President Gordon Anderson interviews with radio host Paul Ridgeway

President Gordon Anderson discusses higher education

KKMS AM 980 Radio Interview Recap

On February 7, NCU President Gordon Anderson, Ph.D., was a guest on the KKMS AM 980 drive talk show “On the Way with Ridgeway,” and spoke with host Paul Ridgeway on the State of Christian higher education. Anderson, who has 35 years of higher education—22 of them as president of NCU—is deeply invested in this topic and offered some interesting reflections on this topic. Here are some highlights from their conversation.

Ridgeway: Well I’ve got Dr. Gordon Anderson from North Central University. By the way it’s nestled right down near the new stadium and it’s kind of a secret jewel right in Minneapolis.

Anderson: We really are, it’s a wonderful school, kind of a village in the city, and very urban school. Great relationships with business people and the community there in the Elliot Park neighborhood.

Ridgeway: So tell me about what you’ve seen, changes. You’ve been in education now for over 35 years. At the school since ’82. What do you see pulling and tugging? What do you see is the most dangerous trends that you’ve seen with college age students?

Anderson: Oh a number of things. Our culture in the last 50, 60 years has undergone the most rapid kind of change seen in probably any culture anywhere in the world. It’s just absolutely remarkable the post-World War II change. There’s a book by Dianna West, I don’t know if you know that name, The Death of the Adult. It is an absolutely great book. She is not a Christian believer, but a great social analyst and she identifies the forces that really went to work in post-World War II America, prosperity, and of course then the 60s with Vietnam, drugs, free love, and all of that, and how that has cascaded into the secularizing of American culture. So just thumbnail sketch, those forces are very, very powerful and they are very much at work in our society.

Ridgeway: And Doctor, don’t you think Satan is really behind all of this? He’s got a plan to destroy the family, destroy lives, destroy humans. And he doesn’t care who you are, he hates you.

Anderson: Well that is true, the whole idea of spiritual warfare—spiritual activity—it’s on a personal level, certainly. But it is on an institutional level, a cultural level, government, education, military, economics, all of those cultural things that should be the foundations of culture have been broken up considerably. We don’t go around looking for a devil behind every bush to blame for every malady that we see in society, but we’d really be missing the point if we didn’t understand there are powers, principalities, rulers of darkness and wickedness that are operating at the very highest levels of culture.

Ridgeway: Dr. Anderson, tell us a little bit more about North Central University—where it’s located, what its objectives are, how it started?

Anderson: Sure! The school started in 1930 in a church down on Lake Street. Moved to the old Asbury Hospital on Elliot Park in 1936 right in the middle of the depression. You could not have picked a worse time to start a school! But those people had faith and hard work. The school has been there ever since. And, since that beginning—starting with 13 students if you can believe that—[there are] now over 1,000. About 10 acres, more than 10 acres of property in downtown Minneapolis.

Ridgeway: Valuable property.

Anderson: Yes it is, and strategically located, connected well with businesses in the neighborhood. So it’s an urban laboratory for our students, just an absolutely great place. The school is owned and operated by the Assemblies of God but it is open to all Christian students. [We’re] Bible-based, Christ-centered and Spirit-led, those are three phrases that we really focus on. Based on the Bible, there is a standard for right and wrong, God has revealed it.

Ridgeway: Those are very good principles. Talking to Dr. Gordon Anderson, president of North Central University in downtown Minneapolis. So what change have you seen in the students over the years? Not just in the students going to your school but just cultural. I know there’s a spiritual renewal going on, tell us a little bit about that, too.

Anderson: Well, certainly. Spiritual life, the plan of God, is for it to be a constant in every believer’s life, and occasionally there are times of personal, spiritual renewal where individuals are renewed in their relationship with God. Sometimes corporate renewals, and revival is a word, of course, used for corporate renewal. That’s when you get a bunch of individual renewals together in a group. So, individual renewal is always possible, its God’s plan. In fact, I tell people I actually don’t like revival, because the first thing you need to have a revival was something that was alive and then it died and it has to be made alive again. So why can’t we just have “vival?” That is the ongoing life of Christ in human beings.

