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A Better Story

Tucker Anderson ’11, S’15 had a good plan for his future. But God had a better one.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

August 16, 2019 | 10 a.m.

Tucker Anderson

Tucker Anderson serves as a pastor at Calvary Church in Roseville, Minnesota.

Tucker Anderson ’11, S’15 is pastor of discipleship at Calvary Church in Roseville, Minnesota. As such, he thinks about discipleship a lot. And what he’s concluded seems to characterize his own journey as a Christ-follower as well. “The story God writes for us as disciples is not the story we’d write for ourselves,” he says. “It’s a better story.”

A significant part of Anderson’s story began in high school, when he experienced an initial sense of call to ministry. At Minnetonka High School, Minnetonka, Minnesota, he became active in Student Venture, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, now known as Cru. A self-described introvert by nature, he nonetheless made an impression on leaders there, who noticed his potential and shepherded him in leadership roles. By his junior year of high school, Anderson was a student leader in charge of student ministries in the western suburbs of the Twin Cities.

His next steps seemed clear. He enrolled at Bethel University, majoring in biblical and theological studies, and thrived under the teaching of Bible and theology professors Juan Hernandez and Steven Enderlein. Anderson was particularly drawn to biblical languages, and also spent two separate semesters studying abroad at Jerusalem University College in Israel, where his classroom studies came alive as he visited biblically significant geographical sites.

With his passion for biblical and theological studies and his natural affinity for the rigors and rewards of academics, Anderson’s next chapter also seemed clear: pursuing a teaching career at a college or seminary. For this, he would need a Ph.D. He wanted to focus his graduate studies on the New Testament, and chose Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey to continue his education. “My chosen route was a Ph.D. in New Testament,” says Anderson, “and I felt Princeton would be the natural next step.”

Anderson diligently finished his first year at Princeton, and that’s when the story took an unexpected turn. A trusted mentor planted some seeds about a possible pastoral call in Anderson’s life, and during a summer internship, his supervising pastor—who was himself a Princeton grad—reinforced this. His return to Princeton looming, Anderson wrestled with the implications of a potential and rather abrupt change in plans. At that point, his mom—who years earlier had led his entire family to faith when she met Jesus through a Bible study—provided the final validation. “She told me I didn’t have to go back to Princeton,” says Anderson. “That freed me to make a different decision.”

Two weeks before he was scheduled to return to school, Anderson called Princeton and said he wouldn’t be coming back. Now what? As part of his discernment process that summer, Anderson had applied to Bethel Seminary. “I knew it was a good seminary,” he says, “and it was familiar to me from my time at Bethel University. And to be honest, I was making a last-minute decision without a lot of options!”

But God’s better story was beginning to unfold in Anderson’s life. A student in Bethel Seminary’s Kern Scholarship program unexpectedly withdrew, leaving a scholarship opportunity open. “Four months after the deadline had passed,” he says, “I was accepted into the Kern program.” The program, funded by a grant from the Kern Family Foundation, provides financial support for students pursuing a call to pastoral ministry—and that’s exactly what Anderson was doing now.

Bethel Seminary, with its emphasis on holistic formation, was the pastoral preparation Anderson was seeking. “I really appreciate Bethel’s three centers of emphasis [biblical and theological foundations, spiritual and personal formation, and transformational leadership],” he says. “Bethel’s academic rigor was every bit as challenging, but I also got other pieces of necessary training in pastoral care, leadership development, and spiritual formation.”

In fact, says Anderson, his time at Bethel Seminary convinced him of the necessity of all three areas of emphasis. “Losing one of the centers is dangerous,” he says. “You can see that in some of the recent moral failures of high-profile pastors.” He appreciates, instead, what he learned and saw modeled by Bethel faculty: a “willingness and ability to lead without having to be recognized.”

He’s applying that learning in his current role as a discipleship pastor, as well as in his marriage to his wife Alia and the parenting of their two young daughters. “I’m still figuring out the parenting thing,” he admits. “It certainly teaches you about discipleship from the ground up!”

Anderson’s story isn’t what he originally planned. “In some ways it took me going all the way out to New Jersey to clarify my call,” he reflects. But the better story, still being written, is what has happened to him in the process—transformation and growth in ways he couldn’t have known and might not have chosen—that will serve him well as he serves others.

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