Remembering Howard Hendricks
About the Guest
For over five decades, Dr. Howard Hendricks faithfully labored in God’s vineyard. He served with humility, shunning the limelight, even as he shaped the theological worldview of over 13,000 students at Dallas Theological Seminary. Last Wednesday, February 20th, 2013, Dr. Hendricks departed for heaven. Join us as we pay tribute to a great Patriarch, our friend, Dr. Howard Hendricks.
Howard HendricksDr. Howard G. Hendricks, known simply as “Prof,” directly or indirectly touched millions of lives in the evangelical community and beyond. 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 o...more
Join us as we pay tribute to a great Patriarch, our friend, Dr. Howard Hendricks.
Remembering Howard Hendricks
Bob: And a life very well lived. Dr. Hendricks taught at Dallas Theological Seminary for more than 60 years. He was known by the students who went there as “Prof”. You tell people that when you went to Dallas Seminary, back in the 70s, you majored in “Prof”.
Dennis: I went there for that one reason—to sit under him. He was the very finest teacher/instructor that I had in any class. Again, I want to go back to something you just said, Bob. He taught for six decades. Most people hold a job down for five years and they switch. Dr. Hendricks decided to go into teaching; and as he said, he was made to teach. He loved teaching. He loved Dallas Theological Seminary.
In fact, I have to share a couple of stories that occurred recently upon Dr. Hendricks’s retiring from teaching. I’m on the Board of Directors with Dallas Theological Seminary. We had a reception for Dr. Hendricks—it was really fascinating. Here was David Jeremiah, seated at the table, Chuck Swindoll, Michael Easley—a number of other Christian leaders—Gene Getz, was there. They all shared different stories about Prof.
David Jeremiah—of course, many of our listeners know him because he has a radio broadcast. He is a pastor and an author. He told a story of how when he was a first-year seminary student, he would sit in the back of Hendricks’s class, slumping on the very back row. Prof noticed that David Jeremiah was sitting back there. So, he summoned him to his office. This is David Jeremiah telling this story. Now, he said Dr. Hendricks called him into his office. He said, [Quote] “David, if you continue to sit on the back row, slumping, you are wasting my time and yours.” David Jeremiah said, “I immediately moved to the front row, and I have been sitting up straight ever since.” [Laughter] I would say he has, and he has been used in a mighty way.
Chuck Swindoll told a story of how when he was a seminary student—undoubtedly, a very young man—he had been asked to babysit Dr. Hendricks’s kids. While they were gone out on a date or something—Chuck told this story. He said, “I kind of took a look at Prof’s checkbook”—
Bob: He snooped a little bit.
Dennis: —he snooped a little bit—He said, “I was amazed at two things.” He said, “Number one, how little he was paid; and number two, how much he gave away.”
One other leader spoke—Michael Easley, who pastors Fellowship Bible Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He talked about how Prof had given him permission, as a man and as a leader, to try things and to venture out. Michael said this—his favorite quote from Dr. Hendricks: “Sin will keep you from this Book, and this Book will keep you from sin,”—speaking of the Scriptures.
Bob, I’m amazed at how a man—many of our listeners probably have never heard of—he was not nearly as widely known as Bill Bright, Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, and others—but let me tell you something: He impacted thousands of leaders. More than 13,000 students went through his class in 60 years.
I want to tell you folks—this ministry you are listening to, here on FamilyLife Today, would not exist today had it not been for a message given by Dr. Hendricks in 1975 in St. Louis at the U.S. Congress on the Family. Three staff members from Campus Crusade for Christ attended that Congress and heard Dr. Hendricks give a charge that we needed to do a better job of preparing our engaged couples, in the Church, for marriage. They took that charge back to the leadership of Crusade—that, ultimately, resulted in two other couples and us starting FamilyLife®, way back in 1976.
Prof didn’t stop investing—at that point, Bob, you know he used to come to our speakers’ retreat—all of the speakers who speak at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways—we have an annual retreat, where we get together and do training and equip them to be able to speak at these conferences, all over the country and around the world. Prof and Jeanne came to that retreat, just until the past couple of years. They have been numerous times and were exoficio members of that team.
Howard: I believe that many of you are some of God’s greatest communicators to this generation. Man, I go to one of your conferences—I sit there—it blows every circuit in my head to realize the gifts, the ability, the experience God has given you and the effectiveness in communicating—some of you, the best in all of the United States.
Bob: I’ll never forget—just that affirmation, on his part.
Dennis: He may be one of the finest orators—a polished speaker—that you ever heard.
Howard: And I say it is wonderful, but it could be tragic if that is the only place where you get your worth.
Dennis: He had the uncanny ability to move-in in a guy’s life, at the right time, and be able to say words that built up, strengthened, gave vision, gave heart, gave courage—like few men in my life.
Bob: You have mentioned many times that there were two guys—kind of a few laps ahead of you on the track—that marked your life. One of them was Bill Bright,—
Bob: —and the other one was Howard Hendricks.
