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OUR DEVASTATING CHURCH SPLIT –
A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

(THE ANNUAL SERMON)

Copyright © 2013 by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles,
Saturday Evening, November 23, 2013

“Remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life” (Deuteronomy 16:3).


To this very day the Jewish people remember the Passover on about the second Friday in April each year. You will undoubtedly remember that our Lord Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover with His Disciples the night before He was crucified. The term “passover” refers to the wrath of God passing over the Jewish homes that had blood on the doorposts. After that night the Jews left Egypt and began their forty-year pilgrimage toward the Promised Land of Israel. The nation of Israel was born that night, when the Jews left Egypt on the first Passover.

In the New Testament Christ was identified as the Passover Lamb, sacrificed for the redemption of His people.

On the first Passover, God said,

“I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever” (Exodus 12:12-14).

“Ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” And then, as our text says, they were to do this to

“Remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life” (Deuteronomy 16:3).

I think that our church should do something similar each year, even after I am dead. So on the eve of Thanksgiving each year, we as a church set aside time to

“Remember the day when [we came] forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of [our lives]” (Deuteronomy 16:3).

And so I will repeat the events, as I have done every year, and remember the time when our church went through great upheaval and a lengthy church split,* by which Satan meant to destroy our church forever – but which God overruled and used to bring us out of bondage to a better day, bringing us through the wilderness, toward the promise of a strong church, and a mighty witness to this sin-darkened city of Los Angeles, and to the entire world on manuscripts in 28 languages on our website, and preached by video in three languages on our website and on YouTube.

Tonight we should once again rehearse the facts and

“Remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life” (Deuteronomy 16:3).

This is what happened.

In 1988 we dedicated this building as the new home of our congregation. It was a great day for us. We looked forward with anticipation, hoping and praying for the future of our church. There were four hundred members in our church on that bright day. Some of the greatest preachers in America were here with us as we dedicated the building. Among them were Dr. Lee Roberson, a Baptist patriarch; Dr. James O. Combs, editor of the Baptist Bible Tribune, Dr. Roland Rasmussen, Dr. H. Frank Collins, Dr. Jimmy Tharpe of Louisiana Baptist University, and many other dignitaries. On that day, when this building was dedicated, a “former leader” of our church was ordained as well, as the associate pastor.

A year went by. From 1989 through half of 1990 there was peace within our church. In July of 1990 I planned to take an extended vacation. Using some of the money that my father had left me, I planned to take my wife and our boys to the land of my grandfather’s birth – to England, to Alston in Cumbria, to Lowgaligal farm where my grandfather was born, to see England’s fair and pleasant land for the first time in my life.

You must understand how much this meant to me. It was to be one of the greatest thrills of all my earthly existence. You must understand how my wife and boys and I eagerly awaited the day when we would leave for the shores of England. Our hearts were filled with joyful anticipation as the day of our departure approached. Our passports were ready. Our baggage was packed.

The night before we left for England, I came down to the church here, to do a few last minute errands and give some final instructions to our associate pastor, the “former leader.” It was then, late that evening, as I was about to go home, the night before we left for England, that the “former leader” of our church came into my office. I am sure now that he had planned it all very carefully. He sat down on a chair across from my desk and said, “Dr. Hymers, there’s just one more thing I want to tell you before you go. I am leaving this church.”

Without going into detail, I can only say that this was the most cruel thing he could have done to me. I felt as if he had stabbed me in the back. I could not sleep that night for fear of what this would do to our dear church – to have the associate pastor leave the church, while I was far away in England. I can only say that his announcement that night nearly ruined our trip. As long as I live I will never forget the sorrow and fear it brought to me, the excruciating pain it brought to my wife, and the confusion it brought to the hearts of our two young boys.

By the mercy of God, Dr. Ian Paisley paid for us to make another trip to Northern Ireland and England two years later, which made up for some of the terrible pain we went through the first time.

When we came back from that first trip, we tried in every conceivable way to persuade the “former leader” to stay with us at our church. Even after he left in January 1991, we continued to pay his salary, phoning and writing to him, asking him to return. This “former leader” said that he had to leave the church to get his education on the East Coast, and that I would not let him do so. This is a bald-faced, outright lie! Many times, in the presence of Dr. Cagan and others, I told the “former leader” that we would pay his full salary and tuition at the school back East if he would start a small Bible study that would eventually grow into a church, which he had done several times before. Then suddenly, the “former leader” wrote to us saying, “The unexpected has happened and I have been accepted at UCLA.” I immediately asked him to return to his job in our church. He never replied to me, even though I wrote this to him several times. Dr. Cagan typed the letters that we sent to him.

