June 17, 2013

A Special Hufhand Report: Les Ollila, The Crossroads in Ministry Conference

The “Crossroads in Ministry” Conference met at the Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis, IN this morning (June 17) to hear Dr. Les Ollila expound the truth of God’s Word and answer some question concerning his roll in the demise of Northland Baptist Bible College.  After the conference was over, I asked Dr. Marc Monte if he would collaborate with me to put out this special Hufhand Report, which he consented to do.  So this Report represents our impressions of the meeting.

From our understanding, Dr. Chuck Phelps and Dr. Rick Arrowood put this Conference together to clear the air concerning Dr. O’s fundamental credentials and explain his role in what happened at Northland.  Most of us knew that this meeting would have no bearing on what was going to happen next at Northland, but we did believe that Dr. Les Ollila would tell us about his roll in what happened at the school, but sadly that never came out.

By and large, the meeting didn’t live up to its billing, unless “Crossroads to Ministry,” was a “promotional” to transition Dr. O from Northland to his next ministry.  We certainly didn’t come away with any more information than what we already knew, and from that perspective, we were sadly disappointed; not with a Dr. Ollila’s preaching, because his preaching was right on target.  His message on his own personal legacy using the backdrop of Ephraim was excellent.  He spoke of Ephraim coming from a background of comfort, which ultimately led to compromise, cowardice, and carnality. Using Hosea’s prophecy, he spoke of how he had turned back in the day of battle and became a “cake half-baked.” It was an excellent message.

Then came his second message, which was on “Avoiding Pragmatism.”  This was likewise an excellent message but it would have been better received had it been preached by one of the two coordinators of the meeting.   What was obviously clear to us, was the fact that “Dr. O was preaching to himself” as it related to his experience over the last three years at Northland.  Pragmatism is what has destroyed Northland Baptist Bible College and frankly, it’s difficult for us to understand how Dr. O went along with what was going on and supported everything Dr. Olson was doing.  Both Dr. Monte and I remembered the fundamentalism of days gone by that would never have allowed Northland to slip away without a fight.  It seemed that everyone studiously maintained their stature as “gentlemen,” while the school slipped away, a victim of calculated silence.

In the question and answer time, most of us were disappointed that we didn’t have an opportunity to ask Dr. O some questions. This made the question and answer time appear somewhat synthetic and contrived.  Dr. Phelps was only able to ask a few of the really hard questions, and they appeared to be sanitized to the point that Dr. O’s answers were less than forthright.  The first question that was asked, “Are you still on Staff at Northland?”  The answer was brief, “NO!”  But the follow-up question never came.  “When did you sever your relationship with Northland and why did it take so long to do it?”  That was never asked.  Several more “one answer” questions were asked like, “Are you a Fundamentalist?”  Dr. O answered, “Yes,” and then went on to clarify his position on CCM and CCM style of worship and a couple other fundamental issues.

The answer to Dr. Phelps question concerning Dr. O’s meeting with Dr. John MacArthur and Rick Holland back in [April] 2010, was put on the same level as going to the Hyles Pastor’s School or some other religious event.  In his answer, he heaped praise on Dr. MacArthur as being a godly leader, despite the fact that Dr. MacArthur preaches a “Lordship Salvation” gospel and despite the fact that his church polity is Elder Rule.

He likewise heaped praise on Dr. Olson for his leadership despite the fact that Dr. Olson is the reason that NIU is where it is today.  What surprised us the most was that Dr. O had no regrets about anything he did.   While we commend Dr. O for his clear-cut, passionate sermons, the time for passion was when the downgrade of the school became obvious. Today was a little like fighting the battle after it had already been lost.   We were glad for the personal clarification of Dr. O’s personal position on certain fundamental issues, but posturing for the future cannot reclaim the school.  There were many lessons we could have learned from the demise of Northland, but sadly, we learned precious few of them today.

Dr. O made much of humor in answering his questions, which is a good way to direct people’s minds away from the real issue.  He also made much about being under authority, as if to say that his culpability in helping to destroy NIU as a strong, fundamental Baptist school was simply “being submissive to authority.”

Loyalty to leadership can be commendable, but culpability in compromise is not.

He pleaded ignorance on knowing what was going on and believed that he was being used and even acknowledged himself as being a simpleton on occasion, (which we know he isn’t) but not once did Dr. O apologize or show any remorse for his silence over the last three years as Chancellor, while Dr. Olson methodically changed the philosophy, as well as the direction of the school from being a strong, fundamental, Baptist Bible College to a weak, generic, New Evangelical school.  To that end, we went away disappointed.  

