If I looked at your bookshelves, who would I presume has had the biggest influence on your life? For me, it’s undoubtedly Dr. Larry Crabb.
Thankfully the number of books you own by an author doesn’t necessarily translate to impact—otherwise, you might think John Grisham is my mentor. I do love a good fast-moving legal thriller, but I don’t plan to go into law or to write novels.
Outside of fiction and bible commentaries, you would find more books by Dr. Larry Crabb on my shelves. Some of them I’ve read multiple times. They have all impacted me, and in some cases transformed me.
Larry (he preferred we drop the doctor) passed away on February 28, 2021. I want to pause to honor a man who showed me how to follow Jesus.
Surprised to learn from Dr. Crabb
I came to know of Larry’s work in the early 90s. I started doing counseling with a graduate of Larry’s program and found the book Inside Out to be helpful. While doing an intensive weekend, I discovered I enjoyed thinking deeply about biblical counseling and decided to apply to study under Larry at Colorado Christian University. It was a longshot. I applied in April and they had a long waiting list, but I had deep confidence that this was my next step so I pressed ahead.
The admissions counselor encouraged me to take the summer bible classes and see what happened. (She admitted later that she should never have encouraged me like this.) On the second day of class—after months of waiting—I got the shocking news that a spot had opened and since I lived locally I could have it. I jumped up and down.
Michael Card, Larry Crabb, and theology
Around the same time, I attended a Michael Card concert only to find myself sitting in front of Larry Crabb. It turns out that Larry loves music (and could do a mean Elvis impersonation) and was good friends with Michael Card. I found myself drawn to Larry as someone who was a poet and understood theology from a more relational perspective. It was in part the work of Larry that inspired me to pursue becoming a worship leader, songwriter, and pastor.
Tennis is the way to a man’s heart
While attending Colorado Christian University I discovered that Larry Crabb and Dr. Dan Allender were both avid tennis players. I made it a goal to play them, but found that they only play students who were at least a 4.5 on the tennis rating scale and could beat the graduate assistants. I accepted the challenge and beat the grad assistants handily, but then realized I was less interested in playing tennis and more interested in knowing my teachers as men. That match will have to wait for heaven, Larry.
But letting go of playing tennis opened my heart to want to pursue the real kind of love. I became more interested in others and in this posture found myself ready to finally pursue a woman. I met my wife during that year and we got married soon after. That was 26 years ago.
Conversations that matter with Larry Crabb
Larry was a big believer in having important conversations over a cup of coffee. During the graduate program, we were dealing with some significant family issues and I asked if I could meet with him. He offered me a 15-minute coffee break. In those brief moments, he showed me a glimpse of the Father’s love for me and my family I’ll never forget. He challenged me to focus on finding ways to show love instead of finding errors.
After graduating, my wife and I drove to Oklahoma to hear him speak at a church. We again sat down with him on a break and he spoke life into our marriage. I don’t remember the words, but I remember the empathy and the desire to be more like Jesus.
In 2011 I attended the School of Spiritual Direction. During the week all the students would get some time alone with Larry. I will never forget him challenging me to put on the pants in my marriage. He saw through my excuses and mistakes and called me to be more of a man. That message resonated with the book he wrote on The Silence of Adam.
The next conversation
I had hoped to host Larry on the Man in the Pew show, but now I’ll look forward to talking with him over coffee in heaven (but mine will be cold brewed). I am thankful that Kep and I spoke a few episodes back.
Through his life, writings, and teaching, Larry showed me how to follow Jesus. He finished well because he knew there was something more important than the momentary pleasures of this life (like tennis). He wrestled through his writing, he loved scripture, and he loved his kids.
I’ve come to know Kep Crabb pretty well over the last decade and I see a son who adored his father, but even more, a man who loves his maker. It’s a living legacy to see how Kep will carry this torch forward through Larger Story.
Leaping for joy
One of the stories Larry loved to tell was about his friend and mentor Brennan Manning. When they would get together, Brennan would become so overjoyed that he would bounce up and down when he first saw Larry. Larry had received standing ovations in front of many crowds, sold best-selling books, and had many accolades, but the sheer delight of a friend was perhaps one of his greatest joys.
Today, I’m certain that not only Brennan, but family members, students, and countless saints are leaping for joy as he’s welcomed home. Even more, I can see Jesus bouncing up and down and the Father with a twinkle in his eye as he says, “Welcome home, Larry. Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Father, I thank you for the story you told through your servant, Larry Crabb. I pray you would comfort his family in their time of grieving. Please use his writings and teachings to teach a whole new generation to follow you. Raise up a new generation of men and women who love you and are fully alive. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.