Bob: I mean, that’s pretty good company for Prof to be in—as one of the two. What was there about him that was so compelling?
Dennis: I think a couple of things. One, is he had a very pure devotion to Jesus Christ. He was in this Book—he was in the Bible. He was not just teaching from it; he was living from it. He was the real deal. I mean, he had feet of clay—like we all do—but he was authentic. He was an authentic man.
The second thing he possessed was also what Bill Bright possessed—was a clear vision and a mandate for his life. He didn’t believe in retirement. Even after he retired from teaching, he still had students coming over to his house—at 86 or 87 years of age?—coming over to his house to meet with him—a dozen seminary students to disciple them and to talk about life and equip them. Yes, he may have retired from the payroll, but he was on-task and on-mission. I’ll tell you, Bob, there are not many men—it seems, to me, today—who in their late 70s, 80s, and beyond who really are stretching out toward the finish line—who are really going for it.
I’ll give you an illustration from Dr. Hendricks’s life. A number of years ago—I think it is about 15 years ago—he had surgery on his face for cancer. The cancer was more invasive than they first had thought. They had to remove his eye and a good bit of tissue from the face. He, actually, came out of the surgery, having to wear a black patch on his eye. Yet, that didn’t slow him down from traveling internationally and across the country and speaking and teaching from the Scriptures. In fact, news came to me—I think he was in his early 80’s—he had, actually, fallen off or stepped off a platform because he couldn’t see out of his eye—he didn’t have the eye—the patch was there. He broke three ribs, falling on the platform! Yet, he was still going. That didn’t stop him. He was on-mission and on-task.
I’ve said this many times—we’re all going to grow old for something. For most, I think, it is ourselves. We just become the smallest package ever made—we’re all wrapped up in ourselves. Howard Hendricks was not wrapped up in himself. He was a giver—all the way until the end. He was focused on others. That is why he sacrificially traveled the globe to make Christ known and to make disciples.
Howard: [Fade in] Today, I want to move...First of all...negatively, what it is not; and then, positively, what it is.
Bob: He had a great sense of humor.
Howard: Let’s begin with the power of negative thinking, with apologies to Norman Vincent Peale.
Bob: Some of the lines in his sermons—you’ll never forget.
Howard: I find Peale appalling and Paul appealing. [Laughter]
Bob: And, of course, I have this great memory—he came to speak to our staff many years ago—
Dennis: Oh, yes. Let me set this up a little bit, Bob, because I—and as an audience, you kind of know that I am kind of out on the edge sometimes. So, if you can believe this—here is this professor at Dallas Theological Seminary—author, great speaker—world-renowned—and I said, “Prof, I want to take you float tube fishing.” Now, float tube fishing is some of the most—it’s not easy to do—
Dennis: You have to, first of all, put on waders. Then, you pull up over the waders, a tube that you sit in—in a seat. Then, on your feet, you put flippers. So, you are, literally, in a tube, flipping your way around, and you are casting and everything. I took Prof to a lake, outside of Laramie, Wyoming. We took him float tube fishing. I was afraid he would get away from us—[Laughter]—so we tethered his tube to our tube with a cord. He loved it! He absolutely loved the adventure, and he caught a couple of rainbow trout!
Bob: It was a number of years after that that he was speaking to the staff. He was recounting this time—going float tube fishing. He shared some detail of the event.
Dennis: Well, he shared the detail. He said, “And I caught one—one single trout!” To which, I said: “That is not true, Prof! I was there! You caught two rainbow trout!”
Bob: This was you and the audience—just interrupting his message—and busting him on the number of fish he had caught. He paused; and he said: “There you have it! There is another great illustration, ruined by an eye-witness!” [Laughter] We all just started laughing, wondering how many of his illustrations had been embellished over the years. [Laughter]
But a great sense of humor and just a lover of people. He was a lover of people and a lover of his wife. I mean—
Dennis: He was.
Bob: —she was a great—I mean, you talk about helpmate—she was a great helpmate—and still, today, a great woman—Jeanne Hendricks.
Dennis: Sixty-four years of marriage—we have a picture, just outside of the studio, around the corner, of us giving him the award—the Mc Quilkin award for covenant-keeping love in marriage.
Dennis: I am pleased to announce to you that 2005 Robertson Mc Quilkin Award goes to the first time, not to an individual, but to a couple. These people—
Dennis: It was in Tampa, Florida, in front of like 12,000 people—at one of our “I Still Do” arena events. We honored both Jeanne and Prof for covenant-keeping love.
Dennis: —for covenant-keeping love—Dr. Howard and Jeanne Hendricks. Would you welcome them, please? [Applause] They were extremely gracious in receiving that.
I have to say—one of the more touching scenes, in the last years of his life, was to see Jeanne kind of caring for Prof—instead of what had happened in the previous years, when Prof had been the strong one, caring for his wife. As his health began to fail, she guided him and cared for him. What a great model of true love—better than any movie Hollywood could ever make.
