Take Your Influence and Leadership Seriously

Maina Mwaura
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Every disciple needs three types of relationships in his life. He needs a “Paul” who can mentor him and challenge him. He needs a “Barnabas” who can come alongside and encourage him. And he needs a “Timothy,” someone he can pour his life into.
– Howard Hendricks

Being a disciple-maker was core to the identity and ministry of Howard Hendricks. He lived to make disciples even up to the end of his life. During his time at Dallas Theological Seminary, he routinely began the day discipling groups of students with Bible studies in the early morning. From the people he spent time with, to the organizations he helped start, discipleship was part of Howard’s DNA. Disciple-making became the filter that determined how he spent his time.

To the Point

The landscape of church life can become so cluttered with cares, traditions, and messages that sometimes we lose the simplicity of the gospel’s message; perhaps we are even keeping it out of reach for the person who’s searching.

Howard was good at emphasizing the simplicity of the message he wanted to express. Jeanne, his wife, relates that he said all he wanted to do was “teach the Bible to men who lacked understanding.” He didn’t have a laundry list of things that he wanted to teach his students. His approach was to the point.

Culture watchers have agreed that we in the West have been living in a post-Christian culture where the basics of the Christian faith no longer part of our collective understanding. For this reason, we have to keep our method of discipleship focused, expressing truth in a way that people can understand and decide on their own to follow rather than assuming that being part of a historically “Christian” nation makes one a Christian. Our job is to plant and water the seeds, being aware of the nature of the “soil.” Howard did exactly that, which is why students were attracted to him and the way he taught. It’s easy in church life to confuse busyness and “church business” with pursuing and being in love with Jesus.

Howard’s Approach

With such a large calling, Howard could not actively pursue discipling students individually in a school setting. He did, however, in addition to the small group Bible studies, make himself available to any who sought him. And seek him they did. One of those students, Phil Tuttle, looked back on his time with Howard, concluding that there wasn’t a single student Howard didn’t want to spend time with. Jeanne Hendricks explains why. “Howard saw each of his students as his sons and daughters.” The feeling was mutual, since many considered him a revered father figure.

For most leaders who have stayed the course without losing their platform, you will find a leader with a robust prayer life.

Howard loved Jesus and followed Him with everything that he had, believing that the pursuit of Christ is a necessary hallmark of a disciple of Christ. He not only taught that, but he also believed it and lived it. To pursue Jesus, one first must have a dedicated relationship with Him. A leader must question whether he or she is placing Christ front and center and making it clear to the people they lead that they should be pursuing Jesus above all else.

When Jesus began His three-year ministry, He chose twelve men as apostles to follow Him. I love the account about the call in John 1 of four of these disciples, because we learn how Jesus trained and inspired His disciples to lay aside everything and follow Him. Jesus didn’t have to entice anyone to follow Him; He was compelling, and His message was life-giving. Indeed, Peter once asked where else could they go to hear words of eternal life (see John 6:68).

In that first chapter of John, specifically verses 35–51, we have an intriguing scene of two disciples of John the Baptist turning their attention to Jesus. One of these was Andrew, who in turn found his brother Simon Peter. Clearly, Andrew was so intrigued that he shared the message with someone else. “We have found the Messiah!” he exulted (John 1:41). The next day Jesus called Philip. And Philip shared with his friend Nathanael.

These men made themselves available to take the message to others that the long-anticipated Messiah had now come.

So many DTS students have shared about the times when Howard made himself available, whether after his lectures or through open times he set aside to meet with them. Howard seemed to throw himself so fully into those moments of opportunity that when he was by himself, he felt depleted. I think it was because he understood the art of simply being present. One of the greatest assets that leaders can develop is the art of being present and available for the right moments. In a world where we have constant activity, in a culture of oversaturated social media, it can be hard to just be. When we’re present and available, we are allowing God to do the leading and attracting. We are called to make disciples for Him and not for ourselves. Howard understood that if he stayed available in the moment for students, they would be attracted to the God he served, rather than to his own personality.

When I met with Andy Stanley over Zoom to talk about Dr. Hendricks, I must admit that it was a full-circle moment for me, reminding me of sitting in the living room as a young middle schooler watching Charles Stanley, his father, on TV. What made this time even more special was having Jeanne Hendricks join me for the interview. In my twenty-plus years of ministry, it was a surreal moment I will never forget. In true Andy style, he came ready to not only present but also engage. As soon as he appeared, watching Jeanne’s face light up was worth the entire interview. Andy is one of the top communicators of our day, and his reach around the world is vast.

