Friday, May 10, 2013

What happened to NBBC?

Edited 5/10/2013

Today the board of Northland International University announced their intent to continue in the same direction advocated by Dr. Matt Olson. After firing him a week or so earlier without an explanation, they reinstated him today during the chapel service with an apology for how it had been done. Many of the students cheered and clapped. But not much was said about the reason for the firing. Those issues should have been explained.

Last Tuesday, I spoke with Greg Peters (a board member who has since resigned) and was hopeful that the school could be slowly turned around. He echoed my concerns about the direction Olson had taken the school. But despite our agreement, the board decided to let the Patz family decide because they were the ones who had the most invested over the years. Sadly, the Patz family chose to continue in the same direction and the four non-Patz family board members resigned.

I've read plenty of responses to the situation at Northland. Some are general in their response. Others are specific. And nobody completely agrees as to what should be done. So, I'll add to the mess and share these thoughts.

  1. Northland Baptist Bible College hasn't changed.
  2. Many of the alumni have been rehearsing special memories and posting pictures from their time at Northland Baptist Bible College. It is nice to look back and remember the way God used various people to mold us while we were there. But the truth is that most of the professors who taught us and the student body we knew are gone. That makes the changes not seem as bad in my mind. The Northland I remember hasn't changed. It just doesn't exist anymore.

  3. Matt Olson hasn't changed that much.
  4. About ten years ago, maybe less, a Northland team visited Mentor Christian School and one of their songs was performed in a disappointing style. When I brought it to Matt Olson's attention, he didn't seem overly concerned. Some time later that school year, he was invited to speak at an Ohio Bible Fellowship meeting at Greencastle Bible Church. It was a good opportunity for the pastors to ask him questions about the direction of the school. One thing that stood out from his presentation was his lack of concern about ecclesiastical separation. He gave the impression that it really hadn't been that important to him in his ministry in Colorado. I found that to be odd at the time. It makes more sense now.

  5. Northland International University has changed.
  6. There is no doubt that the school has changed since I graduated in 2000. New faces. New philosophies. New standards. New name. Matt Olson gives a general description of his recent changes on the college's website. He paints a nice picture of them without going into specifics. I actually appreciate one of the changes (use of modern English translations) but believe that the changes in regards to music (which he did not explain) are either dangerous (Charismatic chapel music) or wrong (rock band). Add to that the lack of transparency about the changes and things became worse.

Where do we go from here? This afternoon I received an email stating that the school needs donations as they are strapped for cash. At the time I was at work and had not watched the video announcement in today's chapel service. Now that I know the direction of the school, I won't be sending donations. Think about it this way. When a missionary presents his ministry at your church, you want to know if he has godly character and lines up with your doctrine and practice. Until you have the answers, you will not support him. Apply that thinking to Northland. Would it be right to support Northland at this time? I don't think so. No doubt they will get some support from those who wanted these changes. Let them support the school.

It is time to investigate other Christian colleges to see which ones are "steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord." Hopefully, God will raise up a school that will remain true both in doctrine and practice. But if not, all is not lost. God has many faithful pastors across this land who are proclaiming the truth and discipling their congregations in a godly manner. Find them and learn from them.


Anonymous said...

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."

Anonymous said...

I respect your position. But please get the facts straight. In the Dr. Olson's list of changes you state that he supports "(Charismatic chapel music) or wrong (rock band)" After searching the link you posted : Neither of those things did He say. As of person of integrity, please be mindful that what you put is accurate, no matter which "side" you are on.

Andy Rupert said...

Thank you for commenting. I have made a few minor changes to clarify what I wrote. As I mentioned, his explanations were general in character. He didn't go into specifics. So, I have included links to examples of the music he supports in chapel and in a music ministry team. Watch/read both links and let me know if you are unconvinced.

Andy Rupert said...

Re: Jesus' prayer for unity, this is a popular quotation used to stifle any statements of righteous judgment on the part of believers. While the Lord wants us to be unified, consider what separates Christians. Is unity called for at any cost? I think not. Sin gets in the way. In the case of Northland, many of us prayed that they would not go in this wrong direction but they did not. Now is not the time for unity but for separation.

Andy Rupert said...

See also this article re: Purity and Unity.

Anonymous said...

