October 20, 2000
Mary Ann Nguyen
Larry E. Bauer, a white-haired missionary amongst a sea of college students, is the head staff rep for the Navigators at UCSD. He is the first and only real spiritual dad I’ve ever had, and the only person I can call “Dad” (aside from my own real father and God the Father) and find it appropriate because of the wonderful relationship implied behind the name. With Larry, the question isn’t, “What have I learned from him?” The question is more clearly, “What have I not learned from him?”
I became a part of the UCSD Navigators Christian fellowship the fall of 1997 – that was my freshman year in college! Larry had just moved from his ministry with the Navigators at Rutgers University in New Jersey. I remember him testifying about how God had miraculously guided and provided them on their move across the country. They (Larry and his wife Brenda) were forging new ground on the West coast.
In one of the first messages that Larry gave, he posed this question – “In fifty years, are you going to be walking with Jesus?” The choices we make today will lead us there. It will define our concept of God and our intimacy with God. This was a question and an idea that struck me then and continues to strike me today – even as I hear it again when Larry asks first-time hearers the same question.
In that first message, Larry also said, “Every morning, lean your elbows on the windowsill of Heaven.” He encouraged us to ask God these two questions every day for the next week: “Who are You, Lord?” and “What do you want me to do (today), Lord?”
So each day following that message for that entire week, I asked the Lord those questions. I got back simple answers for who He was - answers like “your Best Friend” and “your Everything.” I got unexpected ones for what I should do - like “just listen” and “be still.” Wonderfully enough, I think that was Larry’s whole point. His message had been about Mary and Martha in Luke 10 - that the one thing needed is to be still before the Lord. Too often, I want to make everything more complicated than it should be – even my relationship with God, and Larry’s exhortation to ask the Lord two simple questions brought me to a point of focus and simplicity.
It was a revelatory lesson. (Revelatory lessons are usually the simplest concepts finally said in the right way that strikes a cord in your heart and causes thought-flow and heart changes.) It was a revelatory lesson that “today” I could ask for God’s guidance just for today and not have to take on the entire mission of my life like I always distressedly imagined I had to do. And I was actually allowed to focus on one attribute of God, one character, and not have to juggle the whole breadth and depth of who He is. I think I’ve always had a way of overwhelming myself. But God is relational. I don’t have to worry about all my life down the line or Armageddon, Larry said once. I just have to keep focused on my relationship with God, and before I even realize it, God would’ve already walked me through all the things that seem insurmountable and overwhelming. (I wish I could show you Larry’s analogy on this latter point, it’s a clincher!)
Simplicity. Larry has always been able to break down my complicated questions and whirlwind of thoughts into bitesize chunks that were much easier to handle. Once, I told him that I was having difficulty managing all the things going on in my life because I had too much on my plate. I didn’t know what to do. He said, “Just remember that every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else. In this way, you’ll think twice before you say yes to everything.” The statement was so profound to me. Though he had not solved my problem, it seemed as if he had solved my problem! Those were new footprints that he tread that I had never considered.
But those are not the only footprints that he has left! There are many more.
After fall quarter of my freshman year, Larry took a huge step of faith by changing the entire format of the Navigators fellowship gatherings. What we were doing wasn’t fulfilling the Navigator mission, “To know Christ and to make Him known,” so he felt convinced that things needed to change. He had a vision which brought up a lot of opposition and backlash, but he would not relent. He was treading new ground by taking steps of faith. He was following God and trying to please God, rather than men (just like the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:10). It was a very radical thing that he set out to do. I followed along, although my heart was not quite prepared for the changes that would ensue.
Larry’s vision was to have teams of friends who would build each other up in the Lord and focus on reaching out to the lost together. The idea was to love people to Christ together. We stopped large group meetings and all other excess activities that weren’t focused on knowing Christ and making Him known and learned how to be living proof of the message we wanted to preach. These were lessons I learned from Larry that have seeped into my consciousness and molded my thinking and thus my character with so much subtlety, I don’t think I could pull it apart from the fabric of my life.
This perhaps best exemplifies the theme lesson of simplicity. Larry broke down a very complicated ministry with all sorts of goals and activities to one focus – to know Christ and to make Him known. Because of Larry’s emphasis on this point, all the subsequent ministries that I have put my hands in as well as all the future ones I will put my hands in has also narrowed down to this one focus. There really isn’t anything else you need, I don’t think.
Of course, this way of thinking was not my initial reaction. I had come from a very Christian culture background, and to take away the worship and the singing, the messages and the small groups was a shock to what I had envisioned as my “college fellowship.” The focus of everything we did would rest on the Bible – that’s it! No “religious” fanfare that would scare away nonbelievers from an unchurched background. Larry was breaking new ground.
It wasn’t until sophomore year that I grew to love the “pure Bible” focus. Now I can’t imagine it being any other way. And yet, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the way Larry has ran this ministry, it is that we should never stick to a way of doing things just because that is the way we have always done things. “Once” isn’t a precedence for a tradition forever just because it worked the first time. I think it was pure brilliance that he taught me how necessary it is to listen to God and wait on God for guidance on what should be done for the ministry. Of course, it was lucidly clear also that, to Larry, ministry is not a thing “to be done” but a moment-by-moment obedience to Christ.
Sophomore year, our large group meetings became small group times of reading the Bible together and asking each other the questions we thought of from what we had read. It amazed me that unprepared Bible study times could be so good just because we could come to it with our questions and then discover the answers within the pages of Scripture. It was so simple and yet so filled with revelatory moments. God was certainly on the move.
It was this fall quarter of my sophomore year that two of my close friends from high school became believers. It was because of the moments of “pure Bible” that brought them face-to-face with the saving grace of Christ. How else do you encounter God but through His Word? His Word is the revelation of the mind of Christ. Through their conversion, I saw visibly (how right Larry was!) that you don’t need Christian culture fanfare like a professional band playing the most contemporary music in order to introduce others to Christ. You just need God’s Word.
Larry has led me, best of all, by example. His enthusiasm for what the Lord is doing or what He will do has always been contagious - especially when he says, “A guy could get really excited about this if he wanted to.” J Larry has always been living proof of what he preaches.
I believe it is Larry who has brought Proverbs 16:31 to life for me. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” He wears his gray-white hair well – just as well as he wears his wisdom and devotion to Christ. It is like a crown of splendor which he has attained by a righteous life of simple step-by-step obedience to our Lord.
Thanks, Larry, for following Jesus.
Created October 21, 2000
A Lil' Ladybug Production :)
Copyright Mary Ann Nguyen