Authentic Christianity can only be realized through Christ, by means of His Spirit and His Word, as faith is exercised. There is nothing to add. If you do, you have another gospel. Having rules and standards does not make a person a legalist, but making rule keeping as a means or a measure of spirituality does. That is the point.
Truthfully, I’m not sure how many times I’ve attended Northland’s Heart Conference over the past decade. I’m sure it’s upwards of half-a-dozen. Sometimes I’ve gone as a speaker, sometimes as an exhibitor (representing Central Seminary), sometimes alone, and sometimes with companions. Rarely have I been able to stay for the entire conference—more frequently I’m there for a day or two. Never have I gone away feeling that my time has been wasted.
The key to understanding Heart Conference is in its name. It is not an ecclesiastical meeting. It is not a conference that focuses on current events and passes resolutions. It is not an assembly that is trying to change the world, not even the world of fundamentalism. It is a conference about the Christian’s personal relationship with God and growth in grace.
Heart Conference draws attendees from a variety of church fellowships throughout the United States. Most of the attendees, however, seem to come from the upper Midwest—Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas—with many from Michigan and Illinois. Of course, Wisconsin is probably best represented. The crowd includes many pastors and other Christian workers, but Heart Conference is not just for ministers. It is mainly intended to help ordinary church members.
This mix of individuals makes for some remarkable fellowship. One of the strengths of the event is that it provides an opportunity to meet and interact with many others of like precious faith. The informal atmosphere tends to lend itself to transparency. Pastors get to introduce their church members to other pastors and Christian leaders, or they get to unburden themselves to their peers about their current challenges in ministry. It is not uncommon to see small, private conversations of two or three in which counsel is being sought or intercession being offered.
Dear Friends and Fellow Followers of Jesus Christ,
In 1983 I moved from the local church ministry where I served to lead a ministry oriented to serving local churches. The heart of my burden was to help pastors and churches train servants for the Great Commission in a philosophy and approach to discipleship and ministry that would be shaped by Scripture and that would enable them to remain faithful to its teaching over time. When I came to Northland it was a Baptist Bible college committed to biblical authority and historic Fundamentalism. Almost three decades later, the Bible college still occupies the center of what has become Northland International University. Along the way, God sent many faithful servants to join hands in turning this vision into a reality. All of them came because they were attracted to the core philosophy that shaped Northland into what it is today.
In 2002, after I spent almost two decades at the helm, God brought Dr. Matt Olson to assume the presidency as I continued to serve with him and the team in the role of chancellor. For the past nine years, I have had the joy of helping him to carry out the vision and to implement the principles that have always been true at Northland.
I have been spending countless hours in discussion and prayer with Dr. Olson and with Northland’s administrative team. I do want to make one thing clear to you: what you might perceive as “news” about Northland is actually not really news at all. In recent days some are questioning whether Northland has departed from the original vision and historic position that shaped us as an institution. Though this does not surprise me, frankly, it saddens me.
As we have attempted to responsibly adjust the way the vision and philosophy is applied in certain settings at our institution, the foundational principles and historic theological positions to which we have always been committed remain unchanged. These adjustments reflect our desire to be faithful to a vision and to truth in ways that keep vision and truth in front of a new generation facing new challenges in ministry.
What we see happening at Northland is the realization of many years of teaching and concerns that many of us have had throughout our years of ministry. Northland has always been a Bible college at its core. It has always been committed to the authority and all-sufficiency of Scripture. It was true for Northland when I served as president. I’m excited to say that it remains equally true under Dr. Olson’s leadership today.
Thank you for your demonstration of true friendship over these past few months. So many of you have called, emailed, and written me. Yes, God has been doing great things. Yet, when He does, the pot gets stirred. Conflict often follows.
I thought it would be helpful for me to share a few thoughts concerning recent events at Northland as well as our process of thought. My prayer each day is that God would give us grace to work through our present opportunities and challenges in ways that fulfill His purposes for us and that please Him most. Never has there been a more exciting day to prepare this next generation for Great Commission living or to advance kingdom causes!
January 2008: I began praying for God to do “greater things” here at Northland. It seemed to me that the church as a whole had grown cold with the works of men and was crying out for the works of God to be manifest. I prayed to that end: