Author Archives: Loren Warkentin M.T.S.

About Loren Warkentin M.T.S.

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1970’s Alumni Reunion

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– Judi Warkentin
Alumni Reunion Committee

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Biblical Interpretation and Spiritual Life

Immerse Instructional Seminars

This past weekend we held two of our Immerse Instructional Seminars, Biblical Interpretation with Dr. Brian Rapske and Theology of the Spiritual Life with Dr. Kent Anderson.
Click on an image to see them all in a viewer.


The combined group


Kalimantan, Indonesia Trip

I was born and raised deep in the jungles of the island of Borneo (now Kalimantan, Indonesia) where I witnessed first-hand the entry of the Gospel and the birth of the Church among a people group called the Dayaks. Years later, after graduation from Prairie Bible Instute and Winnipeg Bible College I returned there with my wife, Becky, and we served alongside that same Dayak church for 16 years.

This past June Northwest granted me a three week window to travel back to Indonesia to revisit the Dayak church. The purpose of the trip was to meet with and encourage the pastors and leaders of the local churches among whom Becky and I had worked back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I have returned with great rejoicing having been immensely blessed and encouraged. Jesus’ church among the Dayaks is alive and growing. I was greatly encouraged to witness their love for the Lord, their faithfulness, their determination to follow Him wholly, their affection for us, and the common bond we have with them in the Lord.

I was joined on the trip by Darrel Davis of Three Hills, Alberta, and my sister and brother-in-law, Henry and Jan Armstrong, of Singapore. All of us had served there together in the past and now were returning to see what God was doing. Everywhere we went we heard stories of God’s amazing work in the lives of many of our brothers and sisters among the Dayaks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This group of Dayak churches celebrated their 60th anniversary this year and the leaders expressed to us several times their thankfulness for the missionaries (my parents among others) who had brought the Gospel to them all those years ago. It was especially encouraging to hear of their understanding of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ had done in them individually and for them as a racial group. It was delightful to hear their expressions of gratitude, first to God and also to the missionaries through whom God had sent them the news of salvation. For me personally this made everything we had experienced worth it.

There are still many challenges that they face and I ask that you increase your prayers for the Dayak church of Kalimantan. They face significant pressures to accommodate to societal and cultural issues that tend toward syncretism – that is the mixing of the Christian faith with their old animistic religious beliefs. Also, their economic conditions have improved so dramatically and suddenly that they face the temptation to confuse the transformative effects of the Gospel with a so called gospel of wealth.

Despite these challenges, it was clearly evident to our little team that God was at work and we were witnessing the ongoing ministry of the Spirit in Christ’s church among the Dayaks.

Right at the beginning of our visit we were also given the opportunity to meet with the provincial governor at his home. When we told him that our reason for requesting an audience with him was so that we could pray for him his entire demenour changed from cautious suspicion to delighted friendliness.

I was very grateful to the Lord that I was able to remember the language and was able to converse, preach, and teach fluently. After 20 years of very little use – my language facility was not a given. Then there was the food! We had to sample all of the local fruit and local dishes that we had missed over the years. That was very enjoyable for us !

OMeeting with the national church leadership and hearing their passion for a vibrant, missionally minded church, and then spending some time with them praying together was one of my top highlights of the trip. They, in turn, mentioned several times how encouraging our visit had been to them. Despite our lengthy absence they still saw us as partners in the Gospel. What an incredible privilege. Thank you, Jesus!



Northwest Board of Governors Awards

What makes Northwest the special training institution that it is today? Alongside the grace and provision of God – it is the people that God has directed to be involved with the school throughout its 80 year history. Many men and women have faithfully and passionately served the Fellowship and Northwest over the years, and recently two such people were given special recognition.

This past fall Northwest’s current board chair, Dennis Wasyliw, along with the president, Kent Anderson and the dean, Howard Andersen traveled together to make formal presentations of The Board of Governers Award to two longstanding board members. This award states that it is given in recognition of long service to and interest in the work of ministry leadership development through Northwest.

The two recipients of this award were Anne Thompson and David Fairbrother.

David Fairbrother

David FairbrotherDavid knew his calling to ministry early in life and went on to develop a long list of achievements in his service to God and to the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in British Columbia. Over a period of more than 40 years, David’s life and ministry has been unassuming and quiet, faithful and diligent, assertive and effective in his service of the Gospel. During those years he pastored a number of BC churches including Central Baptist in Prince George, Richmond Baptist in Richmond, and Emmanuel Baptist in Vernon. David also served with distinction as President of the Fellowship, giving effective leadership to the entire movement of churches in this region.

David’s direct service to Northwest was also substantive. A distinguished graduate of the school, he served several terms on the Board of Governors beginning in the late 1970’s through to the late 1990’s.

David’s work was also indispensable in the construction of the Northwest building on the Trinity Western University campus. He had a remarkable gift for fundraising and put this to good use on the Interim Capital Fundraising Committee of the Board of Governors, and also as the Director of Development for the college and seminary. This fruitful effort allowed for the accumulation of the capital necessary for the construction of the building. Since the building was sold, the funds David raised now provide the greater portion of the Northwest endowment funds. Those endowments provide substantially for the ongoing ministry of the seminary and its service to students and churches.

David is also known for his love of wife and family. In the last several years especially, Dave and Virginia have spent countless hours with their children and grandchildren in all kinds of family gatherings. They have spent time on excursions and walks, allowing opportunity to admire God’s great handiwork displayed in creation. Even during these latter years, David has displayed a keen interest and ongoing service to the work of our seminary and our Fellowship.

We are grateful to David for his lifetime of labour for the Lord through which the work of the seminary has been able to flourish. By this commendation, we affirm the ongoing blessing of his service to Northwest Baptist Seminary and to the churches that we together serve. We are thankful to God for his dedication and commitment, trusting that his example might inspire others to the same.

Anne Thompson

Anne ThompsonAnne joined the Northwest Board in 1977. This was an exciting, but challenging time for Northwest. The new seminary division was only two-three years old, enrolment challenges were critical, and leadership changes were occurring. Anne was a wonderful proponent for the Preschool training program that Northwest pioneered. She also had a strong commitment to developing well-trained pastoral leaders.

With only a few years of sabbatical, Anne served as a member of the Northwest Board from 1977 – 2007, often contributing to the board executive committee, and specifically as chairperson from 2000 to 2007.

No matter what challenges Northwest faced, Anne encouraged the leaders, praying faithfully for the staff, students and faculty. Anne expressed her heart-commitments with practical actions and in the case of Northwest this included generous gifts of her wisdom, time and professional skill, as well as significant financial support for Northwest’s ministry.

She knew what leadership required, being a teacher and filling various administrative roles in various elementary schools. She was passionate about developing effective ministry leaders who could galvanize congregations around robust Christian vision. She also insisted upon excellence within the board and within the various educational programs.

As chair Anne led the board to connect with In Trust and through their board mentoring programs she oversaw significant internal board development, which in turn gave great strength to Northwest institutionally. She understood the relationship between a strong board and a vital Seminary.

Anne’s contribution to the Northwest board spanned 30 years. By this commendation, we affirm the blessing of her service on behalf of Northwest Baptist Seminary, a service which continues to bear rich fruit today in the Seminary’s life and ministry. We are thankful to God for her faithful, wise leadership.

Professionally Anne taught and served as principal for many years within the Vancouver School system at Queen Mary Elementary, Carnarvon Elementary and Vancouver Hebrew Academy, a Jewish elementary school.

She and her husband Ken serve as volunteer leaders within Oakridge Fellowship Baptist Church. Through their leadership they have developed and overseen many different aspects of that church’s life and ministry in the community.


New (and not so new) faces at Northwest

Howard AndersenDr. Howard Andersen has been hired to be the new Northwest Academic Dean. He describes this hire as being “the two bookends to my career.” Dr. Andersen began his academic career in 1969 as the Assistant Dean to Dr. Pickford who was then Dean of Northwest Baptist Theological College. The next 10 years saw Dr. Andersen replace Dr. Pickford in the role of Dean and then in 1976 be appointed the first president of both the college and the new seminary division. Howard is also no stranger to ACTS Seminaries as he has served in the past as the Academic Dean for Canadian Baptist Seminary and has taught at ACTS many times as an adjunct professor. He summarized his view of ACTS Seminaries as a consortium of seminaries as “great people, great programs and a great idea”!

Howard comes to us with a wealth of experience both in and out of the academic world. He has years of involvement in the business world, having run his own consulting company and years of teaching in various disciplines.

He is married to Anne and they have 3 adult children and 6 grandchildren. He is quite delighted that all of his grandchildren live nearby.

Howard has a keen interest in the training and preparation of pastors. He says, “I got my start in Christian ministry from my pastor at Mission Baptist Church – pastor E.V. Apps. It shows what pastors can do with their young people”. When asked about Immerse Howard’s response was, “For quite a few decades churches and denominations have been looking for a better way to train pastors. …It is talked about everywhere that there needs to be a more “in-situ” way of doing it. … I do have a lot of interest and excitement about the Immerse program.”

One of the things that excites him is the anticipation of working with “great people at Northwest” – people whom he has known for many-many years.

Well, we are excited too, so welcome Dr. Howard Andersen to this new role at Northwest.

Eric and Jill FehrWe welcomed a Northwest alumnus on staff this summer. Eric Fehr, NBTC BRE grad of 1996 and ACTS Seminaries MTS grad of 2009 has joined us as the Executive Assistant to the Dean where he will be filling the role in the Immerse program that Mark Carroll recently left.

Eric’s roots in the Fellowship began back at Sunnybrae Bible Camp where, in 1986, under the ministry of Bill Clem, he came to put his personal trust in Christ. Eric described how he had grown up in a non-Christian home but that in the year following his own conversion experience his brother and both his father and mother also came to know the Lord Jesus. For the first 10 or so years of his Christian life his family attended Cedar Grove Baptist Church but then in 2006 he and his wife joined Brunette Fellowship where he has had opportunity to participate both in music as well as in an eldership capacity.

Eric married Jill in 2005 and they now have a 4 year old daughter, Evangelina. Commenting on how marriage and family have affected him Eric talked about how he felt that Jill has brought a significant degree of stability to his life and that in his role as a dad he has developed a greater appreciation for the depth of his Heavenly Father’s love and grace.

We are delighted to have Eric on board and believe that God brought him to us at this exciting time in the life and ministry of Northwest.

So, welcome Eric and do pray for him as he comes up to speed on all of his new responsibilities.

From Immerse to total Imersion

Mark & Stephanie Carroll have left Northwest to take up a new position as lead pastor couple at Whitehorse Baptist Church. Just before they left I caught up with Mark for an interview.

Tell me about your personal and spiritual journey:

Mark_and_Steph_CarrollI think the best summary of my spiritual journey would be running, then submitting, then running, then submitting, and on and on. It’s happened over and over again in my life where I would know what God was asking, but I would run away, then he’d correct me and I’d submit again. Eventually I realized that the “running” part isn’t very good and I needed to do more of the “submitting.” I’ve sensed a call to ministry in my life since I was young, whether it was academic, or pastoral, or whatever else. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to flee in fear of that call because of the sacrifices it requires—I’ve seen lots of pastors get hurt, and I didn’t want to put myself in the position to feel the same hurt. But I’ve realized through failure that running away is worse than submitting to God’s call, and ultimately his call leads directly to my joy.

Tell me a little about your family:

My family is amazing. My wife, Stephanie and I have been married for 11 years now. Theo is 7, Gavin just turned 5 and Amelia is going to be 2 in a month. So our house is busy, exciting, loud, noisy – all of those. I’m learning about the differences between girls and boys: My daughter, for example, loves shoes. She will go to the store, and go to the shoe section and she will start pulling shoes off the rack – trying to get them on her feet. She’ll get mad when she has to leave the shoe section because she has found all these beautiful shoes for herself. It’s so weird! Who taught her that?

You recently completed your master’s degree here at Northwest/ACTS. Tell me a little about your education and what brought you to Northwest.

The background story is that after high school I went to Simon Fraser University, again, as part of my running away. I knew I should be pursuing ministry, but decided instead to do a degree in science because it would open doors for me. But at Simon Fraser I realized that just “wanting to do it” didn’t make me try hard and it ultimately wasn’t where I was supposed to be. God brought me something good through my time there—it’s where Steph and I met—but it became clear pretty quickly that I was in the wrong place, so I left.

For about five years I spent time working in the food industry, working up to a management position, but the call wouldn’t go away, and eventually I decided to listen. I finished my BA at Prairie Bible College, and immediately knew that God was calling me into graduate-level education, but, again, I ran. This time I came up with excuses and rationalizations and ended up in pastoral ministry because I figured that God would like that just as much. Again, though, it became clear pretty quickly that I wasn’t following his direction, even though he did some amazing things in that time in spite of my disobedience.

Eventually I wised up and decided to pursue my MTS at Northwest. I’ve been a ‘Fellowship’ guy my whole life and love to be part of Fellowship Pacific, so coming to Northwest was a pretty natural decision. I did the MTS because I wanted to keep my options open for PhD work. I figured that I’d do my MTS, then move onto PhD, then get a job as a professor so that I could just be an academic and not worry about getting involved in people’s lives. Of course, that’s not an accurate picture of the job, but it’s what I was telling myself. Of course my plan wasn’t the way God had planned, so I worked on my degree for a couple of years until the scholarships and savings ran out, then started working in retail full-time to try to find some way to finish the degree. And that’s when Kent approached me and asked me to come and work at Northwest. I only finished my degree because of the opportunity provided to me in this job.

So much of your time at Northwest you have been deeply involved with Immerse. Tell me a little about that experience. What have you personally learned through the process? What does Immerse mean to you?

The experience of being involved with the designing of Immerse is like nothing I have ever done in my life, ever! I’ve had to play the role of middleman, negotiator, peace-maker, and sometimes even conflict-maker. It was such a unique opportunity to be able to have one foot in the ministry world through the ministry centre and one foot in the academy, but it was great because I realized that we all want the same thing. At the end of the day our mission is the same: we all want healthy churches; we want people to come to know Jesus; we want followers of Jesus trained as disciples; and ultimately we want that to grow and grow. Fellowship Pacific’s mission statement talks about leveraging our collective strengths to see a God-honouring impact in our region, and I feel like that’s what we did with Immerse. That God-honouring impact is more of a reality today than it’s ever been, and I think the process of designing Immerse has played into that.