Nevertheless, we both wish Dr. O good success in his future ministry of “Building Leaders” for tomorrow’s churches.   Personally, we believe that Dr. Ollila has time to repair the breach he has put in his own ministerial life.  Just because he’s made some serious mistakes, doesn’t mean that he’s out of the game.  He has something to contribute, if we let him do it.  He can still have a measurable impact on fundamentalism if we let him.  You Pastors have to decide that.  Like Fox News says, “We report, you decide.”

Dr. Lawrence Hufhand and Dr. Marc Monte

(Reprinted with permission)

For the complete video/audio recording please go to Q&A with Dr. Les Ollila


  1. How is it that you can preach an "excellent message" but not live that same message. That is the definition of hypocrisy. I know we should show Christian grace, but gentlemen, unless Dr. O gets past the "humor" he sees in all of this and repents of the disconnect between the message and living the message, he will be a problem in the future. His sympathetic tone for MacArthur, Holland and Olson cannot be swept under the rug either. Mark my words, unless there is genuine repentance on the part of Dr. Ollila for his silence in the decline of NIU when he should have been militant for Christ, he will have the same influence on other ministries that he had at Northland over the past three years.

  2. I find it ironic and worse yet, hypocritical, for Doc O and that crowd to talk about separating from the Hyles crowd(which I'm all for) because of the doctrinal deviations and immoral cover ups, when everything about NIU and Doc O is smacking of covering up his part in that scandal. Accountability in all these scandals and those in leadership during them is shockingly absent. This is just another reason good men are leaving the movement and refocusing on local church ministry and Biblicism. That part I can rejoice in.

  3. We must remember how difficult it is for any man who has faithfully poured his life into a ministry for over 30 years to pull away due to philosophical differences with the new leadership. While the change in philosophy also affects standards of personal holiness, ecclesiastical separation, music, and other issues, it does not mean that he stayed where apostasy was or is taking place. NIU is still a brother whom we believe is walking disorderly. We still admonish them as a brother and not treat them as an enemy (2 Thess. 3:15). None of us would leave a good friend upon the first wrong choice, but eventually we would where there is a pattern. Dr. Ollila has been bold enough to do what many men have not done, leave a ministry that has been his life for the majority of his life. Let's not criticize him and over-analyze every move he has made over the last several years. He is a separated fundamentalist who needs our support and love, not "friendly fire" that only kills our wounded.

  4. I think perhaps bros. Hufhand and Monte were expecting too much out of this session. If you listen to what Les said, he clearly is not happy with what has happened at Northland, he blames people who, he says, "had no theological training." He clearly shifts blame from Matt, who he still seems to want to believe the best of. Hard to fault a man for loyalty. I think he misses the point that Matt is the guy who hired the pragmatic "non-theologs" and the guy who followed their advice. However, the bottom line is that he disagrees with the direction that was taken, thought it would close the school, thought it abandoned the constituency and didn't like the overall direction. He also had far less power to influence it than he might have thought he had. That is why he stayed and was loyal, I think. In retrospect, I think he wishes he hadn't stuck around.

    So I don't take this as negatively as the two reporters do. Could he have been stronger? sure. But give the guy a break. He isn't saying, "nothing to see here, move on, move on".

  5. Dan Sehested6/19/2013 8:13 AM


    The only two blogs that I bother to read on occasion are your's and Don Johnson's. I am thankful for both of you. It was several years ago, when the problems at Northland began to be manifest in a more public manner that your blogs helped keep me informed. Nonetheless, this post has left a sour taste in my mouth.

    I read the post by Hufland and Monte yesterday. It set my mind against Dr. O and the organizers of the meeting. The article made the whole thing look like a sham; kind of like when the liberal press interviews Obama with "softballs and talking points". Then I read the comments today and then I found that the Q&A time with Dr. O. was posted online. I just finished watching it, twice. What I found was that this post did exactly what Dr. Phelps admonished people not to do - put their own spin on things said.

    As Don said above, it was clear to me that Dr. O was not happy about the direction of NIU. It was also clear that he was kept in the dark to a great extent. Dr. O did not "heap" praises on either Olson or MacArthur for everything either man stands for or has done. The above article gives that impression. Where was a comment on the statement of Dr. O's when he said that his "heart was lifted" from Northland? "My heart is gone from Northland." Does that not clearly state the man's position? It was during the Q&A time that I learned for the first time that there were others (PR experts) that were advising Olson. He (Dr. O) has not had input into the administration of NIU "for a long time". He was on the road often and there finding out about things at NIU that he didn't know and didn't agree with. He clearly stated, concerning the name change of NBBC to NIU, that he "was used" and that there was a "deeper agenda" that he was not aware of. He also stated that he didn't have problem with the name change because as far as he was concerned nothing of substance changed with it. The responsibility for the situation at NIU rests on Olson. Dr. O respected the authority under which he served and while he may have hoped for the best too long, hearing what he said during the Q&A time did nothing but re-enforce my respect for him. I've learned the hard way to never put too much stock in a man. But what this article does concerning what Dr.O has lived through during the time period in question is, at the least, inappropriate.

