by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Loyal Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for over 42 years)

"Dr. Hyles, is your school accredited?"

"I won't let my son go to a school that is not accredited."

These are words that we hear over and over again. They are often spoken by people who know little or nothing about the meaning of accreditation, and who have perhaps unknowingly fallen into a form of idolatry which makes the diploma more important than the knowledge, acceptance more important than preparation, a union card more important than a job well done, conformity more important than freedom, the grade more important than the education, the face more important than the heart, and an opportunity more important than preparedness.

Our generation needs to take a fresh look at what accreditation really is. It is basically all of us conforming to some standards set by a few of us, chosen by some of us to approve all of us. Though this is an over-simplification, it is far too often an accurate description of what accreditation really is.

It has become a created god who has become omnipotent, far too omnipresent and woefully lacking in omniscience; a god who has a den full of lions for those who will not pray to it and a fiery furnace for those who will not bow before its image. Little children may be thrown into the burning fires in the lap of this Moloch, but that matters not. It must be worshipped. It must be served, and it must be obeyed. Following are some observations about this dangerous deity of destruction destined to destroy discipline and to defeat dedication in the lives of Christian young people and children.

1. Education should start with the goal and work backwards. No wise person charts a course until he decides on a destination. The wise educator will decide exactly what end he wants to accomplish in the lives of the children. He then carefully charts a course that will lead him to arrive at this desired end. No wise cook would decide to mix some cocoa, sugar and other ingredients to see what would happen but rather would say, "I think I'll make some fudge." The cook then finds a recipe for fudge. Though the end never justifies the means, the end must determine the means. The weakness of accreditation is that we are required to chart a course that takes us to we know not where to become we know not what and to arrive we know not when.

A Christian school by its very nature does not have the same goal as a public school. If we do not share the same goal, how can we share the same methods? If we do not share the same destination, how can we share the same route? If we do not desire the same answer, why then do we work the same problem?

This is not to say that we should not study the advice of educators and even of those who are not working for the same goal. We should examine their chains but not be bound by them. We should study their ropes but not be tied with them, keeping in mind our destination. We should study their map to find what roads they are traveling that we too may travel, but these roads should not be traveled just because others are traveling them. They should be traveled only as they help us to arrive at our desired destination. We are reminded in the Scriptures that two cannot walk together unless they be agreed.

This is not a suggestion to disregard wise people who have gone before us. It is rather a warning against following a guide who knows every step of the way on the road that leads us to where we do not want to go.

2. Accreditation takes all to the same goal unknowingly. No Christian school sets out knowingly on a path that will make its scholars the same product as that of the public school. If this were true, why build a school at all? What is the need for all the toil, sacrifice, sweat and tears? Every Christian educator wants to turn out a different product and sincerely believes he can. Too often the one who has dared to be different then subscribes himself to conformity and unknowingly travels a path that he has chosen that will lead him to a destination he has not chosen. No wonder he is stunned, shocked, horrified and heartbroken when he finds the product is not what he dreamed it would be. His motives were good. His heart was right. His dedication was admirable, yet he finds that he had wanted the result without the ingredients, wanted the destination without the proper routing.

3. Conformity IS unaccredited accreditation. Though there is no merit in premeditated nonconformity, there is grave danger in total conformity. Let's go back to the first point and look at our goal.

