Paul Anderson, a 66-year-old
charismatic Lutheran, has started a discipleship revolution in Minneapolis.
Paul Anderson doesn’t act his age. I hope
he never does.
A father of the charismatic renewal
movement among Lutherans, the 66-year-old minister could be settling down to
retire. Instead, he’s pioneering a new outreach to young adults in
Minneapolis—and reaching hundreds of 20-somethings who are bored with
“I am proof that you can teach an old dog
new tricks,” Anderson told me last weekend when I interviewed him in his home
in north Minneapolis.
“Anderson believes mentoring is God’s strategy, and he reminds Christians that effective leaders in the Bible poured their lives into younger leaders: Moses had Joshua, Elijah had Elisha, Mordecai had Esther, and Paul had Timothy, Titus and other disciples.”
After pastoring in California for many
years, Anderson and his wife, Karen, moved to Minneapolis in 1995 to lead
International Lutheran Renewal (ILR), an organization that has revitalized
countless congregations by introducing them to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
But as soon as Anderson began his new assignment, he became concerned when he
saw the lack of young people and the amount of gray hair in his audiences.
Eventually he told the ILR board that he felt called to focus on reaching young
And thus Communitas was born. The
outreach started in 2005 with a handful of young people meeting in the
Andersons’ suburban home. Before long, as many as 50 kids crammed into the
place every Tuesday night. They sat on couches and chairs or sprawled out on
the floor of the kitchen or den. Police showed up regularly because of parking
problems, so Paul visited his neighbors and asked permission for the kids to
park on adjoining streets.
Today, as many as 100 people attend
Communitas on Tuesdays for a time of vibrant worship, Bible teaching,
fellowship and lots of food. The house is being remodeled to create a bigger
meeting room, but Paul knows the group will eventually have to split in order
to meet the needs.
The whole experience has put a new spring
in Anderson’s step. “From the start it was an organic move of God,” he says.
What energizes this man is the
opportunity to be a true spiritual father to a new generation. Besides
facilitating the Communitas meetings (he lets young people do the work while he
coaches from behind the scenes), Anderson also meets with a small group of guys
on Mondays and also does one-on-one mentoring with several men each week. Other
leaders lead similar groups for men and women.
When I chatted with Anderson at his
kitchen table on Sunday afternoon, two younger men, Dave Hasenburg and John
Tolo, listened to their mentor and added some perspective. Both guys spend a
lot of time with Anderson and consider him an approachable role model.
“I had a serious substance abuse problem
and then my marriage fell apart,” said Tolo, now an evangelist who works
closely with Anderson and North Heights Lutheran Church, a charismatic
congregation. “The person I can always go to for help is Paul. God used him to
Said Hasenburg: “I can trust Paul with my
heart, and I can talk things out with him. It’s like talking with a dad. It
helps me grow.”
When Anderson isn’t discipling young
adults or expanding his house to fit more people, he finds time to teach older
Christians about the necessity of passing the baton to the next generation. He
believes mentoring is God’s strategy, and he reminds Christians that effective
leaders in the Bible poured their lives into younger leaders: Moses had Joshua,
Elijah had Elisha, Mordecai had Esther and Paul had Timothy, Titus and other
“I realize now that I couldn’t be more
strategic by focusing on young people,” Anderson says.
His new focus has a side benefit: It is
keeping him young. Although he is 66, he’s in perfect health. His daughter,
Erikka, gives him a trendy haircut every month and acts as his fashion
consultant. (“My kids won’t let me get older,” he says.) Already blessed with a basketball player’s
physique, Anderson works out, plays tennis regularly, shoots hoops and is
hoping to run a marathon one day.
When I asked him about his future, he
grinned and said he hopes to pour his energy into young adult ministry for the
next 30 years. “When I’m 96,” he says, “I think I’ll stop and take a break.”
J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. You can learn more about
Communitas at communitasmn.com. Find
out more about International Lutheran Renewal at lutheranrenewal.org.