Fathers and mothers in Israel: Kent and Barbara Hughes...

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I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.  - Psalms 77:11

This begins a new series of posts long overdue. Readers know Baylyblog is a non-profit work. Its authors are not under contract. We have received no advance on our writing and have no publisher riding rein on us to assure what we write will be popular and sell. Thus David and I have had a different sort of calling than other blogs. We have not had to labor under the burden of getting people to like us. Our congregations and families give us all the love a man could want, although readers know only too well that neither of us deserves the love we receive. Yet God has been pleased to give us these blessings and we thank Him.

So this blog is free to do unpopular work and this has been our commitment. We defend the doctrines that are under attack. We expose the errors that are popular. We warn against celebrity Christian leaders that all men speak well of. We sign our names to everything we write, and because of the freedom we have here, it's the things other men think or believe, but keep to themselves, that we specialize in. We're known for warning day and night with tears, so as I said, this series of posts is long overdue.

There are men and women who have taught and shown David and me true godliness—men and women who have been faithful in suffering and persecution, resisted their own greed, punctured their pride, sacrificed their career or position for the honor of God, called attention publicly to their failures, condemned notorious hypocrites, disciplined popular pastors and eminent scholars, emptied the bedpan of their mother living out her dying days in their living room, refused the blandishments of Evangelicalism, and so on. Most of these men and women are unknown outside their own homes and churches, and yet some of those David and I know we believe our readers would benefit from knowing, also. These are men and women worthy of praise, but our larger concern is to glorify God Who works in and through them.

Speaking of resisting the blandishments of Evangelicalism, let's begin this series with Kent and Barbara Hughes...

For thirty-some years Kent served as the senior minister of our home church, College Church in Wheaton. During Kent and Barb's first few years in Wheaton, Dad was still alive and Dad and Mud became quite close to Kent and Barbara. Mary Lee and I weren't living in Wheaton at the time, though, so we didn't know Kent and Barb. That changed.

One day the most recent issue of Leadership magazine arrived and it contained an interview with a number of pastors wives. One of those wives was Barbara Hughes and the contrast between her responses and the responses of the other women could not have been more stark. Repeatedly the women were asked questions related to their interface with their husband's calling and ministry, and repeatedly all the other women distanced themselves from their husband's calling and work, saying that their husband's calling wasn't their calling, their husband's work wasn't their work, their husband's needs weren't their responsibility, and on it went. But there in the midst of all these liberated shrews was sweet and sharp-as-a-tack Barb testifying, to the glory of God, that she was Kent's wife and therefore his calling was her calling, his ministry was her ministry, his work was her work, his needs were her responsibility (and that was a privilege), and on it went. Repeatedly Barb testified to the dignity and glory of her calling to serve as Kent's helpmate and that being his wife was her pride and joy. She was irrepressible. She was unflinching. She was cheerful and beautiful and doctrinal and Godly!

Mary Lee and I read the interview out loud and were so thankful for Barb's testimony that we wrote her a letter telling her of our joy in her witness. A short time later Barb called Mary Lee and asked if she and Kent could come up for a visit? After pinching ourselves to see if we were dreaming, Mary Lee extended the invitation and a short time later Kent and Barb drove the two-and-a-half hours up and spent the day with us. You can imagine what a joy this was to us. We were young and had just entered the ministry, so to have an older pastor and his wife spend a day with us sharing their wisdom and commitments and giving us their affection was very helpful and a wonderful encouragement.

Our relationship with Kent and Barb has continued down through the years, although we have never had the privilege of living near them. If we were in Wheaton for the Christmas holidays to visit with our two families, Barb would invite us over for coffee and Kent and Barb were kind enough to treat us as friends and to answer our questions and give us advice on the matters we faced. I remember some of that advice still today and will repeat two of the things Kent said.

First, he told us he got up very early Sunday morning (4 AM if I remember correctly) and saved the reading of the best men on his text for the final hours before he went into the pulpit. I remember him specifically mentioning Martyn Lloyd-Jones as one of those special men, and although it took many years for me to establish the habit of getting up early Sunday morning, that habit is now firmly in place and each Lord's Day I follow Kent's practice with my reading, also. As I write the manuscript (which I follow only very loosely as I preach), I read all the commentaries except the goodies, saving them for Sunday morning just prior to going into the pulpit. It's a wonderful practice because it deposits the wisdom and insights of men like Calvin, Ryle, Henry, Lloyd-Jones, and Luther in the mind immediately prior to preaching where they lay easily accessible and ready for recall and use. I do regret that I did not establish this practice from the beginning of my ministry.