    Sorry Lou, but having watched what was actually said and how it failed to line up with what was reported to have been said, I couldn't step back and not respond. I'm not a blogger and never will be. And while I appreciate your work in this domain and have benefited from it, unfortunately, this post did not accurately reflect the event discussed and probably threw a gasoline soaked log on the fire of Dr. O's wrath concerning bloggers.

  6. Sometimes what a man does not say is more definitive than what he does say. Much more NEEDED to be said that was not said and probably never will be said. Such abdication betrays loyalty to God. It may be extremely painful to do and say what is right, but it is never hard if wanting to say and do what is right is more important to you than anything else.

  7. Chuck Phelps, Rick Arrowood and Les Ollila took a big risk by doing this conference, and the Q&A in particular. If Les had gone to Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder or Tim Jordan for this kind of event that would have been for me a very ominous sign.

    Sadly, some of those of us on the right are rightly accused of attacking rather than embracing during times of trouble. Biblically balanced ministries need the spirit of Paul and of Barnabas if we would help a John Mark become profitable. To me, we encourage the guy when he's going right, admonish (2 Thess. 3:6-14, 15) the guy when he's going wrong, and ultimately mark, avoid (Romans 16:17-18) and separate when he is far gone. It doesn't seem that complicated. If we are looking for a Shiboleth, we'll never be satisfied.

  8. I greatly admire and respect Dr. O for his years of faithful service and standing for what is right. He stood up like a man and tried to explain himself. We may have done differently, but there is no question this man loves the Lord and we should count him as one of us. We all can look back at things we wish that we could change. He is a humble, honest man that trusted some people too much. He is a hero of the faith and one that I consider a man of God.

  9. Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
    James 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

    I rejoice in the courage and humility of a man that I consider one of my spiritual fathers. I am not one that will personally fault a man for showing too much mercy and "staying" too long. The fact that the right decision was made is more important for me at this point than when it was made. Was damage done to some who may have been influenced? Possibly, but each individual is called to be discerning not just follow-the-leader; each will give account for what they did/did not do. Furthermore, when the character and glory of God is more important than people, we make decisions that emulate this character. God has waited long, suffered long, and been merciful to this poor sinner...all of us poor sinners--often despite some of the heathen who claim He has waited too long and been too patient (2 Peter 3). Is it proper to trust our leadership's heart? Yes! Is it proper to trust blindly, No. But the decision to severe ties by Brother Olilla indicates this was not blind loyalty otherwise it would still be going on.

    The spirit that one "speaks out" with is just as important as the truth spoken. Ephesians 4:29 calls us to no-corruption-communication, but that which explicitly edifies. Colossians 4:6 calls us to alway-with-grace-communication (note the "alway"). Obedience and disorderliness includes HOW we communicate; it is sin to embrace false doctrine, AND it is sin to speak gracelessly. Some fundamentalists have need to examine their hearts and communication before they decide to judge others...once the beams of mercilessness and gracelessness are removed they will be better equipped to truly honor God and have a hearing of godly, discerning people. I would not make a call of silence to warnings, but a call to spirit filled (think: fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22ff) warnings instead of spewing forth opinions and predictions. The fact that some have been right about certain ministries is not a validation for how they communicated.

    Each of us separates at different times due to certain factors. "There is...a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing... a time to keep silence, and a time to speak... A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace." (excerpts from Ecc 3). Let us all allow others to discover these times without our sovereign dictation to them. Let us practice well Micah 6:8 "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

    1. Dan Sehested6/25/2013 2:25 AM

      Very well said. Thank you.

