Howard G. "Prof" Hendricks: A personal word of gratitude1
Howard Hendricks (b. 1924), longtime and influential professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, passed away earlier this year on February 20th. When I arrived on the campus at Dallas in September of 1973, I was justifiably in awe of “Prof.” I can still recall the orientation lunch for the incoming freshman class. I don’t know if DTS still hosts this event, but when Ann and I arrived we had the providential privilege of sharing a table with Hendricks. I recall not being able to eat a thing.
Every incoming first-year student was required to take Bible Study Methods from Prof Hendricks. And every first-year student was confronted on that first day of class with the same assignment: “Gentlemen. Go home and write down 25 observations on Acts 1:8.” What? At that time I would have struggled to think of 25 things about myself!
Upon returning to class two days later with our papers proudly in hand, Prof shocked us with another doozy: “Gentlemen. Go home and write down another 25 observations on Acts 1:8!” I kid you not. By the way, I still have my Acts 1:8 paper from that class. I won’t tell you how many observations on Acts 1:8 I eventually wrote down, but if you are ever at my home I’ll let you take a look at the paper. But that’s not what is important. What’s important, and what proved to be life-changing for all of us, was the way in which Howard Hendricks taught us how to read and interpret Scripture. I will forever be in his debt.
I have to share one more story. Prof was fond of responding to comments made by a student with the declaration: “Great observation, son. Great observation.” Now that he is in the presence of the Lord I don’t think he’ll mind me sharing this incident. Please understand I tell it with nothing but respect and love in my heart for him.
One day Prof entered class and began to lecture, pacing feverishly from one side of the room to the other. There was nothing unusual in this, except for the fact that his fly was open. We all looked sheepishly at one another, wondering if anyone would have the courage to tell him. No one did. After the class, another student and I approached him. No, it wasn’t I who broke the news to him (as much as I now wish otherwise). “Prof,” said my friend, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your fly is open.” Hendricks didn’t miss a beat. He looked down, and then at the student: “Great observation, son. Great observation.” I loved it!
In the most recent issue of Kindred Spirit (Spring/Summer 2013, Vol. 37, No. 1), the alumni magazine of DTS, there is a tribute to Prof that contains a number of the sayings for which he is still famous. I thought you’d enjoy reading them.
“A belief is something you will argue about; a conviction is something you will die for.”
“Nothing is more common than unfulfilled potential.”
“You can impress people at a distance, but you can impact them only up close.”
“Biblically speaking, to hear and not to do is not to hear at all.”
“Experience is not the best teacher; evaluated experience is.”
“The size of your God determines the size of everything.”
“People tell me they want to make the Bible relevant. Nonsense. The Bible is already relevant. You’re the one that’s irrelevant.”
“When you preach, keep the cookies on the lower shelf.”
“Never traffic in unpracticed truth.”
“You cannot impart that which you do not possess.”
“All people are born originals, but most die a copy.”
“Heaven is a person: Jesus Christ.”
“The measure of you as a leader is not what you do, but what others do because of what you do.”
“There’s no such thing as faith apart from risk-taking. Creativity takes risks. The people who are most secure in Jesus Christ shouldn’t be scared to try new things.”
“Your career is what you’re paid to do; your calling is what you’re made to do.”
And two of my very favorites:
“My fear is not that you would fail, but that you will succeed in doing the wrong thing.”
“You are able to do many things. Be sure you find the one thing you must do.”
Thank you, Lord, for the life and ministry of Prof Hendricks!