When the Rev. Dr. Larry Mininger first arrived to Lake Sherwood Orthodox Presbyterian Church, it was surrounded by — as he described it — a jungle.
“There was no road leading to it at all — it was between orange groves,” Mininger said of the land around the church. “There was a dirt road leading up this pathway to this plot of land. … There were no pews (in the church). There was no air conditioning, and I said, ‘We’re going to the jungle.’
“Balboa Drive was built while I was here,” he added. “In fact, we had sort of a contest — a prayer contest — to see whether the Lord would help the east side of Balboa to be paved, or the west side. The west side team won. It got paved first, but it took a long time.”
It was Aug. 1, 1971, when he first arrived. He would then go on to dedicating the next 48 years of his life ministering at Lake Sherwood Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In that time, he’s served in myriad roles such as a Sunday school teacher, youth and vacation Bible school director and choir member. He’s also officiated countless weddings, baptisms, leadership trainings, neighborhood outreach efforts, ordinations and funerals. Under his ministry, the church also planted daughter churches in St. Cloud and Oviedo.
After many years of serving the church and his flock faithfully, and with so many accomplishments under his belt, Mininger retired from his role as pastor on this year’s anniversary of his initial arrival to the church — making this chapter of his life come full circle. He’s been designated as Pastor Emeritus of Lake Sherwood Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
“My main focus is to preach the Bible — making it clear to people and then try to love God’s people and encourage them through the scriptures,” Mininger said. “I’ve had a lot of weddings and a lot of funerals in my day.”
Originally from Souderton, Pennsylvania, Mininger, 75, now calls the city of Ocoee his home. He grew up in a strong Christian community and felt an inner calling to serve God when he was a teenager.
“I was raised in a good, Bible-believing church, so I learned about the Bible quite a bit when I was a kid,” Mininger said. “I went to a Bible camp … (and) I prayed to the Lord in my camp bunkhouse … and it right away came to me as I finished praying that I was also called to ministry. It was an inner feeling. In the practice (to be) a pastor, we call that an ‘inner call.’”
Mininger’s educational pursuits followed his faith. His degrees include a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bob Jones University, a master’s degree in theology and a master’s degree of divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary, as well as a doctorate degree of ministry from Reformed Theological Seminary. But he wasn’t just a student and a preacher of the gospel — he’s also been a long-time teacher and mentor to many others in their walk of faith.
Over the years, Mininger has influenced many seminary students, interns and associate pastors. Those individuals now minister in other Orthodox Presbyterian churches, in the Presbyterian Church in America and in other denominations. In addition to being a mentor, Mininger served as an adjunct professor of practical theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. He’s also dedicated 30 years of leadership to the Southland Student Conference, serving as the organization’s director of the middle school Bible camp in the Gainesville area.
“I (also) preached monthly at the Rescue Mission in downtown (Orlando),” he said of the other ways he’s served the community through Christ. “Our church has been a prayer supporter. One of our elders is on the board of the Rescue Mission. I went down — I think for 20 years — once a month to preach to the Rescue Mission … which involves people (living) on the streets. Some of them are kind of staying with the Rescue Mission ministry to get help; some are just in and out.”
Mininger also has served the Orthodox Presbyterian Church at the national level. He was elected as moderator of the 66th General Assembly of the church, and on two separate occasions he’s represented the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as a Fraternal Delegate to the Presbyterian Church in America’s General Assembly.
Although his time leading Lake Sherwood Orthodox Presbyterian Church is at an end, his life of serving God is far from over. He continues to foster the minds of future Christian leaders and other servants of God through his role as part-time campus pastor at Reformation Bible College in Sanford.
“I work on it every day, but I go there twice a week to actually be on campus to visit with students,” Mininger said. “Kids who had problems in their own families will come to me as sort of a grandfather and talk things over. I give them biblical perspective and counsel them (and) encourage them, so it’s been a very fruitful thing.”