Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Warren Smith “Appreciates” Pastor Larry

Warren Smith's tribute, telling of his personal friendship with Pastor Larry DeBruyn, delivered at Larry's Memorial Service on January 7th:

Larry DeBruyn 

It has been one of the great privileges of my life to have known, worked, laughed, and fellowshipped with Pastor Larry. Over the years we spoke continually on the phone, exhorting and encouraging one another as we each did our individual best to warn the church about many of the false teachings that were streaming into its midst.

Larry was not only a brilliant writer, he was a dynamic speaker who spoke powerfully and courageously for the Lord. His talks were always filled with Scripture and keen spiritual insight. And with so many persistent health challenges, it was always clear that Larry’s strength came not from himself but from the Lord whom he so faithfully served. Over the years and thanks to the Lord, we were able to speak together at conferences and gatherings in Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, California and Kentucky.

Larry and I had a running thing between us about the shallowness of so many of today’s contemporary praise songs. One song in particular repeated the phrase “I appreciate you Lord” over and over again with an over the top “touchy feely” emphasis on the word “appreciate.” We both felt the single word appreciate was so superficial and inadequate, and seemed to beg for something so much stronger in expressing one’s love for the Lord. Often in closing our conversation, I would say--- “I appreciate you Larry! He would laugh and fire back—“Appreciate you man!”

We were an odd couple. Me, the somewhat hang loose California social worker and ex-New Ager. Larry the more traditional Midwest pastor and Dallas Theological Seminary graduate. But it was abundantly clear that the Lord brought us together in His timing and I am so grateful that He did. It was a classic case of iron sharpening iron as we often complimented what the other was thinking and working on.

Our unique friendship in the Lord began after I wrote my book Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church. A year or so after my book came out, I received a letter from an Indianapolis pastor who thanked me for my book, and said that while I had done a good job showing the New Age influence of Robert Schuller on Rick Warren, I had overlooked the occult/New Age teachings that had influenced Norman Vincent Peale, and how Peale’s New Age influence had affected Schuller and, in turn, Schuller’s influence on Rick Warren. This Indianapolis pastor had enclosed an article from the Indianapolis Star that documented how Peale had plagiarized specific occult New Age writings and presented them as his own. The pastor’s letter and accompanying documentation was critical in adding to my understanding of the New Age influence that was showing up in Rick Warren’s ministry. I phoned the pastor and thanked him for his letter and documentation. I would later incorporate this information into my next book with a grateful acknowledgment to this pastor named Larry DeBruyn. Over the years when I came upon issues that required a more sophisticated theological approach, I would often hand the issue off to Larry. Before you knew there was a masterful article filled with his thorough research and theological insights.
Pastor Larry listens intently after mealtime 
during a Discernment Conference

My contact with Larry was almost non-stop after receiving his letter and making that first phone call. It wasn’t long until I was introducing Larry to many of my discernment friends and, in turn, Larry introduced me to his close friends—the Gifford and VanWingerden families and their respective churches. What Larry initiated in that first letter to me created a chain of events and friendships that truly defines what the church is all about. His legacy is not only his important writings but the relationships that God established through him and that continue on today.

This past summer Larry and I both had serious health problems as we simultaneously and independently worked on issues related to The Shack author Paul Young. We talked almost daily about what we were doing as we exhorted and encouraged each other in our writings. Somehow what we were doing transcended the serious health challenges we were both facing. My days were not complete without Larry reading his latest writings over the phone to me. I know he did the same with his lifelong friend Pastor Bob Gifford and with his discernment writing partner Sarah Leslie. One day last summer, I had what I thought was a great spiritual insight about The Shack only to find out that Larry had already written about it 10 years previous. In fact, it seemed like Larry often wrote whole articles while I was attempting to construct a single paragraph or two! His books and articles represent a monumental and prodigious output for the Lord and are still preserved today on his aptly named website—“Guarding His Flock.” 

One of the many things that was so helpful to me was Larry’s vast theological knowledge that included his studies in Greek and Hebrew. I would often ask him questions regarding things I was thinking about and writing. In fact, I ran something by him just three weeks ago concerning the booklet I was writing titled “Fearing God in a Fearless New Age.” As usual, his insight was practical, scriptural, and very helpful. The main point of my booklet was reminding the church of the importance of fearing God in a world that seems to have lost its fear of God. I worked on this booklet for almost 5 weeks and—as it turned out—I finished it just hours before Larry went to be with the Lord. I have dedicated this booklet to Larry—but not as some pleasant gesture to a dearly departed brother. Rather, I dedicate it to a man who represented in my mind everything that it means to fear and love and serve the Lord. In every sense of the word Pastor Larry DeBruyn was a God-fearing man.
Warren's booklet dedicated to Pastor Larry

Larry loved his wife and family. Loved his friends. Loved to watch a good basketball and football game. He knew how to laugh and he knew how to cry. He was an incredibly talented and unique individual—and at the same time so very human. Larry was always Larry. What you saw was what you got. He was definitely true blue. There was no pretense and no compromise. He was very matter of fact. He said it like it was, because God said that was the way it was.

Larry sometimes had a way of terminating a phone call that was so sudden and abrupt that he was gone and halfway into writing his next article before you realized he was no longer on the line. He kind of left us the same way—suddenly and abruptly with no real good-bye. But now instead of being off writing that next article he is off in the arms of the Lord—the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that he served so faithfully and so well. I am just so grateful to Larry for showing this ex-New Ager—and so many countless others—that there are still some God-fearing pastors left in this world who are willing to defend and contend for the faith! We thank God for sending us Larry at the perfect time. He is greatly missed already. I did have a chance to leave a voice message for Larry when he was no longer able to talk. After I finished and hung up the phone I realized there was something else I needed to say. I called back and said—“Larry–there is just one more thing I meant to tell you— “I appreciate you man! I always have and I always will.”