Most ordinary people never achieve an extraordinary life because they are too fearful to take that leap of faith and simply take God at His word.
Elijah was an ordinary man, “subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17). One translation says, “He was a mortal man just like we are.” Yet he became an extraordinary man who could pray and shut up the heavens so that it did not rain and he could also pray so that the heavens were opened up and rain came in abundance. In fact, on Mount Carmel he outdueled the prophets of Baal when he successfully prayed down fire from heaven.
Extraordinary men are in scarce supply today, but Henry Blackaby is an ordinary man who has become a mighty instrument in the hands of God.
Blackaby was born in British Columbia. He studied English and History at the University of British Columbia as an undergraduate and earned his bachelor of divinity and master of theology from Golden Gate Seminary. He also holds five honorary doctorate degrees. Henry and Marilynn Blackaby served in churches in California before serving 18 years in Canada, where they saw many new churches begun. They raised their five children in Canada.
It was also at that time that God taught the Blackabys the truths concerning walking with God that would eventually become the basis for the best-selling book Experiencing God.
Raised in that environment, all five children sensed a unique call of God into ministry. Their oldest son, Richard, currently serves as president of Blackaby Ministries International and resides in Atlanta. Thomas is the former senior pastor of North Sea Baptist Church in Stavanger, Norway and now is the international director of Blackaby Ministries International. He and his family reside in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Mel is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, south of Atlanta. Norman Blackaby is a professor at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas. Carrie Blackaby-Webb is a career missionary serving in Germany.
The Blackabys have 14 grandchildren; and the three older ones are currently enrolled in seminary and several others have sensed a call into some form of ministry. “I prayed that I would live out my life with God in such a way,” Blackaby said, “that my children and grandchildren would choose to be involved in ministry.”
In 1970 Blackaby began serving a small church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. During those days he began to mentor some of the students at the University of Saskatchewan. Among the many students that he encouraged and discipled was one French-Catholic by the name of Gerry Taillon. Taillon was saved and called to serve an Indian church ninety miles from Saskatoon. He presently serves as the National Ministry Leader for the Canadian National Baptist Convention.
Blackaby Ministries International photo
Henry Blackaby, seen here receiving an honorary doctorate from North Greenville University in 2012, will be celebrating his 80th birthday this year.
Taillon recently commented, “Henry Blackaby is the most theocentric person I know. He is always more concerned about God’s perspective than the human one. He influenced me more than words can tell.
“Henry was my first pastor and my mentor. His life has formed the greater part of my theological outlook and forms the core of my confidence in God and His mission in our world. Henry is a dear friend and a wonderful example of a man who walks with God. I am forever grateful for his influence in my life.”
In addition to impacting the lives of many university students Blackaby has also mentored numerous CEOs of large corporations. Mac McQuiston, director of Institutional Development for Focus on the Family, had his life amazingly transformed by reading Experiencing God and began to relate the principles of the book to CEOs around the country.
One day McQuiston called Blackaby and asked, “Henry, would you help me disciple these CEOs? They are asking for some spiritual counsel, for someone who can guide them through the scripture and then through the scripture to the relationship.”
A greater meaning
McQuiston added, “Many of the CEOs were connected to President Bush and all the cabinet – you name it – but they were asking, ‘How can we use our lives?’ Forty-seven of those CEOs met and agreed to make decisions regarding television sponsorship that would insure that prime time television would be more family friendly. A lot of that came out of their studying Experiencing God.” There are now more than 200 CEOs being mentored by Blackaby.
Blackaby’s ministry to missionaries has also been a vital part of his ministry. When Jerry Rankin was president of the International Mission Board, he called Blackaby one day and said, “I would like for you to go around the world and encourage our missionaries.”
In a recent interview with Richard he indicated that he was speaking at a missions conference in Florida when three missionaries shared with him how much his dad had blessed and encouraged them in his visit to their missionary outposts.
Richard explained, “One missionary in Central America was so discouraged that he was ready to quit, but when Dad came to see him on the mission field things changed. One day they got in a boat to travel to some destination and while they skimmed across the water they talked. By the time they docked the boat the missionary had decided to stay at his post of duty.”
While visiting in Russia, Henry encountered a forlorn missionary who complained, “The people here are unreceptive. They won’t even talk to us. It is unfair for us to spend our time in a place where the people are so cold and sometimes even hostile.”
Henry replied, “Well, you are getting to experience in a small way what Christ experienced when he left heaven to come into this world.” The missionary decided to renew his commitment to serve where God had placed him.
Given a platform
It is obvious that the publication of Experiencing God opened innumerable doors of opportunity for this gentle, yet powerful man of God, now approaching his 80th birthday. In July of 1990 and prior to the publishing of Experiencing God Richard was speaking at a missions conference at Ridgecrest to preview the new workbook that was to come out in November.
He had been assigned a room that was arranged to accommodate eight people. When more than 200 showed up his conference was relocated to the spacious Spilman Auditorium. It was obvious that God was up to something with Henry’s book.
Since that time Blackaby has spoken in the East Room of the White House for the National Day of Prayer, the Pentagon, the United Nations, and in churches and conferences all over the world. He has also addressed people in churches of many denominations including Lutherans, Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, Mennonites, Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists.
He explained, “If they are inviting me to preach the message God has given me and placing no restrictions on what I have to say, why not?
“When Bob Russell was pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., he bought thousands of the Experiencing God books. When Governor Mike Huckabee was a pastor in Arkansas he was greatly influenced by my book.
“But,” Henry added, “my ministry would not be possible without Marilynn. Words fail me to describe how instrumental she has been in my life and ministry. She is the major force in my life apart from God.”
Although Blackaby has officially retired, he knows that God still has a work for him to do. He explained, “My future is open-ended with my service to CEOs, pastors, and political leaders. There is no limit to what the future holds for me. “My philosophy is if you save your life you will lose it, but if you give it away you will save it. Jesus’ plan for the ages was and is the local church. He loved it and gave Himself for it; and I believe any church wholly given to God has unlimited potential. Those first century disciples turned the world upside down and it can happen again. We want to believe that all our churches and denominational agencies have their ministries bathed in prayer, but it is foolhardy to assume that people are praying fervently and frequently. We must make prayer a priority!”
Celebration in worship
On April 17-18 the public is invited to join Blackaby for his 80th birthday/retirement celebration at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga. It will be a time of worship and fellowship. Special guests will include Frank Page, Johnny Hunt, and Michael Catt. The worship service on Friday evening begins at 7 p.m. To get details about this special event or indicate you are attending, go to blackaby.net. Henry Blackaby’s only explanation for the anticipated celebration may be found in Zechariah 4:10 where God says, “For who hath despised the day of small things.” Ralph Waldo Emerson might well have had Henry Blackaby in mind when he said, “A great man is willing to be little.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. Gerald Harris is the editor of The Christian Index, news journal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. This story first appeared in the Index and is used by permission.)