Jack Hyles, innovative pastor of one of the country's largest congregations, First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, died February 6 from complications following heart surgery. He was 74.

A Fundamental Baptist, Hyles became the church's pastor in 1959. Attendance at the congregation in Hammond, a community in northwestern Indiana just south of Chicago, grew from a few hundred to 20,000 today as Hyles sent hundreds of buses to neighboring areas to bring people to the church each week.

"He probably did more for Sunday school in the late '60s and early '70s than any other man," said Elmer Towns, dean of the school of religion at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. "He will be remembered for the greatness of his bus ministry and having built one of the greatest superchurches in America."

Towns wrote about Hyles and his ministry in the book World's Largest Sunday School (1974). "At the time, he was the hottest thing going," Towns said. "There are thousands of men who have been called to ministry under him."

Aside from recruiting souls on Sunday morning, Hyles also founded six Hammond Baptist Schools; Hyles-Anderson College, which has grown from 300 to 1,800 students during the last 30 years; and the Hyles Publications religious press. The pastor wrote 49 self-published treatises on theology, with a combined circulation of more than 14 million copies.

Born in Italy, Texas (near Dallas), Hyles attended East Texas Baptist College and preached at a number of Texas churches, including Miller Road Baptist in Garland, before moving to Hammond. Under his leadership, Miller Road grew from fewer than 50 members to 4,000.

Hyles was affiliated first with Southern Baptists and later with the American Baptist Conference. He left both groups over theological differences and became a leader in the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. There are over 300 Independent Fundamental Baptist churches nationwide.

Hyles is survived by his wife, Beverly; their four children; a sister; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Related Elsewhere

The Times of Munster, Indiana, has several articles on Hyles, including an obituary, an editorial, a chronology, and an article on what's next for First Baptist.

See also the Associated Press's brief obituary.

More on Hyles is available from JackHyles.net, The Jack Hyles Home Page, and First Baptist's Web site.

The Christianity Today Weblog noted Hyles death in its Feb. 8 edition.

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