My father, Henry Blackaby, had the deepest and most profound influence on my life of anyone I have ever known (rivaled only by my mother). He modeled for me what it means to be a man of God. He demonstrated what loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength looks like. There are few areas of my life that he did not dramatically impact.

Dad died on February 10, 2024. He was 88. My mom died two years earlier at age 83. I’m fortunate to have had my parents available to me for much of my life. As I grapple with the reality that I no longer have living parents, I have done much reflecting, or as my dad liked to say, “processing.”

Subsequent to my father’s death, our family was inundated with comments from people around the world expressing condolences. What struck me was how many people had a story about my dad they wished to tell. Encountering my father invariably led to a memorable story. As my parents’ oldest child and someone who spoke and wrote with my father the most, I’d like to share a few thoughts on my father’s extraordinary, ordinary life.

Dad always knew how ordinary he was. Dad never let fame go to his head. He spent 55 years serving as a minister in ordinary places before his groundbreaking book Experiencing God was published. Then, for fifteen or so years, he was propelled into the limelight. Later, as he battled various health issues related to aging, Dad quietly left the stage and receded back into ordinariness. He always knew he was a servant of God. His goal in life was to do his Master’s bidding faithfully.

At one point during the height of Dad’s ministry, he was preparing to speak at a large gathering. The man tasked with introducing him was deeply concerned about properly presenting the keynote speaker. He had acquired a two-page printout of Dad’s bio that highlighted his degrees, books, and accomplishments. He asked my dad if there was anything else he wanted to have included in his introduction. Dad smiled and said, “This is what I want you to say: ‘Here is Henry Blackaby, a servant of God.’”

The man was surprised and asked what else he should say. Dad replied, “After calling me a servant of God, what else could you add?”

Dad loved people. He was a true-blue introvert. He loved the early morning hours when he could be alone with his Lord. But he genuinely enjoyed people. He loved hearing from “ordinary” people whose lives had been impacted by his writing and speaking. I recall numerous times when Dad would excitedly introduce me to his friends. They might be missionaries in Africa, prayer warriors in Arizona, or faithful ministers in upstate New York. He acted as though it was his highest privilege to call them his friend. I sense people could tell that Dad truly cared about them.

One thing I learned from Dad was to look people straight in the eyes when I talk with them. There could be 20,000 people at a convention meeting, but when you talked with Dad, you felt like you were the only person in the room. He focused on people in a way that made them feel heard. I recall attending a large convention together in Orlando. We were making our way through the exhibit hall to return to our hotel to eat lunch with our family. Two women approached Dad, each carrying a copy of Experiencing God. They eagerly asked if he would sign their books. Dad found a garbage can and used it as a makeshift book-signing table. While he signed, the ladies excitedly told him how his study had changed their lives and their church. While he patiently listened to their story, others began lining up for their turn to speak with Dad.

My wife was back at the hotel with our three young children waiting for me to take them to lunch. I told Dad I needed to leave. He said he’d take a shuttle back to the hotel as soon as he could. More than four hours later, I had enjoyed lunch and gone for a swim in the pool with my kids. It was time to return to the convention center for the evening session. Dad had never made it back to the hotel. I asked my mother how I would ever find Dad amid 20,000 people. She replied, “Oh, that’s easy! Just go to the last place you saw him.” Sure enough, standing at that same garbage can, Dad was still speaking with people. That was Dad.

Dad truly loved God. Dad didn’t just love God when he was preaching on stage or writing a book. His life was driven by his intense devotion to God. He regularly arose at 4:00 a.m. to spend hours with God. No matter how early I got up, I knew I’d find Dad with his Bible in one hand and his spiritual journal in the other. I have reams of his journals today. They are filled with his thoughts and prayers as he spent time with his Lord.

Dad wasn’t perfect. While I mean no disrespect toward my father after his recent passing, the truth is that he was a frail creature of clay with plenty of shortcomings. For me, these faults make his life and legacy all the more remarkable. He was not a perfect father. His ministry took him away often. He was an eternal optimist, which meant he did not always see or address problems as quickly as he should have. He certainly was not conversant in the latest, or even the oldest, technology! His administration was extremely hands off, especially in his later years when he could not be bothered with the mundane details of how his organization functioned. In his final years, he suffered from the onset of dementia, which affected his speaking and behavior.