Bob: One of the times when Dr. Hendricks came and spoke to the couples, who speak at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, he spoke on the subject of retirement. He actually presented a biblical perspective on aging. He was living through it; and so, he looked at what Scriptures had to say about the latter years of life. I remember him taking us to the end of Ecclesiastes and taking us through that passage that describes how the shutters don’t work on the house anymore. He was talking about the physical body slowing down, but he exhorted all of us that we needed to have an eternal perspective on this life.
We have a clip from that time together with Howard Hendricks that—especially now, in light of his home-going—I think it would be good for our listeners to hear the perspective he had as he moved toward the finish line of life.
Howard: He was my little brother at Wheaton, Jim Elliot, who used to say it so often when we would meet, “Howie, we must give what we cannot keep in order to gain what we cannot lose.” So, as a Christian, you are forced to give up in order to gain what I believe may be the most significant years of your life, from God’s perspective.
But the ultimate question in an eternal perspective is: “What is the center of your life, around which everything else is organized?” Is it a terminating core or is it a non-terminating core? Whenever you build your life around a terminating core—whether it is your home, or your car, or your money, or even your family—then, you are going to sustain the most severe losses; and it will never fulfill you. That is why the only adequate candidate, in my judgment, is Jesus Christ—the same yesterday, today, and forever.
This is why I believe hope is unique to Christianity. C. S. Lewis said it, “Hope means a continual looking forward to the eternal world.” It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next world. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. Aim at heaven and you will get earth, thrown in! Aim at earth and you will get neither.
When I was a kid, I cannot tell you how many times I heard the statement from pastors, and Bible teachers, and friends—and that is, “You spend so much time thinking about the next world, that you are no good in this one.” You know what we need to do? We need to reverse that. We spend so much time in this world that, perhaps, this is why we are no more effective in terms of the next one.
What is the danger? The danger is forgetting where your home is. Malcolm Muggeridge, in his penetrating way, said: “The only ultimate disaster that can befall us, as Christians, is to feel ourselves to be at home, here on earth. As long as we are aliens, we cannot forget our true homeland.”
Bob: Well, we have been listening to a short excerpt from Dr. Howard Hendricks, who is no longer an alien—he is home.
Dennis: You know, it is sad to lose him; but you can’t feel sorry for him. Philippians 1 says, “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Prof just gained what he had lived for. He leaves a widow of 64 years and a family that is going to miss him profoundly and deeply, but he marked all of our lives.
Bob, as I have reflected on his impact on my life, I have really come to the conclusion that every man—every woman—really needs a couple of people in their lives, as they run the race of life. They need a couple of people that they look to that show them how to run well, and stay stretched out toward the finish line, and to finish well. I can’t tell you what an encouragement that has been, to me, to watch Prof run that race. First, it was Bill Bright, President and Founder of Campus Crusade, who showed me how to die well. Now—here, a second time, another man, who had invested heavily in my life—Dr. Howard Hendricks has done the same. I am a wealthy man. I am a wealthy man because of it.
I thought of the passage—it is really my life verse—but I thought of this passage for Prof and for Jeanne—as they ran the race of life together, and now, he has finished well—Psalm 112, verse 1 [through verse 4]: “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.”
Prof was a man’s man. He taught us how to live well. In dying, he has taught us how to die well. His memorial service will be March 2nd at Stonebriar Church, there in Frisco, north of Dallas—Chuck Swindoll’s church. I am looking forward to it. [Emotion in voice] There will be a lot of guys there who were impacted by his life. It will be an opportunity to relive that impact and, then, to realize the baton has been passed, one more time, by a great man. It is now our assignment to run and finish well.
Bob: That is a good reminder for all of us—that our lives do intersect with other lives. We leave a mark. The kind of mark we leave is the legacy that we pass on. Howard Hendricks left good marks. He always marked, for good, the lives of those whose paths he crossed. That is a good reminder for us. We will cross paths with people today. What kind of an impact will we leave with them?
Dennis: I think a question for every listener, as you have a chance here to do what Ecclesiastes, Chapter 7, commands us to do. Ecclesiastes 7 commands us to go to the house of mourning because that is the end of every man—every woman. It says, “...and the living takes it to heart.” There is a message in going beside a grave. As one person said, “A grave is a doorway, cut in sod.” It reminds us that this is not where it is all found—that what we long for is heaven. That is where Jesus Christ is. The question is: “What kind of legacy are you leaving—are you going to leave behind? If you died right now, what would your legacy be?”
Dr. Howard Hendricks has passed on, and he is more alive today than he was ever alive on this planet. He has left the aroma of Jesus Christ for a lot of us to enjoy.
Bob: I don’t know if our voices will sound the same in heaven or not, but I hope his is just like we have always heard it—full of life, and passion, and joy—when he is there to cheer us on, as we get home, after we have run the race.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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