      Dan Sehested

  10. Some things that farm boys in northern Wisconsin know:
    1. You lie when you want to cover up what you know to be wrong. You become transparent when the evidence reveals your lies; then you try to prove your wrong is right. "Put off lying and speak the truth" Ephesians 4:25, "Be valiant for the truth" Jeremiah 9:3.
    2. You do not build fences to sit on them. Where are you? (Act 29, The Gospel Coalition, T4G, New Calvanism, and Southern Baptists). Just get off the fence and let us know where you are going.
    3. You do build fences to keep the farm animals safe. When the neighbor calls to tell you the cows are out, you go and round up your cows and repair the fence. You do not get angry at the neighbor because he brought this matter to your attention. You do not tear down the fence. Rules are to keep us safe. God's Word is all about fences/rules.
    4. Farm boys know the difference between sheep and pigs. They each have a different kind of heart. "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow ME". Sheep hear and listen to the Shepherd. "The sow that was washed returns to wallowing in the mire". Pigs love to wallow in the mire of the world. 2 Peter 2:22 "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound, God forbid"
    5. If you don't maintain the barn, it will eventually fall down. I have been making trips to northern Wisconsin for ten years in the spring and have seen many collapsed barns. You must repair the barn your grandfather built for the purpose for which he built it. "Ask for the old paths and walk therein" Jeremiah 6:16
    6. If you sell out the farm to a developer, it cannot be use to produce the same things that your grandfather produced when he ran the farm.
    7. What has been accomplished on the farm in the past has nothing to do with what will be done with that same property if it is managed badly in the future. Israel was carried into captivity after prosperous years under David and Solomon.

    An Old Farmer 1960's
    Future Farmers of America

  11. Lou,

    I believe that it would be important for there to be some necessary "context" concerning what was presented at the Crossroads in Ministry Conference in Indy on June 17th. According to information published by Northland Camp, Dr. Ollila was on campus at NIU the week of June 10th because he was a main speaker along with Dr. Doug McLachlan, a NIU faculty member, for Northland Camp's Family Camp.

    1. Gordon, I will lay out this distinction. The camp and college are separate entities though on the same property and under the same umbrella. Yes, there has been overlap of personnel but they have been run separate from one another. Though, the camp will succumb to the suction caused by the breakdown at the college, collateral damage has been occurring within the camp ministry over the past couple of years as the college has been turning, changing direction and the camp has sought to remain unchanged. As the Patz family resumes the reins of the organization and maintains this direction change, the whole ministry bundle will suffer unless they can garner a new support base in evangelicalism. I don't have a problem with those who aver the change at NIU but have committed themselves to the camp ministry this summer and honor that commitment. I know that some who are ministering at camp this year will not be back once the summer is done.
      A truly tragic event has been unfolding before our eyes.

    2. Brian,

      I understand that there is a difference between Northand Camp and NIU, but as someone who had attended Northland Family Camp for 5 summers I also know that that separation is more on paper than in practice. The fact that they are entwined on so many levels is only to be expected seeing that they are under the same umbrella organization using the same facilities and sharing some of the same personnel.

      I do not need to remind you that the history of Fundamentalism has been one of real militancy and separation. So for the sake of others that may read this let me say that a generation ago it would not have been difficult to find a man who one day had a church, a pulpit, a chair, an office, a denomination, a retirement, a schedule, an alma mater, a mission agency, a fellowship, a salary, and life long-ministry friends only the next day to have suffered the loss of all of these things because of his desire to be faithful to Christ in all things and to live according to the conscience of his convictions. He survived the unknown of his immediate future and accomplished greater things for God.

      My question is how can we as preachers of Bible truth have greater expectations of those we preach to concerning separation, surrender, and trusting God when in too many ways we don't do it either when it comes to our comforts, our reputation, our friends, our associations, our schedule, our livelihood, and our future. We halt to act out of duty to our Biblical conviction because of our duty of loyalty to an organization or our duty of commitment to some man.

      I am not saying that any man who so chooses to act otherwise is not a good man, but because a man chooses not to live by conviction in the day of battle it must be considered that he may never be able to be used by God to meet the real spiritual challenges of our day. May God help us to regain that which has been lost.

  12. Gordon,
    I agree with what you say. However, I would remind you and others that not everyone makes moves at the same time. We need not blast those who do not move with us when indeed they are moving in the right direction just a bit more slowly.
    I don't know when you attended camp but I am personally acquainted with one of the evangelists who works at camp each summer. We talked quite a bit this spring about camp. This is his last camping season. He is grieved at what is transpiring. He has talked to the college personnel and been rebuffed. He has talked with camp personnel and grieve at the negative impact that the college is having on the camp. While there has been interaction of personnel between college and camp in the past, that interaction has been waning in recent years as I have been told. Primarily through attrition. The college personnel who used to minister at camp have either left of their accord or have been released because they were not in agreement with the changes going on in the college. The camp has not adopted the change that the college has imbibed in...yet. I know that the camp will eventually be sucked into the vortex of evangelicalism that was initiated in the college. And many who have/are ministering at camp this year are cognizant of suction. Some left before now, others are leaving after this season, and others may yet linger a bit longer. Let's not burn the bridge for these who are slower in heading the right direction than others of us.