The methods of the masses should be used only when they will aid us in reaching our desired destination. We at the First Baptist Church of Hammond have a nationwide Pastors' School. We have no desire for anyone to conform to all of our methods and procedures. In fact, we have a desire that no one will conform to all of them. I often say that our Pastors' School is like a cafeteria. Come through the line, take what you think you need for your own personal health and leave, but do not criticize the rest. No church should conform completely to another, no school should conform completely to another, neither should one institution desire comformity by another, neither should a group of institutions join together and demand or desire conformity. I see on the horizon in America the danger that some who have pulled out of one golden calf are building the mold for another and who once were martyred by one fiery furnace are now gathering fuel for another. There is a danger that those of us who have been delivered from the lions' den are raising cubs ourselves, and those of us who have been delivered from Egypt are building our own little Egypt on our way to the Promised Land. Oftentimes it is not bondage we are against, it is being in bondage that we are against. Oh, people of God, let us not return to the vomit from which we have been delivered. Let not those of us who have been delivered cause others to seek deliverance from us. Let those of us who once chafed in the fetters of Pharaoh beware lest we bind others as does a Pharaoh. Let us cooperate but not expect conformity. Let us influence and be influenced but let us allow each other to determine the sphere of acceptance and cooperation without being placed upon some kind of blacklist and being made to feel as an outcast. Let not us outcasts cast out others. Let not us independents disdain those who are independent of us. Let cooperation take the place of coercion. Let unity be substituted for union. Let liberty be substituted for bondage. Let us offer our help to all and let us seek help from all, but let us beware of treating others like we once refused to be treated.

The wise man told us that there is safety in a multitude of counselors. He did not say there is safety or security in a multitude of conquerors. To be sure, we should work together. To be sure, we should love each other and pray for one another. To be sure, we should offer suggestions and help, but at the same time we should never cause one to forfeit our fellowship or friendship because he feels that in some areas our methods are not best for him. There is a certain denominational-non-denominationalism, dependent independence, conforming-non-conformity and a bound-freedom which will lead the next generation into a needless revolution fought against those of us who in our generation revolted against Pharaohs under whom we could not serve and whose shoes we would not fill!

4. Good men often build systems in one generation that bad men will use in the next generation with which to destroy us. We often fail to realize that it is the system that was wrong, not just the men. A system that encourages the wrong men to rise to places of leadership is a dangerous one. Often good men join a good group and build a system to which they give allegiance. Then as this system changes it changes the men, for they have sworn their allegiance to it. It is always wise for a Christian not to give his allegiance to institutions, but rather to principles. Principles never change; institutions do. We should give our loyalty to institutions who are presently embracing our principles and we should be ready to jump from the boat any time it gets in a stormy area outside the scope of our principles.

I wonder how many pastors have accepted new churches only to find their hands bound by committees composed of worldly and unspiritual people. The pastor fights for liberation. He wins the battle and yet all too soon for his own convenience organizes the same committees with different people with whom he can work. He then leaves the same structure and system which he inherited requiring the next pastor to go through the same torture and heartache and to fight the same battle that he fought. I am thinking now of a preacher who chafed for years under the tyranny of a denomination which frowned upon his having guest speakers in his church from outside that denomination. He then joined a good, fundamentalist group so he could follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit in choosing men to fill his pulpit. Now no one can fill his pulpit unless he is a member of this good, fundamentalist group, and he frowns upon other pastors who have speakers outside this group.

The wise pastor and the wise educator will not only seek an organizational framework which can presently fill his needs, but will also seek safeguards to avoid building a system that will attract weak and sometimes bad men to positions of leadership.

Suppose some good men get together and form an accrediting agency. Suppose that all of the requirements of accreditation are good ones. Suppose then that all of the good schools seek accreditation and give their allegiance to this hypothetical good agency. When deterioration sets in (and it will), it will be major surgery and cause undue pain for a school to disassociate itself with this agency. Again may I say, this is not advocating super-independence but rather super-dependence upon each other for help, for prayer, for advice, but not for coercion.

5. Each generation needs to see the birth of new institutions just as each generation needs new babies. Imagine a society without children. Imagine a society without adults. Imagine a society without babies. Imagine a society without adolescents. A healthy cross-section of society must include all. A healthy educational neighborhood must also include all. Each generation needs trail-blazers who are willing to be as different from existing institutions as the existing institution is different from what it was when it started. Just as it is not natural for babies to act like grown-ups, it is not natural for young institutions to act like mature institutions. No one expects a baby to conform to adulthood. It would not be healthy. To be a mature, complete adult one must enjoy his infancy, his childhood and his adolescence. For old institutions that have enjoyed such stages to require younger institutions to jump over these stages is unfair. If a child were born in middle age, his life span would be cut short. If an institution is born in middle age, its life span can be cut short.

