At sixteen Larry Katz (ThM, 1965), father of Dan Katz (ThM, 1991) and of Laurie McIntyre (MA/CE, 1989), set his sights on playing big-league baseball. When all the scouts at an all-star competition determined he was too small for the big leagues, his pastor challenged him to get a new goal: “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Cor. 5:9, NASB).
Larry never imagined that ambition would lead him into pastoral ministry. Yet his desire to please God led him to seminary. And after graduation he took a short stint as a Bible teacher/high school coach, but then he entered pastoral ministry. At the first church he approached the pastorate tentatively to see if the role fit him. He received no clear answer in his seven years there. At the second church pastoring seemed to fit him well after all, so he stayed eight years, enjoying the challenges of working with multiple staff members.
Yet suddenly it seemed everything stopped. Larry entered what he calls a “funk” and prayed daily for the Lord to get him out. After two years of discontentment, he called it quits.
Resigning relieved a great weight, which Larry interpreted to mean, “Get out of the pastorate and don’t go back!” But during several months of unemployment, Larry’s distaste for being without a job helped end the funk. As he neared the end of his severance, Larry had only one opportunity—a pastoral position in southern Pennsylvania. The church was wrestling with legalism, and the leaders wanted freedom. “The idea of moving a church from legalism to liberty challenged me,” Larry said, “but I fully acknowledged the situation might blow up in my face.”
When he accepted the offer, “he had renewed strength and new vision, but he ran into a wall,” his wife, Jackie, remembers. Though the church experienced growth, some opposed the church’s new direction. Despite the turmoil, Larry developed a deep camaraderie with several staff members including music minister Greg Thomas.
“We went through the war together,” Larry said, “and shared each others’ burdens.” Even so, three years later Larry was asked to leave. Greg, who has now served with Larry for twenty years, recalls that Larry “was deeply hurt, and it was discouraging.”
Once Larry resigned, he determined never to work as a pastor again. But then came another invitation.
A newly formed church in York, Pennsylvania, asked Larry to serve as their senior pastor. After prayer and deliberation he agreed. During the seventeen-year tenure that followed, Larry joined a reconciliation movement to heal old wounds at the previous church and saw most of his antagonists experience a change of heart. Greg believes that “what sold his accusers in the long run was Larry’s character.”
Larry sometimes still suffers as he has his entire career from what he calls an Amos complex: “I’m not a pastor, or the son of a pastor. What am I doing?” But just as the Lord took Amos from herding sheep to prophesying to Israel, so, too, God takes common, reluctant people like Larry from baseball diamonds to pulpits.
Larry’s ambition to please the Lord turned into nearly forty years of church ministry. Now, with age slowing him down, he has stepped down as a senior pastor but continues to preach and teach, ambitious to reach the same goal he’s had since the door closed on a baseball career: to please God until he’s finished the course.
David Barshinger (ThM, 2006) is pursuing doctoral studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He spent his childhood and teenage years under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Larry Katz.