Media Center

February 20, 2013

Howard Hendricks (1924-2013): A Ministry of Multiplication

Howard Hendricks
Dr. Howard Hendricks ’46, D.D. ’66 was one of the most influential Christian educators of the 20th century. The longtime professor at Dallas Theological Seminary died today at the age of 88. Dallas Theological Seminary has an obituary for Hendricks here; a tribute page is here.

Hendricks had a special connection to Wheaton College, where he met professors who took a personal interest in him and served as positive role models after his difficult childhood. “Wheaton College shaped my life more dramatically than any other exposure I’ve ever had,” he once said.

Later, Hendricks was professor, mentor and colleague to President Emeritus Dr. Duane Litfin.

“Howard Hendricks was a master teacher who marked for life whole generations of his students. None of us who sat at his feet were the same after being exposed to ‘Prof’ Hendricks,” Litfin says. “In my case, his tutelage continued after I became his faculty colleague, and he emerged as one of my greatest encouragers throughout my 17-year tenure as the president of his beloved Wheaton College. Howie and his wonderful wife Jean became our dear friends. We will miss him sorely.” 

Here, you can listen to a chapel address Hendricks gave in 1998. Below is the text of an article about Hendricks by Dawn Kotapish ’92 that was published in the Autumn 1996 issue of Wheaton magazine.

The dynamic ministry of Howard Hendricks has shaped the lives of many.
By Dawn Kotapish ’92
From Wheaton magazine, Autumn 1996

Last Alumni Weekend, members of the Class of 1947 gathered to celebrate their 50th college reunion. A lot had changed over the years, but some things remained the same, including the fact that the man at the microphone was the same individual who led his class fifty years ago as senior class president. Howie Hendricks ’46, D. D. ’66 was home.

Howard describes his more than 45 years of service as a ministry of multiplication, work committed to developing and shaping young lives. He articulated the importance and need for serious Christian educational training early on in his life, as Paul’s words of 2 Timothy 2:2 resonated with his own natural-born motivational gifts: “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (NIV)

In 1950, with a master’s degree in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, Howard founded what is today the 2,000-member McKinney Memorial Church in Fort Worth, Texas, with the support of his wife, Jeanne Wolfe Hendricks ’48. While serving in the pastorate, Howard realized that although he was trained to preach, he was unprepared for the educational leadership required. He began study in the field of Christian education at Wheaton’s Graduate School under Dr. Lois LeBar ’45 professor of Christian education emerita and the late Dr. Mary LeBar ’45, former professor of Christian education.

Later, Howard attended New York’s Biblical Seminary, and subsequently began to teach at his alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary. In 1958 he founded the seminary’s first Christian education department, serving as professor and department chair. Howard also has served in various roles of church ministry, including pastor, assistant pastor, Christian education director and youth director. In 1976 he founded the seminary’s Center for Christian Leadership and continues to chair the center and serve as distinguished professor, teaching one semester a year.

“One of the most important principles I came to realize,” he says, “is that teaching is not primarily communicating a subject, it’s changing individuals. I found that I could give great lectures in the classroom, but that’s not really where I shaped lives.” And so the Hendrickses opened their home to a continual train of students, young men and women who came for small group discussions, discipleship, and friendship. “You can impress people at a distance, but you can only impact them up close,” he adds.

Among his former students are Dr. Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, Dr. Charles Swindoll, now president of Dallas Theological Seminary, and Wheaton’s own seventh president, Dr. Duane Litfin. On Alumni weekend 1996, Dr. Litfin presented his former professor with a 50-year Wheaton College “diploma.”

What comes as no surprise is that Howard, a great teacher, was once himself shaped by great teachers. Though winner of the senior English award in high school, Howard entered Wheaton as an underdeveloped freshman and tested into the lowest level of English. Flunking four major subjects during his first semester, he never had time to date or attend campus basketball or football games.

Then English Professor Dr. Laurence King stepped in.

“I can’t even put into words what that man did for me,” says Howard. “He shaped my thinking, developed my confidence, took a deep personal interest in my life. This was true of other Wheaton professors as well. “Raised in a broken home by family members who had never attended college, Howard had had few positive role models.

“I was like a piece of clay,” he says, “just looking for somebody to mold and shape me."

"Wheaton College shaped my life more dramatically than my any other exposure I’ve ever had.”

His Wheaton education in tow, Howard went on to become one of the century’s most powerful Christian educators. He has instructed countless students over his 45 years of teaching, ministered in 75 world nations, served on boards or advisory councils of more than 20 Christian organizations, served for eight years as chaplain of the Dallas Cowboys, authored, coauthored, or coedited 14 books, and preached on many national radio stations. He continues to serve as an active leader for the Promise Keepers ministry. In 1966, Wheaton conferred on him the honorary doctor of divinity degree.

Howard’s wife, Jeanne, was from the beginning an active participant in Howard’s ministry, which they describe as very much a team effort. For 10 years she facilitated a discipleship group in her home for the wives of Howard’s pupils, later reaching out to female students as the seminary’s student body diversified. She has spoken at a number of women’s conferences and joined Howard in presenting conferences for married couples.

Over the years, Jeanne has written a number of books, including a series written specially for women, such as Afternoon, A Woman for All Seasons, A Mother’s Legacy, and Women of Honor. Having always aspired to a career in writing and public relations, Jeanne has had ample opportunity to exercise her gifts in her work with Howard, attesting to the unique way in which God has worked to weave their individual talents and dreams together.

With four grown children attending to six daughters of their own, Howard and Jeanne plan to continue service at the seminary during the fall and maintain their active schedule of national and international travel during the remainder of the year. “Retirement is probably not for me,” Howard says. “As long as the Lord continues to give me health, I’m going to keep on going."

Media Center