Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if my blog had a part — even a small one — in helping Pastor Bernie Anderson to be called to another church, all the way across the country in Florida.  If so … well, I can’t honestly say that I’d go back and talk bad about the guy just to keep him and his family here, so our loss is Florida’s gain.

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog article about a video of some preacher in North Carolina — whose name is best left forgotten here anyway — that went viral with him talking from the pulpit about how he thought gays should all be rounded up and put behind some electrified fence until they all died off.

That video brought quite a response from people across the country asking why more pastors don’t stand up against that kind of thing.  And so I wrote about how my pastor at the Wasatch Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church is better than that.  He understands how tolerance is needed — often required — if we’re going to turn things around as long as we’re on this Earth.

Pastor Bernie Anderson collects himself in the middle of giving an emotional farewell after receiving best wishes and a gift as a token of thanks from members of the Wasatch Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church on Saturday. (Photo By John G. Miller)

I talked about how I sat through the process as a church board member of discussing Bernie’s own human weaknesses before we asked him to become our pastor nearly eight years ago.  There were articles out there that we as board members could read about Bernie that were discussed and reviewed and prayed about as we went through that big decision-making process.

Bernie and his family were asked to serve here in Salt Lake City, and they accepted.  They stayed here for about 7 1/2 years, and our church has been blessed by their leadership.

After I put out that article on Memorial Day weekend about the North Carolina pastor and how my pastor would and has stood up to that kind of thing, a little time went by before I started seeing Google searches that led people to this blog that had Bernie’s name involved in the searches.  And it wouldn’t surprise me if some church board members in Florida might have been the ones looking for a bit of a “character reference.”  If that’s the case … well, all I can do is wish Bernie and his family the best and extend my heartfelt prayers for them and their future.

Bernie gave his final sermon this morning as our pastor at Wasatch Hills.  I wanted to tell him that he may have saved his best for last.  He talked about love.  He talked about trust.  He talked about church members being too content to just “sit at the edge of the pool, dangling their feet in the water” without fully diving in and getting wet when it comes to leading in the church, how people need to get “fully wet,” especially challenging the younger generations to become those church leaders of the future.

Bernie’s never been one to pull punches in a sermon.  He especially didn’t pull any punches today.  He had nothing to lose.  It wasn’t like the church board could ask for his resignation.

Pastor Bernie Anderson gives his last sermon as a pastor in Salt Lake City. (Photo By John G. Miller)

I was among those people who helped Bernie and his family move into their first residence here almost eight years ago, from the warmth of the Dallas area to the icy streets of Salt Lake City.  I’ve helped them move a couple of times since within the valley.  Chances are, I’ll help one more time in a smaller way again in the next day or two before he flies off to his new home in Florida.

It was that conviction that Bernie has in finding good leaders within a church that made me feel honored to accept his invitation maybe four or five years ago to be the head deacon at our church, a calling that came after I had — of course — helped him to move something big and heavy in my pickup truck from one place to another.

I held on to that position and served in it to the best of my ability until stepping aside for the next generation to take over about two months ago.  I thank Bernie for asking me to serve in a position that’s richly blessed my life.  I thank Bernie for trusting me to serve in such an important position of leadership.

In that time, I feel we’ve become good friends, and I deeply value that.  We’ve seen each other go through some highs, we’ve seen each other go through some lows.  We’ve had fun times together, and we’ve sweated together through working for the church.

I treasure that time.  I treasure the friendships that have been made between my family and his.  He’ll never know how much I truly appreciate his caring and support and counseling through some of the toughest days of my personal Christian walk, and he is one of very few people in this world who knows what I’m talking about.  At a time when others may have doubted my character, he didn’t.  At a time when I was hurting deeply because of it, he gave me his ear and let me pour stuff out.  Through that, he gave me one bit of great advice.

“The only people who I really care about when it comes to what they think of me are my wife and kids.”

I also thank Bernie for times he has given members of my family good counseling, encouragement, friendship, a sense of hope.

Bernie is human, he’s honest, he’ll say he disagrees with you on any particular issue and do so in a respectful way … yet he still pulls no punches.  Just the way it is during his sermons.

If the handshake and hug that I gave him after church today are my last for him before he leaves for Florida, I’ll say “see ya” now.  If I end up helping him to move just a couple more heavier items to the landfill on Monday before he flies off, I’ll say “see ya” then.

He’ll be greatly missed.

Bernie, “The Thinker” (Photo By John G. Miller)

Copyright 2012, Daddysangbassdude Media


5 thoughts on “Saying goodbye to a great pastor and good friend

  1. Ok John, no fair, I was just done with all my crying and washed my face and all then I read this!!! Thanks so much friend. Praying for God’s best for you and Amy and your entire family. Godspeed!

    1. You are certainly welcome to change your mind anytime. I really love your leadership and the way you tell us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. Good luck to you and your wonderful family.

  2. I so regretted that I could not be there today to experience Bernie’s final sermon and farewell. I did, however, have the great fortune of seeing his wife and beautiful girls in their new Orlando church home, for which I am so very grateful.
    Pastor Bernie Anderson has been a tremendous force for change in my life. He is the first pastor I’ve ever experienced that put his actions where his mouth was; he stands for what he believes and he believes what he stands for. He and his family did something no other pastor I know would have done: accepted each and every one of us with love and open arms, regardless of station, regardless of our differences, regardless of lifestyle. The only thing he has ever seemed to expect is that we love each other and our church, and he has been instrumental in how I have seen that love grow in myself and others.
    I’m not sure how we’ll get along without Bernie and Christina, but I know God has great plans for his future and that of our church. Just be warned: Bernie has set a precedent. Any replacement pastor hoping to fill our pulpit had better have your capacity for loving others, or I dare say they won’t feel at home among the loving people Bernie and Christina have nurtured these last 7 1/2 years at Wasatch Hills.
    I know God will bless him, his beautiful wife and girls, and the adventure that lies ahead.

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