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On a Pilgrimage: an interview with Jared Anderson

From the unexpected beginnings of Desperation Band, to the ups and downs of serving in his local church during a tumultuous public scandal, Jared Anderson has learned that he’s never walked alone. His new album, The Narrow Road calls believers to trust and walk a God-centered life, even through the toughest times.

Family Christian: So where did you get your start leading worship? At New Life Church in Colorado Springs?

Jared Anderson: I did grow up at New Life but I went away to Oral Roberts University [in Tulsa, for college] where Glenn [Packiam] was my next door neighbor and Jon [Egan] was on my wing. I met all those guys that are in Desperation Band. And we all ended up at New Life together. None of us intended to go to the same place or thought we’d be working together at all, so it’s pretty cool how that all happened. Came back, [although] I swore I’d never go back to Colorado…

FC: …And you left because Oklahoma was so beautiful?

Jared: (laughs) Ha, yeah… no. In high school I always thought, “I can’t wait to get out of here.” But it didn’t take too long of living in Oklahoma before I realized, you’ve got a pretty sweet spot in Colorado. I did not see myself working in a church or leading worship – [but I] started helping out and kind of didn’t realize that I became a worship leader until I was one. I was just trying to help out and serve, but the Lord had me there.

FC: Did you go back to Colorado with this idea, “hey, we’re Desperation Band”?

Jared: No, not at all, the only reason Desperation Band happened was because David Perkins wanted to start a conference and he asked Glenn to lead worship at it, because Glenn was there about nine months before Jon and I came on staff. So once that happened, David was like, man, these guys are writing songs, it would be great to record a CD to help get the word out about the conference. And when they said we’re going to record a CD at the first conference Glenn didn’t want to do that by himself so he asked the two of us to be a part of it. [And] that was our start. So the band started for the conference, but then we started getting asked to do stuff, and we were like, we gotta call this something.

FC: So then how long was it before you decided to go out on your own?


Jared: Glenn stepped down in ’08, the first conference was in 2002 so that was 6 years, then I stepped off the staff in ’09 and moved to Nashville and that’s really when Jon started running with the band. I was doing solo stuff on the side anyway, so we felt like that was the right fit for all of us.

FC: And are you still in Nashville?

Jared: No, I was there for one year writing and trying to figure out – I knew I wasn’t supposed to be on staff but I didn’t know what the next step was. We had sold our house and we were going to build a house, but I said, before we build I want to make sure this is the right thing for me.

FC: Please keep in mind that if we ask anything uncomfortable you don’t have to answer, but we’d like to talk a little about the massive transition New Life went through a few years ago, which led to Pastor Ted Haggard stepping down. Obviously people on the outside had a lot of feelings about how the church handled it and you were on-staff at that point. Everybody could kind of imagine your response corporately, but how about you individually? How did that unfold or affect your walk?

Jared: It was massive. (pauses) I think… it is really difficult to lead while you’re processing, yourself. It was really a vulnerable [time] because you’re like “there’s no handbook for this. I don’t know that I want to lead or even have anything to give at this point.” But somebody’s gotta lead – I mean, what are we going to do, all stay home? It’s a point of decision to put one foot in front of the other. We’re going to worship the Lord. Really, the fire has a purpose of reducing to the gold. The gold is only refined in the fire and I feel like every church, every Christian has to walk through that to realize, to know if there’s anything there or not.

FC: So now 6 or 7 years ago when you look back at that, we’re assuming you don’t look at it fondly, but what is your feeling of that time? Specifically concerning your own personal walk with Christ, or your view of what happened corporately as a body, your family. Would you characterize it as a wilderness?

Jared: Totally. I mean, it’s what makes you who you are, ya know? Anyone has a testimony, it’s not something you would ever wish on anyone to have to go through the struggles that you went through, but everybody’s going to have to go through struggles. So if this is the thing that makes me who I am, great, because the Lord was with me the entire time. With my wife, with our marriage, with our church and we’re still standing. I think that’s a testimony.

FC: As a follower of Jesus, outside of this job of leading worship – how did you walk through, what sustained you?

Jared: I went through several seasons of doubt like, well I just drank the Kool-Aid, I’ve been living a lie, my leader had been leading something that wasn’t true, self-admittedly so! [I wondered] maybe there’s a lie inside of me that I have to discover and so [it led to] this question of okay, what do I believe? If none of this structure still stands, what do I carry inside of me? And it’s the faith – following Jesus. It was just one foot in front of the other, He’s still there, He’s still faithful. We’d get together as friends – the staff – night after night after night. We’d play it all out in our heads and try to analyze it, discover it, but then finally you just gotta quit talking about it and go back to living, ya know? I think what it did primarily is change my “success criteria” of ministry. That’s the bottom line. What a trial will do is make you go okay, what does it mean to be successful? And that’s to follow Jesus, to raise godly children, to have a great marriage that reflects Christ and to minister to people in authentic ways that lead them by the Holy Spirit to the person of Jesus.

FC: So your family has grown, you have four kids and you’re in the process of adopting. When do you hope to have these 2 additional children?

