Note: Howard Hendricks went to be with the Lord on Feb 20, 2013. This is part of a series of articles published in his honor.
On the other hand, God sometimes gifts a person such that every time he opens his mouth, someone somewhere seems to profit by it. Donald Grey Barnhouse had that kind of impact on me, particularly when I was just starting out in the ministry.
Dr. Barnhouse was for many years pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He was a brilliant preacher and a profound interpreter of Scripture. He often said that “the size of your God determines the size of your faith.” He himself had an enormous view of God, and as far as I could tell, a humongous faith. Perhaps that was his greatest legacy to me—his lofty vision of the Savior.
But he also taught me the value of clear communication. He was a master of the illustration, able to draw the most amazing analogies from the simplest of everyday experience to portray the deepest spiritual truths. I longed to do that as well as he did. So one day I asked him to show me how. His response was typically terse: “You wouldn’t be willing to pay the price!”
“Of course I would,” I insisted.
“Well, then, take anything on this desk in front of you and find an application in it.” With that, he turned on his heel and left. For the next several hours, I sat there determined to find a useful principle in the mundane objects before me. To this day, I still engage in that discipline.
Another of his strengths was the question-and-answer session. He would give a lecture and then invite anyone in the room to fire questions at him—the more difficult, the better. I was amazed—and delighted—to watch him handle each one. The response of his listeners showed me the value of that method of teaching. In fact, I find myself gravitating toward that format in my own work as a communicator.
Would I ever have learned these lessons in another way? Who can say? What matters is that God sent Dr. Barnhouse into my life at a critical moment, just at the time when I was forming my basic approach to ministry. In a very real sense, I can say that he helped to make me who I am and that, apart from his tutelage, my life might have taken a very different direction.
Hendricks, H., Hendricks, W., Howard, & William. (2009). As iron sharpens iron: Building character in a mentoring relationship. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.