May 24, 2013

What Do We Know About: The Northland Camp Ministry & Dr. Les Ollila?

In recent weeks I have had several contacts asking why I don’t publish on the Northland International University (NIU) board of directors’ flip-flop on the termination and rehire of Matt Olson and subsequent announcements. Today, I am going briefly answer those questions, then move on to two new subjects: The Northland Camp ministry and Dr. Les Ollila.

In April I published, An Open Letter to Matt Olson and Jonathan Bailie. I closed this way,
Attacking the messenger(s) is a tactic taken by those who are afraid to be truthful. It is truth that sets us free. My counsel to the administrators at NIU is get honest about your position and truth tellers like me will have no need to verify things with NIU any longer.”1
With what took place in the recent weeks with the NIU board and its public announcements, which followed several years of deception and cover-up, I now choose to believe that the remaining administration and board is being transparent about their intentions for Northland International University.

It is clear to those who have been watching affairs in Dunbar that the administration of NIU chose to deny that the school was changing while attacking enquirers by labeling them “cultural fundamentalists,” etc.2 Now there is a new question that must be asked: What about Northland’s camp? Will it reveal an attempt to fall in line with the college’s progressive, non-separatist, and CCM philosophies?

There are Northland camp representatives currently going around the country saying the college doesn’t affect the camp and it is the conservative arm of Northland Missions, Inc. With the acceptance of what many assume to be a new, stronger emphasis on Calvinism based upon the board’s adoption of the NH Confession how are scheduled camp speakers going to respond? With NIU’s acceptance of the modern day Charismatic movement,3 its way of doing ministry in music (CCM) and practices, how will future speakers and potential campers respond? It would seem reasonable that Northland’s camp needs to be saying and in line with the same thing Northland’s college is saying. The camp has a real dilemma on its hands since the new transitional creed violates so much of the camp’s current ministry philosophy. In the opinion of some observers,

Matt Olson’s direction for NIU puts the camp ministry in real jeopardy.

Dr. Les Ollila remains the only question mark left from the former Northland Baptist Bible College. He did not participate in the 2013 graduation. Les was not on the platform. Les stood in the back and left before the graduation formally ended. It appears Les Ollila is no longer part of the institution. Les was, however, on campus as chancellor personally observing NIU’s transformation under Matt Olson to non-separatist evangelicalism, an embrace of charismatic theology, and the infusion of CCM/Rock genre on campus.

To date the only public document on NIU from Les Ollila dates back to December 2010. Is Northland Changing? A Chancellor’s Perspective from Dr. Les Ollila. In that letter Dr. Ollila bolstered Matt Olson’s position that “NIU is unchanged,”4 and he strongly supported what Matt was doing at the time.

From my August 2012 Q&A series with Dr. Dana Everson, I asked, “Did Les Ollila approve of these changes to the best or your knowledge?” Dr. Everson stated,
I am almost as much in the dark about this as people outside the college. Accord to his [Les Ollila’s] public letter, nothing has changed. He is probably not an involved in the day-to-day workings of the details of the institution as he was 8-9 years ago, but last school year’s (2010-2011) events were so large it seems odd to me he wouldn’t be aware of the issues. Matt Olson repeatedly stated both in staff meetings and in chapel that he and Doc O’s hearts beat as one in the ministry. I attempted to bring this question up to Les Ollila last Spring (2011). He responded to some other concerns I raised, but never answered this one.”5
If Les Ollila is no longer at NIU we ask: Will he come out with a statement? If he does make a statement will he discuss how NIU devolved into what it has become so quickly while he was on campus? Will a statement from Les Ollila be in support of, neutral toward or totally against the direction of NIU?

