 15, denying Scriptural doctrine (the bodily resurrection of the believer) while professing to believe the Gospel. Since it's evident there was a strong segment of that church that held to false doctrine in that area, is it a stretch to conclude the the Corinthians employed that carnal reasoning as a church growth method?

The Preacher said...

" it a stretch to conclude the Corinthians employed that carnal reasoning as a church growth method?"

2 Corinthian 11:[19] For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
[20] For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.

Of course they did, but certainly not as refined and pompous as the Laodicea churches of today.

KJB1611 said...

That people commend Hyles as someone great and someone to emulate is terrible. Only if 99%+ false professions--judged by 99%+ never coming to church, becoming members, and generally acting like Christians--diid he help IFBs in their evangelism.

Thanks for the comments on the winter solstice festival (I don't like putting the infinitely holy name of my Lord Jesus next to the abominable and hateful word "Mass") as an attraction to people. There usually is also misinformation that goes along with the substitution of preaching for plays and music, such as wise men being at the manger, unscriptural songs that offer God lies and false doctrine, the statement that Christ was born on December 25 when it is extremely unlikely that this is the case, and so on.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Very funny...hahahaha. Thanks for dropping by.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,


Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree with you on your Corinthians assessment. They capitulated in their way to the culture for church growth with their submission to the mystery religion in numbers of ways, that was so much a part of their every day lives. I believe your examples nail it too.