National Pastors Convention 3: David Anderson Reminds Us “Shift Happens”

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."

Ouch.

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."

February 25, 2006

Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments

Chris Whittaker

March 01, 2006  3:11pm

This post says what I have been trying (rather inadequately I must admit) to explain to people how I am living my life now as opposed to where I once was. Even today, if I am not careful, I can find myself stuck again in any number of ways. Fortunately, I can appeal to a present and living God to help me when my efforts to become unstuck don't get me there. I think there are three primary ways in which people get themselves "stuck", and not by accident, they coincide with the ever-present times in life: the past, the present moment, and the future. The past and future stuck-ness (yes, I made that up) are readily apparent to me, but until I read this post, the concept of being stuck in the present moment never made sense. Many people spend their lives eaten up with regret about things that have happened in their lives, things they wish they had done differently, etc. I have always thought that the reason God gave humans memory was not so that they could become retroactive, backwards worriers, but so that we can learn the lessons God will teach us if we listen in order to avoid making the same mistakes again. I find it is very easy to get myself wrapped up in the past, to overthink things, to let the "What if?" gnomes inside my ear drive me bonkers, even today. Although it happens much less frequently these days, I do find myself from time to time still wandering down that road, even if only subconsciously. I know the past and I have seen the answers (like a completed crossword puzzle), hence it has a degree of comfort and familiarity to in which to dwell and revisit. It literally takes a conscious effort and present reliance on the Lord to take me back from that place. Something that helps me get unstuck when I go to the Lord about this is to repeat a sort of mantra to myself, saying "Lord, I did the best I could with what I had at the time, and most likely, so did the other person/people I am thinking of here. You have forgiven me my wrongdoing, never to remember it again, and while I am human and can't wipe my memory, please help me to forgive others as you have forgiven us." This usually works, and the next step is to lay these things down in front of the Lord and simply let them go. I acknowledge this is easier said than done, but ironically, Al Pacino, in the movie "The Devil's Advocate", said it well, "Guilt, is like a bag of friggin' bricks...all you gotta do, is lay it down." If we truly do that in our heart and spirit, God will reward our faithfulness and trust by taking care of the rest. The concept of future stuck-ness and the ease with which people fall into it has always been equally apparent to me as well, people fretting about the future, how they will provide for themselves and their families etc. This is something completely different than prudent planning, risk calculation, and the like, which must be done to prepare for tomorrow. Ignoring the future is no option either, because quicker than we sometimes realize, the future changes into yet another present moment with which we must deal. Unfortunately, too many people take it far beyond planning and contemplation, making themselves old before their time, causing ulcers, etc., and God certainly doesn't want that for us. This is something I sometimes find myself struggling with in terms of finances. Matthew 6:25 says that excessive worriers, which occasionally means me, miss the boat in a big way by doing so..."Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothing?". In conjunction with other pertinent scriptures, the basic message is that if you are faithful to and trusting in God, He will provide you those things, even though it may not be exactly the quality or quantity you might prefer. Present stuck-ness is different from either future or past stuck-ness because we are alway

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Mark Goodyear

February 27, 2006  1:14pm

I love this. It is so easy to think of serving God and worshipping Him through the institutions of our church. Certainly, our churches offer many valuable ways to serve. But there are many opportunities to serve God beyond the walls of our buildings and outside the communities that meet there. I love Eugene Peterson's translation of Romans 12:1: So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place if before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

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Larry Baden

February 25, 2006  1:57pm

This is great stuff, and ought to be required reading for anyone in ministry (which should be everyone who is following Jesus). Thanks for posting it.

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