Jack Frasure Hyles
(September 25, 1926 – February 6, 2001) was a leading figure in the
Independent Baptist movement,
having pastored the First Baptist Church of
Hammond in Hammond,
Indiana, from 1959 until his death.
He was also
well-known for being an innovator of the church bus ministry that
brought thousands of people each week from surrounding towns to
Hammond for services. Jack Hyles built First Baptist up from fewer
than a thousand members to a membership of 100,000. In 1993 and
again in 1994, it was reported that 20,000 people attended First
Baptist every Sunday, making it the most attended Baptist church in
the United States In 2001, at the time of Hyles death, 20,000
people were attending church services and Sunday school each week.
He was accused of several controversies while pastoring the church,
and his doctrinal positions often put him at odds with other
Christians — even with other fundamentalist Baptists
His early life and beginnings of his ministry
born and raised in Italy,
Texas, a low income area in Ellis
County south of Dallas.
Hyles often described his less-than-ideal upbringing which, he
said, included a distant father. At the age of eighteen, Hyles was
United States Army
and served as
with the 82nd Airborne Division
World War II
. He and his wife, Beverly,
were married during the war.
war was over, Hyles completed his college education at East Texas
Baptist University (then College) in Marshall, the seat of
County. He also attended Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
After his graduation from East Texas, Hyles started preaching at
several small Texas churches, whose memberships began to grow.
churches included: Marris Chapel Baptist Church, Bogata, Texas; Grange Hall Baptist Church, Marshall, Texas; and Southside Baptist Church, Henderson,
Texas. After receiving his education Hyles pastored
at the Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland in Dallas
County for about six years.
During this time the
congregation grew from 44 to 4,000 members. Hyles said he was
"kicked out" of the Southern Baptist denomination because he was
too conservative for them. Hyles then ran Miller Road Baptist
Church as an independent preacher for a while.
The move to Hammond, Indiana
Hyles moved to Hammond,
Indiana and became the pastor of First Baptist Church of
When he arrived, the church had a membership of
about seven hundred, said to be mostly "high-society types." About
a third of the members left the church after hearing Hyles
preaching style, which was much different than that to which they
had been accustomed. Hyles then led the church to its status as an
independent Baptist church—freeing it from its ties with the
Hyles started his bus ministry and soon shepherded the church from
a congregation of several hundred to more than 20,000. In the early
1990s a national survey ranked First Baptist as the largest church
in the nation, by average weekly attendance figures.
Beginning in 1969, and continuing for several years, First Baptist
received recognition for the size of its Sunday School.
Towns wrote a book called The Ten Largest Sunday
Schools and What Makes Them Grow which analyzed First
Baptist's Sunday School.
Towns presented a plaque to Jack
Hyles in 1971, naming First Baptist Church of Hammond the nation’s
largest Sunday school. In 1972, and for several years following,
Christian Life Magazine
proclaimed First Baptist Church of
Hammond to have "the world's largest Sunday School".
In 1972, Jack Hyles and Russell Anderson founded Hyles-Anderson College
, an unaccredited bible college
, to specialize in training
Baptist ministers and Christian school teachers. Hyles-Anderson
College never sought accreditation because Hyles insisted school accreditation
his ability to control how the college ought to run, and for
various other reasons.
The ministry of Hyles
One of the most notable aspects of Hyles is his church bus ministry
that he helped innovate. As early as 1975, Time
described the phenomenon in an article titled, "Superchurch." The
article notes that First Baptist Church of Hammond
Sunday School, which regularly ran almost 14,000 people, pushed the
church to a record attendance of 30,560 on March 16, 1975, thanks
to a boisterous contest between two bus route teams. In that year,
the First Baptist bus route ministry consisted of 1,000 workers
using 230 buses to ferry as many as 10,000 people every Sunday. In
2001, a fleet of over 200 buses was regularly ferrying 7,000 to
15,000 people from all over the area.
Hyles spoke at 'The Sword of the
' conferences with John R.
and his own annual "Pastors
School". The school continues to attract as many as seven thousand
annual visitors to the Hammond area.
Hyles wrote approximately fifty works in his lifetime with over 14
million total copies in circulation, including the popular Is
There A Hell?
, based on a sermon he preached at a National
Sword of the Lord Conference. Another work, Enemies of Soul
tackled many issues considered controversial in
fundamentalist and evangelical circles, which include the doctrine
of repentance, Lordship
, and the role of the church in soul winning. The
wrote, "Hyles will be remembered as a
one-of-a-kind, ever controversial leader whose ministry touched the
lives of multitudes."
Jack Hyles was better known as "Brother Hyles" to his tens of
thousands of congregants.