What have I personally learned? I’ve learned the benefit of what Patrick Lencioni calls “productive ideological conflict.” When you’re all focused on the same mission, disagreement and conflict can be productive because they help you do that mission even better. And the mission that Jesus calls us to is worth conflicting about. A lot has been put on the line in creating this program—relationships have been tested, and friendships have been tried—but the program that’s come out the other side is unique and truly has the potential to transform our region with the gospel.

This is great news for me because I know that this movement that I know and love and these churches that I know and love will be effective well into the future because they’ll be well-led, and my kids and their kids will see the benefit of what we’ve accomplished with God’s help over these past few months.

How did taking a pastoral position come about?

I’ve known ever since I started working on my degree that God was preparing me for something when I was done. I wasn’t sure what that was, and I kept asking God to show me, but his answer was consistently, “no, because you’re going to be a bonehead and try to make it happen yourself, so you’re going to see one step at a time.” As I neared the completion of the program, two opportunities were presenting themselves: to continue into academia or to go back to vocational pastoral ministry. So I investigated both equally—I think I investigated every PhD program in North America and probably most of them in Europe, too—but I didn’t find one that seemed to fit my research interests and my skills. It felt like God was closing the door to the academy, but at the same time he was opening the door into pastoral ministry. And so I took a few tentative steps toward that route, and the doors kept opening, so I kept walking.

I knew from past experience that my next step in vocational ministry was into the role of lead pastor—that was what God had equipped me for and called me to. And I knew that I wanted to go to a place where I could conceive of staying for the rest of my life if that was what God called me to. I had a number of conversations about a number of different places, but none of them seemed to be “the thing.” Then one day, I think at a Fellowship Pacific staff meeting, somebody mentioned Whitehorse Baptist, and I had one of those moments where I knew God was saying, “That’s you!” Why? I’ve never been there! But the more we looked into it, the more God was arranging things to work out for us to go there. In fact, I said to Steph one time, “You know, God could use a 2×4 here and be more subtle.” That’s what I need because I don’t get “subtle” very well. It’s not that the road has been easy—every step along the way has been hard—but we’re settled in our sense of call, and we’ve never regretted it. We’ve never had a moment where we’ve said, “Oh, why did we do this? Now we’re in trouble.” Not once. It’s pretty amazing what happens when you let God work and just get out of the way.

What excites and what scares you about this new venture?

What excites me is the potential that I see in the city of Whitehorse. Young families like us are seeking out Whitehorse for its quality of life, and many of them are Christians who want to be on mission but there hasn’t been a place for them to connect. So I know of people who have been starting their own small groups, using video sermons from Village Church [where Mark previously attended] and the community group discussion questions—that’s how motivated they are! So right now there’s a whole group of people who want to get on mission for Jesus, but they need to be mobilized.

At the same time, many of the people moving to Whitehorse are moving there because they want a fresh start—a new beginning. To be able to step into that environment and to tell people that the thing they’re looking for, the fresh start they crave, is found exclusively in Jesus, that’s pretty exciting. There are 26,000 people Whitehorse, but the church attendance on Sunday morning shows me that thousands of those people will spend eternity apart from Jesus if we don’t tell them about him. That’s a massive opportunity for the gospel. I don’t know what God’s going to do, but if it’s anything like what I sense in my spirit then I think it’s going to be something incredible—I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do.

What scares me on the flip side is that I know how badly I can screw up that opportunity, especially if I start thinking that it’s all about me or the church. If God starts to work and I think it’s because I did something clever or special, that’s not going to go well. I’m also terrified by the significance of the call to preach the Word of God because I know how many ways my sin can get in the way of that. So this is a situation where I absolutely have to rely on God’s strength and God’s action.

How do you feel that your experience here at Northwest and especially your role in Immerse might influence your ministry there in the local church?

I feel like everything I’ve been doing in the past few years has been preparing me specifically for the task of pastoral ministry. Thinking about Immerse especially, I’ve basically had the opportunity to sit down with a lot of very wise, very experienced people and ask them what makes a good pastor so that we could build it into Immerse. I’ve learned so much through those conversations—more than I could learn through my own investigation—and now I feel like I have a blueprint for pastoral ministry effectiveness that I can use to develop my own skill base, whether it’s in preaching, leading, counseling, or whatever else.

I think this opportunity will influence my ministry primarily because I’ve learned that the number one task of a pastor is to lead the church to accomplish her mission. As a pastor, I don’t have to come up with the most clever plan, I don’t need to have all the skills, and I don’t have to single-handedly make mission come about. Instead, we, together as a community, accomplish the mission. This is pretty subtle, but it’s changed a lot in the way that I see the role of the pastor. I also have every intention of bringing an Immerse student onto the team at Whitehorse Baptist—hopefully soon—because I think it’s a great program and I’d love the opportunity to mentor someone through it and see them develop.

Speak also to the outcomes that are outlined in Immerse. How do you see those impacting even your ministry?

Having those outcomes is incredibly helpful. On the one hand, I’m encouraged when I read some of them because I see areas where God has gifted me and I’m grateful for them. On the other hand, some of them focus on areas where I’m not very skilled—at least not yet—and I’m grateful for the opportunity to develop them. The outcomes give me a clear path toward that improvement—they describe what it would look like for me to say that I’ve really understood the outcome, and they give a clear pathway to guide me down the path to greater mastery. I’ll probably even do a bunch of the assignments, even though I’m not going to get grades for them, because they’ll help me work out what these things look like in the specific context of Whitehorse Baptist and among the people there.


Interview with Larry Nelson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALarry Nelson has served Northwest for the past five years in the capacity of chair of the Board of Governors. Larry is stepping down from that role this year and Northwest News along with the faculty and staff would like to thank him for his service. We took this opportunity to chat with Larry about his involvement with Northwest:

How did you first get connected with Northwest? Could you describe a little of your history with us?

My familiarity with Northwest goes back to when the school was still in Port Coquitlam and my oldest brother started school there. Eventually both of my older brothers (one 12 years older and one 8 years older than I) graduated from Northwest and so when I completed high school it was natural for me to consider Northwest. At the time the school offered a one-one year program and I enrolled in that.

In later years, when I had my own accounting practice, and a couple of years before Northwest moved to the Trinity Western University Campus, my accounting firm did all the financial accounting and financial management for Northwest. I did that until the school moved here to the TWU campus and so I also did all the accounting for the construction costs for the Northwest building. Then, five years ago I was invited to come onto the Northwest board as the board chair. I have served in that capacity for the past 5 years.

Looking back over your many experiences both in the corporate world as well as in the church, how do you feel God uniquely prepared you for this role?

Over the past number of years I have served on over 10 boards and on at least six of those I have served as the board chair. So I came to the Northwest board with considerable previous board experience. Over the years I have been very interested in what comprises good board governance and good board practices and so I have read extensively and attended a number of workshops on the subject. Currently I do board governance consulting for non profit organizations. So, all of that has given me a good background in preparing to serve as chair the Northwest board.

What are you passionate about?

Well, I am passionate about Northwest. I am also passionate about good governance and I am passionate about training great pastors and leaders for the local church.

What do you believe has been your most significant contribution to Northwest and to the Board over the years you have served there?

One of the reasons I was encouraged to come on to the Northwest board was to transition the board into the policy governance model that it now uses. I had previous experience transitioning three other boards into that model and so that is what we have done with the Northwest board as well. I think that governance model has, and will continue to serve Northwest very well. As a result I think one of my most significant contributions was ensuring that Northwest was well governed and that the board clearly understood its governance role.

When Dr. Perkins retired as president of Northwest, one of the other interesting things I did was to chair the search committee for the new president.

What would you identify as being some highlights of your time on the Board?

Several things come to mind. Board retreats were always great experiences for me. It was also a privilege to honour Dr. Perkins on his retirement. I thought we did a great job of that. Then hiring our new president, Dr. Anderson, and seeing him transition into his role so well has been a significant highlight for me.

What excites you about Northwest’s future?

I think the new Immerse program really positions the school well for the future. It is leading edge. It is a creative and unique approach in training pastors. I am encouraged because I think Immerse actually follows the model of how other professions train their leaders; the medical profession, the legal profession, the accounting profession. It is all about making sure that those new professionals have great practical experience that is combined with the theoretical.

Another thing that excites me is that I think you have a great president in Dr. Anderson and I think Northwest also has an excellent board that will govern the school well going forward.

What concerns might you have that you can share with us?

The current challenge in front of all seminaries is just how to deliver what needs to be done in a manner that is effective, affordable and attractive to students. This will be an on-going challenge for Northwest. How do we ensure that our denominational needs are met in terms of well-trained, godly leaders for the future? I am concerned about our aging donor base. I am also concerned about a denominational school in an era where denominational loyalty is waning. So those would be some of my concerns.

As you ponder the role of an institution like Northwest in the preparation of leaders for the church is there anything unique or particular about Northwest’s sense of mission?

I think we are clearly focused on equipping our Fellowship Baptist churches in Western Canada with a particular emphasis on ensuring that our churches have well-prepared pastors to lead them in their ministries.

What are some of the lessons that you personally have learned about leadership development?

What I have observed is that leadership is a unique gift. Effective leadership is a combination of being born with some natural leadership attributes which are then built upon and developed in a training environment like that provided by Northwest… where people with these natural leadership abilities are equipped with leadership tools and solid theological training so that they are going to be effective in ministry. So I think that leadership can be both taught and learned as well as just having some great DNA to make one a great leader. One way leadership is developed is through students interacting with the faculty and seeing how godly leaders live their lives professionally and personally. I believe this is something that Northwest has done well.

How do you think the Board’s understanding of leadership development has been expanded?

I think the Immerse program is the key answer to that. The board has had to really wrap its head around what it takes to develop leaders and has had to be bold and creative and risk takers in terms of initiating something that is truly unique in North America. What Immerse is attempting to do has not been done before within an accredited seminary context. I think it is a bold move and has been an excellent example of great collaboration between a denominational school and the denominational leadership and the local church. This concept has really challenged the board – and expanded the board’s thinking – and I am really pleased to see what has been accomplished. This has been a new road for all of us.

What sage advice would you have for all of us at Northwest as we move forward?

I just think that the board needs to continue to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. The board; the staff; our supporters; all need to uphold the seminary in prayer. As a school Northwest needs to be constantly aware of utilizing the latest technology, the latest means to deliver its services in an effective way. I think Northwest has to constantly keep in mind that it is a servant of the denomination and so the task of the board is to keep asking how are we serving our FEB Pacific and Western Canada denominational needs most effectively. We also need to keep an eye on the future and the possibility of serving the needs of the denomination nationally.

One of the observations and accusations against seminaries in the past has been that they have very little relevance to where people are on the ground. I think the Immerse program really addresses that. I think having a good cross mix of professions and gifting on the board of governors helps keep the school in the real world. I think the fact that our faculty are active in our churches is good. I am really pleased that our current president is constantly watching and aware of what other schools are doing and keeping on top of what the needs are in seminary education. So I think looking forward we are ahead of the curve in addressing that very specific issue. Our churches want leaders who can lead. So it’s not just what the pastor might know but how he takes what he knows and effectively uses and delivers it to lead the local congregation. Northwest has been bold in trying to address that issue.

I know you are a busy man with many irons in the fire. What are some other Kingdom ventures in which you are currently involved?

I am really excited about what I do now. I’m involved in an executive search firm that focuses on placing senior leaders in faith-based organizations in Canada. This is quite unique within Canada and I take huge pleasure in moving people from success in their current careers to great significance in a faith based not for profit organization. I have never been so busy in the various careers that I have held in the past but I have also never felt that the work that I’ve done as more rewarding!

How can we pray for you?

Pray that I would be able to find and place the right leaders for these key charitable organizations. I have the privilege of being a mentor to a number of younger leaders. Pray that I would be a godly mentor, that I would be an excellent example and that I would finish well!

I am sure there were also challenges that you and the board had to wrestle with. Are there any significant ones that you could share with us? Could you describe for us how such struggles have shaped Northwest’s understanding of and commitment to its mission?

Seminaries in North America have had huge challenges. Seminary attendance nationally is down dramatically – probably 35% from what it was 6 or 7 years ago. It is also an on-going challenge to operate within the ACTS consortium and to satisfy the needs of all the partners there.

Then there is always the great challenge to discern the best methods for training pastors and church leaders – specifically developing lead pastors who will embody great leadership skills. The challenge is also how to do that effectively and affordably. Those I think are significant challenges that the board has had to continually deal with.

Interview with Doug Harris

Reflections of a former Northwest President

Reflecting back on your involvement with Northwest over the years, what are some highlights for you in terms of Northwest’s role in the preparation/development of leaders for the Fellowship?

Doug and Mary HarrisMy relationship with Northwest has covered a span of sixty years. It began when my new bride and I returned from our honeymoon in September of 1952 and continues to this day.

There are numerous highlights in our perception of Northwest’s leadership preparation/development process during those years.

  1. In the early years College ministry teams were sent far and wide across western Canada, providing music and preaching ministries to our churches and developmental opportunities for our students.
  2. Over the years Northwest has provided senior and associate pastors for new and existing Fellowship churches (formerly called “Regular Baptist Churches”). Western Baptist Bible College, the Calgary-based pastoral training school out of which Northwest arose, was started by Rev. Morley Hall because of the deep and desperate need to provide competent, committed Baptist pastors for the new Baptist churches springing up in Western Canada. At one stage of Northwest’s history over fifty percent of Fellowship Baptist Churches in Western Canada were pastored by Northwest grads.
  3. Northwest has made a significant impact in foreign missions and parachurch ministries over the years. It has provided mission teams, short and long term missionaries and mission leaders for Fellowship Missions and for the missionary cause as a whole.
  4. In the near past, Northwest provided a ministry of top quality chorales and quartets which, with accompanying faculty, provided first class inspiration and teaching throughout Western Canada to Fellowship and non-Fellowship churches.
  5. Participation in the Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest’s move to the campus of Trinity Western University were key steps in the leadership preparation/development process. ACTS was unique in that its participating seminaries were controlled by their specific denominations. Practical theology was to become the unique mission of ACTS. The goal of the consortium was to train competent effective pastors and Christian workers within the framework of sound doctrine and academic credibility.
  6. One of Northwest’s key contributions to its leadership preparation/development process has been its ongoing care for and help to its grads after their entrance into ministry. It has been an ongoing resource where grads were welcomed to return to the “nest” and receive sympathetic and understanding care, nurture and practical instruction.