Andy’s story of coming to Dallas Theological Seminary may be a little different from that of others. “Dr. Hendricks and I met at seminary,” Andy began. “I heard of him through my mom, and she and her friend Virginia Chapman were so excited that I would be studying under Howard Hendricks. My understanding and approach to Scripture was never the same after taking his Bible Methods class. Everyone says that, but for me it is true,” he said. One of the things Andy had in common with others was the lasting legacy Howard Hendricks had on him, so much so that many students were reluctant to leave the lecture hall at the end of class. “The bell would ring and there were multiple mornings we would just sit there and ask ourselves, ‘What did we just experience?’”

Let’s again examine the calling of the disciples. These Jewish men knew that the Messiah would come someday, but it was the ministry of John the Baptist that prepared the way for Him. John the Baptist has no equal—Jesus said that Himself in Luke 7:28—yet Andy understands the parallel in Howard, who similarly relinquished his own prestige and instead used his ministry to impact leaders like him and others for Christ. “Howard gave up [his chance of] being a household name to be a professor to impact many,” Andy explains. Dr. Hendricks planted his roots and would have agreed with John’s assessment. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

The Necessity of Prayer

Howard valued prayer, which explains both his approach to discipleship and his ability to easily keep things simple, not drifting from his mission to influence and call people to follow Christ. While John 1 provides a detailed glimpse of how some of the disciples came to Jesus, it’s Luke 6 that explains the framework of how they were chosen. Jesus “went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (v. 12). The account underscores how without prayer we can do nothing. More importantly, there is no way to be a disciple without spending time with God in prayer.

Jesus prayed for the twelve men who would come alongside Him to change the world. He knew that the task before Him was both daunting and challenging. Amazingly, the One who knows all things felt the need to step away and pray through the night. He prayed not only out of necessity but also as a model for us to emulate. Jesus was getting ready to enter into His three-year voyage, and He was not about to enter into such a challenging stretch haphazardly. Jesus’ model of praying is essential for us today. Especially as we are living in interesting and chaotic and challenging days, our prayer lives should be stronger than ever.

Andy recalls, “Prof would say let the text speak, it’s the most important part of the story.” Whatever our role or calling, the text in Luke 6:12 is speaking to us today. If Jesus spent all night praying, shouldn’t we spend an extended amount of time praying for wisdom and direction to be salt and light in the world where we’ve been called to make a difference? More importantly, shouldn’t we also be spending time praying for the people that Jesus has called us to disciple and point to Him? Whether or not we have a ministry position or one of “leadership,” we are called to share the gospel and disciple others.

After Jesus’ night of prayer, Luke 6:13 opens with, “When morning came.” That’s a key indicator that we must act, and act confidently, following our time with Him. Howard was clearly a man of action, confidently stepping forward in what he believed God had called him to do and be.

Howard’s uncanny ability to pour himself into specific leaders came primarily from his times of prayer, asking God to move in his life. When I asked her about Howard’s prayer life, Jeanne didn’t skip a beat, saying, “He spent most of his time alone in prayer, whether it be in his office at school or the small office here at the house.”

For most leaders who have stayed the course without losing their platform, you will find a leader with a robust prayer life. In an oversaturated culture of ego and yearning to be well known, Howard wanted to avoid that trap. “Howard was scared to death of being known,” shares Jeanne. “He didn’t even want to go on the radio.” This eschewing of the spotlight, Jeanne believes, was a direct result of the humility he found through his prayer life.

Preparing the Way

As we know, before Jesus began His three-year public ministry, John the Baptist came on the scene to prepare the way for Him. In a similar sense, Howard was called to prepare the way. Especially through his teaching career, he prepared the way for countless men and women to teach and preach, to spread the gospel and disciple others.

During the split-screen Zoom call shared with both Jeanne Hendricks and Andy Stanley, Andy walked us down memory lane of what it was like to sit under the teaching of a man whose selflessness allowed him to completely focus on the spiritual and ministry potential of his students.

Andy recalled a time when he once approached Howard after class and asked him why he wouldn’t start a church in the Dallas area, explaining his certainty that a church under Howard’s leadership would grow into a large church. Howard quashed the idea, replying, “I could do more in the lives of men like you here in the classroom than start my own church.” Influencing young pastors and leaders, he understood, was to have a hand in numerous churches and ministries. Andy correctly declared that Howard could have gone somewhere else and pastored, but he knew the mission and calling that God placed on his life was too great to go and do something else.

