Howard Hendricks, 1924-2013

February 20, 2013

Howard Hendricks, for 60 years a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, is now with his beloved Lord, seeing Him face to face.  As stated in this portrait at the Dallas Seminary site, Hendricks “directly or indirectly touched millions of lives in the evangelical community and beyond.” I am one of those.

A master storyteller and illustrator, here is the Hendricks story that has stuck with me more than any other (I used this story to open a sermon from Leviticus in 1998:

Early this year a long-time friend phoned Howard Hendricks, Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. It seems that this friend was moving to the Dallas area and wanted Howard’s recommendation for a church to attend. “Well, tell me, what kind of church are you looking for?” asked Howard. The friend laid out a long series of requirements, including the theological position of the church, the quality of personal relationships, and the absence of cliques and groups. Howard responded, “Friend, you’re looking for a perfect church. I don’t know of a church like that, but if you find one . . . don’t join it. You’ll ruin it!” Howard went on to tell his friend, “Do you have people in your church? Well, if you’ve got people, you’ve got problems.”

But Hendricks’ primary impact on me was indirect. He and Ray Stedman were at Dallas Seminary together and became lifelong friends, hammering out together theological issues and, particularly, philosophy of ministry issues. Ray was my pastor at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto at a particularly formative time, and one of the most influential pastors and preachers in my life. You can read about the relationship of Stedman and Hendricks at these links (first, second).

So please join me in thanking God:

Father God, thank You for the faithful ministry of Howard Hendricks. Thank You that You take ordinary men and use them to accomplish extraordinary tasks. May Your work through him continue to multiply to Your glory, in Charlotte and throughout the world.

Questions for Elders

February 1, 2013

(We will install Karl Dauber as an elder this Sunday, following the unanimous vote in his favor at our members meeting of  20 January. These are the questions we will ask him, and two questions we will ask the congregation. Over the years, we have edited and added to the questions used by our friends at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.)

Do you reaffirm that the God of the Bible is the one and only true God, eternally existent in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

(In a time of much doubt about the reality and character of God, we must stand firm on this most central point.)

Do you reaffirm your faith in Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, the Head of the Church as your Lord, Savior, and Treasure?

(That is: Do you believe in Jesus as your Master, who has a right to control your entire life? Do you believe in Him as your Savior, the only One who can pay the penalty for your sin and grant you entrance into God the Father’s presence? Do you see Jesus as your Treasure, worth more than all the world has to offer?)

Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, totally trustworthy, completely sufficient, fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, the supreme, final, and only infallible rule of faith and practice?

(We as elders acknowledge that we thus have no authority over what we as a church believe – faith – and what we as a church do – practice – except as we guide this congregation to follow God’s Word.)

Do you sincerely believe that the covenant and the Statements of Faith of this church contain the truth taught in the Holy Scriptures?

(Similarly, our covenant and Statements of Faith have derivative authority: we as elders affirm that we believe they are useful summaries of the truths of Scripture. But they have no authority apart from Scripture.)

Do you promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with anything in the Statements of Faith or covenant, you will on your own initiative make known to all the other elders the change which has taken place in your views since your assumption of this vow?

(Churches have frequently gone astray when following leaders who have gone astray. And many leaders have not been open concerning their doubts about the truths of Scripture. Elders here affirm that should their beliefs change, they will make that known – and therefore resign, unless the other elders and the church as a whole agree that the truths of Scripture are better stated in a different way.)

Do you promise to submit to your fellow elders in the Lord?

(Hebrews 13:17 holds for elders as well as for the rest of the congregation.)

Is it your desire, as far as you know your own heart, to serve in the office of elder from love of God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?

(That is, are you serving in this position for your own glory or for God’s glory?)

Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in promoting the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace of the Church, whatever persecution, criticisms, opposition or discouragement may arise?

(All elders will face opposition – sometimes from outside the church, sometimes from loved ones within the church. An elder must be aware of the certainty of future opposition, and he must be prepared to continue to serve faithfully despite opposition. Similarly, discouraging circumstances and events will happen to every elder, and he must be prepared to continue the labor despite the discouragement.)

Will you pursue and strive for unity of this church, committing yourself humbly to a ministry of biblical peacemaking and reconciliation?

(An elder must be humble, gentle, bold and resolute in pursuing confession and repentance in himself and the flock. Restoration and reconciliation of fellowship with God and fellow believers within the flock must be an essential priority.)

In dependence upon Jesus Christ’s redemptive work in your life and by the power of the Holy Spirit, will you strive to love your wife as Christ has loved you and gave Himself for you?

(Elders are to be examples in all aspects of their lives; marriage is the area Satan is most prone to attack, and where, conversely, God can be most glorified by our faithful example.)

Will you be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as elder, whether private or public, and will you endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, walking with exemplary piety before the congregation?

(That is: Are you going to walk the walk and not just talk the talk? “Piety” is not a word we use frequently these days; it refers to a godward orientation of one’s life, a respect for God that pervades all of one’s thoughts and actions. Who is equal to this? None of us, except by the grace of God.)

Are you now willing to take personal responsibility as an elder by God’s grace to oversee the ministry and resources of the church, and to devote yourself to prayer, the ministry of the Word, and the shepherding of God’s flock, in such a way that Desiring God Community Church and the entire Church of Jesus Christ will be blessed, built up, and protected against false teaching and division?

(Here we lay out the responsibilities of the elders: Prayer, the Word, and shepherding/pastoring the flock. As elders fulfill these three responsibilities, the entire Church is blessed.)

Questions to the Congregation:

Do you, the members of Desiring God Community Church, acknowledge and publicly receive this man as an elder – a gift of Christ to this church?

(Who is the Giver of this gift? God Himself! He is the One who raises up elders, not the existing elders and not the church. God equips men and raises them up to serve in this capacity. So praise God for your elders!)

Will you love him and pray for him in his ministry, and work together with him humbly and cheerfully, submitting to him and giving him all due honor and support in the leadership to which the Lord has called him, that by the grace of God you may accomplish the mission of the church, to the glory and honor of God?

(This is a wonderful summary of the responsibility of the congregation to the elders. How we need your prayers; how we covet your love. And note what happens when the congregation rightly loves, prays for, and submits to her elders: The church fulfills its purpose – glorifying God. May God be pleased to glorify Himself through this church as the elders and the congregation work together by His grace.)