As you reflect on the challenges in the process of discerning and developing leaders are there some valuable principles you have observed/learned that are crucial for us to keep in mind today?

  1. Leadership development is the responsibility of the local church
  2. The role of the College or Seminary is to provide a venue where local churches can cooperate in providing elements in the leadership training process that cannot be adequately provided by a single local church. Local churches are responsible to train local church leaders. Churches need to delegate the more specialized aspects of leadership training by creating institutions that will enable them to do cooperatively what they cannot do individually.
  3. Ministry training institutions should exist to serve the Lord and serve local churches. It is not the other way around. They should be owned and operated by the cooperating churches. Northwest was born through two sponsoring denominations. It owes its continued existence to them. As long as its services are needed by the churches, it has a continuing role and should be generously supported. When its churches no longer require the kind of services it provides, it will be time to phase out what exists and develop a more effective leadership development process.
  4. In order to fulfil its leadership development mandate, Northwest must do far more than simply provide credible theological and practical education. It must be a center for spiritual life and development. This means that the agape principle must become the paramount priority in terms of attitudes and relationships. Students must see faculty, administrators and staff continually modeling this principle in every aspect of their relationship with God, students, each other, churches, other consortium members and other theological educators whoever and wherever they may be.

Looking ahead, what do you see? What excites you and what concerns you? What do you pray when you pray for the Fellowship?

  1. What excites me?

a. I am excited about the ministry of our new President, Kent Anderson. He links the values of the past to the challenges and complexities of the future. Building on the outstanding ministry of his predecessor, Dr. Perkins, he is positioned to lead Northwest to higher heights of ministry effectiveness and deeper depths of spiritual devotion than it or its students have ever known.

b. I am excited about the relationship I see between Northwest and its sponsoring denominations in BC and on the Prairies. It appears that church and denominational leaders are working hand-in-hand and heart-with-heart in leading our churches in fulfilling their respective roles in the fulfilling of our Lord’s Great Commission.

c. I am excited about calibre of students I see in our Seminary and coming from it. The bar of pastoral competency is set much higher today than ever before. Students that I meet seem to manifest potential for extremely significant ministry in the days ahead.

  1. What concerns me?

a. I am concerned that everyone who has anything to do with Northwest will remain true to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It really does matter what we believe. The Convention of Regular Baptists of BC (now our Pacific Fellowship) was formed in 1927 over the issue of truth. It put together a sound and credible doctrinal statement that deals with important issues of faith and practice. Our doctrinal statement is the foundation upon which the ministry of our churches and seminary is built. Any variance or compromise on those key doctrines which have marked us and supported us in years gone by will eventually set in motion a process of deterioration and decay that will mean that neither our seminary nor our churches will be in the future what we have been in the past or are today.

b. I am concerned the Northwest will experience and be known for its true and genuine godliness and spirituality. According to 1 Corinthians 13 the agape principle is the paramount priority of the Christian life. If we maintain cognitive doctrinal orthodoxy and fail in the understanding and manifestation of the agape principle, we will sell our birthright for a mess of pottage.

c. I am concerned that the motto “by prayer” will not simply be another cute Christian cliché, but will be a powerful reality in the lives of faculty, administrators, staff, students, Board members and denominational leaders. May God help us all to actually practice what we profess when we identify with the Apostle Paul when he admonished us to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication”. If this ceases to be a reality, our power will evaporate and our ministry and institution will disintegrate.

  1. How do I pray when I think of Northwest?

a. I praise Him for the things that excite me.

b. I pray over the things that concern me.

Finally, how can we pray for you and Mary?

Please pray that we will fight a good fight, finish well and keep the faith.


NBS – ACTS Graduation 2011

On Saturday, April 16, Northwest and ACTS Seminaries witnessed 58 men and women walk forward and receive their diplomas/degrees of graduation.  We wish to extend our congratulations to each of our graduates.  May you go forward in God’s grace and strength and serve Him well with the tools you have acquired or honed while with us here at Northwest / ACTS.  May God bless you richly in the days and years ahead and make you a blessing to many for His Kingdom’s sake.

In case you missed it, here is a video of the graduation

[flv:2011-04-ACTS_Grad.flv 500 282]

Calendar for Church Websites

Have you been looking for a good calendar plugin for your WordPress based church website?  I regularly review lists of calendar offerings and am usually disappointed with what I find. Today I reviewed some more plugins and was delighted with one that looked like it would do what a church website would need.  The plugin is CGM Event Calendar by Ryan Farrell.  The beauty of this plugin is that it is designed to use the new WordPress Custom Post Types.

Here are some of its very cool functions:

  • Completely flexible setting of event dates, recurring dates etc.
  • Events can be assigned categories.  This allows events of a certain grouping can be listed together.
  • The calendar of events can be viewed in a monthly, weekly and print format.
  • The calendar is flexible and expands to accommodate more or less events.

You can view a screen shot of a test that I did of the calendar.

Northwest News Interviews Larry Perkins

Larry Perkins

Larry, you have served as the editor of Northwest News for the past 10 years and in those years you have interviewed a variety of individuals for this publication.  Now it is my privilege to turn the tables and interview you.

  1. Before you began teaching at Northwest back in 1978 how did God use the experiences in your growing up years to prepare you for your many roles here at Northwest and within the Fellowship.  Would you reflect on your early years a little?
    (View Larry’s response)
  2. Looking back to when you were a young scholar just entering the teaching ranks here at Northwest I’m sure you had dreams of what you would like to be and do for the sake of Christ’s kingdom – have you fulfilled those dreams?  How have those dreams matured over the years?
    (View Larry’s response)
  3. Thank you very much! Looking forward, I understand that after a sabbatical you will be returning to Northwest and ACTS Seminaries as a 1/2 time faculty member.  What are the things you would still like to accomplish?  What personal dreams would you yet like to realize?
    (View Larry’s response)
  4. OK! Thank you! The next question I’d like to ask relates to the seminary and the ongoing ministry of the seminary.  As Northwest moves forward in the days ahead, what are some of the things that you are praying that Northwest will accomplish for God’s kingdom?
    (View Larry’s response)
  5. That’s encouraging! As Academic Dean (both at Northwest and ACTS Seminaries) and more recently as President, your life has been often times a flurry of meetings.  Will you miss those?
    (View Larry’s response)
  6. On a more personal note, I have seen you mostly in your public role as president, New Testament Professor and even as my boss.  I (and probably our readers) would like to know a little more about Larry Perkins the person.  Would you reflect on your personal journey as a follower of Jesus, as a Christian man, a husband, dad, grandpa and colleague?
    (View Larry’s response)
  7. Thank you. That’s very encouraging. Yours has been the 6th presidency here at Northwest.  As president you have followed in a significant line-up of personalities within the Fellowship and within evangelical circles.  Would you reflect on the leadership legacy that you have received, have been a part of and are now passing on?
    (View Larry’s response)
  8. Over your years here at Northwest you have taught many different courses, met many different students and worked along side of many different colleagues. As you reflect on these varied experiences are there some landmark life lessons or insights that stand out to you that you could share for our benefit and encouragement?
    (View Larry’s response)
  9. That certainly been my privilege in working with you over these past years.  I understand you will be taking a Sabbatical in January.  Do you have any projects that you will be working on?  What are you hoping to accomplish during your sabbatical?
    (View Larry’s response)
  10. That’s great! Larry, you’ve done many interviews in the past for Northwest News.  You’ve always ended the interview by asking, “How can we pray for you?”  I’d like to turn the tables and ask you the same question!
    (View Larry’s response)

Thank you, Larry, thank you for the privilege of working with you – with Northwest News. It’s been a great privilege. Thank you for this time of interview as well.

You are welcome!

Northwest Board Appoints New President

Dr. Kent and Karen Anderson appointed next president of Northwest Baptist Seminary

Dr. Kenton Anderson accepted the Northwest Baptist Seminary Board’s offer to become its eighth President, effective January 1, 2011.  The Board’s decision and Dr. Anderson’s acceptance culminate an 18 month process of succession planning and searching.

Dr. Larry Perkins is retiring from the role of president, a position he has held since 2000.  He will be continuing at Northwest in a teaching capacity.

Dr. Kenton Anderson (Kent) holds a Ph.D. with a major in preaching from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, along with a Bachelor’s degree from Northwest Baptist Theological College and two Master’s degrees from Northwest Baptist Seminary. In 1994 he graduated from Northwest Baptist Seminary /ACTS Seminaries with a Master of Divinity and went on to complete his doctoral degree in 1996. His doctoral dissertation project showed how preaching models have closely followed trends in culture. Kent’s project for that was to develop a new integrative model for preaching. Since then, Kent has published three books on the subject, Preaching with Conviction (Kregel 2001), Preaching with Integrity (Kregel 2003), and Choosing to Preach (Zondervan 2006). Kent’s professional website is where he blogs on preaching and culture and provides a significant resource for preachers. He also has served as a contributing editor at and is a past president of the Evangelical Homiletics Society. Kent also contributes courses in spiritual formation in various Northwest/ACTS Seminaries programs. Along with his academic and literary accomplishments Kent also has direct pastoral experience having served for 11 years in local churches in both British Columbia and Alberta. He has also taught and preached in hundreds of churches and ministry centres across North America and the world.

Kent joined the faculty of Northwest and ACTS Seminaries in 1996 and became Dean of Northwest Baptist Seminary in 2001. He is also the director of the Centre for Ministry Excellence at Trinity Western University.

Kent has been married to his wife, Karen, for more than 27 years. Kent and Karen have three adult children. He loves reading, playing golf and hockey, and making music on his guitar.

As he envisions his leadership in this new role, Kent comments:

“I am humbled by the trust I have been given. Previous occupants of this position — Howard Anderson, Doug Harris, and, of course, Larry Perkins, have all been significant and valued personal mentors to me. The thought that I am now following in their train is a daunting, and yet motivating prospect. I believe that Northwest can be a powerful tool by which we raise up significant numbers of well-prepared leaders for the ministries that God has called us to within the Fellowship Baptist movement and beyond.”

“As a graduate of Northwest and former Fellowship Baptist pastor, myself, I appreciate the way my Northwest experiences have shaped me and made it possible for me to fulfill the calling that God has given me. I want to make the same thing possible for many others.”

“Without altering our sense of mission, our future at Northwest will engage fresh innovative methods in direct collaboration with our churches and our Fellowship. I believe that the best training happens in the context for which people are being trained. You can expect, then, that we will be working very closely with our churches, our pastors, and our denominational leadership. Our goal will be to achieve a significant new stage of development in our mutual mandate to equip Spirit-filled people, who are gifted and called for the various ministries and mission of the church.”


Larry Perkins, Ph.D.

President, Northwest Baptist Seminary

November 1, 2010

Fall 2010 New Student Orientation

This week is orientation week here at Northwest / ACTS Seminaries.

At the New Student Orientation day on Wednesday we had 75 men and women participate. It was a great day of seeing new faces, helping new students find their bearings, enjoying again the story of ACTS Seminaries and sensing among these new students a refreshing inquisitiveness, anticipation and energy. As the various faculty and staff made their presentations to these new students I was reminded again of what an amazing Kingdom enterprise we are part of here at ACTS – five evangelical denominations collaborating to provide current and future leaders with tools that will equip them to be better prepared for the various ministries to which God has called them. I think this year is shaping up to be an exciting adventure.  Here are a few more photos from orientation day.

Laurel Archer with her Student Volunteers

Worshiping together for the first time

Dr. Wendell Phillips, the ACTS Registrar and Ms. Laurel Archer, the ACTS Student Program Advisor leading the students through orientation

Dr. Lyle Schrag introducing the new students to Northwest faculty and staff

Enjoying a BBQ together in beautiful, end of summer, BC weather

Graduation 2010

The Northwest Graduating Class together with all ACTS Seminaries faculty

Using Templates in your WordPress Theme

So, you think that you want to use WordPress to run your church website and you have heard that in WordPress you can customize your website’s theme through the use of templates.  But what ever are templates?

To explain this it is helpful to understand how WordPress works in the background when someone visits your website.  First off WordPress makes a determination as to what it is that each visitor is looking for.  For example, "Has the visitor requested the home page?  Has the visitor requested a particular item (i.e. a specific page or post, a category, an author, a tag etc.)?  Has the visitor done a search and is asking for the results?  Once this is determined WordPress then fetches that information from the database and and displays it based on the WordPress "theme" that you are using. In order to display all the bits of information that make up a typical web page WordPress gathers the information through a series components called "templates" and ties them together into a comprehensive whole.1

Each of these templates will likely handle only the information for a particular section of a web page or a particular type of content to be displayed. These web page sections might be the top of the page, commonly known as the header, the middle section which carries all the "blog" or "page" information, commonly known as the body, or the bottom of the page which might have copyright information or links to contact you etc., commonly known as the footer. Each of these sections might have other sections within them. For example the body section might have a right and left sidebar, the header might have a navigation system for the entire site. These are all likely generated through the use of templates. Each template is (usually) a separate file within the structure of the theme. For example a particular theme might have a header template file (header.php) and a footer template file (footer.php) and a sidebar template file (sidebar.php ) and a comment file (comment.php) a loop file (theloop.php) file and so on.2 Larger components (template files) might incorporate several of the smaller templates in a single file. This would be the case with a category template file (category.php) or an author template file (author.php).

There are several primary components (files) that make up a theme.  You can view a graphical representation of how these files are targeted when someone comes to your site.  I find this very helpful when designing a theme and deciding how I want the flow of information to progress on the website:

  • index.php – this is the ultimate default file that WordPress loads.  If no other component file fits what the visitor is asking for – this file displays.
  • home.php – this is the first file that WordPress looks for when the visitor makes that first inquiry or when he clicks on your "Home" link.
  • archive.php – this is the default file that WordPress loads when some older content is requested.
  • page.php – this is the file that WordPress loads when an individual "page" is requested.
  • single.php – this is the file that WordPress loads when an individual "post" is requested.
  • 404.php – this is the file that WordPress loads when the content that the visitor is requesting cannot be located in the database.
  • various other specialty template files for specific uses – i.e. targeting an individual category using category.php or an individual author using author.php etc.  You can find more information on templates here.

Each of these primary components (files) incorporate the various template files within them to draw the information from the database and present it on the page.  So a typical "home.php" file will incorporate a call to the header.php file, the WordPress loop, the sidebar.php file and the footer.php file.  It will display the resulting information and style it using the CSS file that is also a part of every theme.  All of these files can be shaped the way you want them to meet the needs of your particular theme.  If you are new to WordPress take a look at the default themes that comes packaged with WordPress and familiarize yourself with the way these various files are laid out.  They can be found under "wp-content >themes".

WordPress has several built-in functions – get_header() - get_footer() - get_sidebar() – that will load the more common templates.  Custom templates3 can be included in the code by using the php "include" function – i.e. <?php include (TEMPLATEPATH . '/my_custom_footer.php'); ?>.

When designing a church website these are helpful factors to keep in mind.


  • 1WordPress comes with a couple of default themes for you to choose from but there are thousands of others out there on the web for you to choose from should you so desire. The theme takes this dynamically generated content and displays it in the manner that you want it to.  Click here if you would like to read more on WordPress themes.
  • 2I intend to discuss the loop in another article.
  • 3I might write more on custom templates in another article.

Understanding Pages and Posts in WordPress

WordPress is an amazing platform for churches to use for their websites.  A strategic feature in the power and versatility of WordPress is the distinction that is made between WordPress Posts and WordPress Pages.  Understanding this distinction is a vital key to unlocking the potential of using WordPress as a content management system.

When I first started with WordPress I grappled with a considerable amount of confusion as to the usage of Pages versus Posts .  How was I supposed to use these two similar yet different creatures in the world of blogging and CMS application.  In this article I would like to help us better understand what pages and posts do and the distinction between them.  Click between the tabs below to view a description of Pages and Posts and some explanation of what their individual strengths are for designing a church website.


Posts in WordPress

Posts are the meat n’ potatoes of a typical blog.  Posts are where a person writes the regular series of  "articles", "devotionals", "book reviews", "opinion or advice columns" and so on.  There are so many potential uses for Posts that I will not even try to enumerate more than the few I listed above.  Their value is in their versatility.  They can be sorted, tagged, categorized, searched and dated.  They can be cataloged by author, by date, by category and by tag.  They can be published publicly or privately (with password protection).  An example of this versatility can be found on the Northwest home page in the right-hand side bar under Special Topics.  Several of those links will open a compilation of all the Posts by a particular author that have been designated a specific category.  Church Website Dialogue 101 is one of them.

Posts are dynamic so they can be used in many creative ways to present regularly changing information or a continually growing body of information.  Normally Posts are displayed with the most currently published material appearing first.  This gives Posts their "freshness" and "interest value".  Posts are what users follow via RSS feeds and news readers.

One distinctive of Posts is that their content can eventually become dated.  For example, in this article (which is a Post) the elements I have listed for Posts and Pages will likely change as WordPress evolves and grows.  There will probably be new features and capabilities added in future releases – making some of what I am writing eventually become dated.  This is not as likely to happen with the content typically entered into Pages.

Read this discussion of posts on the WordPress website

Post Elements

Post Elements in WordPress

A WordPress Post has these components or elements.  I find this list helpful when trying to conceptualize how to design a CMS site using WordPress. The highlighted items are the distinct elements of WordPress Posts.

  1. Title
  2. Post content (body of the page)
  3. Tags
  4. Categories
  5. Password protection
  6. Exerpt
  7. Trackbacks
  8. Posts will allow comments
  9. Post Author
  10. Post revisions
  11. Post status Private or Public
  12. Publish date
  13. Permalink (slug)


Pages in WordPress

Pages in WordPress are the equivalent of static html pages on a static site – with the exception that they are dynamically generated from the database.  Pages hold information that is constant.  They are for site content such as information pages, history pages, personnel pages, product information pages, ministry description pages and so on.  In WordPress Pages are the substance of a content management site as they can be identified in a menu type of hierarchy.  WordPress Pages can have sub-pages and sub-pages under sub-pages.  This gives great power and flexibility in designing the structure of a website.

One of the more powerful CMS capabilities in WordPress is that one can design individual and distinct templates for Pages.  This can give a website the potential of a new look and feel with each Page that is viewed.  One specific Page and all of its sub-pages can have their own template and create the visual sense of being in a new section of the site or even an entirely different site.  For a CMS this is a valuable capability.

Because Pages are "static" they can be used for navigation.  Pages can be assigned a numerical order within their page level which gives the web programmer the ability to create very sophisticated navigational systems.  WordPress has a template tag [a special WordPress function – wp_list_pages()] designed to display a list of all the page URLs.  The tag has a number of  "arguments" to give it great flexibility.  The drop-down menu on the Northwest web-site is dynamically generated using that single WordPress template tag with a few specific arguments.  That way new Pages can be added very quickly and if they meet the criteria set by the arguments of the template tag they automatically appear in the drop-down menu.

In order to better understand how Pages and Page Templates work in WordPress go to this article on the WordPress website –

Another feature of Pages and their Page Templates is that certain pages can be designed to be viewable by members only.  In a future article I will address this strategic use of the Users feature built into WordPress

Page Elements

Page Elements in WordPress

A WordPress page has these components or elements.  I find this list helpful when trying to conceptualize how to design a Content Management Site (CMS) such as a church website using WordPress.  The highlighted items are the distinct elements of WordPress Pages.

  1. Title
  2. Page content (body of the page)
  3. Tags
  4. Custom fields
  5. Comments and Pings
  6. Password protection
  7. Page Parent (can have sub-pages as well)
  8. Page Template
  9. Page Order (i.e. 0, 1, 2 …20, 21 etc.  This is very helpful for arranging how page links will appear in a menu.)
  10. Page Author
  11. Page revisions
  12. Page status Private or Public
  13. Publish date
  14. Permalink (slug)
  15. Pages can be listed with a Template Tag

I trust this little description will be helpful for all of us who are trying to use WordPress for more than just a blog.  There is lots of information on the WordPress Codex site.  But maybe this condensation will fill a need.

WordPress is growing up

WordPress gets continually easier to use as a CMS (Content Management System) which is good news for churches who want an easy to use platform for their internet presence.  Yesterday I upgraded the Northwest website to the latest version (WordPress 2.6.2) and the upgrade went very smoothly.  With the size and complexity of our site I was expecting the upgrade to cause a number of serious headaches.  I was pleasantly surprised. There is a video clip prepared by the people at WordPress detailing some of the new features in WordPress. The clip can be accessed here, but it does not work well in Internet Explorer – use Firefox instead.

The following are some of the features that I like in the current version of WordPress (2.6.2).

1. In general the management interface for WordPress is much cleaner and easier to use. The layout is more intelligible, the design is cleaner and the colors are more aesthetically pleasing with lots of white space.

2. Plugin management has been reorganized. Plugins in current use are visually separated from inactive ones. Plugins can be updated directly from the plugin management page (no more uploading them manually via ftp). All this gives the webmaster a much easier time managing plugins: which ones are being used, which ones are in need of updating, doing the updating etc.

More Useful Plugins for WordPress:

Here are several more plugins that I have discovered along the way that help make life easier for the church that wants to use WordPress as a full-featured CMS.

Sermon Browser: One of the features that many churches look for is the ability to place audio and video material on their website for others to access and benefit by. Sermon Browser was designed for just that. It is still in beta form but seems to be working well. Here is a link to the website of a church that is using it

RefTagger: Our friends at Logos Bible Software have also created a plugin for WordPress that allows all Scripture references on one’s site to be linked to the full text of the passage.  Check out John 3:16 (just hover over it).  Here is a quote from their website:

RefTagger is an amazing, free new web tool that instantly makes all the Bible references on your site come alive! Bare links turn into hyperlinks to the full text of the passage at, making it easy for your readers to access the text of Scripture with just a click. Even better, RefTagger brings the text right to your readers by generating a tooltip window that pops up instantly when they hover over the reference. You can also have RefTagger add an logos icon that is hyperlinked to the passage in Libronix—ideal if many of your readers use Logos.”

Simple:Press Forum is a full featured forum application that works as a plugin for WordPress. I have just begun using it on a personal website and it seems to be just what I have been looking for.

CQS Reloaded: This is a powerful little plugin that allows one to determine how many posts will appear at one time in a given WordPress section or category.  For example, if one wants visitors to their site to only see the current article on the home page but multiple articles on an archives page or as many as possible on a search page, this is the plugin to use.  If one has category templates designed for their website they can determine a precise number of posts for each category.

Page restrict: Suppose a website has one (or several) page that you would like only logged-in members to access. This plugin gives that kind of control.

Simple Tags: If a person is into using the new tagging feature in WordPress 2.6.2 this plugin gives a whole bunch of options and features for managing tags.  Both the Northwest website as well as Mark Naylor’s blog use this tagging feature.  See the bottom of this page.

The following two plugins are ones that I use on both Larry Perkin’s and Mark Naylor’s blogs. They are particularly useful if a visitor to the site wants to either email a copy of an article to someone or if they want to print up a hard copy for themselves.
WP-Email: Here is the read-me information.
WP-Print: Here is the read-me information.

WP-DBBackup: This is a valuable plugin for the many management tasks one might want to perform on the site’s database. This plugin, however, must be used with great care. I completely messed up one of my websites by not being careful. Here is the read-me information.

Feel free to interact witn me on this topic.  What have you found helpful for your church website?

Graduation 2008

Graduation this year was held at South Delta Baptist Church. It was a beautiful day for a graduation and the celebration was memorable. Our graduation speaker was our own president, Dr. Larry Perkins. He summarized his address this way:

The theme ACTS has adopted this year is “Come together, Go Further.” By living consciously as part of the body of Christ, we maximize our ministry and together can do great things for God. The metaphor of the great spiritual house God is constructing (1 Peter 2:5,9) illustrates this reality. As God enables us to “come together,” we discover our priesthood and our service. Spiritual formation can only be fully accomplished within the community of Jesus – it is not a solo effort. We cannot mentor ourselves or be a family of one or be a nation of one. Only as we come together can we fulfill the mission God has given to us. As we live and work together “under God’s mighty hand,” He will enable us to do great things to advance the Kingdom. This is why ACTS came into being.

Here are a few photos from the day’s celebration:


Recent Events and Celebrations at Northwest@ACTS

Student – Faculty Luncheons

Some of the more enjoyable moments in the semester are when faculty and students take time out of their busy schedules and sit down for a lunch together.  We did three of those lunches this semester and at each one we have had a great time of fellowship, camaraderie and food.

Each time we meet like this, one of our faculty members gives a brief "chat" on something related to his ongoing pursuit of study in his discipline.  This week Brian Rapske shared a little of his personal academic journey – particularly as it related to the research and writing he has done. 

ACTS Seminaries Spring Banquet

The annual ACTS Spring Banquet is always a memorable event.  Last night was no different.  The venue at Newlands Golf and Country Club always sets a great mood for celebration.

The Northwest President’s Birthday

Here in the office at Northwest we are always on the lookout for something to celebrate. 

[singlepic=94,275,,web20,left] [singlepic=93,180,,,right]

On Tuesday we had a very memorable celebration as a number of faculty and staff took Larry Perkins (our president) out for lunch to celebrate his 60th birthday.

Northwest Alumni Connections Magazine – 2008

Update: April15, 2008

It is here!  The 2008 Northwest Alumni Connections magazine is off the press!  If you have not received one by the end of April and would like one see the order form below.


Dear Fellow Alumni,

For each of the past 4 years connecting with Northwest Alumni and publishing the Northwest Alumni Connections magazine has been a great highlight for me.  Hearing from fellow Alumni has reminded me again and again why I do what I do.

We are poised to publish the 2008 edition of the magazine – NAC 2008 – and I want to hear from you.  You can email me at or you can use this form to send me an update on yourself, your family and what God has called you to participate in for His kingdom’s sake.  Because I want to fit in as many alumni as I can, please keep your write-up concise. I can only use between 140 and 180 words each.

I would also like you to send me a color digital photo of your self (and your family).  If you are using this internet submission form then you will need to also send me an e-mail with the photo attached to it (my address is above).  Here are some things to keep in mind for the photo:

  • Make sure it is a color photo – since the magazine is in color.
  • Make sure the photo has good lighting and isn’t out of focus.
  • Be sure that faces fill the main part of the photo.  I like scenery shots but that is not what this magazine is about.
  • Please be sure to identify everyone in the photo. 
  • The photo must be of a high resolution – so unless the photo is over 1 megabyte in size don’t compress it when you e-mail it (sometimes email programs like Microsoft Outlook will ask before you attach a photo).  If the "print size" is a 4"X6" or a 5"X7" at 300dpi that will give me lots to work with.

Please make sure that your mailing information is correct so that I can send your copy as soon as it is off the press.  The target date for that is the beginning of April.  You can use the form below to update your information.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.  Thank you for your participation. 


Loren Warkentin

PRIVACY OF INFORMATION: Northwest understands your concern that your information be protected. Read our privacy policy.

