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Howie Hendricks legacy

My Tribute to Dr. Howard Hendricks:


My spiritual life was greatly shaped by pastors and teachers who had something in common: they were trained in teaching the Bible at Dallas Theological Seminary, and they spoke with the highest regard for Dr. Howard Hendricks.

I met Dr. Hendricks – “No, call me Howie!” – when he was presenting the Seven Laws of the Teacher at a conference in Atlanta. Though I was one of hundreds in attendance that week, a relationship was cultivated that spanned 30 years.

My marketplace career had morphed to a ministry role in the marketplace, and that résumé was no offense to the seminary professor. Though I would never be a student in Howie’s classroom, he invited me there to address his students from a perspective that he believed they needed to consider as they prepared for a life of ministry beyond DTS.

Howie invited me to serve on the Steering Committee for the Center for Christian Leadership at DTS. In the Center, he could pursue his commitment to empower leadership among the students at the Seminary, alongside their growing capacity for biblical exposition and pastoral ministry. Howie taught me that all church leaders are Kingdom leaders, but not all Kingdom leaders are church leaders.

Through years of frequent contact and moments of great mentoring, God used Howie to enable and encourage me in the teaching ministry I had in the Marketplace. What my education for business had never deposited in me, Prof was instrumental in presenting in incremental installments.

In 1991, an opportunity came to me that I never anticipated: a notable church with a highly visible ministry lost the continuing leadership of their founding senior pastor, and their search for a replacement brought them to me. An unconventional candidate process challenged me to change the course of my ministry career. The trusted voices in my life – sources of proven wisdom whose input I could trust – were few, but Howie was my first call.

He knew the former pastor – a DTS graduate – and he knew the church. He understood the unusual circumstances of the situation, and he knew the uniqueness of the style of ministry that defined this church in its community. As much as all of that, he knew me... and that knowledge certified his counsel for me as credible.

“Bob, I believe that you’re the right person for that position, for right now. You’ll do what needs to be done, but you won’t finish there. When you leave that assignment, you won’t be going to another church. I believe your calling is to The Church, not that church... and when you leave it, you’ll return to serving the Kingdom on a broader front. I see that in you, because I’ve always known that about myself. God called me to serve The Church, and that confidence has always allowed me to dismiss the invitations to come to a particular church and become a pastor...”

That counsel was like the Voice of God, channeled through a reliable source who was in tune with the Spirit and in touch with the leaders who looked to him for advice. Howie was one of the handful of risk-taking leaders who recommended me for that role, and his prophetic voice was spot-on: after leading the church into a strategic inflection point that was catalytic for the church, but freeing for me, I left. Four years after Prof’s public endorsement – and, private prediction – I was again free to serve The Church, beyond that church.

From Howard Hendricks, I distilled a clarity of calling that taught me to narrow my focus of ministry to the roles and relationships that were essential to fulfill the destiny that was uniquely attached to my God-Designed Potential. His strategic capacity – founded on his objective wisdom and subjective relationship – made an hour with Prof worth a semester in a classroom.

As I left the church assignment, the imprint on my life from mentoring was notable. For years, the impact on my life by Chuck Swindoll – who had never been my pastor, but had for years been my oracle – was in harmony with the admonitions I coveted from Howie Hendricks. When Swindoll convened a Mentoring Conference at his church, the three generations of mentoring were presenters: Howie, Chuck and me. The line of impact – patriarchal, paternal, personal – was embodied by the three of us.

Since leaving the church I pastored, my next season of ministry was marked by what I saw and received from Howard Hendricks. Since 1996, I’ve taken what Prof did with me – and did with hundreds of leaders through the decades – and made it the sole focus of my personal Kingdom assignment.

In The Master’s Program, we help Christian leaders explore, expose and exploit their Kingdom Calling. Through a three-year relationship, we offer the same kind of conversation and clarity with mid-life leaders that I enjoyed with Chuck and Howie, over decades.

The personalization of purpose that emerges through understanding and pursuing one’s Calling is the most life-giving discovery I ever received, anywhere... and I am commissioned to pass along to others.

Over 1500 leaders – most from the Marketplace; many from the Ministry – have benefited from The Master’s Program. That’s been my effort to organize what was, for Howie and his protégé Chuck, an organic experience: leaders mentoring leaders to become all that God made them to be.

Back in Atlanta – at the 7 Laws Conference – there were only two people up at 6:00a in the hotel coffee shop: Howard Hendricks, and a young man who had just left his business career to start a teaching ministry to business people. From across the restaurant, Hendricks recognized me from the front row at the Conference... and hollered, “Hey, young man, care to join me?”

I thought he was asking me to share a table, for an hour. Turns out, he was inviting me to share a conversation that would result in transformation, for the next three decades. I’m sure glad I didn’t turn him down.

Bob Shank