FRANKLIN — Longtime Tennessee Baptist Claude King will forever be intertwined with Henry Blackaby.
Though Blackaby perhaps is best known for Experiencing God, the original version was co-authored by King, then an employee of the Baptist Sunday School Board (now Lifeway Christian Resources).
King, now retired from Lifeway but still involved in discipleship and prayer ministry from his home in Murfreesboro, reflected on the life and ministry of Blackaby, who died Feb. 10 at the age of 88.
In a statement provided to the Baptist and Reflector, King observed that “those we recognize as heroes of the faith, were actually common and ordinary men and women who were chosen and used by God to accomplish His Kingdom purposes. Henry Blackaby was such a man,” affirmed King, a member of Belle Aire Baptist Church in Murfreesboro and an original member of the Acts 2:17 Initiative Vision Team for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. He stepped down after messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved vision and priority statements that will ultimately lead to every Tennessean hearing the gospel.
What made Henry Blackaby special was his walk with God, King observed. “Henry spent substantial time with God in His Word, in prayer and with other members of the body of Christ. God revealed truths from Scripture and used Henry to help people and churches apply those truths to daily living.”
King observed that Blackaby “essentially was a common ordinary man who surrendered his life to follow the Lord and to obey Him.
“God is able to use common ordinary people like that to do extraordinary things.”
King first met Blackaby in 1986 when he and Avery Willis of the BSSB talked with Blackaby about writing a Experiencing LIFE (Lay Institute for Equipping) course. They decided to move forward and Willis asked King to coauthor the book with Blackaby and write the learning activities and leaders guide, he said in an interview with the B&R.
Before joining the BSSB staff, King planned to be a bivocational church planter but the opportunity did not present itself.
“When I first met Henry, I was on the tail end of experiencing the failure of my plans to do something special for God. From John 5:17-21, Henry taught me about Jesus’ approach to knowing and doing the will of His Father. He summarized it this way: ‘Watch to see where God is working and join Him.’
“I realized God didn’t need my plans. He needed a moldable servant who was willing to submit and obey the Father’s will. That was a major new paradigm shift for me. My life and ministry have never been the same.”
Before Experiencing God was released in 1990, Blackaby had spent two years on staff with the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) and had been teaching the course all over the country,
King spent a lot of time with Blackaby during those two years. He described his friendship with Blackaby as a “warm relationship. We realized God was working through both of us to accomplish something that neither of us could do alone.”
When the book was released, King said he and Willis knew “God had entrusted Henry with a significant message for the body of Christ, but I don’t think any of us could have imagined the impact that message was going to have, not only on Southern Baptists, but nearly every denomination I can think of.”
According to Lifeway, the Experiencing God study has sold more than eight million copies in English and is available in more than 75 languages since 1990.
Another impact of Blackaby’s teaching “comes when people realize God is pursuing an intimate love relationship with them that is real and personal. When common ordinary people experience that kind of love relationship and join God in His work; they, too, experience the joy of being laborers together with God for His great purposes,” he said.
“When ordinary people then testify about their experience of God, the Holy Spirit can make that message go viral and use it to bring glory to God,” King continued.
“May the example of Henry Blackaby spur all of us on to experience God.” B&R