The good news is that we are soon to have an opportunity to hear from and question Dr. Ollila in person. I refer you to the Crossroads in Ministry Conference where on June 17, at the Colonial Hills Baptist Church, Dr. Ollila will be speaking on the topics of, A Good Legacy Does Not Guarantee a Good Future and Avoiding Pragmatism. His two preaching sessions will be followed by a Q&A with Doc O session. We do not know what we will hear from Dr. Ollila in regard to NIU, particularly his final years as NIU chancellor, observing first hand its change and departure from its historic Baptistic and biblical separatist roots.  This conference will, however, be the first time Les Ollila will be speaking apart from his role as chancellor and in a non-NIU forum.

I am opening the thread of this article to give you an opportunity to submit questions, that if you were at the Q&A with Dr. Ollila you would personally like to ask him.  Your submission must be in the form of a question and avoid making a personal statement.  Just submit your question for Dr. Ollila and I will publish it at my earliest convenience. This blog is widely read with over 45,000 views in the last month, primarily on issues related to NIU. Your question(s) for Dr. Ollila will, in all likelihood, be widely read and may possibly be used in some form at the actual Q&A session.



4) An Open Letter from Dr. Matt Olson of Northland International University, Nov. 24, 2010


  1. At what point did you feel you could no longer be apart of NIU?

    Why was NIU being as misleading or deceptive as they have been with the taking down of pictures from its website and Facebook page, saying they aren't changing but continuing to change, not announcing its Redeemed praise band on it's website . . . .

    What impact do you think the appointment of Daniel Patz as the new board chairman will be on the future of NIU?

    Why didn't Dr. Olson, the CFO, and the board stop it's extreme deficit spending years ago instead of waiting until the last minute to make drastic changes?

    Why is it so many long-time NIU faculty & staff are going along with these changes that are so different from it's historical practices?

    Do you think NIU will survive?

  2. I look forward to hearing from Doc. O. A series of related questions that I have is, Doc. O, why did you go along with the trip to John MacArthur's ministry in April of 2010 when you uninvited yourself to a conference in 2005 that also had Rick Holland in to speak? What changed in those 5 years that you accepted to go and what was your take on Rick Holland as a result of that April 2010 trip coming to NIU in Oct. 2010?

  3. I have two questions for Dr. Ollila:

    1) You worked so hard over the years to put Northland in the Fundamentalist camp. Why have you remained silent over the past three years as Matt Olson and company have slowly and deliberately dismantled Northland Baptist Bible College from the inside out?

    2) Do you not owe the Alumni and former staff members (Matt Williams, Dana Everson, etc.) from the 80's, 90's and after an apology for not doing every thing possible to stop the radical changes being made to Northland and for the now dark shadow cast upon the Camp ministry?

  4. My two questions would be:

    Why did you originally say Northland was not changing when it clearly was changing?

    Do you agree with Calvinism and the Lordship salvation interpretation of the gospel?

    In your view, is Northland on a more or less Biblical path now than they were before? Explain.

    Jim F

  5. Reminder: Some have submitted questions for Dr. Ollila's Q&A preceded by statements. If you have a question, state it and sign off. Just prior to the June 17 event I may reproduce this article and a series of questions for consideration.


  6. For the Q&A Session it appears no decision has been made on whether to have an open floor for questions or have questions submitted in advance, and from those some chosen by a moderator to ask Dr. Ollila.

    My opinion: Open Floor, with a moderator. If there is any question in the mind of attendees and observers afterwards that certain key questions are/were not being asked the impression could be that event was staged to give Les credibility without accountability. It would be troubling if the impression coming out of the Q&A that Les was shielded from the questions on most everyone’s minds about his later years at NIU. Questions for Les Ollila such as some that appear above and other questions:

    1) Should we believe that you had been working behind the scenes to address things, to counsel a stop to changes you disagreed with?

    2) When did you first recognize the direction of NIU was no longer something you could support?

    3) Would you consider the current NIU a separatist, fundamental, Baptist and Dispensational school?


  7. Is there anything you would like to say en masse to any alumni who have contacted you over the past four years with their concerns? Some received strong responses from you that nothing was wrong and we did not have the right to question leadership. We realize you can't respond to every alumnus individually. Would you take a moment to say something - anything - to those of us whose concerns did actually turn out to be accurate.