But he adamantly refused to return, even as he cashed over fifty thousand dollars worth of checks that we mailed to him. Then, to our surprise, he set up an alternate church, and began to contact our people in one way or another, encouraging them to come with him and leave our church. This was done very subtly, and a great deal of it was done through the “former leader’s” friends.

In 1991 the church pianist and her husband left, along with seven other key church leaders. Between December 29, 1991 and February 21, 1993, 71 key members of our church followed the “former leader’s” example and left the church. Between February 21, 1993 and January 1, 1995, 62 more people followed their example and left our church. By January of 1999 well over 300 people had left our church, in one way or another, as a direct or indirect result of this horrible church split, initiated and nurtured by the “former leader” of our church, and his cohorts, friends and followers. The “former leader” revealed his motive when he told Mrs. Roop, the new church pianist, “It is questionable whether Dr. Hymers and this church will be able to survive.”

Before the “former leader” left we had 400 people in our church. By the time the split ended in January of 2000 we only had about 80 people, and about 40 of them were unable to give very much to the church, certainly not enough to save it. Needless to say, the loss of 320 people took our church to the very edge of bankruptcy. We lost nearly ten thousand dollars each week in offerings. Yet, all the while, we had a debt of $4,500 per week that had to be paid on this building – or we would lose it forever! It seemed impossible that we could raise $18,000 every month to keep our building.

But somehow we survived. I remember exactly when the church split stopped. It ended on the very day that Mr. Abel Prudhomme said, “I don’t care what anyone else says or does. I am not leaving this church!” That’s when the split stopped. And I remember when our people, the ones that refused to leave, said, “We will pay the bills. We will not leave. We will give sacrificially. We will give of our money to pay the bills on the church building that the ‘former leader’ and his people voted to buy, and then walked away from. We won’t let them win! We will pay the bills! And not only that, we will work like no other church has ever worked – to bring in the lost, get them converted, and turn our church around! We will not let this church split destroy our witness here in the civic center of Los Angeles!”

Here are the names of some of the heroes of our church, some of the people that saved our church from financial ruin. Their names will forever be inscribed in God’s books as men and women who sacrificed beyond the call of duty to financially save this building, the sanctuary of our church. We call them “the 39,” although there are a few more than 39 of them. Here are their names.

Dr. and Mrs. Kreighton L. Chan.
Dr. and Mrs. Christopher L. Cagan.
Mr. Reynaldo Ceron.
Mrs. Rose Chenault-Quinn.
Mr. and Mrs. Martin Olivacce.
Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Sanders.
Mr. and Mrs. Winston Song.
Mr. and Mrs. James Roop.
Mr. and Mrs. Ponce Zabalaga.
Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith.
Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Kunz.
Mr. and Mrs. Norio Tsukamoto.
Mr. Paul Hoang.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lewis.
Mr. and Mrs. John Cook.
Mr. and Mrs. Jose Lino Hernandez.
Mr. and Mrs. Kyu Dong Lee.
Mr. Nelson Smith.
Mr. and Mrs. David Matsusaka.
Mr. and Mrs. Abel Prudhomme.
Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Bebout.
Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Mencia.
Mr. and Mrs. Nieves Salazar.
Mrs. Juana Arteaga.

These were the people who paid the bills, and went over and above the call of duty to save our church from financial ruin.

However, “the 39” are growing older. Several of them are 50 years old or older this year. Several others will soon be 60. I myself will be 73 in April. This shows that “the 39” are aging. We will not be here forever.

Now is the time for you young people to step forward and begin to take our place. I speak now to our children, who were born in this church. I speak also to every young person who has come into our church from the world. I speak now to those who are baptized, and to every other young person who is here tonight. Now, not later but now, is the time for you to step up and begin to take the place of “the 39.” Now is the time for you to actually join “the 39.” Not later, but now!

