By Larry Ray Hafley
Introduction By Sammie Hoyle: Here’s a few things about my one and only Kenneth. He was born near Abbott, Texas, September 12, 1927 and died in Beaumont, Texas, February 25, 1998. He was in the ICU for 40 days suffering from pneumonia. They had it under control at the time of his death, but his body couldn’t recover from all the damage that was done.
We met and were married in Hillsboro, Texas, on June 1, 1947. We were married 50 years last year. Our first two children were adopted, Jan and Lynn. They both preceded Kenneth in death. After waiting many years, Karen and Mary were born to us. We have six grandchildren and two of the very finest sons-in-law, David Kibideaux and Norman Harrison.
To the above children we added many, many more whom God gave us. Young couples by the number were added to the Kenneth Hoyle family by virtue of the Lord’s work. Kenneth was a true, dedicated soldier of the cross. His utmost desire was to please God. His preaching was all in the state of Texas until 1991. He preached in Borger, La Porte, Nacogdoches, Rosenberg, Texas City, and West Orange.
In 1991 we moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana. He helped established the Southside congregation with 25 folding chairs in the Kinder Care Learning Center. Those were delightful days. Young couples, little children, and the true church being established. We met nine months there, then located the present building at 3919 Auburn and purchased it in May 1993. This work was Kenneth’s “joy and crown.” He was never, never happier. Unity abounded and it was all based on “a thus saith the Lord.” (Sammie Hoyle, 4310 Dean, Lake Charles, LA 70605)
When Kenneth’s Hoyle’s dear wife, Sammie, called to discuss what would be an appropriate theme for her husband’s funeral, she said, “Tell them that Kenneth wanted no compromise. Tell people that the best way to remember him is to never turn either to the right or to the left. This was on Kenneth’s heart. He was worried about all those who once stood firm, but who now refuse to condemn error and stand for the truth because of their friendship with some who won’t stand up and be counted.”
Life’s Sermon: “No Compromise”
Sammie expressed the very words of Scripture when she said that Kenneth did not want us to “turn either to the right or to the left.” Those words mean that one will stay on course (cf., Deut. 2:27). He will not veer off the path; he will cut a straight row (2 Tim. 2:15). Thus, “Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (Deut. 5:32). “And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left” (Deut. 28:14).
Brother Hoyle was concerned about principles regarding Romans 14 and fellowship, and errors being taught with respect to marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Too, he saw the general trend toward compromise and softness, the development of a less militant spirit against evil and error. He thought that toleration of error and the support of men who teach it was begotten by the leaven of a compromising attitude. In other words, various departures centering around Romans 14, marriage and divorce and fellowship were symptomatic of a deeper, widespread acceptance of error (2 Tim. 4:3, 4).
Kenneth spoke of his puzzlement about those who would apologize for the severity of truth (2 Cor. 2:15-17; Tit. 1:13; 2:15). He could not understand those who would criticize men who speak, as he himself did, with great plainness of speech regarding modest dress, godly living, and the undenominational nature of the New Testament church (2 Cor. 3:12). Kenneth said there was a time when brethren thought one “could not come down too hard” against immorality, immodesty, and denominationalism, but, that now, such material was being apologized for by those who do not want plain speech on those issues. In conversation, Kenneth expressed his amazement at how viciously some condemn those who speak out against error and compro- mise. He said that some who protest against being too harsh and “negative” were the very ones who used very hard and caustic words against those who are standing for the truth. (Kenneth, when he spoke on such matters, never lost his kind, gentle, sweet spirit. He did not have a bitter bone in his body.)