Hyles often held nationwide speaking engagements. In 1984, for instance,
he addressed a large gathering in the small city of Snyder, Texas, the seat of Scurry County, hosted by pastor L.W. "Buck"
(1929-1995) of Faith Baptist Church. Independent
Baptists from throughout the area, such as Ross J. Spencer from Bethany
Baptist Church in Lubbock, organized bus trips to the convention hall in
Hatfield and Spencer also adapted the bus ministry
approach for their congregations.
In his book, Enemies of Soulwinning
, Jack Hyles taught
that one could not be born again unless the King James Version
was used somewhere
along the line in that person's life.
Honors, award, and praise
In contrast to the criticism, Hyles has been the recipient of
praise, an honorary doctorate, and other accolades throughout the
course of his life, even continuing past his death. The
compared the "meek" preaching style of
to the "spit and fire"
of Jack Hyles. The Post suggested that after you heard a preacher
like Hyles, "you knew that you'd been preached to". Falwell said
that "Hyles will be remembered as a leader in evangelism through
the local church." Falwell also said, "He inspired me as a young
pastor to win others to Christ through Sunday school, the pulpit,
and personal witnessing. He made a great contribution to the calls
received an honorary doctorate
from Midwestern Baptist
College, an unaccredited Bible college in Pontiac, Michigan.
Students in unaccredited Bible colleges
retain credentials only for use within the churches of the
In 2001, Hyles' church bought his childhood home and shipped it
from Texas to Hyles-Anderson College to build a museum. Ray Young,
a close friend of Hyles, said, "We have five thousand to seven
thousand independent Baptists who come here each year for
conventions. Reverend Hyles was very much adored by independent
Baptists across the country. It should be a major attraction for
The Chicago Sun Times
wrote about Hyles on the occasion of
his death, "When he chose the interests of poor, inner-city kids
over millionaire church members, they said he'd never keep the
doors of his church open." However, Hyles "proved them all wrong.
In the process he built one of the largest congregations in the
country, a college, six schools, and a vibrant ministry that will
now have to survive without him."
Matthew Barnett, while discussing his work at an inner-city Los
Angeles ministry, explained how he learned from Jack Hyles. Barnett
also expounded on how Hyles was a tremendous soulwinner and how
Hyles had great influence throughout the entire Chicago area.
Hyles was honored by his church with a huge portrait of Hyles and
his widow, Beverly, dominating the skyline of the town. He is also
honored in Founder's Park at his college, where they laid 30,000
bricks as flooring for life-sized statues of Hyles and his
Allegations by Nischik, Sumner, and Glover
In May 1989, Victor Nischik
, a former
deacon of the First Baptist Church, accused Hyles of being a "cult
leader" who committed adultery with Nischik's former wife and
Hyles's long time assistant, Jennie Nischik (Née
Jennie Corle). Nischik, a church accountant,
also accused Hyles of questionable financial dealings. Hyles said,
"Everything that I am charged with is a lie," and claimed Nischik
was an "immoral man" that Nischik's wife supposedly found Victor
"alone in his pajamas with another woman." Hyles also responded to
the charges of financial impropriety by pointing out that his
salary was only $18,308 per year. He said, "I'm not a wealthy
man...I could have been, but I have chosen not to be." Hyles
pointed out that the Nischiks and other workers and needy friends
regularly received many gifts from himself, including new cars
Hyles said that he received "love offerings and honorariums" from
his nationwide speaking engagements and he said that gifts given to
him he shared with others, especially those that worked with him.
Hyles said that "money doesn't mean anything to me" and that he has
given away "hundreds of thousands of dollars to needy friends" but
he doesn't keep records of all the gifts he has given out over the
, a Baptist evangelist
and an author, accused Hyles of running his church in an
authoritarian, almost 'cultist' manner in an article called The
Saddest Story We Ever Published
in Sumner's The Biblical
newsletter. Sumner detailed Nischik's charges and
contended that Rev. Hyles has strayed from biblical teaching and
into cultlike mind control. Sumner's article had over 100 separate
allegations of wrongdoing, including one that alleged that Hyles
had "sex satellites" in Petersburg, Beaumont, Texas; and Anniston,
Alabama. Hyles responded to Sumner's accusations by calling them
In 1990, Voyle A. Glover
a local attorney who attended First Baptist
Church of Hammond for nearly twenty years before leaving in 1987,
published a 420-page book called Fundamental Seduction: The
Jack Hyles Case.
