A Poor Man's Lyle Schaller
|Celebration of Life Service Set for Larry Sherman|
That's how I often referred to Larry Sherman, Associate Superintendent for the Great Lakes Conference -- as "a poor man's Lyle Schaller".
Everybody in ministry, particularly those over 45, knows who Lyle Schaller is. He's written books and articles, spoken at ministry conferences, and is a genius on all things related to church life, growth and health. His ministry has been a gift to the church for decades. He's an expert with national name recognition.
Larry Sherman did not have Schaller's name recognition. I don't know if he was published at all. But the genius the Lyle Schaller gave to the church over the past decades, Larry Sherman had been doing with equal effectiveness
Larry knew it all. Every time I started to see a new fad in the church, something I never heard about before: I would call Larry. Sure enough, he knew all about it. He knew about missional church stuff before it was cool to be missional. He knew about planting church campuses before there was anything published about it. He knew about the emergent church -- strengths and weaknesses -- before anyone else I knew did. Absolutely any topic related to church planting, church cultural trends, church growth patterns, leadership, governance, finances, health and dysfunction in congregational life -- Larry was an expert and had a bibliography of what I needed to read to learn more. His insights were invaluable to me.
He wasn't just a smart guy. He was a holy, godly man. There was no deceit or false pretense about Larry. I've seen him have very frank conversations with church leadership about difficult subjects, but never did he do so maliciously, vindictively or with even the least amount of smugness. Never heard him talk inappropriately. And as anyone who knew him knows, he truly loved his family, the Lord and the people he was called to serve. Even in difficult circumstances he was positive, hopeful, direct, honest and caring.
I have so many good memories of Larry. We served together on the Prayer and Evangelism team in the Covenant. We did evangelism seminars together at GLC churches. He always made time for coffee or a meal with me when he came to town. He answered literally dozens of questions about stuff I wanted to know about or would help me think through whatever whacky idea I had in mind.
What I will always remember Larry for is his compassion for me. During a time of underemployment in 2002, he would call to check on me and was an advocate for me with churches who might be looking for a pastor. He always asked about my wife and kids.
My last memory of him was of just a couple weeks ago at the GLC Ministerium Annual Meeting where he playful greeted me as, "The Right Rev. Father Evans!" and congratulated me on my ordination to the priesthood. That day at our meeting he gave another of his brilliant presentations about his ministry and church planting and growth in the GLC.
Larry's death seems untimely at 60 years of age in the throes of a vibrant ministry. Certainly it was unexpected. But Larry's ministry will not end. He raised up leaders in so many places and no doubt one of his protege will take his leadership mantle. Though no one will take his place in our hearts. Further, because of his leadership literally thousands of people will have come to know Christ as Savior. Some of them also will carry on his legacy.
I was unable to attend his funeral in Detroit which is distressing me greatly. When his funeral was happening today I was keeping pitch count at Little League. I know he would have been pleased. Many people plant trees in memory of a loved one. We should all plant churches in memory of Larry.
Thank you Lord for the gift of Larry Lee Sherman. That was one of the better ones you have ever given me.