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WordPress Plugins

WordPress is a great CMS (Content Management System) platform for a church website and web design as it is extremely flexible and very easy to use.  Part of this flexibility comes from WordPress’ ability to take advantage of the programming skills of people from around the world who have designed various small add-on applications for WordPress called plugins. There are many hundreds of plugins to be found in the WordPress Plugins Database. A web search for specific plugins will open a long list of possibilities. If you need a particular functionality on your website the chances are that someone has already designed a plugin for it. There are also sites which list the top plugins (here are a couple – Top 50 and Usefull WordPress Plugins )

I have spent considerable numbers of hours researching the net and searching for just the right plugins for the Northwest site. The following is a list of some of my favorites and a short description of their function.

  1. The WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin.
    WordPress is continually being improved both for functionality and security.  This plugin allows the webmaster of a WordPress powered web to easily update to newer versions of WordPress, automatically taking care of backing up the site first and then updating the WordPress code.  This plugin makes the webmaster’s life a whole lot easier.
  2. The Author Image plugin.
    On a website like the Northwest site where we have multiple contributors and authors – it is a valuable feature to have the author’s photo automatically linked to their article or blog.  This plugin facilitates that.
  3. The word processing plugin "Deans FCKEditor".
    The word processing editor that comes packaged with WordPress is a somewhat "bare-bones" editor.  This plugin expands the functionality of the editor so that it acts much like a normal word processor.
  4. The Event Calendar plugin.
    Northwest always has some sort of up-coming event.  This plugin help to keep track of those events via the WordPress web interface.  Adding a new event can be done by any of the regular contributors to the Northwest site by adding an Event Calendar activated post.
  5. The FormBuilder plugin.
    Forms through which people can respond to you (i.e. ask questions, submit prayer requests, comment on items on the site etc.) are a normal part of creating a website.  Forms need to be secure and able to filter out junk and spam.  This plugin allows one to create any number of forms on a site and have them all share the same security features.  This plugin rates special mention as it is designed and maintained by my son who is a web programmer with Power to Change.
  6. The Google Site Map Generator plugin.
    This plugin creates a sitemap for your website and informs search engines of any changes or additions.
  7. The NextGen Image Gallery plugin.
    Putting images on the web in an orderly fashion can be an onerous task and if you want them to be displayed in fancy ways requires knowledge of web scripting languages.  This plugin takes care of the details and allows you to add galleries and albums of photos to your web.  The header on the Northwest site is powered by this plugin.
  8. The Role Manager plugin.
    The Northwest website has a number of people who use the site to post their articles and edit their information on the static pages.  User levels of permission are designed into WordPress and this plugin gives the webmaster greater flexibility in assigning those permissions.
  9. The Simply Exclude plugin.
    Sometimes it is desirable to keep a particular category of posts (articles) from appearing on the front page of the website.  Yet they need to be accessible some other way.  This plugin allows one to designate categories to be excluded from the front page.
  10. The Themed Login plugin.
    The default WordPress login page is very plain and merely displays the WordPress logo.  This plugin allows one to use one’s theme as the login page.  If you click on the login link you can see what it looks like.
  11. The Search Pages plugin
    WordPress uses both ‘Pages’ and ‘Posts’.  Pages are static while ‘Posts’ are the blog part of the site.  WordPress search function only searches posts. This plugin allows one to search both posts and pages.

These are just 10 plugins.  There are many-many more.  There are e-commerce powered plugins which would allow you to add a "shopping cart" to your site.  There are mailing plugins which would allow you to manage users in a mailing list.  The list of possibilities is virtually endless.

Installing and using these plugins is as simple as uploading the plugin folder to the correct spot in your WordPress powered website and then activating it.  Usually each plugin comes with complete instructions as to how to use it.

If you are using WordPress for your church website – let me know – send me a link to your site.  Share what techniques you have learned or what hasn’t worked for you.

If you are interested in this topic don’t forget to read the other articles that I have written on church websites.



A New Year and a New Web Look

You may have noticed the new look to the Northwest website this month.  Over the past several months I have been testing a number of new possibilities for our site in order to make it more friendly to navigate, more functional in terms of accessing the information and resources we provide here and hopefully more aesthetically pleasing.  I did this by adding some "plugins" and changing the "theme" we were using in WordPress.  I have already written a couple of articles on what a church can use for their web site and this is another to continue discussing the web publishing platform – WordPress.

One of the exciting features of using a platform like WordPress for any web site is how customizable WordPress is.  WordPress has been designed so that third parties can provide add-on features to make a website look just the way one wants it and do exactly what one wants it to do.  This is done through "themes" and "plugins".    Here are some ideas for your site:


There are hundreds of themes that have been developed for WordPress by third parties.  Many of them are free to use  or to customize to your own liking.  If you are interested, the WordPress website features a page where you can view or download and test hundreds of themes in virtually any configuration one can imagine. (click here to go to that site). Most of these themes require very little additional customization other than to change some graphics or logos etc. 

Some themes, however, provide a greater extensibility to WordPress itself – offering the web developer many more options for customization.  One of these is a theme called K2.  This is what I use here on the Northwest. site.  Here are some of the advantages of using K2: (view the K2 "About" page)

K2 Advantages

  1. One can develop one’s own style.  The K2 theme provides a way to style the site without having to tamper with any of the original coding.
  2. K2 comes with its own sidebar manager which I am using here.  It allows for considerable flexibility.  A number of other plugins provide sidebar modules that work well in the K2 sidebar system.
  3. K2 comes with prepackaged support for a number of popular plugins.
  4.  On the K2 "About" page there is a whole list of features that I won’t duplicate here.

K2 Resources

Here are a few links to sites with resources to work with the K2 theme

  1. The main K2 site. From here you can download the K2 theme.
  2. The K2 support forum
  3. The K2 documentation wiki (lots of good information here)


In an upcoming article I will tackle the subject of WordPress and plugins.


A New Principal at ACTS Seminaries

Northwest is a founding member of a consortium of six evangelical, denominational seminaries called ACTS Seminaries. Together, these six seminaries, form the graduate theological division of Trinity Western University.

Tuesday’s chapel saw the inauguration service for our new principal here at ACTS Seminaries. Dr. Ron Toews was officially inaugurated as the second principal of ACTS Seminaries and the Associate Vice-President of Graduate Theological Studies for Trinity Western University.  There were a number of special guests and friends who attended.

Photo Gallery

Click on the first thumbnail in the gallery above to view photos of the inauguration celebration.  There are [Prev] and [Next] tags embedded into each photo – click those tags [or press P(rev) or N(ext) ] to view the photos. There is a description of each photo at the bottom.

A Challenge for 2008

I would like to present you with a tough but exciting challenge for 2008 . . . but let me back up a little! 

This past two months I have been somewhat restricted in my activities because of a ruptured achilles tendon.  After 4 weeks in a fiberglass cast and now another almost 4 weeks in a cast boot I am still using crutches to get around and spending much of my time with my foot propped up on a pile of cushions.  At first it was a bit of an adventure to have family and colleagues helping me with such basic things as opening doors or carrying a cup of coffee.  But the adventure aspect wore off quickly and I found myself in a complaining mode.  I didn’t complain to God openly but in my heart there were the sulky "why" questions – you know what I mean! 

I tell you this for two reasons.  First, because I have been so restricted I have found myself with much free time on my hands with only a few options available for filling those hours.  So I have been taking some of my own advice (found here) and have spent considerable time reading and re-reading the book of Hebrews – aloud.  Secondly, the personal result of that exercise has been for me to come to view my torn achilles as a blessing and not a curse.  For the past few weeks I have been soaking in the wonder of who Jesus is and what he has done for me (for us).  Normally I find I can fill my hours with so many good things that I rarely take the time to meditate on the Word in any more than a passing attempt.  Lately I have been "allowed" all the time I need and that has been a blessing.

So back to the challenge for 2008!  I would like to encourage you to carve out the time and space necessary and read the book of Hebrews 12 times this year – once a month – and read it aloud.  The ideal would be to read it in its entirety in one sitting but if you cannot do that break it into two or three chunks and read it that way.  Here is what I would encourage you to do:

  • Make 2008 a year of coming to know Jesus better.  Many years ago when I was a young student at Prairie Bible Institute a visiting speaker, Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter, encouraged us to read the Gospels "pictographically" – in other words with the express purpose of seeing Jesus as the gospelers pictured him.  That is the challenge I pass on to you – read Hebrews pictographically – with a view to seeing Jesus anew.  The writer to the Hebrews himself speaks of Jesus in this way.  In 2:9 he writes, "But we see Jesus…"   In 3:1 he enjoins his readers to "…fix your thoughts on Jesus…" and in 12:2 he exhorts, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…"  Jesus is the centrepiece of Hebrews.  My prayer for you is that you will come to see him afresh this coming year – that you will rejoice in the wonder of who your Savior is, what he has accomplished for you and who you are because of him.
  • Take your time – don’t hurry.  Allow the writer’s passion for Jesus to permeate your soul.
  • Read expressively.  Try to read Hebrews the way the writer intended it to be read.  At first you may not find reading aloud the most comfortable thing to do – but try it – I believe you will like it!
  • Notice how Hebrews weaves a wonderful tapestry of descriptions of Jesus’ person and work, exhortations to live fully in what Jesus has provided, cautions that we not take lightly this marvelous salvation and examples of others – both faith-filled and faith-less.
  • Don’t give up!  This is not an easy challenge – but you will find it very worthwhile!

As the year progresses share with me and other readers of this blog  what you have seen.  Feel free to add  comments to this post.  Return here throughout the year and encourage and be encouraged – that is what the writer of Hebrews tells us to do.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (3:13)

…let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (10:25)

I will place a 2008 Challenge link in the sidebar (under Special Topics) so that you can return here easily.  May God richly bless you this year and may you daily rejoice in the wonder of this Hebrews benediction:

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

WordPress for Churches

WordPress is a web authoring software package that is designed to be easy to use and free for the downloading.  The creators of the software describe WordPress as follows: "WordPress is a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. What a mouthful. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time."

Both large and small websites are run on WordPress.  As I have researched the use of WordPress on the internet I have been amazed to see the number and variety of entities that use WordPress in some way.  Many use it as it comes straight out of the box (so to speak).  Others tailor and customize it to suit their particular business or corporate needs.  WordPress allows the user to be as simple as to require virtually no previous experience or to be as creative as their web programming skills allow.  One example of a large entity that uses WordPress for many of its numerous websites is Power to Change (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ Canda.  View a list of their other sites at TruthMedia).

WordPress was initially designed to be primarily a blogging platform.  However it is so flexible that it can be used in almost any capacity as a Web Content Management System running websites as complicated as a major business might need or as simple as a personal blog.

So what is so great about it for the local church?  Here is a list of things that I particularly appreciate about WordPress:

  1. WordPress  is free!  It is released under what is known as a General Public License.
  2. WordPress  is very easy to use.  Here is how the creators of the program describe what they intend it to be: "We are proud to offer you a freely distributed, standards-compliant, fast, light and free personal publishing platform, with sensible default settings and features, and an extremely customizable core." (Read more here). All of our faculty here at Northwest have become adept at using it.
  3. WordPress  has a significant community of web developers who test it, create additional features for it (called plugins), and use it themselves.
  4. There are a number of web hosting companies that provide the initial installation of WordPress automatically.  There is a page on the WordPress website listing some of them.  These hosting companies will often even assist you with your domain name if needed (for a fee, of course).
  5. WordPress comes with a default theme.  There are, however, hundreds of great themes available to choose from on the internet.  If you have some web programming experience you can create your own theme or customize the default theme.  The main Northwest website (where you are reading this) is based on a version of the default WordPress theme that I customized to suit our needs.  Larry Perkins’ and Mark Naylor’s websites are based on a slightly customized version of a theme called K2.

 So, that gives some of the features of WordPress and why I think it is a great resource for church websites.

Get Your Church Website Noticed!

You have a message you want to deliver; you have a specific audience that you want to target; you develop a cool website for this purpose and then you do a search – and if it shows up at all, your shiny new church website is buried 20 pages deep into the search engine’s list.  "How will our people find our website?"  You are not the first person to ask this question.  Here are some tips and ideas that you can use.  I have broken them down into several broad topics and included links to some very helpful websites. 

Web Site Design

It is important that the structure of your website accommodates search engines. 

"How will our people find our website?"

  • Searchable text: Search engines need to be able to "read" your site.  So pay careful attention to such things as key words and phrases for which your target audience would likely be searching.  These must appear prominently as part of the text on your home page. Use such terms in text headings (in your HTML <h1>, <h2> <h3> etc.), as opposed to graphics, to maximize how search engines rank them.
  • Page Titles: Each page on your church website must have a unique but relevant title (HTML tags <title>Title Here</title>).  Search engines look for these and they also appear at the top of your browser window.  If you are using web authoring software like WordPress* the titles you give to your posts and pages become the page titles automatically.
  • Meta Tags: This is a little more technical as it requires you to get into the actual HTML code of your website but it is something that search engines look for.  Each page of your site is broken down broadly into a header, body and footer. In the HTML of the header there is a place for Meta Tags.  One of those tags is the KEYWORD tag (HTML <meta name="keywords" content="place your key words here each separated by a comma" />).  Choose good, descriptive keywords including your church name.  For more information on this go to the WC3 website and read their information on page structure.  Scroll down to section 7.4.4 on meta data.
  • Site map: Creating an easy way for people to see the contents of your site at a glance is also good for search engines.  WordPress* has several plugins that do this automatically.

External Links

Search engines look for traffic to your site. This indicates to them that your site is in demand. So get your site listed on site directories (i.e. the denominational web directory) and other similar websites etc.

Submit your URL to the search engines

Be sure that you follow their instructions carefully as submitting your information more than once could be construed as spamming and actually reduce your chances of a good ranking.

  1. Google:
  2. MSN:
  3. Yahoo:

Use Other Media

Place your web address on everything you publish – from your weekly church bulletin to your daily email signature; from your letterhead to your note pads! Do you publish a church ad in the local newspaper? Don’t forget to include your web address there too!

Web Ads

One technique that is promoted to increase traffic to a website is the use of web advertizing.  This is probably not an appropriate technique for a church website but I mention it here for interest sake.


Search engines will eventually find and rank your site.  It may take some time.  Following the tips above will help search engines determine just how valuable your site is to your target audience.

