The First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, is the biggest fundamental work on earth. To those in old-time fundamentalism, it is the citadel of the movement. This is mainly due to the fact that under the leadership of Dr. Jack Hyles, the ministry became the world’s largest Sunday School. Thus it was with great sadness that word came of the deacons firing the current leader of the 15,000 strong congregation, Dr. Jack Schaap. The 54-year-old husband and father of two (who is Dr. Hyles successor and married to his daughter, Cindy) was found out to be having an adulterous relationship with a 16-year-old female member of the church. Even the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate about possible federal charges because the affair crossed state lines and may have involved the girl as legally being a minor at the time. Now, if this was just an isolated incident in fundamentalism, we might put it down to only the fall of one man. But it is not. Jack Schaap is the latest in a growing list of “Who’s Who” of fundamental pastors, both in America and Canada, being caught in fornication.
So what’s going on here? To me, the underlying cause (not excuse) for this entire sordid scenario lies with a fundamental flaw within the movement itself, that of blind allegiance – good followers, so devoted to their leader, that they refuse to see any signs of trouble. And this comes from fundamentalists being taught that the highest good in the local church is for them to follow the pastor, with no questions being asked.
Thus when Rev. Schaap began to preach certain things that raised the concern of senior fundamental men across North America – the board, staff, and people of FBC would have none of it. They remained mute. But now the whole world is talking about it.
(By the way, in my own ministerial career, I was an associate pastor at a fundamental-like work where the senior pastor was eventually found out to be in adultery. And previous to the fact, I saw the same blind loyalty developing among some members of the church.)
All this is relevant because our own Wingham Baptist is a fundamental work, just like all these other ministries. This is why when I came to the church I told the people that if you hear me say something major that does not sound right or see me do something major that does not look right, feel free to let me know. And in response you’ll be received with kindness, treated with respect, and prayerful consideration given to your concern.
Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with strong pastoral leadership. But as the Apostle Paul stated in I Corinthians 11, Follow me as I follow Christ.