I find Greg Peters' comments remarkable disingenuous, as he was a board member since 2006. A board is responsible to set policies and procedures and to fulfill their fiduciary responsibility by providing a duty of care and a duty of loyalty. It is impossible for a man to serve on a board for six years without knowledge of the changes Dr. Olson was making, since a board is primarily responsible for approving and directing such policies. He may have had knowledge and not impacted the direction of the school. Or he may have regretted how the outcome began to look. But I am astonished that six years later, he would express concern about the direction and a desire to change what he himself was part of initiating.
~Melinda Clark (I don't intend my comment to be anonymous but don't use Google IDs)

Chicagoland Energy said...

Andy, don't let anyone else tell you different. What you have stated in your blog is absolutely correct 100%. I wonder if Northland Missions, Inc will be in business 5 years from now.

Andy Rupert said...

Melinda, when I think of a school board, I think of the local board made up of members of the community. It's not the same with college boards. Greg does not live in Wisconsin and is quite removed from what was happening. Did he know of some changes? No doubt. Did he know of all that was happening? I don't think so.

To me (and I may be wrong) it seemed that the school was trying to cover up changes that were taking place rather rapidly in the last year or so. Whenever someone would blow a whistle, the online picture or article would disappear.

Remember the NIU chapel speaker whose Wisconsin church performed a rock version of "Were You There?" Soon after someone posted a link to that video, the video was unavailable. Was someone trying to cover it up? It certainly appeared that way.

Others have mentioned other "cover-ups" which I don't recall at the moment. But the above example alone gave me the impression that the school was trying to hide changes that had been made from someone. Was it being hidden from the board, parents, prospective students? I don't know. But it may explain why some of the board members didn't know and later chose to resign.

K. Wolfe said...

"It has always been our heart’s desire to honor the intent of the Patz family, who built and funded this ministry from the beginning." This is from one of your links. When the intent is to honor a family and not God, then focus and direction are lost. We need to uphold our fundamental colleges, organizations, and churches with prayer. We also need to come behind and support those who are taking a stand. Thank you for sharing your insight.
~Kristi Wolfe

Anonymous said...

"{XX} does not live in Wisconsin and is quite removed from what was happening." Any board member who would function like this is an ineffective, irresponsible board member. You may think of school boards in terms of local boards, but I wasn't. I was thinking of the board of directors of a ministry, with a fiduciary responsibility to perform the duty of care and duty of loyalty for the organization to which they've committed their service. I am even more astonished now, with your response, than I was to begin with. For any board member to claim ignorance and blame the key staff only indicts the board further, precisely because it. is. their. responsibility. to. know.

Andy Rupert said...

Your response is understandable in most cases. However... this case is quite interesting in that people were lied to and certain things were concealed from the board. Why did Maty Herron resign? Why is Les Ollila moving away? I don't think things were as clear or easy to see as you think.

Jim Oesterwind said...

Thanks for you blog and your take on Northland.

Anonymous said...

Andy, do you mean Les Ollila is physically moving to another area? or just that he is moving away from a leadership role? Just not sure what you meant.

Lou Martuneac said...


You wrote, "I wonder if Northland Missions, Inc will be in business 5 years from now."

NIU is broke, there is not a $1 to be found anywhere in the budget. The entire Patz endowment has been burned through, some say "squandered" by Matt Olson.

IMO, it is entirely possible that NIU will not open for classes in the Fall of this year. And if the college does not open the camp is finished to.


Lou Martuneac said...


First, thanks for this article, an interesting read. To another here you wrote,

"So, I have included links to examples of the music he [Matt Olson] supports in chapel and in a music ministry team. Watch/read both links and let me know if you are unconvinced."

It is irrefutable that Matt Olson has indeed endorsed and given his blessing to Charismatic ministry and the CCM/Rock genre. I offer two examples with documentation from Olson and NIU that both of your assertions are correct and fact based. See-

Is NIU Opposed to the Modern Charismatic Movement?

The Real "Unchanged" NIU Comes Forward


Cheryl Erickson said...

RE: "I find Greg Peters' comments remarkable (sic) disingenuous, as he was a board member since 2006."
It depends on how board members' responsibilities were defined and meetings were run. Each organization is different. We don't know what the board members' responsibilities were. Nor do we know what information they had/were given. Some board members are little more than figure heads for example, a mutually agreed upon relationship. It is not uncommon for board members to serve on multiple boards and in their local church (being stretched too thin). I personally was more concerned with the statement that the 4 members allowed the 3 Patz members decide. Either that was an unwise action (as they had equal "power" and unwisely got overruled by the minority) -or- possibly we see the Patz family in practicality had more "power" all along. I suspect the later.

