My name is Brian Hilyard (no problem using my name) and I am a “Recovering Fundamentalist”. Hopefully that got at least a chuckle because I feel like this show is therapy for those of us that were raised this way. First let me say how much I love your show and how overdue it is. As a “Recovering Fundamentalist”, or as I used to say “Recovering Baptist”, there is a light on the other side. My story is not unique as to my roots, but it is unique as to how I arrived where I am.
I was brought up in a home where my Dad was either my Pastor or my Principal. Yes, you read that correctly, the Hilyard kids were under a microscope everywhere we went. Me, being the oldest tried to get away with things and got into a lot of trouble because of how we were raised, not in the law sense, but because being raised the way we were, they didn’t know how to handle a free spirit. My sister decided to be perfect then came my little brother and JC knows my brother and I, so he just learned how to get away with things better than I did. It’s always the oldest that gets all the rules…oh well.
The circles that we were brought up in were EXTREMELY conservative and my Dad even started The Fellowship of Fundamental Bible Churches. My Dad was heavily involved in A.C.E. and started 21 Christian schools. He was a HUGE promoter of Christian education, which I am as well. However, being in those circles required us to have a certain look if you will. My brother and I could NOT have hair touching our ears and if one hair touched out came the scissors. We had the tapered hair cut look and were brought up almost militarily. I am not complaining it is just how it was. My sister had to wear culottes EVERYWHERE outside of our home and so you get the idea. Our parents loved the Lord and the testimony of my parents was/is outstanding. We were a product of the times and we never stayed anywhere more than 2-3 years and that was tough, but we did what we had to and just rolled with it. Dad would “feel” the Lord leading and we would move on to the next ministry. Let me be clear, this is not a bash session on my parents, but Dad did explain the mistakes he made in some of the ways that he and Mom raised us. As strict as things were, we were not KJV only family, yet CCM was not of God (you can laugh at that lol). Steve Green was considered to be rock music (insert eye roll). Looking back things were very confusing, but we all turned out ok for the most part.
When I was 12 I dedicated my life to full-time Christian service and when I was 15 I felt the call of God to become a Youth Pastor. After graduating high school, I attended Word of Life Bible Institute then went on to graduate from Tennessee Temple University. While at TTU my eyes were opened to so much stuff that I didn’t realize I was going to have to deal with ( I was also Caiphas for 6 years in the Chattanooga Passion Play). See, we were raised very fundamentally in our faith in Jesus, but not in a contentious way. I was actually shocked that my parents let me go to WOLBI at all and that is where my roots in the faith and what I personally believed started to take root. IT was a much more liberal place than I was used to and God really worked in my life while I was there, then there came TTU and the “hyper-fundy’s” that began to make me dig in deeper than I already had in my beliefs. You see I didn’t grow up arguing for or against a certain version, or about how one should live in Christ. My eyes were just opened and I am so thankful that my parents didn’t PUSH a lot of those things (other than looks and music). I had so many phone conversations with my Dad in those 4 years and he actually changed his view on things in dress and especially music. I won’t go into the one phone call that I got from my Mom one Sunday night about how my Dad actually defended CCM. I looked at the phone and said are you sure we are talking about my Dad? SO, he progressed the older he got, to the point of loving some modern worship.
I have story upon story however, the arguments I would get into over STUPID stuff that didn’t matter in the light of eternity. EVERYTHING from music, to versions, to even how to dress as a ministry major. I was at TTU when they asked Peter Ruckman to leave a Southwide Baptist Fellowship because he was promoting things that were flat out wrong about the King James. All of these things led me to a place that almost made me extremely liberal in the eyes of fundamentalism. I even considered transferring to another school, but there was one man that I admire so much to this day that was our Campus Pastor, David Snow, that helped bring balance to my belief system. I was assistant as part of my Work Study and that man was an inspiration to all he came in contact with. I met my first wife at TTU and there is where my story becomes not so great…
The extremely short version is that after being married for almost 7 years and being through a big church split in our first ministry over divorce and remarriage (there is a podcast for you right there) I went into a downward spiral spiritually. I began to allow myself, in secret, go to online sites that were not appropriate and I don’t blame anyone but myself for that, but our marriage was lacking and I went looking for “things” online. We ended up in another ministry and while there I got involved online in a VERY inappropriate relationship online which led me to leaving the ministry for good. There are tons more details, but I allowed my bitterness over the years to build up and I was sick of Christianity and the church as a whole. SO, I walked away…from my marriage, my ministry and about 60 kids that loved me.
Now, I was away from God and Christianity for about 5 years. I was living a life that was not of God. There wasn’t any drugs, or breaking the law or anything like that, but I just wanted out of the church and I did all I could to stay away…but here’s the thing…God NEVER moves. It is us that leave Him. It is us that walk away, but HE is still there and if you are a true child of God, He will find a way to get hold of you. It was after 5 years of running and flying home to sing in my sister’s wedding that God pulled me back in. Long story short, while I was away for those 5 years, my wife Biblically divorced me. I didn’t have any desire to go back to her because there were things there as well.
It was my fundamentals that bought me back to God. So, I was kind of like the Prodigal Son and I came home. Had a chance to make up for lost time with my family, just enough time before we lost my Dad. God worked in my heart because those fundamentals of the faith were there.
What God has done since then has been pretty awesome since those years away from Him. I am married again literally by the grace of God. We are involved in a pretty large church here in Lancaster County PA. Here is the funny part to me. Here I am living in the Bible belt of Pennsylvania, with long hair that would have gotten me kicked out of TTU. I have a tattoo and serving Jesus and seeing lives changed. I have been given a number of opportunities to share my testimony and see it work in other’s lives. I am very heavily involved in the music ministry of our church, but there are still those “Recovering Fundamentalist” moments that I struggle with. How some worship, the styles of music for church, and it even drives me nuts when someone reads scripture from their phone instead of an actual Bible.
I have said all of this to say this here in the end. “Fundamentalism” has messed up a lot of people. I can sit here and tell you how many of the people that I went to TTU with are far away from God because one thing or other pushed them to that brink of leaving their faith and working toward a relationship with God. I get it, I lived it. I want to reach out to those that were brought up as we were and say hey, you can’t base your relationship with Jesus on what others tell you. A relationship with Jesus isn’t a bunch of rules. I believe with all of my hear that the “Fundamentalist” movement had it all wrong. There was this unwritten thing that you couldn’t come to Jesus just as you were. You need to change before you come to Him. THAT WAS ALL WRONG and it turned a lot of people off to Him including those in the church. It should have been, come to Jesus, He will do the work in you that needs to be done. If I can get through all of those “things” that I been through, then ANYONE can. We serve a God of second, third, and sometimes even more chances.
I don’t even know if this will get used on the show, but know that you guys are all being prayed for. I am willing to talk more on my testimony and answer questions if necessary. God bless guys and pleas keep this thing going, I love the show!
in and through Him,