Dr. Vern Middleton is a Northwest alumnus (B.Div. 1963) and Professor Emeritus of Missions and Evangelism at Northwest@ACTS. We took this opportunity to connect with him and listen to his continued heartbeat for global missions and for Northwest Alumni.
Vern, you have had a long and rich history here at Northwest. What year did you start teaching here? What were the highlights of your years at Northwest?
I started teaching at Northwest in August of 1976. Our family returned from India in July of that year, after serving 12 years there and I joined the faculty of Northwest in August.
The years 1976 – 80 were an exciting period in the history of Northwest. The synergism among the faculty, the quality of the students and the vision of Dr. Howard Anderson created a very dynamic environment in which to teach.
The 1980s was a decade of transition – in terms of location – in terms of a new vision for the creation of ACTS at Trinity Western University – in terms of my own academic development and the discipline of Ph.D. studies.
Two developments at Northwest over almost three decades of ministry brought great satisfaction. One was the steady stream of young men and women who graduated from Northwest with a strong determination to serve the Lord in pastoral ministry or to serve in some missionary endeavour. What I found especially rewarding was the fact that the number of people who became ministry or missionary casualties was significantly lower from Northwest than from other Bible Colleges and Seminaries. The second factor was the large number of students who became church planters. Northwest has produced several outstanding church planters who have each planted 5 to 15 churches during their ministry life-span.
What does "retirement" consist of for you? Tell us a little about what gets this missiologist up in the morning! We hear snippets of an India connection!
Retirement is still very full of meaningful activity and ministry. I continue to serve on four mission boards. Fellowship International Ministries is our denominational mission board and I am on the executive of that board. CityTeam is based in San Jose but is global in its scope and involvement. I am energized by their vision and their creativity. Missionsfest is a third mission board I serve on and I am on the telephone with the director at least once a week. I also serve on the IMTB [India Missionary Training Board] that raises funds for ministries in India. I just returned from my third trip to India in less than one year as my heart and love for that country and her peoples highly motivates me.
Since retirement I have gone high tech – in that I have purchased a lap top and an LCD projector. I have been engaged in transforming my old course notes into Power Point presentations. In the meantime the Lord has opened up several doors of opportunity to teach in places like YCLT, Yavatmal, a missionary training college in India, the Katmandu Institute of Theology, which is a graduate school in Nepal, and Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, India. The only restraint upon me for these ministries is a need for funds to travel which amounts to $2500 per round trip.
The Lord continues to provide Helen and me with good health – so as the Lord gives us days so we want to use them for the extension of His Kingdom. This is what gets us up in the morning. By the way I also serve on the leadership team of our local church and I have the privilege of being a volunteer pastor.
As well, I am involved as a World Perspectives teacher. These opportunities give me much joy and satisfaction.Still another involvement is with Northwest Alumni – I have the delight of regular contact with numerous alumni both on a formal and informal basis. I also have e-mail contact with fifteen Northwest alumni serving in various countries of the world.
As you look back on your years of teaching in missions and evangelism, and your involvement with Northwest students and alumni – how would you evaluate Northwest’s impact on the Kingdom of God? How have Northwest Alumni contributed in terms of vision, mobilization, cultural transformation, of understanding and grappling with the missiological issues of the day—in terms of simply taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth?
It is hard to answer these questions in general statements so I will cite various alumni who have made significant contributions to the kingdom of God. First, in terms of vision, Carlos San Lui (Master of Ministry 1988) began the first Filipino evangelical Baptist church in greater Vancouver. Within a year he started a second church in Surrey and while planting that church, he traveled every Sunday down to Seattle to start another church. By 1983 he moved to Portland and planted three churches in that city, then he moved to the Oakland-Bay area and started three churches there. Next he moved to the Fresno – Sacramento area and started two churches there. In the early 1990s he moved to Orlando, Florida and again started several churches there when his life was taken through a terrible accident. He had a vision to plant Filipino churches in every city in North America.
In terms of mobilization, Dan Chapman (1967) has been a catalytic agent in the lives of numerous young couples who have become our church planters and kingdom builders in new communities throughout BC.
In terms of cultural transformation, Rod (1979,81,96) and Donna (1979) Black come to mind as innovative people in the area of ethnomusicology and the use of ethnic music forms as a medium of entrance into the hearts and minds of people groups hardened to traditional patterns of evangelism. They will be returning to Asia this Spring and will begin to develop whole new patterns of sharing Christ. Don (1965) and Georgia Rendle and now Sharon were powerful change agents for Christ in many countries of Latin America. Certainly their ministries have made a major kingdom impact on patterns of justice, understanding of penal institutions and making a direct impact on hundreds of political prisoners with the transforming love of Christ. Don’s son Geordan (1984) has followed in his parent’s footsteps and is being used of God in many Latin American countries.
In terms of grappling with missiological issues, Mark Naylor (1984) and his e-mail publication “Cross-cultural Impact in the 21st Century” [see www.nbseminary.com for previous issues] is certainly provocative. Another grad who is making a mark in this area is Chuck Fletcher (1991) at McGill.
Finally in terms of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth it would take several pages to mention all who are worthy for this category. I have many pictures of graduating students from Northwest who now serve in remarkably diverse places around the world. Perhaps one whole Alumni publication could be dedicated to featuring our grads in Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Nepal, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Philippines, Maldives, Poland, Thailand, etc.
We are now well into the first decade of the 21st century. What issues and opportunities do you see the church facing today and in the days ahead? – What challenge would you place before Northwest Alumni? – How would you challenge Northwest@ACTS?
It seems to me that the intensity of the battle for the Kingdom of God has greatly increased in recent years. Certainly our Lord is very active in shaking the physical realms and the spiritual realms as predicted in Haggai 2:6,7 and Hebrews 12:26-29. Globalization is having a positive impact for the Gospel – but it also introduces a lot of sinful ideas to the worldwide market. What amazes me is the economic prosperity emerging in Asia and a few parts of Africa. A new population of middle class citizens is rapidly emerging in India, Malaysia, China, Korea, and the Philippines. These globalized peoples all speak English and are very much aware of the Judeo-Christian worldview. If I had the gift of prophesy I would predict the possibility of a great spiritual harvest among the millions of middle class entrepreneurs.
In your years with Northwest you have taught in both the college and seminary. What would you say to an alumna or alumnus who was considering enrolling at Northwest@ACTS in a masters or doctoral level program?
The faculty and administrators at Northwest are highly qualified in their respective areas of ministry. They combine excellence with caring, relational support and encouragement for all of the students of Northwest. These factors combined with good scholarship assistance and a support plan for those involved in our churches makes Northwest@ ACTS an unbeatable place in which to study.