It wasn’t that he didn’t occasionally want to do something else, either. According to Jeanne, sometimes Howard would get restless and want to pursue other things. Perhaps restlessness is common for almost all of us. Despite such bouts of fleeting emotions about other career options, Howard stayed the course, remaining faithful to Jesus and the calling he understood God had given him, which included preparing others.

Multiplication, Not Addition

A multiplication mindset is one of the main ingredients of discipleship. Without it, the ultimate outcome is stunted. When the word “disciple” is found in Scripture, it implies not only following Christ oneself, but going and finding others to be His followers also. That call explains why over the past two thousand-plus years, Christians continue today in carrying out the calling and mission of Jesus He commissioned in Matthew 28:19–20. Howard believed that one of the ways to multiply was to mentor others.

Howard and his son William wrote a classic book on mentoring, As Iron Sharpens Iron, which has been revised and updated, now titled Men of Influence.  In their superb treatment of this evergreen topic, Howard and William lay out models of mentoring from Scripture that in some cases led to multiplication. The examples below include some of the types of mentoring relationships they explain.

  • Jethro and Moses: Exodus 18
  • Moses and Joshua: Deuteronomy 31:1–8; 34:9
  • Moses and Caleb: Numbers 13; 14:6–9; 34:16–19; Joshua 14:6–15
  • Samuel and David: 1 Samuel 16; 19:18–24
  • Jonathan and David: 1 Samuel 18:1–4; 19:1–7; 20:1–42
  • Barnabas and Saul: Acts 9:26–30; 11:22–30
  • Barnabas and John Mark: Acts 15:36–39
  • Priscilla and Aquilla, mentoring Apollos: Acts 18:1–3, 24–28
  • Paul and Timothy: Acts 16:1–3; 1 and 2 Timothy

Ten years ago, I got off the Roswell exit here in the Atlanta area and visited a North Point Community Church satellite campus. During my seminary years I had heard of churches starting other campuses, what we now refer to as multisite, but what I noticed in the gathering room at North Point was intriguing. This congregation was clearly on the cutting edge of church life, and it would only be a matter of time before this multisite model would be replicated around the country. It wasn’t until recently, during my time with Andy, however, that I would learn the backstory. This “new” idea had some history to it, and Howard Hendricks had a significant connection to it all.

Leaders must embrace multiplication to make disciples according to God’s design.

Andy explains his watershed moment that forever cured him from satisfaction with mere addition in discipleship. “I determined whatever I did, there was going to be a multiplication component to it, or I wasn’t going to do it. Fast forward a bunch of years later . . . I never wanted to be a church planter; I just thought that I didn’t understand it. North Point was growing, and I knew that we needed to do something to multiply our efforts. So I’m talking to [leadership expert] John Maxwell, and I wasn’t frustrated, but I could just hear Prof’s voice in my head about multiplication. So we’d multiplied groups well at North Point. We even grew a big church, but I felt like planting other churches would have felt like addition and not multiplication.”

As Andy was speaking, it was so clear to me how much Howard influenced Andy. North Point had been called to multiply, not add. Multiple examples show that Howard thrived in knowing that his students understood their call to multiply and not merely add. Andy continued. “The opportunity came along to multiply through multisite. I know that’s such a big deal and everybody’s doing it now . . . but we were way early, and I’m telling you, it was that seed that Prof planted in my head that if there’s not a multiplication component, you’re probably not doing it right.”

Multiplication is also meant to be a self-sustaining movement. Andy explained this potential hurdle. “People had tried lots of different kinds of multiplication things, and they always petered out at the second generation, you know. . . . I think my energy and my courage and these huge financial investments we made in multisite way early on, I’m telling you, for me, it was the overflow of that seed that was planted all those years ago that you can’t just add, you have to multiply.” The North Point multiplication model overcame that second-generation hurdle, it seems, partly because Andy could still hear Howard’s voice emphasizing an ongoing multiplication strategy.

Leaders must embrace multiplication to make disciples according to God’s design. So, what are you doing to multiply? Howard’s method came every semester with a new crop of eager students. In his case, he relinquished a pulpit ministry to train those who would multiply their own ministries. Andy is right; Howard relinquished the opportunity of being a household name in order to multiply.

Although Andy is thankful for his seminary training, it’s clear in Andy’s voice that by sitting under Howard, his life changed for the better, and his understanding of discipleship and multiplication methods were magnified.

“You see someone who embraced humility and embraced the smaller place for the sake of the bigger impact. When you see that you can’t unsee it, and when you experience it, you can’t unexperience it,” Andy declared.

For Further Reading:

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