farm in Michigan

The formation of faith preceded the coming to faith; at least this is the way it seems to me in retrospect. My father was a farmer who did not wear his religion on his coat sleeves. His creed was simple – life was a test and a task. The task was to do your work as though your life depended on it. The test was to believe in yourself and God even when the crops failed.

As a small boy, he baptized me into the faith one afternoon while sitting on a freshly plowed furrow eating the sandwiches I had carried out to him in the field. “Son, stick your hand into this soil; it will support your life. You take care of it and it will take care of you.” Through the succeeding years of high school, service in the Air Force, and college (a B.S. in agriculture!), the passion for the soil was unabated. The consummation came when I drove my newly purchased tractor and plow into the field, and sacramentally turned over the soil.

With marriage and family, plus a piece of land to cultivate, I was my father’s son and yet for the first time, my own self. I would keep the faith. As it turned out, God became my landlord! Awakening to the reality of Jesus Christ as God’s Son and my Savior, I received the gift of saving faith, and along with it, a gentle but persistent calling to leave the farm and prepare for Christian ministry. This I did, arriving in the fall of 1956 at Fuller Seminary with the expectation that my taproot was still sunk into the soil, but prepared to endure this unfilled passion as the cross I was to bear. To my surprise, by the time I completed seminary and accepted a call to become a pastor of a newly formed congregation, I discovered that the passion of the soil had been transplanted. Then it was that I came to understand that my father had not attached my hand to the soil, but my heart to my hand. And whenever there was soil, even of a different nature, into which I could plunge my hand, the test and task of life could be fulfilled. In my life, at least, there seems to be have been the formation of faith before the gift of faith.

+ This is an excerpt from a piece Ray Anderson wrote for November 1, 1987, edition of Theology, News, and Notes, an issue dedicated to “Influences.” Read the rest of Anderson’s reflection, as well as the entire issue, in Fuller Library’s Digital Commons.

Written By

Ray Anderson, former senior professor of theology and ministry

The formation of faith preceded the coming to faith; at least this is the way it seems to me in retrospect. My father was a farmer who did not wear his religion on his coat sleeves. His creed was simple – life was a test and a task. The task was to do your work as though your life depended on it. The test was to believe in yourself and God even when the crops failed.

As a small boy, he baptized me into the faith one afternoon while sitting on a freshly plowed furrow eating the sandwiches I had carried out to him in the field. “Son, stick your hand into this soil; it will support your life. You take care of it and it will take care of you.” Through the succeeding years of high school, service in the Air Force, and college (a B.S. in agriculture!), the passion for the soil was unabated. The consummation came when I drove my newly purchased tractor and plow into the field, and sacramentally turned over the soil.

With marriage and family, plus a piece of land to cultivate, I was my father’s son and yet for the first time, my own self. I would keep the faith. As it turned out, God became my landlord! Awakening to the reality of Jesus Christ as God’s Son and my Savior, I received the gift of saving faith, and along with it, a gentle but persistent calling to leave the farm and prepare for Christian ministry. This I did, arriving in the fall of 1956 at Fuller Seminary with the expectation that my taproot was still sunk into the soil, but prepared to endure this unfilled passion as the cross I was to bear. To my surprise, by the time I completed seminary and accepted a call to become a pastor of a newly formed congregation, I discovered that the passion of the soil had been transplanted. Then it was that I came to understand that my father had not attached my hand to the soil, but my heart to my hand. And whenever there was soil, even of a different nature, into which I could plunge my hand, the test and task of life could be fulfilled. In my life, at least, there seems to be have been the formation of faith before the gift of faith.

+ This is an excerpt from a piece Ray Anderson wrote for November 1, 1987, edition of Theology, News, and Notes, an issue dedicated to “Influences.” Read the rest of Anderson’s reflection, as well as the entire issue, in Fuller Library’s Digital Commons.

Ray Anderson

Ray Anderson, former senior professor of theology and ministry

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Ray Anderson, former senior professor of theology and ministry, delivered a lecture on a theology of ministry characterized by ongoing praxis, conformity to Christ, and attentiveness to the work of God.