October 31, 2019

Dismissing Boredom From Chapel

“It’s a sin to bore people with the Bible.” - Dr. Howard G. Hendricks

In my first semester at Dallas Theological Seminary in the fall of 2002, I was blessed to study under the late Dr. Howard Hendricks, better known to students simply as “Prof”. He was my teacher for Bible Study Methods, a required first-semester class he taught for over 40 years. I learned an incredible amount about teaching and learning that fall, and had no idea at the time it would be his final semester teaching that course.

Despite being an elderly gentleman and having taught Bible Study Methods hundreds of times to thousands of students over his tenure, Prof Hendricks was always enthusiastic about his students and his classes. He was well prepared, allowing him margin to spend time with people, and the expertise and agility to fluidly change directions with students in a class discussion.

One of our tasks in his class was to walk through an inductive study of the book of Habakkuk. For homework, he asked us to write our observations of the book. “At least 100, but you can easily get 200 or more!” we were told, which sounded like an awful lot to me at the time. I vividly remember the day Habakkuk observations were due! Dr. Hendricks led an enthusiastic class discussion of our observations, getting visibly excited as young seminarians proclaimed gleanings from the text – all of which could have been extremely mundane and boring if not for the infectious excitement of our instructor. I recall generating almost 300 observations. Why? Because Prof Hendricks was excited about this assignment and believed in me. To this day, I think fondly of Habakkuk because of him.

At the end of the course, Dr. Hendricks presented an amazingly creative production involving puppets to cap our semester with him. I remember him saying, “There is no excuse to be boring – the Bible is the most incredible, life-changing book ever written – only poor teaching could make it boring. Work hard to know the Lord, be prepared and be creative.” Prof Hendricks didn’t simply teach us inductive Bible study methods – he showed us how to be great teachers.

My memories of Prof Hendricks re-emerged this semester as I’ve enjoyed Lower School chapel. I observed our K-5th grade students becoming enthralled by weekly skits produced by (and starring) Mr. Bland and Mrs. Tracy. Mr. Bland plays “Paul”, a soft-hearted but simple character who tends to run off the rails because he doesn’t know God’s Word. Paul is routinely helped by his friends, usually led by a character played by Mrs. Tracy, sometimes along with other students and faculty.

I’ve watched our students articulate biblical stewardship once they saw Paul, a farmer, fail to produce crops because of his poor stewardship. They understood relationships more clearly when Paul, a basketball player, caused his team to lose a game because he was a ball hog and shot all the time. The students considered and discussed pride (and its many manifestations) after watching Paul, a patient, confess his shortcomings to his doctor.

Kudos to Mrs. Tracy and Mr. Bland for the creativity and effort they put into Lower School chapel. The impact is eternal, and I think Prof Hendricks would approve!

In Christ,
Dr. Jeff Marx