By Sheryl Lackey
Even at the age of seven, Bill Hendricks was a lot like his father, according to his sister, Bev. The children of the well-known “Prof” who served as chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys during the legendary Landry years and mentored big-name speakers such as Tony Evans, Chuck Swindoll, and David Jeremiah, had big shoes to fill. And Bev recalls that when she wanted carefree play, Bill announced, “I have to finish my work first.”
Bill’s relationship with his dad transferred traits from his childhood into manhood. Some he embraced, some he fought. Howard Hendricks’ celebrity status in many Christian circles caused Bill to live in his father’s shadow. His late dad never desired that status, but his gift to teach transformed thousands of student’s lives, inspired fellow faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary, and reached followers around the world through his books and radio program. How could Bill not want to follow that? And complicating the question were Bill’s interactions with his dad, filled less with inspiration than with tough love and frustrating lessons.
Jeanne says her son took after his father, who taught him to stand on his own two feet. “You don’t pamper little boys. You teach them to become men,” Jeanne says about her husband’s approach to fatherhood.
By seventh grade, teachers recognized Bill’s ease in directing words that engaged his peers, and these teachers recommended that he attend a top private school, Saint Mark’s of Texas. His dad made a minimum salary as a seminary professor. Add a family with four growing children, and a private school posed a financial hurdle. Jeanne says, “In a major move of God, Bill received a full scholarship.”
Though grateful for the opportunity, Bill struggled at Saint Mark’s. He recalls, “We lived next door to the salt of the earth. A guy who worked for the railroad. A carpenter. It intimidated me to sit next to the sons of movers and shakers of Dallas.” But Bill adjusted. From there he earned an undergraduate degree in English from Harvard, a master’s in communications from Boston University, and a master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.
Comprised by this string of degrees accompanied by fragmented experiences as a writer, videographer, and passion to tell stories, Bill’s life pattern emerged—one he failed to recognize until someone pointed it out to him. In an unscripted meeting, well-known author, Bob Buford, offered him a personal assessment tool, the core of which would originate from Bill’s life story. He already felt like a patient poked and prodded by all the personality profiles, psychological studies, and interest inventories he’d taken in his quest to find purpose. But Bill reluctantly accepted Bob’s offer.
That opportunity changed the course of his future. The process revealed Bill’s inborn strengths and natural patterns of motivation. It pinpointed what inspired him to do good works and personalized the satisfaction he experienced through storytelling. Unlike any other process tool, this one helped Bill’s strengths of focus and an analytic mind make sense in God’s bigger plan to redeem the world he created.
In his thirties, Bill could finally answer the question his wife Nancy asked: “I’m going to stay home and have babies, so how are you going to make money to support us?” Understanding his giftedness meant new direction. Instead of trying to become like his famous father, Bill saw that his life stories pointed to the unique way he functioned. “Next to my conversion to Christ at four and a half, nothing made as much of an impact as that process. It was almost like salvation.”
Bill knew his mandate. He wanted to help adults like him who doubted their ability to make a significant contribution understand the phenomenon of giftedness. Like his dad who worked through relationships to teach people to reflect Jesus Christ, Bill worked through relationships to hold a mirror for people to see God’s image through their giftedness. He could be his dad’s son while also no longer living in the shadow of his father’s accolades and accomplishments. Bill had stepped into his heavenly Father’s image of who he should become.
With his identity and tools secured, Bill and his family faced an unwelcomed guest. Cancer ravaged Nancy’s body. And relationships once again left a lasting impression as God’s love and grace wrapped its arms around the family through friends. Nancy battled cancer for seven years, and at forty-seven, Bill became a widower and single dad to three daughters. His mother, Jeanne, saw the wisdom in her husband’s instruction that Bill “become his own man.” Through tear-filled eyes she says, “God built strength into my son that couldn’t come forth except through facing the impossible.”
Looking back, Bill says his stiff-armed stance to growing up as Howard Hendricks’ son “May have been a result of dad’s approach to parenting, or maybe it was just him.” Whatever the reason, Bill saw that his dad’s platform could have served as a stepping stone on an established foundation instead of a walk in his dad’s footsteps.
Today Bill stands sure-footed. “I get a rush out of showing a person their giftedness. I watch them embrace it and see their whole life unfold with vibrant fruitfulness and think, ‘Wow, God gave me this privilege to unveil his glory.’” And his arena for doing so keeps expanding. Most recently, Bill shares his experience and twenty years of study on giftedness with readers in his new book, “The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter and What You Should Do With Your Life.”
The conversations with big sis, Bev, graduated from the kitchen table to the Giftedness Center in Dallas, where they both help people to discover how their own life stories reveal each person’s purpose. Bill summarizes, “I’m trying to change the way a culture thinks about individuals and themselves.” Jeanne adds, “It’s a comforting conclusion—that God brought this next generation along. As parents we can try to force it, but I see Bill producing much sweeter fruit now then he could have ever done without trials.”
Sheryl Lackey recently completed her second year at Dallas Theological Seminary in the Christian Education Masters program with an emphasis in women’s studies and writing. Before coming to DTS as a full time student she enjoyed a 17 year career in broadcast journalism. Sheryl continues to write and speak for various ministries and serves in a freelance capacity as a spokesperson, writer and producer. www.sheryllackey.com.