In many cases the best days that a school enjoys are its early days. This is not to say that its later years cannot be successful ones, but even they will be more successful if they are built on a healthy childhood. For a group of older schools to join together and set norms and standards for younger schools is unfair for this generation and unwise for the next generation. Often the greatest preachers were trained in colleges that were just beginning. History has proved that in many schools the best days were the first days. This is not suggesting that institutions be childish but childlike.

The new institution might be wise not to conform to what the older institutions ARE but to what they USED TO BE. Since a good beginning is so important a new school might be wise to conform to the policies, principles and practices of a successful school's infancy, not its adulthood. This is not to say that its adulthood is bad. It is to say that its adulthood was built on its childhood and the very fact that its childhood is copied is a compliment to the adulthood of the school. No doubt there are many educators who will read these pages who would have agreed with them twenty years ago but will not agree now.

When a baby is born in a home parents are pleased for the baby to act like a baby. Why then shouldn't mature institutions be pleased for new ones to act like new ones, and for that matter, behave as the older one did at the same stage of development? just as we have in our society younger people coming on the scene, middle-aged people on center stage and older people passing off the scene, so we need the same thinking in our educational community. It is so easy for us not to want anyone else to be what we were. We sit behind our desks in our classrooms and say to our children, "Be yourselves. Don't copy another. God wants to use you like you are." Then we go to board meetings and tell other institutions. "Don't be yourselves. Be like we are. Have our stamp. Bear our mark. Conform to our methods or you cannot be in our favor." Just as each individual has his own niche in life and his own purpose for living, so does each institution have its own niche in life and its own purpose for living. America does not need a Hyles-Anderson College in each state. It does need Christian colleges in each state who will follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit, believe the Bible, take a strong, separatist stand, magnify soul winning and yet be given liberty to be what each needs to be and to fulfill that unique purpose for which God brought it into existence.

6. We must look back at history's products. There is no way that one can presently test the effectiveness of a school. Someone has said that it takes a generation for a school to test its product. Because of this, many schools live today on yesterday's reputation. It takes several years for its graduates to prove success or failure. Because of this we must find graduates who are what we want our students to become. We may then examine what the alma mater of these people was at the time they attended. If one is going to conform, he would be wise to conform to what the school was when these successful people were enrolled.

Once again we must go back to the first point. What is our goal? What kind of students do we want to produce? We may then seek people who have reached that goal, and then study the standards, practices, etc. of the institutions they attended at the time that they attended. This should be the object of our conformity.

A fellow can test General Motors by driving a Chevrolet. It takes only a few hours. A fellow can test a restaurant and its cooks by eating a meal. It takes only a few minutes. It is not so easy to test a school. Conformity to the present policies and methods of a school that has turned out great people may be unwise. Conformity to what it was when it turned out those people may be wise.

7. Superiority should not seek accreditation from inferiority. The Christian school movement in America is so superior to the public school system that it is absurd to think of our seeking their approval upon our superior kind of work. I was interviewed by a reporter who was chagrined by my philosophy. In frustration the reporter shouted, "Why, oh, why won't you be accredited?"

I replied, "For the same reason that Mickey Mantle didn't seek accreditation from the little leagues." The wise educator will see to it that his produce is so much better than the product of the accreditors. He should see to it that in every area his work surpasses that of the public schools. (In these days this is not a difficult task to achieve.) He should carefully and conclusively prove that his produce is superior to the other product and that the student will sacrifice no good thing by attending the Christian school.

One parent said to me recently, "If my child attended your school, he would have to give up a lot." That parent was right. His child would give up the presence of smoking, miniskirts, disobedience, disrespect for authority, availability of narcotics, vulgar words and vulgar stories in textbooks, the public school sex education program, hippie-haired boys, teachers who use curse words in class, permission to wear blue jeans to school, the permissive society, those who talk back to teachers, disrespect for law and order, and by the way, an inferior quality of education.