Other Sites on Website Design and/or Promotion**

  1. Google has some good material at
    Also at
  2. Web Marketing Today has a good checklist at
  3. Modwest has a good FAQ answer on website promotion.

*I will be writing an article on WordPress at a later date.  It is the software that all of our Northwest sites run on.

**Including a particular website’s url on this site does not imply endorsement of the site or its views.

Church Web 101

…where does one start when planning a church website?

Today I am launching a series of articles for churches on the topic of church websites. Have you grappled with how to start, develop and maintain a good church website? Have you learned some great secrets that you would be willing to share? I hope to add a number of articles in the future that will provide resources that specifically address the needs of churches in relation to their use of the internet. I may not write all the articles but rather will try to develop a network of people, web-links and other resources that can provide the kind of help needed – particularly  for churches.

In this article I am starting with some fundamentals. In order to have a website you need three basic pieces of the internet and website puzzle.

1. The first piece you need is to own the "domain name" that you will use for your website. The domain name is the address that you type into your internet browser that takes you to a particular website.  The domain name that Northwest owns and uses is When you type into the address bar of your internet browser it opens to the Northwest website for you to browse. So an example of a domain name for you might be

A domain name is purchased from a domain name registrar and is paid for (usually) on an annual basis. Domain names cost anywhere from $8.75 per year to $34.99 per year depending on the registrar and what they offer beside the domain name registration. On the more expensive end of the range would be a company like and on the cheaper end would be a company like – with many in between and a few cheaper and a few more expensive.

You need a "place" to locate your website so that it can be accessed from the internet any time of day or night – a web host.

2. The second piece of the puzzle that you need is a "place" to locate your website so that it can be accessed from the internet any time of day or night. This "place" is usually provided by a web hosting company. For a monthly fee these companies will "host" your website on their web server computers and make sure that your website is both secure and always accessible from the internet. Hosting fees can range from as low as several dollars a month to several dozens of dollars a month – again depending on the services provided. Most church web sites do not need anything more than a basic or basic to mid-range hosting plan.

3. The third piece of the puzzle that you need for your church website is the development of the website itself – i.e. the computer files that hold all the information you want to present about your church. For the basic website these files can be understood in two broad categories. There will be the actual web pages themselves – i.e. what you are reading right now, and there will be the graphic elements of the site. That includes the overall site design, photos, video clips etc. Site designs usually incorporate a top section called a header that identifies who this site is about, the body of the site which holds the information, and finally there usually is a bottom part – called a footer where one might place a copyright notice, some links to important sections of the website and so on. 

– What should a church put on their website?
– Who is going to be responsible for the website?
– What sort of time commitment might be required by a website?

One other element the site will need is some sort of mechanism to navigate from one page to another. Links that do this navigation are often found either in a menu bar across the top of the site or on the side of the site in what is called a sidebar.

I will write more about each of these pieces of the puzzle in future articles. Here are some other questions I would like to address in future articles. Where does one start when thinking about a website? What does one need to create a website? Can just anyone do this or is purely the realm of the specialists – the geeks? What makes a good church website? Is there special software that I need? Are there people who can help me?

I am sure you have your own questions. Why don’t you add a comment to this page? Do you have a particular question that we could address in a future article? Do you have some special solutions your church has discovered? Write and let me know.

The Foundation for Hearing God

There is, today, a proliferation of articles, books and speakers discussing the topic of “hearing God”.  Several well known evangelical preachers and leaders have weighed in with their contributions. I did a web search on the words “hearing God” and was fascinated by what came up. Page after page listing web sites, books, articles and other links all with some sort of answer to the questions, “Can I hear God?” “Does God speak today?” “If He is speaking today, how does He speak?”, “How do I recognize His voice?”, “How do I discern divine guidance?”

Our society pressures us to live speedy lives. We find all sorts of things to occupy us. Good things or useless things – they all clamor for our time.

I have been researching these questions for my Bible Study/Care Group. The initial study of several popular books and articles caused me to wonder what the stimulus was behind this wave of interest in the topic.  What is driving this quest?  There seems to be a renewed hunger to hear from God. That can be a good thing or it can indicate a problem.   My research has drawn me to ask the question “Is there something lacking in our postmodern, western, evangelical culture? Is there a scarcity of “hearing from God"?  We, as Bible believing Christians, know that God has spoken (Hebrews 1:1,2) so why are we not hearing? Are we not listening? Are we listening to the wrong words? Are there too many other voices?

As I have reflected on these questions and the current buzz about “hearing God” one fact stands clear. God designed us for relationship – relationship, in the first instance,  with Him.  Thus the desire to hear from Him.

Healthy, fulfilling relationships require time and effort to develop. Knowing God, knowing His mind, His ways, His character, His purposes all require spending uninterrupted, quality time with Him – through the Scriptures – as He has already revealed Himself to us.  When we do not take sufficient time to develop that kind of intimacy we are left with a relational void. My read on the current culture-wide hunger to hear from God is that it stems, in part, from a hurried, stunted, shortchanged relationship with Him. The relationship we have begun to experience with our Saviour has informed our spiritual senses that there is more. But here is the rub, that “more” requires more of us.

Our society pressures us to live speedy lives. We find all sorts of things to occupy us. Good things or useless things – they all clamor for our time. We flit from one new experience to the next. We drive through life so fast we have to get our food at drive-through windows. We learn early the value our society places on “multitasking”. The media knows that our individual attention spans are short so we are bombarded with fast-paced “clips”. 

We Christians have become acculturated to this style of living and I believe it has affected our spiritual lives. We are easily bored. If a “worship service” doesn’t entertain us sufficiently we move elsewhere. Long sermons and church services tire us. But maybe more deadly is the effect this lifestyle has on our personal, devotional relationship with God – it has become fragmented, stretched thin, missing even – and so we look for a fix. We still want to hear from Him, but…

As Christians, living in the context of this society, we are just not geared to slowing down and taking the time to build our personal relationship with God. Even the literature that I found on “learning to hear from God” often promoted a certain number of “steps to be followed” in the process, which points again to our cultural need to organize, to be efficient, to “not waste time”. But how do you organize a relationship, a friendship?

Carve out for your self sufficient space in your life to take the time to listen to what God has already said in His written Word.

Are you grappling with these questions? Are you yearning to hear God’s voice? Allow me to recommend something – a practice that I believe will develop in you and me the essential foundation for hearing from God.  This is a time-tested practice based on both biblical teaching and biblical example. It is not a difficult practice but in our culture it can be very challenging.

Carve out for your self sufficient space in your life to take the time to listen to what God has already said in His written Word – the Old and New Testaments.  Make it a priority practice in your life to set aside a significant portion of time each week to spend a leisurely, relationship-developing season with God. Find a location where no one will interrupt and you will not bother anyone. Take your Bible and begin to read out loud (the reason for this is to avoid rushing through your reading). Read in a translation that is designed to be read aloud – where you will not be stumbling over awkward sentence structure. Read an extended passage – a whole book or several (Colossians, Ephesians, Hebrews, a Gospel, several Psalms etc).  Read with understanding and emphasis. Meditate as you read. Be free to pause frequently and ponder what you have read. Read with observing eyes and mind. Read with a questing heart. Read in faith but don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

As you read, allow your heart to be lifted to your Heavenly Father in praise and adoration.  Allow the Spirit of God to illumine His Word to your heart. Shut out the hurry and worry of the pressure cooker lives we live and take the time to grow your relationship with Him.

Guard this time! Don’t allow sermon or Bible lesson preparation encroach upon it. This is holy ground – just between you and God.  This is relationship time.

A few years ago I began to study and memorize Psalm 119. I was intrigued by the great value the psalmist placed on God’s Word. He refers to his delight in it at least 9 times. I took special note of the exclamations and declarations the psalmist makes in response to his delight in God’s Word. “I will obey…I will not neglect…I will meditate…I have set my heart on…I will never forget…I have put my hope in…I stand in awe…they are the joy of my heart.” May this be our response to our practice of meeting God in His already revealed truth – the Scriptures. Then we will truly hear.

Some additional thoughts:

  1. If it seems difficult at first – don’t flit to the next popular book or website – persevere! Don’t be afraid to tell Him what you are struggling with – this is a relationship.
  2. Commit Scripture to memory. If you are just beginning – start with a familiar passage – something you may have memorized in the past. Do not try to take on too much at once – but once you start, be consistent – don’t quit!
  3. This is not primarily a time to bring petitions to God – but He does want to hear from you, so don’t rush back into the fast lane without pausing to speak with Him in prayer.
  4. If you would like to meditate on a passage of Scripture that speaks to this practice that I am recommending go to Psalm 119 and spend some time in it.

No alpha, beta or RC1 releases – a reason for Thanksgiving!

"if you don’t know what an alpha release is, don’t use this software!!"

I love the concept of free web software – a web application that has been designed by someone out there in cyberland who has put it up on the net to be downloaded and used freely (donations always appreciated). It is in this context that I have chuckled in the past couple of days as I have been searching for some very specific plugins (small web applications) for WordPress (the web software on which this site runs). In the process I have come across several websites that describe their particular plugin as an "alpha release" – with the following warning- "if you don’t know what an alpha release is, don’t use this software!!" Warning heeded!!

It is common for web software programmers to release a version of the software they are developing to the public – a version that is not fully tested or does not have complete functionality – in order to give the internet community an opportunity get a sneak preview or even to help in the debugging of the program. In this way users will often help with suggestions as to what additional functionality might be added to the software in order to make it a useful tool. These releases are labeled "alpha" or "beta" versions and if the software is deemed to be almost complete, "release candidate 1 or 2" (RC1, etc.). I have occasionally experimented with web software that was still in the "beta" stage.

Sometimes, however, it is frustrating when I am looking at a piece of software that is advertised to do just what I want it to do – but it is still "beta"! Do I dare use it on my "precious" website? Can I trust it? Other times it is quite annoying when software touted as the ultimate answer for a particular need does not live up to its promise. But that is the world of software offered on the web and those are the risks you take when you use a "beta" version.

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving Day and I was reflecting on what I had to be thankful about and thinking about some of the experiences I have had with "beta releases" it occurred to me that when Jesus provided the "Ultimate Answer" to mankind’s deepest need he provided the only and final release, free and absolutely complete!

Jesus…prepared for every contingency, every possibility, every condition and every era. He did not take any shortcuts or half measures and did not leave any functionality out.

When Jesus provided salvation for us He prepared for every contingency, every possibility, every condition and every era. He did not take any shortcuts or half measures and did not leave any functionality out. He did not forget anything or ignore anything. He knew every need we would ever possibly have and provided for them all. When He died on the Cross to save mankind from sin he did not take a trial and error approach – he went all the way and did it perfectly – first time! His "plan" for us has never needed debugging, security updates, patches or fixes. It is perfect, there will never be any other versions or releases – and it is free for the receiving! In fact donations are not even possible and to attempt payment nullifies the "plan".

So, to recap! The salvation Jesus has provided is absolutely perfect, absolutely complete, absolutely efficacious, absolutely trustworthy and absolutely free. Now that is something for which I can be very thankful – and so can you!.

In the realm of web software I will continue to experiment with the occasional "beta" release. In the spiritual realm, however, I have settled on Jesus’ perfect "plan"- His provision for eternal salvation.

The Wonder of Sulfa and Penicillin – or Salt and Light

On my way to work this morning the radio station to which I was listening had an announcement regarding some of the up-coming fall TV shows. I found myself reacting to the announcer’s casual monologue. What he was describing was entertainment comprised of watching godless and adulterous relationships, of watching actors and actresses portraying a society whose values consisted of lust, deceit, betrayal, violence, murder and virtually any other godless form of lifestyle. The radio announcer described the opening scenes of a new season of one popular TV serial as "dark and twisted"! Hmmm…, just what I was needing to build me up in my faith and my daily walk with God.

I wonder if Jesus might have used the analogy of sulfa and penicillin!

I turned the radio off and was musing about the role of the Christian in society. Here we are, God’s holy people, living squarely in the middle of this culture of ours with its sordid view of entertainment. We are in it but not to be “of it”. God has kept us here for a reason. Jesus told us we are to be salt and light. As we interact with our culture, what does that look like?

It is the prerogative of the Gospel to transcend culture – to transform culture! We are to be culture influencers! It seems to me, however, that we also need to be very careful that the opposite does not happen – that our culture does not exert a godless influence on us through the “entertainment” that it serves up.

Here are some questions with which I wrestle:

1. Are we allowing our “personal culture” to be influenced daily by the transforming power of the Gospel? Do we vigorously clear away from our lives anything that would restrict that process? What safeguards have we put in place to ensure that this happens? With such a pervasive godlessness in our culture’s entertainment how do we keep ourselves from being influenced? Do we divorce ourselves completely from radio, TV, movies and the like? If not, where do we draw the line at what we allow ourselves to watch – to be entertained by? There are definite dangers – how do we recognize them? For example, can our entertainment so accustom our ears to the kind of speech that the Bible defines as “corrupt, foolish or coarse” (Eph. 4:29 & 5:3,4) that we become desensitized to it? That is only one of the many areas where moral desensitization can set in. Are there areas in our “comfortableness” with the culture of our society where we have been blinded by it? 

2. Are we allowing the Gospel’s transforming power to flow through us to the culture around us? In all the spheres where we have relationships with people, what positive, godly effect does our being there have on those around us? Is there a measure of intentionality about it? Do we ever stop and contemplate how we are influencing others? Last night at the badminton club I am part of one of the guys was casually throwing around some rather offensive language. I wrestled with how to respond? What did salt and light look like in this situation?

3. How important is all of this to us? Is it a priority in our lives?

God used that transformation as a means to explain another transformation that God wanted to work in their lives – the Gospel.

I remember as a child watching a marvelous transformational metaphor take place. My parents were missionaries in a very remote village on the island of Kalimantan, Indonesia. The people among whom we were living were plagued with a bizarre condition called Yaws or tropical ulcers. These putrid, infected lesions were both debilitating and disfiguring. It is also extremely contagious. When my parents first arrived in the village a large percentage of the local population was affected by this condition. Parts of arms, legs, hands and faces were eaten away. To this day I can still smell it.  It was horrific. 

