Most young men at the age of 15 are thinking about girls, cars, and having fun. Not many are serving as an interim minister of music as Larry McFadden (’66) was at that age.
“My dad was at the First Baptist Church of Lyman, then he went into evangelism work,” recalls McFadden, who is now 53. “The church asked me to be the interim and lead the music while they got somebody. I ended up doing that for a year. I look back on it and wonder how they entrusted me, a 15 year old, to do that. We had a 50 voice choir that was excellent.”
McFadden was also following in his father’s footsteps, the Rev. J. N. McFadden, who has been a music minister for more than 50 years. The younger McFadden was in Greer recently visiting his father and mother, Rev. J.N. and Evelyn McFadden. He also made stops at a prison, at North Greenville College, and did a concert at Victor Baptist Church.
Based in Orlando, Florida, McFadden credits his father with helping him choose his career path. “He’s been the biggest influence on me,” he admits.
In addition to his vocational evangelism that has taken him across the United States and into several other countries, McFadden has authored four booklets designed to help people deal with their problems and answer their questions by turning to scriptures.
After he left Lyman, McFadden went to North Greenville College. “When I was at school there, I was also leading the music at Morgan Memorial Church in Greenville. I did that the entire time I was at North Greenville. I look back at it now and it’s kind of a miraculous journey. Obviously, the Lord knew a whole lot more about the situation than I did.”
“After that, I made a big leap from North Greenville to East Texas Baptist College. It was wonderful. That’s in Marshall, Texas and that’s where I met my wife. We still have a lot of close friends there. It was a fantastic experience.”
He earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from the school. “I was a voice major and did the recitals and all that. My wife was a music major, too. She was a keyboard person and a year behind me in school. I was full-time at a church in Marshall while she finished her last year of school.”
Then it was on to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where the couple experienced “culture shock.” Both of us had grown up in small towns. We only lasted in New Orleans a year. We went back to East Texas to a town called Nacogdoches. I was in a good position in a church there. I was also going to school and did work on my degree. I went to class at night. I also did a college ministry. My wife finished her Masters in organ. She was going full time during the day.”
Unfortunately, the hectic schedule became too much for McFadden. “We were there for three years and going to school got to be too much. I had to quit working on my degree. I had a huge college ministry there; we had a 300 voice college choir. We sang in a lot of places over the state of Texas. The last year we were there we charted an American Airlines jet and did a mission trip to Los Angeles.”
After Texas, it was on to Gainesville, Florida for the McFaddens. “I served the church for three years from 1973-76.”
It is during that time that McFadden met someone who would be instrumental in his life. “That’s when I met Evangelist Jim Wilson, and that was a big turning point in my life. T.W. Wilson, Jim’s dad, has worked with The Billy Graham Crusade all these years. Jim and I just hit it off. It was 1976 when I started working with him and traveling full time doing evangelistic work.”
He continues, “We did church revivals, are wide revivals, prison ministry and I was introduced to overseas evangelism. That opened up a whole other world for me. I worked with Jim full time for seven years. It opened up a whole new area of ministry for me, and it influenced my work today. I do a lot of prison ministry. I was recently at the Orange County prison in Florida and the Detention Center in Greenville County. I visit as many prisons as I can.”
“That seven year period was really a phenomenal time as far as shaping my ministry. Being around the Billy Graham people was a huge deal, a big influence on my life. They do everything with so much integrity.”
After those seven years, Wilson decided he wanted to become a pastor. “I had to figure out what I was going to do. I went on staff at the First Baptist Church in Orlando where my wife and I were members and was there from 1983 to 1987. It was a big transition. When I was in evangelism with Jim, I ran the prison ministry and I scheduled all the performers. To go from that to an associate position was an incredibly tough transition. But, it was such a great church and I loved my church. Jim Henry is the pastor of the church, and the people were wonderful. That’s what made it work.”