The book dealt with the cultic and idolatrous
attitudes displayed by members, and detailed facts about moral and
financial improprieties. Glover's book raised numerous questions
about the ministry of Hyles. He also revealed the details of the
mysterious death of little Brent Stevens while in the care of David
Hyles and Brenda Stevens. The child had earlier been found to have
multiple bone breaks. The investigator for the state of Illinois,
Paul Celino, felt that David Hyles was a prime suspect in the
death. David Hyles took the Fifth Amendment at the Coroner's
Sexual molestation at First Baptist
In March 1993, a deacon
at First Baptist,
A.V. Ballenger, was found guilty of one count of child molestation
stemming from a 1991 incident in which a church worker reportedly
witnessed Ballenger molesting a 7-year-old girl during a Hammond
Sunday school class. In 1991, Hyles and First Baptist were sued for
$1 million by the girl's parents who believed that Hyles and the
church should have done more to protect their daughter. The parents
said that the molestation was brought to Hyles' attention when it
happened, but Hyles did nothing about it, so they finally reported
it to the police. The parents claimed in the lawsuit that Hyles
told them that Ballenger "just liked little girls," and "you don't
have a case." The lawsuit against Ballenger and the church was
settled out of court in 1994. Ballenger was sentenced to five years
in prison in 1993, but he remained free on appeal until August 19,
1996, when he was finally ordered to report for prison. The
criticized Hyles because he allowed Ballenger to
continue working at the church and have contact with children
during Ballenger's appeal. Hyles and his followers insisted that he
always believed that Ballenger was wrongly convicted, but the
leading prosecutor in the case said the church maintained "a
conspiracy of silence" by closing ranks behind Ballenger.
1993, a news team from Detroit, Michigan television station WJBK did a
six-part story called Preying from the Pulpit where
it followed up on allegations of child molestation at area
The news report said that seven U.S. churches with
ongoing molestation controversies all had preachers that attended
WJBK report linked the abuse cases to Jack Hyles and it also
accused him of running a cult. The news station "recapped a sermon
in 1990 in which Hyles pretended to pour poison into a glass and
asked an associate pastor, Johnny Colsten, to drink from it.
Colsten said he would." Furthermore, "The WJBK report said the
sermon has the "ring of Jonestown to it - the mass suicide in Guyana in 1978 by
followers of cult leader Jim
The mini-series also "showed footage during its
report of" Hyles "brandishing a rifle from the pulpit, along with
"people with guns and walkie-talkies patrolling the outside of the
church at times."
response, on May 19, 1993, the Northwest Indiana Times ran
a story entitled Baptism by innuendo, which criticized the
stories that ran on WJBK-TV and later on WLS-TV in
The Times also suggested that the May ratings
period, which is traditionally known for such similar
sensationalized stories, was not a good enough excuse to make up
for the poor journalism the stories displayed, concluding that the
stories were "a monstrous overreach". Hyles spoke to 1300
supporters in which he disputed the latest reports point by point
and he branded the recent news reports as "ridiculous assumptions
and malicious lies". During that speech, Hyles claimed some people
in the report had not even attended the school to destroy the bus
ministries operated by his church and others like it. Several
hundred followers signed a statement supporting Hyles' in an
advertisement placed in the Tuesday June 1, 1993 Chicago
After the WJBK news report, the FBI was asked to look into
accusations that minors were taken without parental permission from
Michigan churches to events at the First Baptist Church of Hammond
where they were then allegedly abused. The FBI concluded there was
insufficient evidence of any federal crimes and turned the matter
over to local authorities. On Wednesday, May 19, 1993 Sgt. Charles
Hedinger, a Hammond police detective, described the Hyles
investigation as "open-ended." Jack Hyles said that he welcomed an
investigation and he attended a meeting with city officials to
discuss it. Hyles emerged from the meeting saying that there was no
investigation. Confirmation of this came on Monday, May 24, 1993,
when the Chief of Police detectives, Capt. Bill Conner and the
prosecutor's office stated that it did not have any cases or
investigations involving Hyles or his church.
Alleged sexual assault of mentally retarded woman
October 1997, an Indianapolis lawyer filed a lawsuit against First Baptist Church of
Hammond, accusing the church and its pastor of allowing a
mentally retarded woman to be sexually assaulted for six
years. The civil suit filed in Lake Superior Court
in Gary claims the
Chicago woman was "induced by agents" of the church in 1991
to ride a bus to attend Sunday school
at First Baptist.
While in the care of the church, the
lawsuit alleges, the woman was sexually assaulted, molested,
battered and raped more than once through fall 1996.
For that reason, lawyer Vernon Petri said, the church and its
, the Rev. Jack Hyles, have been named
as defendants in the suit. "Both failed in their duty to protect
her," Petri said. Hyles called the accusations ridiculous. "There's
nobody in this world who is more opposed to this sexual molestation
nor anything like that," he said. "We even preach against divorce.