With minimal medical experience and limited resources my parents began to treat the villagers. These people had never been exposed to sulfa drugs or penicillin and within weeks of initial treatment those dreadful sores completely dried up and healed. It was nothing short of miraculous. God used that transformation as a means for my dad and mom to explain to the villagers another transformation that God wanted to work in their lives – the Gospel. 

To me that is a picture of what we as Christians are to be in the society and culture in which we have been placed?  What miracles might we witness as we allow the Gospel to be radiated through our lives to our culture and the people of our culture?   I wonder if Jesus might have used the analogy of sulfa and penicillin!

The love of the Father

Over the years of my Christian life I have often grappled with the questions, "How can I have a relationship with someone I cannot see, hear or touch?  What kind of a relationship is it if one party is limited by being bound to this humanity?"  I know, and have preached on the theologically correct answers to these questions.  I recall J. Sidlow Baxter preaching a series of messages back during my bible college days where he encouraged us to read the Gospels photographically and see Jesus as the Gospel writers portray Him – a practice I have often undertaken over the 30 or so years since. As I have read through John’s Gospel I have taken careful note of Jesus words in 14:7 "If you have known me, you will also know my Father. From now on you know him and have seen him."  As I have grown in the Christian disciplines and pursued my walk with God I have learned to hear from his Word and rejoice in intimate fellowship with Him.  But there still arise those moments when ‘feelings’ and faith seem to be on opposite sides of the experience pendulum.

This past summer I read a book that had a profound impact on my perception of my relationship with God. The book is The Shack by William P. Young.  It is a powerful story of a father’s overwhelming grief in the face of horrific tragedy and how God turns that grief into an opportunity to get to know the Heavenly Father.  It is difficult to classify this book. Is it fiction?  Eugene Peterson’s comment on the book cover seems to imply that it is allegory.  As I read it, I couldn’t help but try to get into the author’s mind and ask, "what motivated this book?" Is it autobiographical?  What ever the genre the impact on me was telling. As I was reading it on the plane I kept looking around to see if anyone was noticing my tears.  I wept out of sheer joy as my perspective of what God desired in relationship was deepened.  I wept out of a profound sense of being humbled by the Father’s passionate love.  I wept out of a refreshed intense longing to know Jesus more. I wept as the Spirit took that story and breathed into my soul a new understanding of His desire to draw me closer.

The Shack  is a book I would recommend to every Christian. You will be drawn into a fresh understanding at God’s ineffable love for his children and the kind of relationship we were intended to have with Him.

Search all of Northwest Online Resources

We have added a new search routine to our site so that all of our online resources can be searched from a single search. It is a Google Custom Search and it will search our (main site) plus Dr. Larry Perkins’ Internet Moments With God’s Word plus Mark Naylor’s Cross-cultural Impact for the 21st Century plus Dr. Lyle Schrag’s Leadership site.  This search utility is to be found on our main menu under Resources >> Search ALL Northwest Online Resources.

As we have been adding online resources regularly it has become necessary for us to be able to do this sort of a search in order to maximize our resources and get the greatest possible value out of them.

I trust that you will find our online resources to be a valuable source of information on various topics.  Have you checked out our "Category Index" (which is something like a subject index)?  You will find this also under the Resources >> View Archived Daily Posts by Category on the menu above.

Keeping up with internet news and blogs!!

Do you want to be able to read only the most currently published material on your favorite news sites and blogs – all organized in one place – and be notified when new material is posted?  An RSS reader will do that for you. 

Many of the web sites, whose most current information you would like to read, actually publish their current information (posts, news etc.) through an RSS feed. What you need to gather that information is the reader – an RSS reader.

There are a number of products that will do this – here are three options. 

  1. If you use Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer 7 there is an RSS reader built right into the Favorites Center.
  2. If you use FireFox there are free add-on RSS readers you can install.  One such add-on reader can be found at
  3. If you have a Google account, Google has a free RSS reader. Read about it at

The Northwest website provides an RRS feed so that you can keep up with the latest postings by our people. Just open your RSS reader now and sign up.

God’s Economy

Have you ever been bemused by God’s way of doing things?  I have, and in the end have stood in awe of His timing, patience, grace and goodness.

A number of years ago (in another world) I taught at a Bible college deep in the jungles of Kalimantan (formerly known as Borneo).  For several years I had a student who was a source of great consternation to me.  It seemed that no matter what subject I had him for he just could not "get it"!  His academic situation came up repeatedly in our faculty meetings but no one had the heart to say, "Sorry, he just isn’t making it – let him go!"  So from year to year we granted him a provisional pass to the next level of study and every year we wondered.  But he kept pressing on.  Everyone loved him.  His gentleness, humility and transparency captivated all who knew him.

I was responsible for student accounts at the time and one day he came to my office to ask for some money from his account.  I had just reviewed the books and his account was more than empty, so I asked him, "On what basis are you asking me this?" (literal translation).  He pulled himself up straight and declared, "On the basis of the grace of God!"  I could hardly contain myself and found some extra funds that we had for just such an occasion – grace funds!  Total dependence on the grace of God seemed to be the theme of his life.

In his fourth and final year I was assigned to be his practicum supervisor and evaluator.  He was pastoring a church in a nearby village and I went with him several Sundays to evaluate.  I had taught him homiletics but his sermons bore no resemblance to anything we had studied.  I was seriously considering recommending to the school that he was not cut out for the ministry.  However, after the services I went with him as he walked from home to home in that village, praying for people, encouraging them to be strong in their faith, counselling, advising and loving – and the people loved him in return.  The church in that village had never been so healthy and vigorous.  We graduated him that year (with no little sense of misgiving) and that was the last I saw of him for 14 years as my wife and I were denied extensions to our visas and returned to Canada that summer.  In the intervening years we have often wondered.

I had the privilege this summer of returning to Kalimantan and visiting in this same young man’s home and witnessing the amazing grace of God.  He is married with three children.  He and his wife are involved together in a marvelous cross-cultural ministry.  As we spoke I learned that he has already planted a church amongst a very difficult people group. He has turned that church over to another man to continue the pastoral work and is now in the process of building a second work which involves not just a church plant but also a Christian school as well – again, in the midst of a most difficult ethnic group. It defies human explanation.

Oh, the wonderful grace of Jesus!  God’s economy is one of utter grace.

The Marks of an Unspiritual Leader

In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right.
Judges 21:44

Eli the priest of God at Shiloh was the default leader of Israel at the opening of the book of 1 Samuel.  He was elderly and his two sons, Hophni and Phinnehas, performed the regular priestly duties at the Tent of Meeting.  The second chapter of 1 Samuel records that those two sons were evil, ruthless, dissolute, immoral and godless men. How is it that they were allowed to continue to "minister before the Lord"?  The answer is found in the fact that their father was a leader with a profound lack of spiritual understanding.  He was not a spiritual man.  It seems to me that the culture of the day that we find mentioned at the end of the book of Judges has seriously affected this leader of his people and clouded his spiritual understanding.  As I read the account I find the following indicators.

1. Spiritual insensitivity

With Hannah – Eli assumed she was drunk (1:14).  Maybe it is a statement on Eli’s spiritual expectations that his natural reaction to Hannah’s weeping before the Lord in the tabernacle was to accuse her of drunkenness. Why would he jump to that conclusion unless his ability at spiritual discernment  was severely dulled.

With Samuel – it took three attempts to wake Eli to the fact that God was calling the young boy (3:1-9)

2. Spiritual inattention

With his sons – Eli disregarded their wickedness (2:22).  Despite one feeble rebuke recorded in 2:22-25 the condemnation was leveled at him by an unknown messenger from God that he was honoring his sons above God.  He had lost sight of spiritual priorities.

With God – God’s visitations to his people were rare and His word was rarely heard in those days (3:1).  It would seem that the reason for the scarcity of God’s revelation was because Eli, the priest, was not listening to God.  He was not spiritually inclined to seek for the voice of God and so it became silent.

3. Spiritual ignorance

The ‘man of God’ who came to Eli and warned him of God’s impending judgment had to remind Eli of God’s calling and anointing on the priestly lineage (2:27,28).  It is quite an indictment that the man of God levels at Eli.  The rhetorical questions, "Did I not…" imply that Eli has either forgotten or is totally ignorant of God’s dealing with Israel and particularly God’s appointment of the priestly line.

4. Spiritual imprudence

In the account of Eli’s death it is recorded that he was old and very fat (4:18).  When the man of God rebuked Eli he condemned him because he had made himself fat off the illicit spoils provided by his sons (2:29).  Gluttony blurred Eli’s capacity to think and act as a spiritual leader should.

5. Spiritual indifference

When told of God’s judgment he shrugged it off almost fatalistically (3:18).  His response, "He is the Lord, let him do what seems good to him" stands in stark contrast to David’s casting himself on God’s mercy after being rebuked by the prophet Nathan.  Once again this points to a lack of a true understanding of God’s nature and God’s dealings with people.

It seems to me that the story of Eli should make every Christian (and particularly those in leadership) take a long hard look at their own spirituality.  Are there areas of our lives where the culture of the day has dimmed our spiritual vision or dulled our sensitivity?  What do our lives demonstrate as to the quality of our spirituality.  Do we need to wake up and take stock?

A Father’s Contribution to the Development of a Great Leader

As the dark years of Israel’s history, recounted for us in the book of Judges, draw to a close and we see the transition of national identity from cowering fugitives into a great kingdom – a remarkable leader is used by God to bring Israel back to Himself.  That leader is the prophet and judge of Israel, Samuel.  Given the cultural, social and religious milieu at the time of his birth and early childhood it is even more remarkable that he became the man that he did.  In a previous article we looked at the influence of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, on her son’s development into a highly respected leader.  It was her faith, prayer, nurture, perseverance, integrity and care that deeply influenced this little boy and encouraged him to become the man he did.

But there is another person who, I believe, also had a profound influence on Samuel’s growing up years.  That person is his father Elkanah.  Here is what I observe about this man from 1 Samuel 1-3.

1. He was an ordinary man, husband, father in the context of his society and culture. But he was also a man who stood tall above the cultural anarchy and religious apathy of the day. (c.f. Judges 21:25)

2. He was not a national or religious figure. He was not a tribal head or clan elder but he was an upstanding leader in his own home and family. (1 Samuel 1-3)

3. He, personally, was a faithful, God-fearing, deeply religious man as evidenced by his regular pilgrimages to the tabernacle in Shiloh to offer up sacrifices to the Lord (1:3).

4. He did not keep his religion to himself but faithfully led his family in the worship of the One True God – encouraging their individual participation.  It is noteworthy that the writer of 1 Samuel took the time to detail how Elkanah gave portions to each member of his family – adults and children.  He was doing his best to ensure that his family knew God and followed in His ways (1:4).

5. In his conversation with Hannah in 1:8 we get the sense that he is a devoted, loving and tender husband.  This one factor alone would be significant in Samuel’s healthy emotional and social development.

6. Elkanah fully supported Hannah in the fulfillment of her commitment to the Lord regarding Samuel (1:23).  Penninah, the rival, aside – one gets the sense of a family unit that are in one in heart to follow God.

In an age of religious turmoil, waywardness and spiritual ignorance, Elkanah stands tall as a godly man, loving husband and competent father.  Samuel, his son, could not have been anything other than indelibly influenced by his father’s example.

Dads! The challenge is there for us.  Let’s never underestimate the power of the example of a godly, faithful and committed father to influence the next generation.  Some will even go on to become great leaders.


Samuel, a Mother’s Contribution to a Great Leader

Recommended reading: 1 Samuel 1-8

I am intrigued with the rise of Samuel’s leadership as described in the first few chapters of 1 Samuel.  After the years of Israel’s spiritual, moral and national decline as described in the book of Judges the years of Samuel’s leadership stand sturdy and tall.  Under his faithful and godly guidance Israel regains her faith in God as well as her sense of nationhood under God.  Samuel was a giant among leaders. What fascinates me are the people surrounding him during his growing up years. 

What contributed to his development as a leader? What about the people surrounding him? In his earliest years there is his mother, Hannah; there is Hannah’s rival Peninah (with all her children) and there is his father, Elkanah.  Later, as he begins his tenure as the understudy for the temple there is Eli, the priest and default leader of the day along with his two evil sons Hophni and Phinehas.  Then there were the Israelite worshipers who came to the tent of meeting there in Shiloh to offer sacrifices and worship the One True God.  What influence did these people have on young Samuel?  What did they contribute to the development of this great leader to be?

Hannah is the first influence in his life.  Imagine with me young Samuel growing up under Hannah’s godly care.  I get the sense from the conversation between Hannah and Elkanah in 1:21-23 that Hannah intended to pour herself into her little boy during the years that she had him and before she was to give him into the Lord’s service.  It is likely that from his earliest recall he would hear the stories of Hannah’s sorrow and ultimate blessing.  Hannah probably retold many times how God answered her prayers.  I am sure Samuel was also quite aware from early on of his mother’s promise to God.  My guess is that Hannah had a great deal to do with Samuel’s growing up with a deep sense of awe of God and His goodness. 

Samuel probably could see early on the contrast between his mother and that other woman, Peninah.  The gentleness contrasted with the sneering, the selfelessness contrasted with the pettyness…  Even though we are not given many details, I doubt that Peninah’s character changed much with the birth of Samuel and the contrast must have been instructive to him.  His mother’s character and godliness were great influences in his life.

Hannah was a woman of prayer.  She understood prayer as communing with God.  When Eli questioned her in the tabernacle, Hannah described her prayer as "Pouring out my soul to the Lord" (1:15).  I believe Samuel’s deep and close relationship with God began here on Hannah’s knees. Hannah’s prayer in chapter 2, recorded for all succeeding ages, gives us a little glimpse of this woman’s considerable understanding of God and his ways.  I believe it can be safely infered that she did not stint in communicating these truths to her young son.

Commentators vary on how old Samuel might have been when he was presented to the Lord at the temple.  But short time or long, Hannah was probably the most influential person in the development of this leader. 