Second, Kent said he made it a habit not to put things down in writing unless he had to, particularly if it involved conflict. Letters, he said, live on forever and can't be escaped for years to come, whereas the spoken word is gentler and more easily forgotten. Again, this was wise advice that I've followed and passed on to many others. Before e-mail, my files regularly had letters placed in them which were folded and inserted in a stamped, addressed, and sealed envelope—never to be mailed. There they sit to this day, unread and unanswered, and therefore peaceable and kind. You ask why I wrote them, let alone addressed, stamped, and sealed them if I didn't intend to send them to their addressee and I respond that I found it good therapy. I called the file "God's File."

Kent and Barb are natural evangelists and I have envied the fruit of their gift as I try to live a godly life next to my own neighbors. If I remember correctly, as a result of their witness their neighbors across the street from them in Wheaton confessed faith in Christ and became members of College Church. Now, as Kent and Barb prepare to move to Philadelphia where Kent will teach homiletics and pastoral care at Westminster Seminary, they told us of their concern for their neighbors and friends to continue to be loved and witnessed to by Christians after they are gone. Note, it's not just the souls in the church they now attend, but their friends and neighbors outside the church that have Kent and Barbara's concern and hearts. Both of them have experienced new birth in Jesus and have not stopped rejoicing over it, and so they are constant evangelists for our Lord and His Church. As I said, I have always envied their evangelistic faithfulness. What a change there would be in the churches of our nation if every church were served by a pastor and his wife who knew and shared the redemption of the Cross as Kent and Barbara know and share it so cheerfully and winsomely.

Kent and Barb have never flinched in the face of the feminist juggernaut that owns Wheaton lock, stock, and barrell—the college, the publishing houses, the missions, CTi's stable of magazines, etc. Years ago Kent was pursued by the pulpit committee of what I consider the most prestigious Reformed church in America. But when Kent made it clear he would not be willing to have the church switch to allowing women elders, the committee's interest died. The committee found a man amenable to their rebellion against God, and I've since come to believe that most pulpit committees see their job as finding a new pastor who will listen to them and adhere to their rules concerning what doctrines of Scripture they may not preach, teach, or follow because in their unique context these doctrines would be divisive. So this historic Reformed congregation lost Kent and Barb, and I'm sure they think they did much better. Truth is, their rebellion blinded them to the truth and their loss was Wheaton's gain.

Did Wheaton see it this way? Some, maybe. The more meek and humble, the more likely they were to be thankful for Kent and Barb's ministry. But the rich and famous, no. Certainly not.

One day maybe eight or so years ago, I got a phone call from Barb asking if I would join her in debating Stuart and Jill Briscoe in the chapel service of Moody Bible Institute? I said sure, I'd be happy to do so, and drove to Chicago on the appointed day. The debate was no debate, but one long catwalk for Stuart and Jill to walk while preening. Jill preened over her feminine submission, saying she only preached and exercised authority over men at Elmbrook Church because her husband and the elders commanded her to do so. It was a stretch, but it went over quite well with the faculty and students of Moody. The best moment of the day came when Stuart announced to his audience, "I like to think women are persons." Or better, "IIIIII like to think WOMEN are PERSONS!!" Everyone cheered.

After the applause died down, Barb looked at Stuart and said, "Aren't I a person?" She asked it quietly. The question and the way Barb asked it were so utterly feminine that, that moment, I was proud to be merely Barb's helper.

Wheaton is a toxic environment, but by God's grace Kent and Barb survived the exposure uncorrupted. As adults, their children honor God—something not to be taken for granted among Evangelical luminaries. Each sermon series Kent preached was taken into print by his good friend, Lane Dennis of Crossway Publishers, yet Kent is humble enough to remain impervious to fame. Kent is not interested in his reputation. His only desire is to honor God.

One night Mary Lee and I arrived in Wheaton for a family visit early Sunday evening and went over to evening worship at College Church. Arriving late, we stood in the foyer listening to Kent preach the sermon that eventually saw publication as Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. I remember being reinforced in a powerful way in my commitment to serve quietly as the shepherd of small rural churches. Some might say it was easy for Kent to preach these truths as the senior minister of a tall steeple church in Wheaton, but I think not. Rather, it was apparent to me that Kent was falling on his sword in the service of His Master, and this remains my conviction.

Truth be told, I love Kent and Barb Hughes. Where would Mary Lee and I be without their witness and Godly example to follow? Thank God for them. Emulate them. Pray for them as they move to Philly and begin the next season of their ministry.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!