Is it really true that the bigger they are the harder they fall? If so, Pastor Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana has hit the ground hard.
First Baptist Church of Hammond was founded in 1887 as an Independent Baptist Church. In 1959, Jack Hyles became the pastor and the church grew to be the largest church in Indiana and one of the largest in the nation. Attendance grew to over 20,000 in the 1990s.
Pastor Jack Hyles was a strict King James only pastor who endorsed the teachings of Peter Ruckman, which many evangelical Christians highly question. Under his leadership, the church helped start Hyles-Anderson College and two K-12 Christian schools.
In 1989, Pastor Robert Sumner wrote an article called The Saddest Story I’ve Ever Told which was published in The Biblical Evangelist. In this article, Sumner accused Hyles of misappropriation of funds, sexual misconduct and doctrinal errors. Hyles publicly denied the allegation as lies, but a cloud of doubt hung in the air around him.
In 1997, another scandal erupted naming the First Baptist Church of Hammond and its pastoral staff as being complicit in allowing the sexual molestation of a mentally retarded girl to take place over the course of six years. While not directly involved, the case created another cloud of scandal over Hyles and his church.
Jack Hyles died in February of 2001. Pastor Jack Schaap, who had married Hyles daughter, was chosen to take the pulpit and continue in his famous father-in-law’s footsteps. Under Schaap, scandal soon erupted when he departed from the long held King James Version in favor of the New King James Bible.
Everything else seemed to be going along fine for Schaap until recently when the Lake County Sheriff’s Department announced they were investigating alleged sexual misconduct charges against Schaap. Eventually, Schaap (54 years old) admitted to having an adulterous relationship with a 17 year old girl.
Upon Schaap’s confession, the church’s board of deacons announced that Schaap had been relieved of his position as pastor of the mega-church.
Schaap has now joined the ranks of prominent pastors that have fallen victim to sexual temptation, costing them their positions in their churches and ministries. In 1986 and 1991, America was all a buzz with the sexual scandals of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker. In 2006 Ted Haggard of New Life Church in Colorado Springs lost his position as pastor after being caught in a homosexual and drug scandal. These are just a few of the men of God who have succumbed to temptation.
When I read about Schapp and recall these others, it reminds me of the account of Jesus when He was praying in Gethsemane moments before his arrest. Peter and the other two disciples had fallen asleep. Jesus woke them and warned them saying,
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41
It also reminds me of Proverbs 5 which warns against adultery. It opens with the warning (v 1-6) and ends with the results (v 21-23):
“My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it…”
“…For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.”
No one is immune to sin and I hope and pray this tragic tale of Pastor Jack Schaap serves as a warning to everyone to keep your guard up and pray unceasingly for God to protect you from falling into the traps of sexual temptation.