Larry Walkemeyer, D.Min. ’06
OCCUPATION: Lead Pastor, Light & Life Christian Fellowship, North Long Beach, California; President, Life In Motion Enterprises
LESSON LEARNED: Saying “yes” to God can lead to an adventure you never imagined.
MY STORY: Growing up on a Kansas farm, the last place Larry Walkemeyer expected to find himself was urban Long Beach, California. “But when God has the steering wheel of your life, you just never know where it will take you,” he said. From a young age, Larry had a clear sense that God had called him to a life of ministry. But how and where would prove to be a grand adventure.
Dreaming of beaches, palm trees, and skyscrapers, Larry moved west after high school to attend Azusa Pacific. In the APU cafeteria, he met a student named Deb. Eighteen months later, they were married. “Our common love for God and ministry brought us together,” he said. “Thirty years later, our ministry partnership is stronger than ever.”
After eleven years as a youth pastor in Seattle, God called the Walkemeyers back to Southern California. Larry became the associate pastor of a comfortable, well-attended, suburban church. When the pastor left, the church asked Larry to take the job. “It looked like a comfortable fit,” he recalled. “Good salary, new house, nice people...”
But through a series of circumstances, including the influence of APU professor Gordon Coulter, Ph.D., Larry and Deb followed an unexpected path. “We felt the Lord had called us to partner with Him in turning around a small, struggling Anglo church in the violent urban area of North Long Beach,” Larry said. “Sixteen years ago, we said ‘yes’ and began an adventure we could have never imagined.”
Although the church had only 41 parking spots, it grew rapidly. In answer to their prayers, it also became multi-ethnic. Today, Light & Life Christian Fellowship represents 20 different language groups. When the church outgrew its facilities, rather than spending millions to relocate, Larry and Deb had members branch off to start new churches. As a result, they have planted or assisted in planting 11 churches in the U.S., as well as others in Ethiopia and the Philippines.
“In our own neighborhood, we have reached out to one of the most violent streets in Long Beach,” Larry said. The City of Long Beach gave the church an award for its positive impact in the area, and now there are more plans to creatively engage the community. “Recently, we purchased a building and are remodeling it to be a community center that partners with the poor to break the cycle of poverty.”
In addition to these ministries, Larry and Deb launched Life In Motion Enterprises to help empower local and global mission projects. “Using creative economic engines, we generate income that is used to partner with smaller existing mission groups,” he said.
Through Larry’s doctoral project at APU’s C.P. Haggard Graduate School of Theology, he and professor Kevin Mannoia, Ph.D., authored 15 Characteristics of Effective Pastors (Regal Books, 2007). Church leaders Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Nelson Searcy have recommended the book to pastors across the United States.
“APU and C.P. Haggard Graduate School of Theology have been partners with us all throughout our journey,” he said. “One of my delights has been having my wife, and then 28 years later, our daughter, Lindsey, become homecoming queens at APU.” Lindsey is a 2005 graduate, and currently partners with her parents in several of their ministries.
From the fields of Kansas to the streets of Long Beach, Larry is grateful for the great adventure to which God has called he and his family. “We thank God every day for allowing us to partner with what He’s doing in our community and through APU.”