Tuesday I received one of those phone calls you’re never prepared for. It was a call to alert me of the passing of a dear friend and mentor. Dr. Larry Sherman was the Assistant Superintendent and Director of Church Planting for the Great Lakes region of The Evangelical Convenant Church (the denomination in which our church is a part). As a young and eager leader I have always had a desire to be mentored and “accepted” by someone with more knowledge and experience than I, not just in ministry but in life. About two years ago a friend suggested that I reach out to this guy, telling me that it would one of the best phone calls I would make. Little did I know he was absolutely correct. About a month after I made the call this guy who didn’t know me from Adam drove down from Detroit to Louisville and spent the day listening to what God was speaking to me, the vision He had given me for our community and inserting Godly wisdom into me in a matter of 6 or so hours. I was happy about the fact that he shared nuggets of spiritual discernment regarding my ministry but what really blew my mind was that he was actually interested in me and God’s calling in my life. For the most part, at that time I didn’t really feel like many people even cared.
Fast forward almost 2 years ater many conversations, a few trainings and a grueling assessment process and I was affirmed as a church planter for the Evangelical Convenant Church, our ministry had began to really experience momentum and movement, I was growing tremendously as a leader and I was even more confident of this call to reach a dying generation. Much of this I give credit to God through the work, tutelage, wisdom and compassion of Dr. Larry Sherman.
As I reflected on our time together I was reminded of a few simple but great lessons I learned from Larry and I’d to share those with you.
1. Sometimes God must first break you before He can build you.
From our first meeting and almost every time I spoke to Larry he would ask, “So tell me how God has broken you lately?” I have to admit it was awkward and at first it took me a moment to comprehend. After expressing a few of my many failures over a couple of years as a lead planter Larry gracefully said to me, “I have learned in my many years of church planting that often in order for God to pull out of us what He needs to advance His work, He must first break the leader to bring Him to a place of submission.” Like so many others, I thought that my brokenness was a result of God’s anger towards me or that I wasn’t good enough or gifted enough to succeed as a church planter. Larry helped me to ingest one of the simplest truths…usually what God allows to happen to us has more to do with plan FOR us not a plot against us.
2. Don’t Take Credit for the Failures because You’ll Then Take Credit for the Successes
No matter how hard I was on myself for the mistakes I made, Larry made sure that I learned from them, but what seemed more important was that I never fully absorbed them. Meaning, that regardless of how great the mistake may have been I shouldn’t let it get the best of me because the immediate result wasn’t necessarily the final conclusion. If we fully embrace the Romans 8:28 principle we should not fully embrace the instant byproduct of our blunders.
That was only half of that lesson. Larry made it clear that I understood that there was more than we see to every situation and often times God is working behind the scenes. We cannot take full credi for the mistakes because when those situations come full circle we will be tempted to take credit for what God was working out the entire time.
3. Be Consumed by Worship not Work
As Christians and church leaders often times our work and daily todo lists consume our lives. The unfortunate part of that is way too many times that work takes the place of the relationship between the worker and God. I can’t count the number of times I heard Larry say to me, “Don’t get so caught up in working your way from one assignment to the next that you neglect the most important part of your job. Your job as a leader is to lay the issues of your people and yourself before the feet of God. When you’re not doing that, then you are failing as a leader.” That’s a lesson I try to adhere to daily.
For all of the encouragement, for all of your hard work, for considering me, thank you and you will be greatly missed.