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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor
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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
If, as early church tradition described, the church is a boat and
the main edifice in which the people worship is the nave, then it goes without saying that
the church should also have anchors.
- It does. In fact churches, like other organizations, frequently have
- What Is An Anchor?
- An anchor, according to William and Nurit Cohen, is "any kind of
symbol that evokes a certain response, even though it may have little obvious connection
to the response it stimulates" (Cohen and Cohen, The Paranoid Corporation: And
Eight Other Ways Your Company Can Be Crazy. New York: American Management
Association/Amacom, 1993. p. 22).
- Cohen and Cohen list the following anchors in organizations: persons,
ceremonies, names, actions, physical symbols, organizational attributes, standard ways of
operating or conducting business, and traditions. These same categories of anchors are
also found in the Christian Church.
- * A Person. In the Christian Church, Jesus is the most
obvious example. In the local church, this can include the pastor, the founder(s) of the
congregation, and/or key leading personalities (former pastors, music directors, Sunday
School teachers, etc.). These individuals can be living or deceased, living locally
or no longer in the area, members or former members.
- * A Ceremony. The most obvious is the main worship
experience. Other examples are annual events and ceremonies to honor individuals. Special
worship services such as those on Christmas and Easter are prominent "anchor"
ceremonies as are sacramental observances (baptism) and religious rites (weddings,
funerals, confirmation et al).
- * A Name. The church's name is often a
"sacred" anchor. Whether the official name or a slogan, the special vocabulary
which identifies the church is a powerful anchor.
- * An Action. Repeated, customary, and expected actions
are also anchors. Common "anchor" actions expected of pastors include the length
of sermons, the manner in which hospital visitation responsibilities are taken care of,
and being "pastoral" in the manner in which a church is accustomed relative to
teaching, church discipline, ministry to youth, etc. are but some examples of action
- * A Physical Symbol. Slogans, logos, vision statements
and other distinctive physical items are physical anchors. Bibles and hymnals are anchors.
So are the old altar and baptismal font and the corroded candle holders. Don't forget that
Great-Grandpa and Grandma Jones' old, faded-out picture of Jesus given in memory of their
stillborn child only 90 years ago still hanging in the narthex, is an anchor, too.
- * An Attribute. Certain church attributes
"The Metropolitan Church," "The Old Historic First Church," "The
Small Church In The Country," "The Missionary Church," "Pastor
So-And-So's Church" are also anchors. Size, past or present success, geographical
location, economic status, can all be anchor attributes.
- * A Way Of Doing Business. How a church treats and views
its members--and how they view themselves in the fellowship of the church--is an anchor.
"The Friendly Church," "The Church In Which Everyone Knows Everyone
Else," and "We're Family In This Church," are just some examples.
Regularly undermining the elected leadership, sabotaging decisions, repressing conflict,
over-reacting to disagreement, scapegoating pastors releasing them on an almost
predictable timetable are some negative examples of "A-Way-Of-Doing-Business"
- * A Tradition. These include those things which are
"always" done each year. The pastor sings "Silent Night" at the
Christmas Even candlelight, food is served to the homeless on Thanksgiving, the family
service in which the children sing a special song, etc. are all examples of tradition
- What Anchors Do
- Anchors have many functions in the church, both positive and negative.
- 1) Anchors are the "stuff" that gives an organization its
identity, its equilibrium and its staying power. Congregations which have endured for
decades do so because they have a variety of multiple, enduring anchors.
- 2) Anchors set the tone, mood and vision of the congregation. Anchors
explain why churches and other organizations tend to perpetuate the same behavior over
decades. Their anchors just don't change.
- 3) Anchors give justification for maintaining overt and covert behaviors
and give legitimacy to tacit behaviors based on formal anchors.
- 4) Anchors are the objects which organizations and its members tend to
fight about. Whether it be a building program, building relocation, new staff
configuration, a new style of worship, or doing things differently, conflict at some level
is sure to emerge because anchors are involved.