My father was not exempt from frailty and imperfection. He, too, had feet of clay. But his human weakness is what makes the mighty ways God used him all the more remarkable. He was not a good marketer, yet his books sold millions of copies. He never used social media, but his writing impacted people around the world. He never led a large church or organization. Nonetheless, his influence is felt everywhere. He was not granted immunity from health issues, yet he used the years he had to glorify God.

Dad had an eye on legacy. I don’t mean he sought fame or recognition. Dad wanted to leave a legacy of children and grandchildren who loved and served his God as fervently as he had. My parents had five children. Dad used to say that his prayer was that when his children watched his life, they would be so impressed by the joy, power, and victory they witnessed that they would earnestly want to follow and serve his God the way he did. All five of his children entered full-time Christian ministry (and never left). Many of his fourteen grandchildren currently serve God, and several are now pastors or church planters.

Dad believed in the next generation. While pastoring a church in Saskatoon that never had more than 250 in attendance, he saw 150 college students feel called into

ministry. One of the most striking features of his book Experiencing God is how many people felt called into ministry after reading it. Today, there is a great host of people who are serving the Lord due to my father’s influence. When it was time for Dad to meet his Lord face to face, he knew there were scores of people continuing to serve his Lord as a result of his ministry.

Dad was faithful. Dad didn’t write a book or become famous until he was 55 years old. For most of his life, he served faithfully in relative anonymity. One time I was speaking at a conference with my father at a large Christian university. During a Q and A, a young church planter challenged my dad. He argued that it was easy for him to pastor and plant churches. After all, he was a Christian celebrity and could live off his book royalties. Dad sat quietly. I stepped in and asked the man how old he was. He was 23. I told him, before the entire audience, that my dad didn’t write his first book until he was 55. So, if he wanted to enjoy the success my father had, he could continue to serve God faithfully (as my father had) for 22 more years and then, if God chose, he might have him write a book too!

Dad never had a hint of scandal upon his life or ministry after eight decades of Christian service. He enjoyed 62 years of marriage. His ministry has, to this day, a reputation of integrity in its conduct. As Dad grew old and frail, he could not preach or teach like before. Nevertheless, he found humble, simple ways to serve his Lord. One of the nurses assigned to care for him gave her life to Christ as a result of witnessing my father’s life. The last Sunday of Dad’s life, he was unable to go to his church, so he attended the worship service at his retirement home. The activities director found a YouTube video of one of his sermons and showed it to his fellow residents. The last sermon Dad ever heard was one of his own as he preached, via video, to his neighbors one last time.

There is nothing particularly miraculous or spectacular about my father, and that is what makes his story so special. An outspoken pastor once approached me and said, “I could have written Experiencing God!” He told me that he had been teaching the same principles for years. I simply asked, “Then why didn’t you?” When he didn’t respond, I continued, “I believe God had a very special message that he knew would bless the church and many people. So God looked high and low to find a messenger who was so ordinary and humble that no one would ever think he was the author of that profound message. He found my dad.

D.L. Moody was once challenged by the statement that “The world has yet to see what God could do through one man wholly yielded to him.” My dad didn’t do this perfectly, but he came a lot closer than most.

-Dr. Richard Blackaby, BMI President

  1. March 11

    I met Henry Blackaby in the early 80’s in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, shortly after my wife and I came to faith in Jesus Christ. Not long after, I served with him on a committee of the Saskatoon Public School Board and witnessed first hand the impact this genuinely humble servant of God had on the other members of the committee and the School Board , and the schools these committee members led as school principals. It was a privilege for my wife, Carol, and I to know Henry and Marilyn and to be impacted by their faithful witness. Following retirement, we entered the ministry in 2000 as a direct result of their positive impact on our lives.

  2. March 30

    Good read!

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