Henry Blackaby, the Christian writer who impacted millions of lives through 'Experiencing God' Bible study, has died


NASHVILLE, Tenn.  —  Henry Blackaby, the Christian writer and pastor who impacted millions of lives through his best-selling Bible study Experiencing God, died Saturday. He was  88. 

Considered a spiritual statesman by many, the quiet pastor from Canada had a ministry that reached from pastors, missionaries and lay people, to CEOs, U.S. presidents and world leaders. 

Blackaby’s famous summary of how to know and do the will of God — “watch to see where God is working and join Him” — has guided numerous people, churches and ministries to join God’s work. Blackaby’s teaching and influence crossed denominational lines as well as cultural and geographic boundaries.  

“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of Henry Blackaby,” said Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell. “He was a great man of God and minister to the body of Christ, beginning with his time as a local church pastor and continuing through his ministry as an author and Bible teacher.   Millions of people around the globe have been impacted by his Bible study Experiencing God . He loved his Lord, his family and his local church. Lifeway sends the Blackaby family our sincere condolences as they remember the life and ministry of this godly man.” 

Blackaby served as founder and president emeritus of Blackaby Ministries International, an organization built to help people experience God. He coauthored the modern classic Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. His other acclaimed works include Spiritual LeadershipFresh Encounter, and A God Centered Church 

“Only eternity will reveal the extent of Henry’s impact on the church. I know of no published material that has impacted more churches in more ways than Experiencing God,” said Lifeway President Emeritus Jimmy Draper. “Though Henry wrote more materials after Experiencing God, that book became the foundation upon which his entire ministry was built. It was obviously the hand of God upon Henry and his message. He will be forever remembered for his passion for spiritual awakening and for the practical working of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives. The impact on the church will continue until the Lord returns!” 

Blackaby, a native Canadian, was pastoring a church in southern California when a Canadian pastor approached him and asked him to consider returning to Canada and becoming pastor of a small, dying church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 

Blackaby was struck when he said, “The only hope for Canada is if Canadian pastors come back home.” 

He and his wife, Marilynn, answered the call to serve Faith Baptist Church in Saskatoon. Over the next 12 years, the once-dying church grew from 10 members to a thriving congregation that launched 38 mission churches as well as the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and College.  

There, in those years of local church ministry, the principles of Experiencing God took shape into what would become the resource that has led to millions of changed lives. 

Experiencing God  is my life’s message,” the noted author often said. “It’s how I had always understood and walked with God. This is how I pastored and led God’s people.” 

Experiencing God  has touched and changed millions of lives and thousands of churches around the world. Since 1990, the study has sold more than 8 million copies in English and is available in more than 75 languages. The study, published by Lifeway and co-authored by Claude King, promotes a God-centered way of life that helps people know God intimately, recognize His voice and understand His will for their lives. 

“Our human tendency is to think and act from a human-centered perspective. We often make plans and ask God to bless them, but God is the One who has the plan,” said King. “Henry taught me to find where God is working and join Him. God has a plan, and He’s working in places we wouldn’t know. When we recognize where He’s working and join Him, He does amazing things.” 

Countless pastors, denominational and ministry leaders, church planters and missionaries identify Experiencing God as an influential tool God used in calling them to vocational ministry, according to King. “Only heaven would have an accounting,” King said. “There are thousands and thousands who have sensed God’s call to ministry because of Experiencing God. Through Henry, God has revealed what He can do through one ordinary man who is a humble servant and full of faith.” 

Blackaby’s son Richard now leads Blackaby Ministries International and writes and speaks on spiritual awakening, experiencing God and the Christian life. In 2022 Lifeway re-released the Bible study with new video content that includes Richard and Mike Blackaby, the son and grandson of Henry Blackaby. 

Reflecting on the legacy of his father’s work on the original Experiencing God study, Richard Blackaby said there was no way to know how dramatically the study’s message would be received or how it would spawn a multigenerational movement of people seeking to recognize God’s voice. “My dad always said there is a deep longing in people’s hearts to know and experience God,” he said. “Many people knew there had to be more to the Christian life than what they were experiencing.” 

Describing what it was like to grow up the son of Henry Blackaby and watching his parents, Richard Blackaby said: “I knew you didn’t have to be a superhero to be a man of God or a woman of God. You just had to be willing to follow wherever Jesus leads you.” 

After pastoring Faith Baptist Church, Henry Blackaby served as director of missions in Vancouver for two years before moving to the United States to become the director of prayer and spiritual awakening at the North American Mission Board. He later served as special assistant to the presidents of the Southern Baptist International and North American mission boards and Lifeway.  

Blackaby was born April 5, 1935 in British Columbia. He is preceded in death by his wife, Marilynn, and survived by their five children and 14 grandchildren.