- 5) Anchors help build identity. Anchors help people feel rooted in their
church and its traditions. Anchors help them identify a specific church or program as
"theirs." Many Christians, for example, keep a special place in their heart for
their original "home" church in which they grew up, were confirmed, married,
- 6) Anchors help allay fear. Anchors are the symbolic representations that
as they have endured and succeeded in past trials, they can endure present ones and
overcome them, too.
- 7) Anchors minister to the "soul." Many who tenaciously cling
to ancient forms of liturgy are but one example of this. For some, medieval chants, solemn
processions, use of special liturgical items such as censers, processional crosses, etc.,
and the accompanying liturgical rite are not just "the" right way. They minister
to the deepest part of the soul. Whether one prefers ancient or modern worship or anything
in between, one of the deepest functions of anchors is to make connection to the deepest
resources of the heart and soul.
- Pulling Up Anchors?
- When a captain orders the anchor to be pulled up, things start happening.
The ship starts to move. The early going is very precarious and requires the full
attention of nearly all crew members and the assistance of multiple tug boats to nudge,
pull, correct, and coerce the ship in just the right direction until momentum is
established and the going is safe.
- In many ways the moments immediately following the pulling up anchor
probably one of the most intense phases and critical phases of shipping. Some of the most
unprecedented shipping disasters have occurred in ports within minutes of pulling up
anchor. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in the 1980's was one such
- Pulling up anchors is serious business. It is not without consequences.
Whether anchors are pulled up intentionally or unintentionally, the early going is
extremely precarious, especially in the church. As in a real ship, pulling anchors in the
- * requires the support of competent, dedicated and focused leadership.
- * requires that the captain and the ship know their destination.
- * requires that the captain and leaders be aware of the perils of the
* requires nudging by critically constructive participants and the ability and willingness
to make corrections to establish momentum.
- Once at sea, the ship and its entire crew, must have the confidence to
know and remain faithful to its destination even in storms. Of course, the storms can be
great. In spite of the best planning, efforts and intention, there are no guarantees.
- When the ship is finally out to sea, it's still not smooth sailing. The
only things it can depend on are whatever resources it has stored, remaining afloat,
staying on course, and daily persisting in unquestioned confidence that progress is being
made even when the seascape looks identical to the previous day and the day before
- Anchors A-weigh!
- Perhaps the greatest moment for the captain is when the anchor is pulled
up. It is at this moment when the captain's leadership and the crews' identification with
the voyage begins. It is at this moment when the captain goes from being head manager to
- Pastors, as change agents, are also called to pull up anchors. This
specifically includes those anchors which hinder or threaten the mission of the church to
"make disciples." Pulling up the anchors and shouting "Anchors A-weigh"
can either be their greatest moment...or their last. It can be cause for great joy or
- Principles For Pulling Up Anchors
- Since the task of pulling anchor is so precarious, pastors and Christian
leaders must respect the importance of anchors to organizations and their adherents.
Here's some guiding principles for pulling up anchors.
- 1) Before pulling up anchors, check the condition of the ship.
Some are unfit for sailing. Some have just gone through the shoals and are leaking badly.
Others may float, but need considerable work. Still others need to have things settled on
board in port first before even thinking about setting out to sea. Some, however, are all
set just waiting for the captain to say, "Anchors A-weigh!"
- 2) Timing is important! Don't pull the anchors up too
quickly. Necessary support many not be available. Conditions may not be amply safe to move
forward without peril.
- 3) Don't get impatient. Anchors pull up very, very
slowly. The passage from the dock to the bay to open sea is a slow-going task. Don't rush
it or else you'll crash.
- 4) Have a crew you can trust. They have to be there to
be useful. No-shows and fair-weather crew members just won't do. They must be accountable.
And, since they're volunteers, they must also enjoy it.
- 5) Keep encouraging the crew toward unity. This is done
primarily by continuing to give your "I have a dream" speech.
- 6) When navigation is uncertain, send out the dinghy first to
do some testing of the waters. It's best to discover that there's a problem when only some
of your resources are at risk.
- 7) Don't pull up anchor without telling anyone.
Pulling up anchors is not to be done in secret. It affects everyone. Avoid as many
surprises as possible by avoiding secrets and publicizing the itinerary.
