The Personal Testimony of Karl Anderson
Bible Camp Commitments
God has developed my walk with him through many stages over the years. I was first drawn to faith during my Junior High years while at Bible Camp. However, nothing seemed to stick. Every year I would make some sort of commitment; say a prayer, raise my hand, come forward, etc. Every year I returned home and nothing changed. I went back to my same old friends, did the same old things, and felt the same old way.
During the summer of 1975, just before I entered the tenth grade, God's work in my life took a new course. With the entrance into High School looming just weeks away, I once again made the trek to Bible Camp. At camp that year I determined to make new friends. Just one week earlier I had caught my best friend stealing from me. I was advancing into a new school, and I felt the church kids wouldn't steal from me. I can't remember what motions I went through again that year. I may have said the sinner's prayer. I may have raised my hand or come forward in a meeting. All I know is that fall I began to pour myself into Youth Group activities. I did all the "Christian" things. I was at church every time the doors were open. I carried a Bible to school. I learned to pray in public. I learned to witness. I was out to prove to everyone at church how great a Christian I was, so that I could be their friend. Yet, inside I was still lonely and insecure.
During the year following my graduation from High School, I felt that God was calling me to serve Him with my life, although the form of that service was not clear in my mind. A friend had attended a missions training school run by Youth With A Mission, also known as YWAM. When he told me about the Discipleship Training School (DTS) and their focus on building your relationship with God, it appealed to me. That fall I enrolled in the DTS in Tacoma, Washington. The five month program started with 3 months in the classroom followed by a trip to Mexico where we spent a month distributing Bibles door to door. I went on to spend another year studying with YWAM, first in California and later in Texas.
In the spring of 1981, I returned home to Minnesota. The next few years were characterized by frequent changes of direction. I knew God had a plan for me to serve him with my life, but that plan was still unclear. In my mind, I wasn't good enough to serve in an "up-front" position like a pastor so I began to prepare for service in a support role. After starting to take pre-engineering classes at a local Community College, I transferred to the Vo-Tech in Winona, MN to study Aircraft Mechanics. This was the first step in qualifying to become a missionary pilot. However, while away at school, I drifted away from Christian fellowship and began to backslide. After the first year of a two year program, I left Winona. I eventually went back to Community College to study Small Business Management. Over the next couple of years, I lived a double life. I had given up on God, feeling that Christianity had not worked for me. But I didn't want my failure to bring anyone else down, so I maintained a facade of faith and church activity.
Fortunately, even though I was unfaithful to God, God was faithful to me. During those years, the Holy Spirit convinced me of two things; my utter unworthiness before God, and the rightness of following Him. In response, during the summer of 1985 I began meeting with an elder from Campus Church, an independent church I had occasionally attended. Under his counsel, I recommitted my life to Christ. God had brought me to the end of myself. I finally realized that I couldn't be good enough, but Jesus had been good on my behalf. As I recognized my unworthiness, God granted me faith to believe that, when Jesus died for me, His blood covered all my sin.
Growth in Grace
In the many years since then, God has continued to grow and stabilize my faith in Him. Shortly after recommitting my life to Christ, I went to work for Fish Enterprises, a Christian company that was operated by Campus Church, whose pastor had a vision of training ordinary Christians to work overseas in regular businesses. A year later, I was transferred to a sister company in London, England where I worked for two years. In 1988, I returned to Minnesota, where I went to work for a small Christian gift maker in rural Trimont. Shortly afterwards, I was invited to visit Hosanna Free Lutheran Church in St. James, MN. What I found was refreshing. God's Word was honored, preached and believed. Jesus Christ was upheld as Lord and Savior.
Slowly, God began to release me into the kinds of public, up-front ministry that I had previously shied away from. First came opportunities to lead Bible Studies and teach the adult Sunday School class. Soon, I was asked to preach to my home congregation when the pastor was gone. Sensing God's call into full-time ministry, I applied for admission to the Free Lutheran Seminary in 1993. Unfortunately, I had never completed an associate degree, let alone the bachelor's degree that was a requirement for seminar admission. Even though the bachelor degree requirement may be waived for older adults with significant life experience, they didn't feel my life experience was sufficient to waive their bachelor's degree requirement. So, my application was rejected with the recommendation that I finish college and then re-apply.
Even though the door to full-time ministry appeared closed when I couldn't get into seminary in 1993, opportunities to preach and teach God's Word continued. Soon, invitations came in from other churches to preach. No longer did I feel disqualified from public ministry by my unworthiness. Instead, I began to recognize my unworthiness as a qualification. "When I am weak, then He is strong." Preaching in a number of different churches had confirmed God's call in my mind. But at the same time, I saw my need for more training. I feared leading others astray by misrepresenting God's Word.
In spite of this, when I finally went back to college, going on to seminary was only an afterthought. I had found that my lack of a bachelor’s degree limited my options, so I enrolled in evening classes, intent on getting a better job. In the spring of 2000, as my graduation from college with a major in Business Management and Computer Network Administration approached, the idea of ministry grew in my heart. I considered seeking a call as a lay pastor, by-passing seminary, but God gave me no peace about pursuing that course. Many small things pointed to my need for seminary training, such as a sermon by a radio preacher about how Satan had tempted him to skip seminary. That message struck a chord in my heart as I was considering whether or not to re-apply for admission.
An Open Door
I thought that there was no way I could go to seminary. I was approaching 40 years old with two kids and a wife to support. An earlier business failure had left me with a boatload of debt, along with the piles of student loans I had rung up getting my bachelor's degree. The idea just would not go away, though. I eventually concluded that the only way to find out whether the door to seminary was really closed was to wiggle the doorknob. Following a meeting with the Dean of the seminary to discuss my situation, I re-applied and had an interview with the board. Much to my surprise, my application was unanimously approved. They also reserved an apartment in the newly-built on-campus family housing for us. I had looked for God to do it all before I took a single step. Instead, as I took small steps of faith, God provided the means to take the next step.
As the door I expected to be closed flung wide open, numerous events confirmed God's direction. The biggest hurdle was selling our house. The housing market was depressed in our small town. My neighbor's house had been on the market for over a year. Yet our house sold in just three weeks. A couple of weeks later, I was offered a part time job as a computer network administrator near the seminary campus. In just a matter of weeks, the idea of going to seminary transformed from a distant desire to a looming reality.
Somehow I finished
four years of seminary training that included serving a one-year
internship, pastoring a small country church in rural South Dakota.
Somehow, the bills were paid, the papers written, the assignments
completed, and I got through it all with my kids still recognizing my
face. I accepted my first permanent call as a Pastor in
the spring of 2004. It has been exciting to see what God has done over
the years and even more exciting to anticipate what He has in store for
in the coming years. I still don't feel like I'm good enough to please
Him, but now I know
that only Jesus is, can, or ever will be good enough. I can only
trust that God will continue to find ways to use me to glorify