Developing a multicultural congregation is something many people have talked about but few have done. David Anderson is one of the few. As founder and pastor of Bridgeway Community Church, a multicultural church in Columbia, Maryland, Anderson knows the challenges of ministry. But he encouraged pastors on Friday morning to never settle for less than what God has called us to.
An engaging and colorful storyteller, Anderson spoke about his recent purchase of a 1991 Ford F-150 pickup truck, and the thrill of shifting into all-wheel-drive when he got stuck in a snow filled ditch. After reveling in the masculinity of the moment (Anderson wants a bumper stick that simply declares "TESTOSTERONE"), he shared an important principle: in ministry we get stuck from time to time and we need to shift gears.
Anderson spoke from the story of Terah, the father of Abram, in Genesis 11. Terah set "out of Ur" (we didn't pay Anderson to say that) with his family for the land of Canaan. But along the way he settled in Haran, and never left. He settled short of his goal and died without ever making it to Canaan.
Anderson spoke passionately about our tendency to "get stuck in Haran," to settle short of what God has called us to. Offering many examples, he said one thing that will stay with me: "Some of us have set out for the land of ministry, but we've settled for the land of church activity."
No one denies that ministry is hard. It's understood that we'll need to stop from time to time. But Anderson reminded us that "there's a difference between being stopped and being stuck." Stopping, resting, and rejuvenating are good things, but being stuck is not an option. Rather than settling in Haran, Anderson says, "No matter where you're stuck, when life shifts, change gears and move on. Because shift happens."
How do we shift gears and get unstuck? Well, one way is to escape the trap of victimization. We'll never get moving by blaming everyone else for our condition. Second, Anderson says we need to embrace the "newness of God." We serve a God who loves to do new things, and we'll never experience them if we are stuck on yesterday, fixated on today, and ignoring tomorrow.
Finally, we can't sit around and wait for a clear vision. Abram, picking up the story in Genesis 12, hears God's voice to leave Haran and journey to Canaan, but he isn't given a full vision or understanding of his calling. But Anderson said we shouldn't wait until we've got a full picture. He said, "when the voice is clear even when the vision is not - get ready to go."
Both David Anderson's and Tony Campolo's messages focused on obedience, endurance, and the necessity to take risks. They both inspired me to think once again about my calling. What has Christ called me to? What is my Canaan? And in what ways am I making myself comfortable in Haran?
That may be the greatest blessing of the National Pastors Convention for me. By getting out of my ministry context (a.k.a. "bubble") for a few days, I was able to focus again on the big picture, to put things back into perspective, and return to my church with a renewed focus on what really matters. NPC has been a time to stop, rest, and rejuvenate so that in the months ahead I don't get stuck. Stuck is not an option.