8. If we just back up on the same road that has led others to ruin, we will soon arrive at the same destination. Our schools should not count the same cadence as the government schools. We are not going in the same direction. We are not to keep step with them. We are on different wavelengths, we bear different yokes, we broadcast on different frequencies, we travel different paths. One of the pitfalls in which we fall is simply to back up on the same road with the government schools which only postpones our decay.

9. Union is a form of idolatry. Note carefully, I said union," not "unity." If a preacher knows and believes that God will care for his needs, open his doors and supply his pulpits, he need not join the local preachers' union for security. He may cooperate and fellowship with all of God's men, but he need not do it for fear of having no place to preach or nothing to eat. However, as he loses his faith, he loses his confidence that God will provide for him. As the years pass, his children grow older and the need for security increases. His faith does not increase. Hence, he finds himself wanting to join up with other preachers so that in case he finds himself without a pulpit he will have the security of a union. He then joins up with other preachers and provides for himself a security that once was provided by God. Hence, this union has taken the place of his God and has become a form of idolatry.

This is exactly what communism is. Communism is people building a society that will take care of the people. If they have faith in God, He will take care of them. If that faith is lost, they must build a canopy, a protection that will offer them the security that God wants to offer. This is why Christianity and communism cannot coexist. Christianity follows the Holy Spirit of God Who leads us to care for one another voluntarily. Communism forces that care by taxation and regimentation. It offers its people all of the security that an organization of men can offer. Christ offers to us all the security that an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God can offer.

America, was built by men with faith in God. We believed that God would supply our needs, and He did. This eliminated our need of social security, worker's compensation, etc. We had Heaven's security and divine compensation. To whatever degree one loses his faith in God, he needs to organize with other men.

10. Each generation needs those who do not readily conform. It needs those who are strong enough to use what has been proven successful to past generations but refuse to conform with its deterioration. It needs those who refuse coerced conformity and offer wisdom and strength enough to challenge others to a cooperative unity and limited conformity on the volunteer basis, where one's status is not determined by his degree of cooperation and conformity. This is not condoning unkind, unchristian, unethical behavior on the part of rabble-rousers. It is condoning serious doubt and a sincere reluctant willingness to withdraw from decadence if necessary. From this group have come the Martin Luthers, John Wesleys, George Whitefields, Charles Spurgeons, Bob Joneses, John Rices, etc. These were not men desirous of splitting anything, but men who realized that they should try dedication as long as possible and if dedication became a terminal case, surgery became a possibility.

The truth is that most of our great Christian movements started because of a split. Most of the people reading these pages belong to a church or a denomination that once pulled out of something. Though we should not be desirous of repeating this procedure, God should give us and does give us in every generation leaders who are willing to do so if it is now necessary.

As has been stated before, the danger is that these leaders will want to form the same type of organizational structure and coercion that caused their unrest.

11. We are not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly. This is one of the signs of a prosperous man. We preach this and yet build our Christian schools to conform to regulations set forth by unconverted educators. Though there are many things that we could copy from them, we should not yoke ourselves up so as to be forced to do so. The wise Christian educator will first set his goal. He will then acquaint himself with every suggested means of attaining that goal. He will decide what means he should use and what roads he should travel in order to arrive at that desired destination. He should cooperate, fellowship and enjoy Christian unity with those of like faith. He should neither offer conformity to nor expect conformity from his contemporaries. He should share ideas with them and learn ideas from them. He should attend clinics, seminars and conventions that will offer him a wide choice of suggested ways to attain the goal that he has set. He should be allowed to accept or reject them without being ostracized or losing stature. just as he would yearn to use what he learns that he feels will aid him in the reaching of his goal, so should he teach others and allow them the same privileges and freedoms that he has sought.

It is dangerous when all of us expect any of us to conform with the rest of us. It is dangerous when all of us chose a few of us to govern the rest of us. It is dangerous when any of us criticize any of us for not conforming to the rest of us. It is healthy and wise when all of us listen to all of us, pray for all of us, share with all of us, cooperate with all of us, enjoy unity with all of us, realizing that none of us will ever completely conform to the rest of us but that all of us can glean from all of us things that can help each of us become more and more that unique individual, that unique school, that unique church that God wants us to become.

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