After four years there, McFadden entered one of the most difficult periods of his life. As he explains, “I really started struggling with God’s will for my life. For the first time, I had troubled discerning His will. I made the decision to go to a church in North Carolina. When I went to North Carolina was when the bottom fell out for me. I wrote a booklet entitled, “What to Do When the Bottom Falls Out.” I went through a clinical depression and almost lost my ministry there. It was a sequence of events that came together at once. Little did I know that God was doing something in my life that would play a big part in my ministry.
“After two years in North Carolina, God put us back in evangelistic work but I went back into it on my own. I formed Larry McFadden Ministries. Inc, a non-profit corporation, in August of 1988.”
During the past twelve years, he has been making a great deal of appearances where he both sings and preaches. “An interesting thing that has happened since I formed Larry McFadden Ministries, is that I’ve been asked more and more to come and do singing as well as bring the message. Through all of that, the Lord led me to work on these printed materials.”
In his second booklet, “Was Jesus God?” McFadden says, “I basically tried to prove that Jesus was who He said He was. It’s translated into Portuguese now it’s being translated into Spanish.”
His third pamphlet was called “Your Marriage: Marvelous or Messy?” In it, he discusses how marriages go from being marvelous to messy and how people can help avoid that by studying the Bible and its verses about marriage.
The fourth book is a teen devotional, “Kick Start,” with a forward by Pat Williams, of the Orlando Magic. “Last year, the Lord really laid something on my heart about teenagers. I was burdened about teens. I’ve read statistics that say 88% of today’s teens never see the inside of anybody’s church. I felt the Lord leading me to write a teenage devotional book so I began working on ‘Kick Start’. I’m getting a great response to it and I try to get adults to buy it for their kids.”
He continues, “Honestly, most churches I’m in, when we have a youth night, I look into the faces of youths who do not have a clue about Christianity. This continues to be a big burden on my heart.”
These days, McFadden and his wife are based in Orlando, Florida. “I went back there after we left North Carolina and I began the Larry McFadden Ministries. Orlando has always felt like home for us. My wife (Teresa) has played the piano at Orlando Baptist Church.
His vocational evangelism work takes him to foreign countries several times a year. In March he is going to the Dominican Republic, in June to Cuba, and in November to Haiti (for the third time).
He has also traveled to India, Tanzania, Africa, The Ukraine and Brazil. “These are poor nations where it’s a challenge to survive. But, if I didn’t feel like I was making a difference, I wouldn’t go back.” On our last trip to Haiti in March 1999, we were in Port au Pay and Port au Prince and had a crusade on the harbor. We had 1,000 people come nightly to that crusade and you’d see 650 people pray to receive Christ. We came back to Port au Prince and carried school materials. We decided we wanted to help a Christian school there. There were 400 children in grades one through six and they met in two small buildings. We had Christian services there for them. They’re begging us to come again.”
Says McFadden, “I realize I’m one person and I can’t do everything, but I can do something. It’s kind of like the story of the guy walking down the beach and he picks up a starfish and throws it out in the water and another guy asks, “Why bother? There are so many it can’t make a difference.’ The guy says, ‘It makes a lot of difference to that one.’ I generally see a lot of public acceptance to our evangelistic message, but if I went and only saw one acceptance, it would be worth it for that one.”
He says that his corporation’s board of directors raises money annually to fund the overseas trips. He adds that he sees the greatest results from going into prisons and overseas.
McFadden noted, “The thing I see about going into jails and prisons is that a good number of the people I encounter are willing to listen to the message for the first time in their lives. At the prison in Orlando, 30 males asked to receive Christ. One guy said, “This is the best thing that happened to me, coming to jail, because I’ve found the Lord.’ That’s what’s great to me-somebody willing to listen.”
He adds, “Overseas, some have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel and given an opportunity to respond.”
For now, he is enjoying his busy schedule and plans to keep up the hard work. “As long as I can keep doing it, I will. I wonder how long I can keep up the scheduling I have now. But retirement, I’m not thinking of it at all. When you have a burden for people, you can’t turn that off and say, ‘Well, I quit.’ I certainly wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t feel it was exactly what God called me to do.”
Article published with permission of the Greer Citizen for the March 2000 issue of the North Greenville College Alumni Newsletter.