Now is the time for you to pray like the older men in our church. Now is the time for you to give financially, like “the 39.” Now is the time for you to put away worldliness and sin. Now is the time for you to strive for a real conversion if you are still lost. Now is the time for you to stop being satisfied by merely attending the church, without joining us as full members in good standing. Now is the time to throw yourself on Christ, become a full member of the church, and live a sacrificial life for God! Now is the time for you to be as dedicated as our married couples, even after you are married. Now is the time for you to say with Mr. Prudhomme, “I don’t care what anyone else says or does. I am going to become one of ‘the 39,’ even if I am the only one!” Time will tell whether you say beautiful words without zeal – or whether you actually join “the 39.” If every one of you becomes as lazy as the “former leader,” then there is no hope for our church – none! Mark what I say. I am speaking to you!

Who will leave the world’s side?
Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side,
Who for Him will go?
   (“Who is on the Lord’s Side?” by Frances R. Havergal, 1836-1879).

I can say to all of “the 39” who have been faithful to our church in this conflict, what Winston Churchill said to that small remnant, that little band of men in the Royal Air Force, who stood against overwhelming odds to fight Hitler and his Nazi hordes in the Battle of Britain. When Nazi bombs fell on London night after night, Churchill said of those boys in the Royal Air Force,

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

To those of you who are among “the 39” – and to those of you who join them, I say, “Thank you and God bless you all!” And as long as you live remember this conflict.

“Remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life” (Deuteronomy 16:3).

This is a long war. It is not over. The tide began to turn in the year 2000. Ten new people came into our church and some of them stayed that year. And between 2001 and 2007 another 30 or so people came into our church and most of them stayed. We now have about 140 or more every weekend. That’s up 60 people from the 80 we had at the lowest point in the church split. Tomorrow night close to 200 people will be here for the Thanksgiving banquet. Our sermons now go out to all the world in 28 languages on our website and on YouTube. Last month our sermon manuscripts went out to 178 nations of the world. That is magnificent. We praise God for it!

This month our building here on Hope Street is paid off. Tomorrow night we will burn the note on this building. The building was paid in full by those valiant souls who make up “the 39.” But the battle is far from over. After the first months of the Battle of Britain, Churchill said, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” The building is paid for, but the church is not the building. The church is the people who meet in the building. “The 39” paid 2 1/2 million dollars to save the building – but it is up to you young people to save the church. We need 200 solid members for the church – that is, the congregation – to be saved. We have about 135 people in the church now. But a number of those are not yet converted. We will baptize three solid new members tonight. We no longer baptize people quickly. But you can see that we have a long battle ahead if we are going to save the church. We must add about 70 new members to save the church. To do that we can no longer depend on “the 39.” We are too old to be able to bring in 70 new young people. Yes, we can continue to pay the bills. Yes, we can continue to provide the leadership. But, as I near the age of 73, I know I will not be here forever. I will stay here as long as I live, but I do not know how long that will be. My father died at the age of 74. So we have ordained Dr. Chan, and tomorrow night we will ordain Dr. Cagan, so there will be a continuity of leadership in case I am no longer able to pastor the church. We have also ordained Mr. Song as a deacon, and tomorrow we will ordain Mr. Mencia as a deacon also. But we cannot save the church. Only you young people can do that. Only you can bring in other young people and guide them and guide them to become disciples of Christ. To add seventy more people to our membership will require you to stand tall for Christ, and to use your time and your talents and your life to build up this church and make it all that God wants it to be! Do it! Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross! Stand up, young people and save our church! Do it! Do it!

I close with these words of Churchill on May 19, 1940. The war had just begun and London was about to be bombed mercilessly night after night by the Nazis. Churchill said,

Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Truth and Justice: “Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valor, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be.” Amen.

Stand up, young people – and do it now! “Arm yourselves, and be ye men [and women] of valor, and be in readiness for the conflict.” Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com or www.rlhsermons.com.
Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

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*For an analysis of such splits, see, Church Split by Dr. Roy L. Branson, Jr.,
  Landmark Publications, 1990; especially pp. 23-31, “What Kind of Person Is the
  Leader of a Split?”

You may email Dr. Hymers at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net, (Click Here) – or you may
write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

This sermon is copyright © 2013 by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr. Dr. Hymers’ other sermons are
not copyrighted, but this one is.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Deuteronomy 16:1-3.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Who is on the Lord’s Side?” (by Frances R. Havergal, 1836-1879).