- 8) Be careful which anchors you pull up. Every ship has
multiple anchors. Pulling up the wrong anchors or pulling them up in the wrong sequence
can be detrimental to the goal of getting out of port safely...or at all.
- 9) Expect storms. Once the anchor is pulled, every ship
is vulnerable. Every captain and ship knows there will be storms and non-anxiously
anticipates and leads through them. Though exhausted afterwards, the storm-torn captain
gains greater confidence in himself and the crew as their skillful prowess increases with
each storm they experience.
- 10) Expect the unexpected. Whether good or bad, every
voyage is different. Expect the unexpected--it's part of the thrill of the voyage.
- 11) Put Down The Anchors. After the voyage is done, the
ship will put the anchors down again. But the anchors may be new or modified. Or they may
simply be the same anchors, just put down into a different location. Ministry leadership
means not just pulling up anchors, it also means coming back into port and putting anchors
back down again to prepare for the next voyage.
- 12) Trust God. Since you really don't have much choice
in trusting any other power of this magnitude (God is the only God there is!), trust God
to be in control. After all, He is. Captains just have to recognize and remember that
- Anchors: The Good And The Bad
- The principles for pulling anchors are quite simple. That's the good
news. The bad news is that pulling anchors is dangerous business. It disrupts people. It
takes them out of their "home port" safety zone. It incites fears. It arouses
- Perhaps the most difficult thing about pulling anchors is that it
requires trust. That's precisely why God calls pastors and Christian leaders to a ministry
of change-agency. Anchors can be hazardous. Handle it the wrong way and it can knock you
- Anchors can also be used in ways to enhance renewal, too. Because, as
Cohen and Cohen said, they "evoke a response," the prudent leader will recognize
the powerful use of anchors to inspire, uplift, unify and motivate.
- Anchors Help Bring Control
- Whenever an extra degree of control is needed, anchors can help. Knowing
the anchors in your ministry--and what emotional responses they evoke--can be a powerful
way to positively influence a congregation toward a desired behavior or goal. As leaders
appeal to these anchors, they help the ministry by reaffirming it's identity while also
inciting those values most necessary to take it out to sea for another voyage into the
wonder of God's working.
A Thumb As An Anchor
- In one of the most remarkable examples of conflict intervention, Rev.
Erwin Kostizen, then Vice-President of the Michigan District-LCMS, used a powerful anchor
to bring peace to an extremely conflicted congregation. He used his thumb.
- He held out his fist in front of his chest and, pointing his thumb to the
ceiling, described how this thumb was hurting. Drawing on the anchor of the Body of
Christ, he described how the Body can't just cut off the hurting thumb without causing
further harm. Instead, the Body of Christ must minister to that hurting thumb with the
loving and healing words of reconciliation in Jesus Christ.
- The response among the group of over 100 highly-reactive,
ready-to-attack, individuals in the crowd was a stunning silence. As they gazed at the
thumb, they had to put away their hot emotions and their out-of-control feelings. They
were called to remember their anchor, Jesus Christ, with whom they were joined in the Body
- From that moment on, a congregation which experienced several months of
Level IV conflict and the exodus of hundreds of members, began to experience the first
steps of peace and reconciliation. It was the powerful working of God conveying the power
of anchors through one gifted for a ministry of conflict intervention.
- Your Most Important Anchor
- If, as Cohen and Cohen claim, anchoring techniques link desired behaviors to established
symbols, then it is most imperative that pastors continually link themselves to the most
important anchor: Christ. He's the one anchor one never pulls up, especially when on is in
- Hebrews 6:17-19 records discusses how Christ is the anchor for our soul.
- "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the
heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two
unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take
hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor
for the soul, firm and secure" (NIV).
- God's anchor to us is that His purpose toward us never, ever changes. Though the
circumstances and events of ministry are often unpredictable even in the best of times,
God confirms His promise so that we, too, may "take hold of the hope offered us and
be greatly encouraged." This is our hope. Christ is our "Anchor for our soul,
firm and secure."
- No matter where your voyage of ministry might lead, never--ever--pull up anchor from His
- Thomas F. Fischer
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:57 PM