HAMMOND, Ind. (BP)–Jack Hyles, an independent Baptist pastor whose evangelistic zeal and bus ministry were among his career’s hallmarks, died Feb. 6 in Chicago after two heart attacks and open-heart surgery.
Hyles, 74, was pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond, Ind., a Chicago-area independent Baptist congregation that was ranked as the largest church in the nation according to weekly attendance in the early 1990s, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He had led the church since 1959.
Hyles had Southern Baptist roots, having graduated from East Texas Baptist College (now University), Marshall, Texas, and studying at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, in the early 1950s. But Hyles turned his ministry in an independent direction while leading Miller Road Baptist Church, Garland, Texas, during the ’50s. During his pastorate, Miller Road grew from 44 members to 4,000, according to the Chicago Tribune. Prior to his Miller Road pastorate, he had led churches in Bogata, Marshall and Henderson, Texas.
In Hammond, where Hyles’ congregation swelled to more than 20,000, First Baptist became known for its far-flung bus ministry in the Chicago area. At the outset of his ministry in Hammond, Hyles led First Baptist out of the American Baptist Churches denomination, losing about a third of the church’s 700 members at the time. Hyles’ obituary in the Chicago Tribune noted, however, that “he quickly turned things around, first by going door to door for new followers, then by sending the buses when distances got too far.”
Hyles founded Hammond Baptist Schools in 1970 and Hyles-Anderson College in 1972 and authored 49 books and pamphlets.
“Dr. Hyles will be remembered as a leader in evangelism through the local church,” Jerry Falwell told the Chicago Tribune. “He inspired me as a young pastor to win others to Christ through Sunday school, the pulpit and personal witnessing,” said Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., and founder of Liberty University.
Hyles suffered a heart attack Jan. 30 and a second heart attack at the outset of more than eight hours of surgery Feb. 5 at the University of Chicago Hospital for four heart bypasses and two heart valve replacements. He died at 9:43 a.m. Feb. 6.
Hyles, an Italy, Texas, native, is survived by his wife Beverly, three daughters and a son, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
His funeral was Feb. 10 at First Baptist, Hammond.