There are tears of joy and tears of sadness in my eyes this morning. I am torn between the tension of this present life and the life in the world to come. Early this morning marked the passing of the dearly loved Dr. Howard Hendricks, who was affectionately known as “Prof” to those closest to him. He was a teacher of teachers, a pastor to pastors, a mentor to mentors, and left an incredible legacy of faithfulness to God. May God’s peace reign in the hearts of his family as they grieve the loss of this one they loved so much.
His love for Christ’s mission, his family, and his students was heard and seen through every message, lecture, and discipleship session. His passion for life in Jesus Christ was infectious. There was absolutely no question that Prof loved every moment of his job.
For more than sixty years Prof served on the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), where he taught more than ten thousand students. He also ministered in person in more than eighty countries. Through speaking engagements, radio, tapes, films, the sixteen books he authored and coauthored, countless journal and popular-market articles, his service on numerous boards, and his work as a chaplain to the Dallas Cowboys (1976–1984), his reach was and is worldwide. His legacy, in partnership with Jeanne, his wife of more than sixty-six years, includes four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Holding large audiences enthralled at venues such as Billy Graham’s conference center or Promise Keepers’ stadium rallies, Prof would confide, “It’s wonderful to be here with you, but I have a group of delicious students waiting for me back at the seminary.” ~ by Dallas Theological Seminary on Feb. 20th 2013 in Profiles (http://www.dts.edu/read/howard-hendricks-prof/)
Update: His funeral will be Saturday, March 2nd at 11:00 a.m. at Stonebriar Community Church.
I will never forget the morning when Prof Hendricks told me, “Young man, if I don’t have time to meet with you, then I don’t have time to meet with anybody!” His personal investment in my life continues to impact how I think, pray, preach, teach, disciple, and study God’s Word. While all my teachers at Dallas Theological Seminary played a significant role in guiding my walk with Christ, Prof Hendricks was used by God to radically change my entire outlook on ministry.
Here’s a reflection from a discussion I had with Prof Hendricks on a biblical philosophy of ministry...
“I Am Done Building Churches!”
One cool, spring afternoon I had the privilege of sitting down with Prof. Hendricks for a little while so I could probe his wisdom and ask a few questions. I will never forget one of his statements during the course of our discussion. He said, “Michael, I am done building churches!” After letting the shock of his statement sink in, he looked me right in the eyes and finished his thought, “I am now building men.”
While he certainly was not saying that building churches was no longer a worthy goal, he was forcefully getting the point across to me that personal, mentor-based discipleship is the key to, in fact, building the Church and expanding the kingdom of God with great impact. Thus, it was a dramatic change of “how” the church is to be strengthened and built. My philosophy for how a local church (and at large, the worldwide Church) is formed, has been tremendously impacted by men such as Howard Hendricks.
I wholeheartedly believe that the structure of a local church should primarily be about deeply committed, self-sacrificial service in the disciple making of others. Such ministry is most explicitly exemplified through the life of our Savior. In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul makes clear to us how Christ literally “emptied Himself” of what was and is certainly and rightfully His, so that He could perform the will of the Father and save so wretched a soul like yours and mine. He ministered in such self-sacrificial love, not for His own glory or reward, but that the Father might be glorified through His own sacrifice (v. 11).
In like manner, we now as the Church of the living Jesus Christ are to live as He lived. We are called to lay down our own needs, wants, and desires for the good of others and the glory of God the Father. Tangibly, this is where “the wood meets the sandpaper.” I believe the church is built by those who in their devotion to Christ, have laid down their own will for the will of the One who saved them. This could mean putting on the brakes before we whiz passed a person in need on the side of the road with a broken-down car. Or, this could entail foregoing a self-satisfying career for the self-sacrificing foreign mission field. Even more importantly, God might lead another to take two or three younger believers under a wing of mentorship for several years, or even decades. Whether this forces some to lose vacation time or just extra personal relaxation, it truly is worth all the effort – for God will be glorified through such self-emptying love.
I believe the church is not built by man-made programs and convenient structures, but by men and women humbly ministering in Spirit-empowered evangelism and discipleship. This means that the church, in its services, is to be utilized for the establishment, encouragement, and sending out of members into the world to shed the light of Christ. Through these members working and serving as ministers of the Light in the world, they by their love will be a beacon of hope that will draw people to the Savior. Then, in an exponential way, the Church will increase as these same people disciple those around them and these new believers in turn, repeat the process of their mentors.
Through the lives of just a dozen men, Jesus Christ changed the world forever. This kind of day-to-day discipleship is what I believe Howard Hendricks was getting at when He spoke with me that spring afternoon. Through a Biblically strong, worshipping church who wholeheartedly loves their Savior and is willing to lay down their temporal needs for the eternal needs of others – this world will be changed and the Gospel will go forth with great authority and power. For the world will see and know the difference. The very words of Christ command you and me to do just this, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Here’s my personal collection of favorite quotes from Prof Howard Hendricks. Some may not be entirely original from him, but he was – at the very least – the first person to touch my life with these words.
- “Conviction by the Truth is not the same as being changed by the Truth.”
- “This Book – will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.”
- “Master the Master’s life.”
- “God has handpicked you to be His mouthpiece to this generation.”
- “I’m done building churches! …I am now building men.”
- “God calls us to faithfulness, not productivity.”
- “You will not build disciples if you pastor like a coo-coo bird in a coo-coo clock!” Don’t come out at the appointed time; say what you have to say, then pop back into your little chamber. You cannot miss the person-to-person – man-to-man ministry!”
- “The Bible wasn’t given to make you a smarter sinner, but rather to change your life.”
- “Personal Bible Study is not a course, it is a lifestyle!”
- “You cannot be holy in a hurry! …Bible study calls not for snapshots but, for timed exposures.”
- “The secret things belong to God and don’t pry Him. The revealed things belong to us and you rest content with that.”
- “Stop star gazing and when the Bible speaks you speak, when the Bible is quiet you shut up.”
- “The biggest problem with praying is praying for someone else and not including you.”
- “Pray short in public and long in private.”
- [Regarding Bible study] “Observation and interpretation without application is abortion! Don’t perform an abortion on the living Word of God!”
- “Everybody wants forgiveness, but nobody wants repentance.”
- “Many Christians are like poor photographs. They are over-exposed and under-developed.”
- “It’s not God’s word because it works; it works because it is God’s living Word.”
- “Don’t ride on your past [education], only build on it!”
- “He didn’t call you here to hang you; he called you here to teach you!”
- “It is a crime to bore people with the Bible.”
Feel free to comment with your personal favorite reflections and quotes, and I’ll add them to the list. I’d love to hear your memories of Prof!
In Christ Alone,
Michael J. Breznau, Th.M (11′)
P.S. Joey Cochran, my friend (and former classmate at DTS), has also written a brief tribute to Prof Hendricks HERE.