JONESBORO, Ga. (Christian Examiner) -- More than 700 people gathered at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia, April 17-18 for a celebration honoring the life, ministry and message of Henry Blackaby as he celebrated his 80th birthday.
Blackaby Ministries International, a nonprofit organization Blackaby founded more than a decade ago, sponsored the event.
"All of my life I have had people express how God used my father to transform their life," Richard Blackaby, Henry's oldest son and president of BMI, told Christian Examiner. "It was amazing to be gathered in an auditorium filled with such people this weekend! What a tribute to a life well lived."
Henry Blackaby has authored dozens of books and held various jobs within Christian ministry, but he is best known for the Bible study "Experiencing God," which he wrote in 1990. The study has since sold more than 7 million copies and been translated into 45 languages.
Blackaby also received widespread attention when he went missing for 29 hours in September 2013 after suffering a heart attack while driving.
Since that time Blackaby's frail health no longer allows him to travel and speak as frequently as before. Representatives from BMI said this event was a way for the organization and the Blackaby family to honor him for more than five decades of faithful ministry.
The auditorium rumbled Friday night as more than one hundred voices in FBCJ's choir performed Blackaby's favorite hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."
Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, was among the keynote speakers for the two-day event.
"In a nation filled with spiritual shrubs, God raised up a mighty sequoia," Catt said regarding the spiritual influence Blackaby has had in America.
Other speakers included Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia, and Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee in Nashville, Tennessee.
Burl Cain, warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana, shared how Blackaby's ministry influenced his life.
Cain said the facility was considered the most violent prison in America before he became warden in 1995. Since introducing "Experiencing God" to the inmates, murders and assaults have dropped by 73 percent, and Cain credits the inspirational study for the change.
"You will never know how many people are alive today because of "Experiencing God," Cain said.
Many others offered words of appreciation for Blackaby's Christian witness and Kingdom impact, including Rick Warren, Anne Graham Lotz and President George W. Bush, who sent birthday greetings.
Blackaby said he was humbled and honored by the event.
"One of the greatest rewards of my life has been the wonderful people I have met as I have served the Lord," Blackaby told Christian Examiner. "They have enriched my life enormously. What a thrill it was to have people travel from across the land to celebrate God's goodness with me. I'll never forget it."