Jared: Last year we had two miscarriages in the span of about 8 months and my wife really started to feel like her desire to bear more children was lifting – which I never thought would happen because she loves having kids. We’d had miscarriages before, and they’re hard, but you get through them. So we decided to start the adoption process in November [of 2011]. We went down to Haiti in January to meet the director and we met John Diego then.

FC: So what has the adoption process been like for you so far?

Jared: When we lived in Nashville our neighbors were in the process of adopting when the earthquake hit [in Haiti], so they went down and got their kids out – and we watched that process happen. We thought this is amazing, when we’re done having our own, we want to do this. So that’s kinda how we got started. We went down there with our old neighbors and met all of the people that they already knew and were just kind of curious about this little boy, John Diego, when we were tucking all of the kids in at night. We thought he probably had a home because his crib was decorated with little toys and stuff and that usually comes from the parents who come to visit, so we’re like oh, isn’t that fun, he’s got a little family waiting for him. So the last night we’re there we’re like, we should check and see if he’s available at all and turns out he was, so we thought we’ll take him. They called us about 6 months later, [and] they were not supposed to have any girls available for 2 years and to get a baby girl was even more distant. But they called us at the end of May and said – we have a 5 month old girl for you. So we hung out with her in June. So we’re just going to keep going down there to visit our kids until we get them and it will probably be at least another year. The orphanage is called New Life Link and we work with an adoption agency called Love Beyond Borders.

FC: Here at Family Christian our calling is James 1:27 “…to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” so that’s what all of our efforts are really for; to help propel that Kingdom calling. We want kids adopted and foster kids in homes.

Jared: One of the things the Lord laid on our heart was that we’re not supposed to carry this burden on our own, so we had this puzzle made. We took a picture of John Diego and had a 250 piece puzzle made of it then asked people to sponsor just a piece of the puzzle. We’ll write their names on the back of each piece and then at the end, we’ll get a 2-sided frame and hang that in his room so he’ll know who helped to bring him home. The time has come upon us to have all of the finances and we have to raise about $15,000 [more] in the next 40 days so we’re on an active mission to get the word out.

FC: Let’s talk briefly about The Narrow Road, your new record. Everything you’ve talked about today, Colorado to Oklahoma to Nashville to Colorado, then everything you went through at your church and now the adoption. Do all of these things feed into the record? What’s the theme?

Jared: Yes, for sure. When I left the staff position at church I felt very much like the instruction God gave Abraham leave your country and go to a place I’m sending you felt very much like [what He was saying to] me. Two things really helped shape my psyche in this transition: First was reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. It’s all about the journey of Christian away from the city of destruction to the Celestial City. And his wrestling with distraction and meeting all of those characters along the way. And the other was the experience of visiting one of our missionaries in Mexico and going from house to house with him; his process of making disciples. Discipleship is you come with me and we go here. And I think in the mega-church world that had become to me kind of a lost art. Training people to just pick one [person] at a time, and [say] you and I are going to live life together and go forward. That’s reducing discipleship to its most basic format and anyone can do that. The road is narrow and only a few find it. That’s a hard message to swallow sometimes, but this is calling people to holiness, a separateness away from worldly wisdom and away from morality and religion and these things that take our focus and distract us and make us think that we’re successful. [These places] where we can have the appearance even when we’re not really on the road. That’s sort of the journey I’ve been on.

FC: In talking about “the narrow road” you mentioned Abraham being called out of something and into something. How much of this record reflects this idea of I’m moving and I don’t know where? Is that part of the story for you?

Jared: I think every season builds on itself so I don’t know that I’d say… well like, there’s a line between leaving and disowning. I’m not disowning anything of my past. That has brought me to what I am, but I do feel called to run with a message that the Lord has given me and it’s a new season for me doing this full-time. Going and ministering to people on the road it’s like – ok, what is the message? I’m not just a songwriter or a song leader – I’m a message bearer, an ambassador. To go and preach the Gospel really is the goal, so that’s kind of a new effort.

FC: What do you hope this record will do?

Jared: I think it’s the soundtrack for that road, for the journey of life in Christ.

FC: When you write your songs, do you write for yourself, for individuals you know, for the broader audience who is participating in worship music?

Jared: I write what I need for me for the day. That’s the Lord’s reveal. I can’t give anybody anything that I haven’t experienced. A lot of times I feel like I write a message or a burden that’s in my heart, and the Lord causes me to have to live that out. For instance, the song “Jesus Makes the Impossible Possible.” It’s something I needed and am still walking through with this adoption, like man, what a burden, what a journey, how’s this ever going to work out? How long is this going to take? It’s my ‘impossible’ right now, it feels like a huge mountain to climb. And yet I know that this is what God has called us to do and He’s going to make a way. He’s going to reveal Himself through it. So that’s joyous… There’s joy in that.

FC: Has there ever been a song in your catalog that you go back to and you’re like – I don’t know how I wrote that song, but it was for me?

Jared: Yeah, well like, “The Great I Am” totally. I couldn’t go back and just sit down and say, I’m going to write a song like that today, ya know? [laughs] But that has been a journey for me to draw near to the Lord and then to see how big, vast and overwhelming He is. To ask, why have I ever had any trace of fear when I’m included in a God of this magnitude…?


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