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Sunday school innovator Andy Anderson dies at 74

FORT MYERS, Fla. (BP)–E.S. “Andy” Anderson, author and creator of the Sunday school-oriented Growth Spiral Program, died Oct. 31 in Fort Myers, Fla. He had been in a coma since suffering a cerebral hemorrhage May 15. He was 74.

Anderson served as pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Fla., for nearly 20 years until 1975 when he began working at the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, now LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He retired from his position as a growth specialist in 1992.

While at LifeWay, Anderson conducted church growth conferences in hundreds of churches across the United States and abroad. The Growth Spiral Program was an outgrowth of the ACTION enrollment plan, also developed by Anderson in the early ’70s. The ACTION plan trained leaders to enroll people in Bible study and Sunday school, as well as including an emphasis on bus ministry. He also worked with churches using the Super Spiral, an accelerated growth plan. He wrote eight books on church growth.

“Andy Anderson brought Southern Baptists’ focus back to growth in Sunday school through Growth Spiral,” said David Cunningham, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s Sunday school department.

Bill Taylor, LifeWay’s director of network partnerships, compared Anderson to an eagle “flying high above the rest he could see farther than others … and discern the right direction that would ultimately lead to victory.

Anderson, along with Harry Piland who died of brain cancer in May, had a passionate quest to reach lost people through Sunday school and to disciple those that accepted Christ in meaningful Bible study. Taylor called him a “cutting-edge innovator.”

“Southern Baptists had a marvelous ambassador in Andy Anderson,” Taylor said, “because he represented everything noble about the people called Southern Baptists.” Taylor also noted, “Andy expressed hope by the way he lived.”

Anderson was a strong supporter of his own church. Robert Kasten, Anderson’s pastor at Southwest Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Fla., for the last 10 years, said Anderson was a positive influence at church.

“Andy continually offered encouragement,” Kasten told the Florida Baptist Witness. “Anytime he was home, he was busy here doing other types of ministry. He loved his church and he loved the people. A lot of guys really don’t want to mess with the little churches, but Andy didn’t see Southwest Baptist as a little church; it was just his church.”

As Anderson’s health continued to decline after May, Eleanor, his wife of 57 years, was thankful for the faithful prayers of friends, family and colleagues.

“It has been hard on us as a family, but we trusted God and now are praising the Lord that Andy is at peace,” she said.

Anderson is also survived by a son, Ronald Paul Anderson; two daughters, Mary Anne Conn and Sonya Lyn Locke; 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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  • Janice Backer