On June 17th at the Crossroads in Ministry Conference, Dr. Les Ollila will be giving two messages and stand for a Q&A session. As the date approaches I bring to you from November 2010 this article. In the 2+ years since this article first appeared Dr. Ollila went on to tolerate a great deal more in radical changes at NIU. We trust that a great many answers from him will be forthcoming at next week’s conference.
In its history Northland International University (NIU), the former Northland Baptist Bible College, has not been in a situation requiring a strong call to separate. In the early days Northland was a refreshing voice because of it’s good conservative stands, refreshing Northwood’s feel, friendly campus, servant’s heart, with a love for revival and the Lord Jesus Christ. Students were being discipled with a demerits system in place and properly emphasized for correction and growth. There are many fine pastors and Christian workers serving the Lord today because of Northland’s ministry to them.
NIU Chancellor) said that over and over to the student body. With decisions made in recent weeks at Northland a new kind of teaching and tolerance has come to the campus.
In 2005, because of Rick Holland’s inclusion as a speaker, Dr. Ollila pulled out of the God-Focused conference. Some believe that NIU president Matt Olson insisted Ollila withdraw. Just five years later, however, Dr. Ollila along with Matt Olson, Sam Horn and Doug McLachlan reach out to and traveled across the country to meet with John MacArthur, Rick Holland and Phil Johnson.* Then Ollila/Olson/NIU have this same man (Rick Holland) speak in chapel to impressionable young people. (see NIU Presents... article below)
What changed between 2005 and 2010? It wasn’t Rick Holland. He is today what he was in 2005: an advocate for Lordship Salvation1 and the founder of the Resolved Conference, which merges preaching with the world’s CCM/rock culture and extreme Charismatic style worship.2 NIU embracing MacArthur, Johnson and putting Rick Holland in its chapel pulpit confirms they are willing to teach Lordship Salvation, teach/tolerate a neutered form of biblical separatism, tolerate and allow for the worldly culture of events such as the Resolved Conference.**
Regrettably, in just five years, Les Ollila has changed. NIU is being transformed by its president, Matt Olson, and administration decisions. With and because of their change the historical trajectory of NIU has been radically altered.
With the changes at NIU many share concerns over ministry, direction and leanings of NIU. There is a declining interest in maintaining fellowship by many former alums, good Christian leaders and lay workers. Many who have some relationship with NIU are contacting the administration to express their concerns. Others will quietly pull away and encourage their young people to look elsewhere for a Christian college. Now unfortunately, because NIU’s administration wants it both ways their friendship base will have to change just to maintain status quo not to mention growth.
Many alumni view what Northland is doing today as completely contrary to what was taught not long ago. Students were told that they will become in the future based on two things: the friends you have and the books you read. Is it any wonder they have done what they have? If you live long enough, you will have to change your friends or change your doctrine. NIU is changing its friends for new ones in Evangelicalism. Certain doctrines, separatism in particular, is not far from being compromised for the sake of their new friends.
Why do men who claim a heritage and commitment to separatist Fundamentalism take the initiative to reach out to evangelicals who openly repudiate biblical separation in principle and in application? Is it possible that these alleged fundamental separatists want to retain the label they are comfortable with, but have lost the will to contend, to wage the battle for fidelity to the God-given mandates? Is it possible they will redefine the principles and application of separation to accommodate the need to tolerate, allow for and excuse aberrant doctrine and ecumenism for the sake of fellowship with evangelicals?
Have self-described fundamental separatists decided to move toward a safe, non-confrontational middle ground at the expense of fidelity to the Word of God on separation to be accepted and respected by evangelicals?
With recent revelations we are learning a great deal about Northland’s new trajectory. NIU will try to placate alumni and donors while it moves further away from its historic stand. Matt Olson’s recent open letter to Friends in Ministry was just such an attempt that in the opinion of many was an abject failure. If Northland maintains this new direction and discussions among concerned persons are any indication of a national response, I fear Northland’s best days are behind it and the worst is yet to come.
Northland’s new trajectory has a historic parallel. The devastating effects of introducing Evangelicalism’s philosophy and practices into a biblical Fundamentalist setting are no more stark than the demise of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College.3
*For the Q&A Session with Dr. Ollila I opened the thread of What Do We Know About...Dr. Les Ollila? for questions you might like to ask him. The following question was submitted by Pastor Brian Ernsberger and I believe would be an appropriate opening question.
“Dr. Ollila: 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 five 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?”
For previous articles in this series see-
NIU’s Convergence With Evangelicalism: What Does It Mean for Impressionable Students?
NIU Presents Executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to It’s Student Body
1) An Example of Lordship Salvation’s Man-Centered Message
2) The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness, by Dr. Peter Masters
3) Discussion Over the Closing of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College
“Although Pillsbury struggled for a number of years to recover itself from the devastating effects of hob-nobbing with Evangelicalism, it never really dealt with (in any real tangible way) its ruined reputation. Although it was repeatedly brought before them by many friends of the college, they never really did what was necessary to regain the trust of the pastors and parents who send students.”