A Tribute and a Challenge

We’re gearing up for the start of a new school year at Heritage; this coming Monday is move in day for our new college students.  My  prayer is that God will use our faculty and staff to help prepare these men and women for life and ministry.  My hope is that we will have the impact on them that Dr. Howard Hendricks had on me.

Dr. Hendricks (affectionately known as “Prof”) was a teacher at Dallas Seminary during Howard and Jeanmy years there.  Recently, I was invited to contribute an article to a book Dallas Seminary is producing to honour His life and legacy.  Writing the tribute not only gave me the chance to express my gratitude, it also provided the basis for a challenge I gave to our profs.  All of us who serve as teachers (in churches, classrooms, workplaces) have something to learn from Dr. Hendrick’s example.  Here’s the article I wrote:


“You cannot impart what you do not possess.”

That’s a line I heard Dr. Hendricks say numerous times. It was one of his many memorable sayings; one of his quotable quotes.   I recently repeated it to the faculty and staff at Heritage College and Seminary.

As part of our preparation for the coming school year, our faculty and staff at Heritage gathered for a morning of prayer and instruction. As part of the challenge I gave our team that morning, I quoted Dr. Hendrick’s line: “You cannot impart what you do not possess.”

That line has special significance for all of us who are called to teach God’s truth. If we hope to impact the lives of those we teach, we must first be impacted by the truth ourselves. We must follow the pattern of Ezra who “devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel (Ezra 7:10). We must allow God’s Word to possess us before we seek to impart it to others.

One of the reasons Prof Hendricks impacted so many of us who sat in his classes was due to the fact that his life was so clearly marked by God’s Word. My first semester at Dallas, I took his class “Bible Study Methods.” By the time I arrived in 1980, he’d been teaching this course for decades. Although he had taught the course many times before, his enthusiasm for the material was still fresh. His passion for studying the Bible (observation, interpretation, application) was contagious.

I’m one of many who can say that Prof Hendricks shaped my love for God’s Word. In large part that’s true because he imparted what he possessed.

On the morning I spoke to the faculty and staff at Heritage, I also told them about a second saying I learned from Prof Hendricks. As I challenged all of us to give ourselves fully to the ministry to equipping students for life and ministry, I quoted Prof’s memorable line: “If you want them to bleed, you have to hemorrhage.”

That saying is a bit graphic, but it communicates an important point. Those of us who are teachers and preachers must come to our task with energy and passion. If we are anemic, our words will seem weak and sickly.   The apostle Paul put it in a succinct way when he wrote: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

One of the reasons Prof’s classes were so popular was that he was so energized as a teacher. He believed it was a sin to bore people with the Word of God and made sure his classes were never boring. It was almost impossible not to pay attention.

My desire for all of us who teach at Heritage College and Seminary is that we emulate the energy and passion for God’s Word that Prof Hendricks evidenced for over 50 years. As we follow his example of imparting what we possess and hemorrhaging enthusiasm for God’s Word, we’ll serve our students well—the way Prof Hendricks served so many of us.

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