Anonymous said...

I am an alumni - graduated in 1999. When I was there, the HEART of NBBC was real and true. We were taught servant leadership not from a podium, but from people walking hand in hand with us and serving beside us. Many of the people who were leading and guiding us and showing heart for ministry - Dr. Ollila, The Eversons, The Gerdts, the Scotts, The Cushmans, and the list goes on and on, have been the sacrificial lambs that the current regime has sent to the slaughter all while claiming that they are not changing? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? These people were influential in my life. These people sacrificed themselves to serve in a ministry that paid them far less than they were worth, but they served with happy spirits. The financial situation is sad, but I hope the younger Patz generation enjoys their time at the helm as the death knell sounds on a ministry that once was so vibrant. Satan wins and I'm fairly confident that Papa Patz would be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I must admit that when I clicked on the link to the "wrong (rock music)" to hear a sample, I laughed out loud! you think that that song on the video sounds like modern rock music? You're kidding, right?

I am an NBBC graduate. I know all of the standard arguments. I agree and draw the line on many of the truly horrendous "Christian" music out there. But, can you really tell me that the song to which you linked glorifies Satan or draws people away from Christ?

My life, my heart, and my spiritual growth have deepened because of music that, during my days at NBBC, was forbidden. Can it truly be said to be "of the world"?

If you hope to have a music selections that no one in secular society would every be drawn to...well, in that you have succeeded. Not "of the world"?--CHECK! But really, is that the point?

If, instead, you hope that music ministers to the spiritual heart, draws people to the Lord, and brings glory to God,...I don't see a problem with the Praise and Worship genre, in general. (some exceptions, of course)

Do you really think that, in Heaven, the praises and worship around the throne of God are all going to be in 4-part harmony, in English, and with no rhythm. I'm an international missionary now. I KNOW that music that is DIFFERENT in style and beat is a part of every culture...not just secular, American culture. I know that the throne-room is going to be filled with exciting and vibrant worship and praise!!! Why wait until then?

Andy Rupert said...

We are obviously going to disagree on this issue, Anonymous NBBC graduate. However, I want to address your comments.

Being in different cultures has probably given you a perspective that I lack. However, I have heard from missionaries in a variety of cultures that there is a difference between good and bad music in every culture. That which is associated with worldliness or promotes worldly emotions should be avoided.

What many people keep arguing (and I don't know if you do) is that it's not the music but the motive of the heart. As long as it ministers to my heart and makes me feel closer to God then it is good regardless of the musical style. I understand that thinking but disagree with it. I think that the messenger is as important as the message itself.

The other thing you brought up is the idea that I favor a style of music that the world would never be drawn to.

"If you hope to have a music selections that no one in secular society would every be drawn to...well, in that you have succeeded. Not "of the world"?--CHECK! But really, is that the point?"

That sounds a bit pragmatic to me. Are you proposing that we should cater to the world with our worship music? My first goal is to find what is acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 5:10) rather than using something to draw the world in.

In any event, each generation has to make its choice as to what music best matches the Scripture's emphasis on pleasing the Lord, being a holy generation, and having hearts that are full of praise to God. Let us each seek the Lord to find that.

Anonymous said...

A board should set policy and let the leadership "on the ground" manage it. Both should work together.. both providing input to the other so that things work well and for His glory.

The drive from Pound is not so far that a sit-in on chapel or classes could not have taken place by board members. A sit in on a chapel service would have told much.

The school has changed. Period. That is NOT what we were told by the administration. But, I didn't need to be told. I knew it. I knew it because I was there as a student from 1985-1985. What great years! Oh, and the legalism that "this" generations says existed at NBBC? I was there... and didn't see it. I didn't see it because it didn't exist like they state it did. I remember the "heart" that was also Biblically based. I laugh when I think about some of those saying legalism was there. These people were in grade-school then!! Who is telling them stories?

Nope .. I love the school of long-ago. I learned, grew, met people I still call my friends, say MANY of those same friends go to serve on mission fields of this word. Yep.. loved that Northland.. and will forever miss it.

You see .. this Northland isn't THAT Northland.

Mike Williquette