Difference Maker: Mark Anderson leading Lynwood in growing Christian school, ministering to community

Mark Anderson (Photo by Aaron Eisenhauer)

Mark Anderson decided at age 12 he wanted to be a pastor when he grew up. His father, also a minister by vocation, advised Anderson not to tell anyone.

“He said, ‘Let’s keep it between me and you and God, and let’s see what happens,’” Anderson recalled.

Anderson said his dad had seen other young men make emotional decisions about going into ministry, and it didn’t always turn out well. He said he was never pressured by his dad to become a pastor.

“He was really good about letting us be normal kids,” Anderson said. “He never said, ‘You have to do this because you’re a pastor’s kid.” He told us, ‘We do this because we’re Christians. This is what Christians do and how we live.’”

But Anderson said the idea of being a pastor never left him, as it was something he “felt called to do.”

After years of education, he began pastoring churches in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, and in 1994, moved his family to Cape Girardeau where he became pastor of Lynwood Baptist Church. After a stint in Jackson, Mississippi, from 2000 to mid-2008, Anderson returned to Lynwood in July 2008 where he continues to serve today.

Although there are challenges to his vocation, Anderson said what keeps him going is the opportunity to “help hurting people.”

“I enjoy that opportunity,” Anderson said. “That’s the main thing, the aspect of shepherding the people that God has given me at the church and helping meet their needs.”

Under Anderson’s leadership, church membership has grown to about 1,300 individuals.

One of the ways Anderson shepherds his congregation and helps to meet people’s needs is through a program called City2City. Anderson said Lynwood members have been able to help with home repairs and cleaning areas of the city, among other projects. He said they also work with the Cape Girardeau and Jackson public schools to provide backpacks to students, as well as resources to help families in times of need.

Anderson also led his church in the decision to begin Lynwood Christian Academy in the fall of 2020. He said Cape Christian Community School approached them more than once over the years about using the church’s facilities to house the school. On the first few occasions, Anderson hadn’t felt the timing was right. But, he said, approximately three years ago, he sensed God’s calling.

“I felt that, if it’s going to be housed in our church, then we need to be responsible for it,” said Anderson, who had been involved in schools in some of his previous churches. “Which means, we need to take ownership of it and that way we could provide the resources that are necessary. We could provide stability for the future of the school.”

Anderson said the church’s goal for the school is to “engage students and their families to experience academic excellence through a biblical worldview and equip students for life.”

The school started with 35 students but has experienced rapid growth in its first three years. They are anticipating up to 120 students this fall. Anderson said this growth means they need additional space, and the church’s leadership is in the planning stages for a “dual-use” space available for both church and school use.

Anderson serves as a chaplain for both the Cape Girardeau Police Department and the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office, helping officers and their families in need during a crisis, particularly if there is a death. He is board chair for Hannibal-LaGrange University. And he also previously served on the Cape Central High School Booster Board.

When it comes to being named a “Difference Maker,” Anderson points to others.

“I think the real key for me is I’ve surrounded myself with difference makers that make me look good,” Anderson said. “Starting with my wife. The influence that she’s had in our family has made a huge difference. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

Anderson also credits his staff and some of the church members at Lynwood, calling them great difference makers.

“You know, it’s their church; it’s not my church,” Anderson said. “So, I’ve tried to surround myself where I’m weak. I think that’s really the key to the success of our church and what we’ve tried to do in the community.”

Anderson said the thing he loves about his job is getting to do a little bit of everything. He said he wouldn’t want to do some of those things eight hours a day, but he likes the diversity and the challenges. He said every Sunday is another opportunity to be able to share God’s truth.

“Every day, since I started, I’m excited about what I do,” Anderson said. “I feel it’s just who I am, and it’s what God created me to do. And I’m really happy to have done it and still enjoy it.”