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.
- Northland Baptist Bible College hasn't changed.
- Matt Olson hasn't changed that much.
- Northland International University has changed.
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.
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.
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.