This is part of the enduring legacy of the life and memory of Kenneth Hoyle. Kenneth was not widely known. His name is not a household word among brethren around the world, but we “rather rejoice, because” we have reason to believe his name is “written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). No, Kenneth’s name is not on some famous debate book, but this quiet, unassuming man was engaged in a running debate in the local newspaper with a Catholic priest at the time of his death. He was not often engaged in a series of prominent lectures across the country, but many people were drawn to an appreciation for the faith of Christ by his unflagging faith. Ask a host of brethren who look to Kenneth and Sammie as their spiritual father and mother in the gospel. Ask the Intensive Care Unit doctors, nurses, interns and staff assistants in the hospital where he died — they will tell you that a great and good man has left us. They will tell you what they think of the Lord’s people based on the life of this one man and his loving family (Matt. 5:16)!
A couple of years ago, after having conducted a meeting where Kenneth preached, I made the following report concerning his work to the local church. It testifies to his life’s sermon:
As most of you know, we have just concluded our second meeting with the church in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Kenneth and Sammie Lou Hoyle are doing an outstanding work in the Lord in that area. For a number of years, this church has been privileged to have “fellowship in the gospel” with the Hoyles. Brethren, as many of you already know far better than I, it has not been a misplaced trust.
There can be no better people than Kenneth and Sammie. They are pure in life, devoted in service, devout in worship. They care for people as for their own family. Their nurturing deeds and their kindliness endear them to the church. Truly, some have been converted, not simply through the word of God, but also through the good works which they see in Kenneth and Sammie (Matt. 5:16; cf., 1 Pet. 3:1). They exemplify the salt and light qualities that ought to be characteristic of all saints.
Brother Hoyle is determined in his stand for truth and righteousness. Though he is blessed with a disarmingly kind and gentle personality, his love for the truth is as stout as the heart of a lion (Prov. 28:1, 4). There is no foolish- ness or weakness in Kenneth Hoyle’s desire to earnestly contend for the faith. The modern tendency to coddle error and play footsie with dubious doctrines has not affected him, or his good wife.
Due in large part to their sterling character and fervent faith, the church is blessed with the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Several solid families work in perfect harmony with the Hoyles. Though the church is relatively small in number, they are blessed with a good blend of age and maturity and with young families, too. Our work with them was a blessing to Marilyn and me. Though this is more personal than most articles, I thought the church here, and all who love and respect the Hoyles, would want to hear about them and the good work they continue to do (cf., Rom.16; Phil. 2:25-30; 4:3; Col. 4:9-15).
Life’s Sermon: “Bible Education”
Many tender and touching stories have been told since the passing of our dear brother in the Lord, Kenneth Hoyle. One of them was related to me by his long-time friend, Lynn Black. Years ago, in the 1960s, Kenneth and Sammie came to Nacogdoches to consider the work there. During the course of the church’s interview of brother Hoyle, he was asked, “What kind of Bible training or Bible education do you have?” Without a pause and without embarrassment, Kenneth simply opened his Bible and held it out for all to see. “That,” he said, “is my education. That is the source of my religious training.” A respectful silence fell over the room.
Brother Black said that one statement did more than anything else to persuade the brethren to secure him to work with them. They were impressed with his humility and godly sincerity, and with his refusal to flaunt worldly achievements. When he quietly extended his arm and dis- played his worn and well used Bible, the brethren knew they had found their next preacher.
How many churches today would be content with a man who could only point to an open Bible as his fount and foundation of faith? How many preachers today would boast of academic training and of the religious education they have received at some so-called “Bible College” or theological seminary? How many of us would be ashamed to admit that our religious educational credentials were obtained through a personal study of the word of God?
“O how I love thy law! It is meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than my enemies. . . . I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I have more understanding than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:97-100). “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Ps. 119:130). “When ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4).
A sound education is not to be ridiculed. It can be an invaluable asset in one’s quest for knowledge in the word of God. However, let us never disdain those who, with limited scholastic opportunities, have educated themselves in the knowledge of God, for that is the only true education, the only abiding wisdom (Eccl. 2:12-16; 12:8-14). Brother Hoyle knew this. May God bless the memory of this dear man. May his spirit of faith, trust, and confidence in the word of truth be perpetuated by those of us who learned from him (2 Tim. 2:2).