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A Eulogy for my Alma Mater

May 23, 2013

In 1999 I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Northland Baptist Bible College. Since it’s inception, Northland has been a school devoted to the training of full time Christian workers. As such, it has played an invaluable role for churches, particularly fundamental churches. Over the last several years changes have been taking place at Northland that have concerned many and of course have provided much fodder for bloggers. I have intentionally said nothing publicly about my own thoughts on the changes. The last few weeks, beginning with the release of Dr. Olson from the presidency, his subsequent rehiring and now the appointment of a new chairman of the board, have prompted me to voice my perspective for those three people who read this blog (Hi mom!). To understate the matter succinctly, I am deeply troubled and saddened by NIU’s decisions and direction.

With the appointment of an Evangelical Free pastor to be the chairman of the board and the reinstatement of Dr. Olson to “continue in the direction he has been leading”, the Northland of old is no more. Whatever your opinion of fundamentalism and fundamentalist principles, there is no question that Northland had been squarely positioned within northern fundamentalism (I speak of northern fundamentalism as a philosophy, not as a geographical region). Northland began by making changes to certain standards (which was absolutely not a departure from fundamentalism). Then they changed their discipline from a demerit based system to a discipleship based system. That change sounds very good, but the practical application doesn’t always work out so well. This Spring Northland officially announced it was no longer practicing certain kinds of secondary separation, including separation from those within the Southern Baptist Convention. Unannounced has been the recruiting of students at CCM concerts and the allowance of a faculty member to also be a member of a charismatic church. The recent resignation of four board members and the appointment of a new chairman of the board leaves no doubt that Northland has left its fundamentalist position and is intent on continuing in that change. Clearly, the philosophy and practice of ministry is not what it once was. Some of Northland’s changes were good and necessary course corrections. The more recent changes are not minor corrections, they are wholesale deviations from what Northland once was. Now, I can no longer call Northland a fundamentalist school. This is a great grief to a fundamentalist who upholds exegetical preaching, loving servant leadership and separation from doctrinal error. Northland once maintained an excellent position. They taught sound exegesis that digs out the authorial intent of the passage and then carefully shows the hearer how that original intent impacts the life today. They taught conservative and traditional standards without being legalistic. Northland was always clear and specific about the differences between institutional standards, personal standards and Biblical commands. They maintained a careful separation from doctrinal error without being harsh or divisive. Northland was a much needed training ground for reasonable fundamentalists. Sadly, that Northland no longer exists.

As a student and as a pastor I reaped great benefit from Northland. As an undergrad Northland shaped my ministry philosophy. After graduation I continued to benefit from conferences and pastor’s days at Northland, fellowshiping with other like minded men and gaining further ministry training. To our loss, that Northland no longer exists. There is now one less school to train another generation of fundamentalist leaders. This is a great loss to a fundamentalism that cannot afford losses. Northland as an institution will probably continue on for many more years. Sadly, the Northland I knew and that shaped my ministry practices and philosophies has passed away. NIU is not the NBBC that was, and many, myself included, are sorrowing at the loss.


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