We are totally opposed to sexual sin. There is nothing more
obnoxious and abhorrent than that." Petri, who is a party in the
suit filed on behalf of the woman, now 42, and her sister, alleged
in the lawsuit a pattern of assault can be traced to a Sunday in
1991, when a First Baptist teacher saw someone abusing the woman
and reported it to church leaders and police. The parents were
never told, Petri said, so the woman kept going to church, where
the suit claims she was threatened into silence.
"The thing that broke the camel's back came in the fall of 1996
when (the woman) developed a horrible infection and was taken to a
doctor to find out what was wrong," Petri said. "When the doctor
couldn't understand where the infection was coming from, she was
admitted to a hospital where they found, embedded in her, a plastic
object." The woman then told what happened, Petri said , recalling
that a church program instructor led her to a room and served as a
lookout while two to three males raped her. Hyles said he would
have been the first one to want someone punished for such an act.
Hyles said the church told police about the teacher's report in
1991. "We reported it immediately," he said. “And that's the only
case we know of. In fact, our records show the girl has not
attended our church since that occasion." Hyles said accurate
records are kept of attendance. "For them to bring this up, when
our records show no attendance since 1991, is a total shock to me,"
he said. Anthony Mancini, a Chicago lawyer who also represents the woman, said his
client has been in a type of shock.
"She has suffered an
incredible amount of emotional harm and physical pain over this,"
he said. "This was her life, this was her church. This was her
place of worship, and she was violated by it."
Mancini said he knows of no arrests in connection with the woman's
case in 1991 or in 1996, as a request to review files will be
granted only with a subpoena. "Now that we have filed suit, we will
seek out the records to open up the case and learn more about what
Works by Hyles
- Seeing Him Who Is Invisible -- Sword of the Lord
Publications (1960) ISBN 0-87398-754-3
- How to Boost Your Church Attendance -- Zondervan
(January 1, 1961)
- Let's Build an Evangelistic Church -- Sword of the
Lord Publications (1962) ISBN 0-87398-502-8
- Kisses of Calvary and Other Sermons -- Sword of the
Lord Pub (1965) ISBN 0-87398-479-X
- Let's Hear Jack Hyles (Burning Messages for the Saved and
Unsaved) -- Sword of the Lord Publications (1972) ISBN
- Hyles Church Manual -- Sword of the Lord Publications
(November 1982) ISBN 0-87398-372-6
- Church Bus Handbook -- Hyles-Anderson Publications
- How to Rear Children -- Hyles-Anderson Publications
(January 1, 1972) 193 pgs.
- How to Rear Infants -- Hyles-Anderson Publications
(January 1, 1979) 143 pgs.
- How to Rear Teenagers -- Revival Fires! Publishers
(January 1, 1998) 155 pgs.
- Blue Denim and Lace -- Hyles-Anderson Publications
- Let's Go Soul Winning -- Sword of the Lord
Publications (January 1980) ISBN 0-87398-503-6
- Hyles Sunday School Manual -- Sword of the Lord
Publications (November 1982) ISBN 0-87398-391-2
- The Blood, the Book and the Body -- Hyles-Anderson
- Enemies of Soul Winning -- Hyles-Anderson Publications
(1993) 148 pgs.
- Please Pardon My Poetry -- Hyles-Anderson Publications
(January 1, 1976) 123 pgs.
- Logic Must Prove the King James Bible. --
- Is There A Hell? -- Hyles-Anderson Publications
- Jack Hyles Speaks on Biblical Separation --
Hyles-Anderson Publications (1984) 112 pgs.
- Salvation is more than Being Saved -- Hyles-Anderson
Publications (1985) 150 pgs.
- Teaching on Preaching -- Hyles-Anderson Publications
(1986) 153 pgs.
- Grace and Truth -- Hyles-Anderson Publications
(January 1, 1975) 222 pgs.
- The Miracle of the Bus Ministry -- Ray Young
- Fundamentalism in My Lifetime -- Hyles Publications
(2002) ISBN 0-9709488-4-0
- What Great Men Taught Me -- Berean Publications
- Truman Dollar, Jerry Falwell, A.V. Henderson,
& Jack Hyles Building Blocks of the Faith (Foundational
Bible Doctrines, Special Faith Partner Edition) --
Fundamentalist Church Publications (1977) ISBN 0-89663-006-4
- Introduction to the Dino J.
Pedrone book What is It All
About? Sword of the Lord Publications (2000) ISBN
- Introduction to the Beverly Hyles book Woman, the Assembler
(Making Your Husband a Leader) Hyles Publications (1995)