The school is characterized by a deep commitment to ongoing spiritual vitality. We have chapel every day. In the middle of the day we break at 11 o’ clock, gather together for worship, prayer, preaching of the Word—50 minutes—and it’s like eating every day. Just a nutritious, spiritual diet. And of course, foundational, [is] the Word of God. So it’s just a great place. I’ve been there for 35 years. Seen wonderful, wonderful things happen with young people. Some that need more development than others, some that come rather well developed, perhaps from a background that has helped them. But we get students that come from a background that has really hurt them. And the school helps them, and they develop wonderfully at the school.

Ridgeway: Have you seen, in the 35 years you’ve been at North Central, a move of God in a mass way? I remember a few years ago something happened at North Central, it was a massive move of God, the Holy Spirit.

Anderson: Yes. Well, from 1997 to 2002 the school grew by 25%. [It was] one of those periods of time when there is a move of God, we call it, or a sweeping work of the Spirit, and we’ve seen those throughout the years. But the good thing about it is we have not had a chart that would look like vitality, then apostasy, then vitality and apostasy. There’s been a constancy. And that’s what we emphasize, that day-to-day, constant walk and relationship with God. So I would say really, the school is characterized more by constant spirituality than a periodic revival history.

Ridgeway: … Talking to Dr. Gordon Anderson, president of North Central University. We’re talking about Christian education but also what students are confronting. Folks, many of you have kids going off to college or have kids in school right now. They’re in a battle even there, especially if they’re in a public university. A lot better off at a Christian school. And would encourage you to relook at North Central University. Terrific college. Do you have master’s or all undergraduate degrees?

Anderson: We have one master’s degree in leadership, and we have a number of undergraduate degrees. We’re primarily an undergraduate degree school, but we have a very strong and very well crafted master’s program.

Ridgeway: … I made the decision that there are three objectives for this show that God told me to have. Number one is to lead people to Jesus, because He is the absolute truth, He is the way, the truth and the life. That’s what He says He is and He is that. Two, was to encourage Christians in their walk with the Lord with guests like yourself and others who help encourage them and walk with them. Just create a program for everybody, so if someone listens to this and we have nonbelievers listening, but they can enjoy the guests, the authors and the others, but I get back to there is absolute truth, and I believe God’s word is absolutely true.

Anderson: Well here’s an amazing thing to think about. Christianity emerged in an entirely non-Christian environment. There was only one Christian at one point in the world, that was Jesus Christ. Then there were 12, then 500, and then a few thousand. And in the first 300 years of the Roman Empire, in a pagan, godless, wicked culture, Christianity grew from essentially nothing to fully 10 percent of the Roman Empire.

Ridgeway: Amazing.

Anderson: You know, in a godless environment. Now how could that happen? And sometimes people now lament the changes that are occurring in America, and yes, there’s very good reason to be saddened by the things we see, but here’s a phrase I like to use: You have to remember the kingdom of God was designed by God to be effective in Rome in the first century and also in America in the 21st century, because some things don’t change. The human heart, the desire for goodness, the desire to escape evil, the desire to be released from the oppression of wickedness—that’s constant in the human heart. So when Paul was preaching in Corinth or Rome, or we believers here in America today, the human heart cries out for that kind of truth, liberty, peace, freedom. And so the church has a role, always has, always will. It is God’s plan to salvage the Earth.

Ridgeway: So, Doctor, now that you’re getting to retirement this year, what are you going to do?

Anderson: We will be moving out to the west coast, Washington. We have family out there.

Ridgeway: Do you have grandkids out there?

Anderson: I do. Our younger son lives in the Seattle area; our older son lives in Alabama. So there you have it, mobility in modern America. But we will be settling out on the Olympic peninsula and our younger son, his wife, two grandchildren are up there. People say, “Gordon, what are you going to do when you retire?” and I tell people, “I’m going to see if I can be a really good Christian when I’m not getting paid to do it.”

Ridgeway: I love it!

Anderson: You know, but being in public ministry for nearly 50 years now, our hearts’ desire is to do on the local, private level what we have encouraged people to do all of our lives. We’ve been in a public setting, but we’re looking forward to local church involvement. It’s all about people, whether a crowd or just one. And to live out our lives being salt and light, there, in a community, the presence of God living a good, godly life, living the truth led by the Spirit. And so we’re very happy about the future that we have. We will miss the school, we will certainly miss Minneapolis—we’ve been here 35 years. But we’re looking forward to turning the page and having a new chapter to write.

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