Put yourself into the picture of the yearly pilgrimages from Ramah to Shiloh.  Imagine with me the excitement preceeding the event.  Samuel in Shiloh waiting impatiently for the day to come when his mother and family would arrive.  Hannah in Ramah, lovingly putting the finishing touches on the garment she made for her little man every year.  There is a faraway look in her eye, a tiny smile tugs at the corners of her mouth.  She will see her little boy soon. "How tall will he be by now"? 

It is what the text does not tell us that intrigues me.  Was Hannah’s heart lifted to God daily on behalf of this little man?  Did she ever worry?  Did doubts ever creep in? – "Did I do the right thing?"  "Did I really have to give him to God for all of his life?" Did intense longing for her first-born ever cloud her eyes with tears?

What influence do you and I have in the lives of the youngsters around us? What do they see in us?  Are we praying for the children in our sphere of influence?  Are we contributing to the development of tomorrow’s godly leaders?  Allow me to encourage us to take another look at the influence of this godly woman on an entire nation through her influence on her son and let’s ask God how we can be used of Him in similar ways.

Note: The topic for the fall ACTS Seminaries Pastors’ & Mentors’ Day is "Children Matter"

Godliness, Again!

I am curious about Paul’s usage of the word ‘godliness’ (eusebia) in his letter to Titus on several counts.  The first is that Paul makes it clear throughout the letter that the pursuit of godliness is a normal practice in the life of the believer.  In the very first sentence he writes:

From Paul,a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, to further the faith of God’s chosen ones and the knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the ages began.  (NET Bible)

Second, each passage in this letter that deals with the core teaching on salvation (i.e. that salvation is provided freely by God’s grace and mercy and not because of any of our doing) inevitably concludes with an exhortation to godliness being expressed through good works (2:11-14; 3:4-8).  Godliness, then, is the outworking of the inner work of salvation and it is expressed in good works.  The entire letter seems dedicated to describing what godliness must look like in the lives of God’s people.  That ‘look’ is linked to living righteously, "denying ungodliness", and doing good works.

Third, Paul exhorts Titus to challenge all of his listeners to lives of godliness.  The challenge is thrown out to church leaders (elders and overseers), to men and women, to husbands and wives, to young and old, to slaves and freemen – godliness is for all.

What is Godliness?

A friend e-mailed me a response to my June 18 article on the topic, "Godliness in Everyday Shoe Leather." After describing the lives of Christian friends, family and acquaintances, with some of the accompanying struggles and issues that Christians can and do face, the following was the observation made and the question posed in the e-mail: "These are real life examples of people whose lives are about knowing and following God. But the standards, choices and activities may not fit the criteria for godliness….or do they? What is godliness?" Although Scripture does not state a cut and dried definition of godliness per se it does hold up the example toward which our pursuit of godliness is to be directed. That example is Jesus. In his writing on godliness the apostle Peter writes of becoming "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). Is that an impossible standard for us? In our own strength and abilities, yes! Should we adjust the standard so that it is attainable? No! God has prepared all the resources we need. Here is what Peter writes:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:3-7)1

The Scriptures, then, with the portrait they paint of Jesus must always be our standard when we ask "What is godliness?" But I wonder if the biblical concept of godliness is not so much about living up to a particular set of criteria as it is about pressing on in the pursuit of becoming more and more like Jesus. It is more of a process to be struggled through, with victories to be won, cherished and celebrated together, than it is to "have a product", so to speak, to be held up for scrutiny and comparison. It is true that Jesus told us that we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). That is an absolute standard. But Paul made it very clear that in his own journey of faith he had not yet attained but was still in process (Philippians 3). He wrote of pressing on, with a calling ringing in his ears and a shimmering goal beckoning ahead! Interestingly, the Scriptures do describe what godliness is not. Peter, in the passage above, describes the contrast as, ""having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." The contrast between ‘fleeing’ and ‘pursuing’ to which Paul exhorts Timothy give a good sense of what things war against our pursuit of godliness (1 Timothy 6:11). In his exhortation to Titus, Paul writes:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).1

In several passages (Ephesians 4 and 5; Galatians 5) Paul contrasts the old life of the flesh with the new life in the Spirit giving us a clear picture of what godliness is, and isn’t. However, as my friend’s e-mail pointed out each of us has his or her own story of how godliness is being pursued in our individual lives. One Christian might marvel at another’s "Christian experience" and long to taste similar victories. Another might look around at other Christians and wonder why they are struggling so with something that has long been conquered in his or her life. Another might wonder why there seems to be no evidence of victory or even struggle in the life of a particular Christian or group of Christians with some practice deemed to be "ungodly". A danger I see in all of this is that when we look around at others we take our eyes off of our ultimate standard – Jesus. So, in my life, I have viewed the pursuit of godliness, not so much as trying to live up to a set of carefully detailed criteria but rather nurturing a deep passion to grow in Christ-likeness (in grace, mercy, love, joy, forgiveness, peace, contentment etc.) and to help others to grow similarly. Recognizing that I come with my own "unique" set of weaknesses and challenges I take Paul’s example to heart and keep pressing on, watching for those around me who I might be able to encourage along the way. Practically, then, what does it mean to become more like Jesus? Scripture tells us that Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14). Here some basics:

  • Jesus was absolutely committed to doing the Father’s will. His life was marked by obedience. That is a good starting point for the pursuit of godliness – obedience to the revealed will of God. The corollary there is that obedience requires knowledge – which leads us to the importance of diligent study of His Word (we cannot obey if we are unfamiliar with His desires).
  • Jesus was completely dependent upon the Spirit’s enabling. He spent much time in prayer. As I read the stories of godly men and women of the past and of today prayerfulness is a recurring theme.
  • Jesus loved others. He reached out to the outcasts of society — the unloved and forsaken and gave them hope. We will grow in godliness as we grow in loving one another. Jesus commanded this of his followers and said that they would be known as his followers by this very characteristic.
  • Jesus proclaimed the Good News wherever He went. He has commanded us to do the same.

Why don’t you share a few thoughts on this website? In what ways have you been following Jesus? What "good works" do Christians today need to be focusing on? Has someone encouraged you in your walk of faith – challenged you to keep pressing on? My wife and I were discussing this article and she was quick to point out that mine was not the last word on the topic of godliness. So, let’s continue the conversation and as I enjoined us in my first article on this topic, let’s continue to encourage one another to keep pressing on. Here are some conversational threads that I see in the Scripture passages mentioned above.

Our pursuit of godliness involves determined effort (2 Peter 1:5)
Our pursuit of godliness requires strict training (1 Tim. 4:7)
Our pursuit of godliness entails a renunciation of ungodliness (Titus 2:12)
Our pursuit of godliness will be characterized by/produce a zeal for good works (Titus 2:14)
Our pursuit of godliness has been resourced richly (2 Peter 1:3,4)
Our pursuit of godliness has an ultimate goal in view (Titus 2:13 and many other passages)

Feel free to log in and register and respond to this article via this website. A poem I wrote back during high school days seems appropriate here:

With patience I shall run the race,
I’ll lay aside each heavy weight,
No falt’ring step, no change in pace,
I’ll not stray from the course called ‘straight’!
My goal? Toward the mark I press!
The mark? The prize of God in Christ!
The prize? All else shall count for less
When winning Him, I’m found in Christ.


  • 1Scriptures quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV Text Edition: 2007 (emphases mine).

Godliness in Everyday Shoe Leather

For the past several weeks our care group has been studying the topic of godliness. We have looked at a number of passages of Scripture that speak to the subject. The theme question we have posed for this study has been, “What does godliness look like in everyday shoe leather?

The apostle Peter, speaking of Jesus, tells us that, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.(2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV) Peter goes on to encourage his readers, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with [among a list of other virtues] …godliness…” Reading Peter’s words, one gets a sense of urgency in this exhortation. The pursuit of godliness is important – vital even! Later on in the same letter after describing the end of time and the coming of the Lord, Peter asks, in light of all of this “what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness…?” (2 Peter 3:11)

Over a number of weeks our group also looked at such verses as 1 Timothy 4:7 where Paul speaks of training one’s self for godliness and 1 Timothy 6:11 where Paul exhorts Timothy to “pursue…godliness”. This past week we reviewed Paul’s testimony of his personal pursuit of godliness as recorded in Philippians chapter 3. He declares in verse 12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Both Peter and Paul expressed a passion for godliness and a purposefulness in pursuing it.

As I prepared for the study each week and reflected on personal application, and then as I listened to the discussion in the group two areas of query kept cropping up.

1. Are we really passionate about pursuing godliness and what it “looks like in every day shoe leather” in our lives personally? Or do we merely give lip service to it? Can we say like Paul does, “… one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)?

2. Do we speak enough among ourselves about godliness? Is this topic a natural part of our conversation as Christians? Do we encourage each other in godliness? Do we hold each other accountable in the pursuit of godliness?

Considering those two questions, allow me to encourage you to keep “pressing on” in the pursuit of becoming like Jesus – of pursuing godliness. Be passionate about it – this is what Jesus came, died and rose again for – to call out a godly people for His glory and honour. Then take the next step and encourage that brother or sister next to you in their pursuit of godliness.

Let’s put godliness into everyday shoe leather and walk it!

Thank You Father for a Grandson!

Last week I held my grandson in my arms for the first time. My heart was lifted up to my heavenly Father in adoration and praise as I gazed down on that tiny, frail, absolutely dependent, but intricately and beautifully formed bit of humanity. I could not help but ponder the fact that in this small child was another reminder of how the Eternal God gave us His ultimate revelation of Himself. This was how Jesus came. What incredible humility, what awesome condescension, what amazing love – that He, the creator and sustainer of all should have taken on this humanity, this utter dependence. My mind struggled with the incomprehensibility of the truths ascribed to Him in the accolade of Colossians 1:15-20.

And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [NASB]

Did He, the One who holds all things together, constrain Himself to the confines of the likes of this newborn infant, who was so totally dependent on my capability to hold him safely? I gazed down at my grandson and watched as his miniature hands and feet flailed and his tiny fingers grasped my thumb reflexively but with no ability to do anything other than to convey the sense of utter helplessness. What wonder is wrapped up in the mystery of the incarnation! Did Jesus come like this? Only a mighty, loving and gracious God could have planned this!

Holding that babe in my arms and pondering the next few words of that glorious hymn from the pen of the Apostle Paul created strong stirrings of adoration and thanksgiving in my heart.

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. [NASB]

Thank you Eternal Father for sending your Son, Jesus. Thank you Loving Father for sending this little grandson! Through him you have reminded me of your awesome love and compassion – of your audacious plan for our redemption.

The Surprise of a First-Time Grandpa

I thought I was beyond the emotion of surprises. Then on Tuesday night God surprised me yet again and enlarged my heart some more.

Thirty one years ago this past Tuesday I became a husband when I married my beloved Becky. At the time I felt that the joy and delight I experienced that day could never be surpassed. But the years have taught me that God has many delightful surprises for us and that He enlarges our capacity for love, joy and delight with each new peek around the corner of His benevolence. Thirty one wonderful anniversaries later along with the births of a son (I became a dad) and two daughters, many-many birthday parties, Christmas eves, Valentines’ days (to say nothing of innumerable hilarious mealtimes and those very special moments when my children each confessed their faith in Christ), a wedding, a very special daughter-in-law — I thought I was beyond the emotion of surprises. Then on Tuesday night God surprised me yet again and enlarged my heart some more. I became a grandpa. Little Benjamin Matthew came into the world at 7:25 in the evening of Becky’s and my thirty first wedding anniversary.On the phone my son told me that he had experienced a bit of a difficult time with tears as he held his son for the first time. I understood! Those were tears of joy and delight. I had been there before (28 years before) and so had he — our roles had been a little different, however. I can remember my holding him and being entirely captivated by his tiny form. The tears had surprised me then. Now it was my son’s turn. But emotions were stirring in this new grandpa’s heart too. God had delivered another of His delights – a grandson. Even though I knew this day was coming, I was not prepared for the sensation that came with it. For two days my phone had never been far away as I waited for the news. Now Benjamin was here and my heart was singing, and I hadn’t even met him yet.

As I ponder these experiences 1 Corinthians 2:9,10 takes on special meaning. “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’– these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”[ESV] Love seems to be at the centre of all of this. God’s love for us, our love in response to His and the enlarged capacity for love that He graciously grants to families. I am certain that His loving Father’s heart also delights in the birth of a human grandson. I would like to think that He even gets a little emotional. Didn’t His own dearly beloved Son look like this once? (Gal. 4:4)

I know I am not the first grandpa in the world (nor will I be the last) but this was a first for me and I am entirely delighted in the moment. Thank you Father for your great love and thank you for this grandson.

PS: I got to hold my grandson for the first time last night. What a delight!

Missions and the Heart of a Dad

I said goodbye to my baby girl this week. Becky and I, along with a number of other friends and relatives saw her off from the Seattle airport in the wee hours of Monday morning as she and her team of 7 began their missions odyssey to Thailand. She is only 23 and from this dad’s perspective “far too young” to have committed herself to a three-year stint involving a year of language study and two years of church related ministry in the Golden Triangle area of Northern Thailand.

Ever since she returned from that first journey to Thailand we knew this day was coming. We had seen it in her eyes, heard it in virtually every conversation. My daughter had lost her heart to her God and to the people of Thailand – and we were delighted. But that did not change the things that were happening to my heart on Monday.

The drive home from the airport was a blur. Fortunately my friend Jon had been tasked with the responsibility of keeping me awake so that I would get us home safely – at which he did a superb job. After an all-too-short sleep, morning came, and with it an odd mixture of thoughts and emotions. I found myself thinking that she was just in the other room. I would walk into the kitchen and half expect to still see her sitting cross-legged on the floor next to the fire place working on her computer or reading a book. When the front door would open my ears half expected to hear her cheery “Hi! I’m home!” It’s not as though she had never been away from home before. At 19 she did a year in Europe and at 21 she spent 9 months in Thailand. But somehow this was different. She had made a specific commitment of time to serve as a “full-time missionary”. Ever since she returned from that first journey to Thailand we knew this day was coming. We had seen it in her eyes, heard it in virtually every conversation. My daughter had lost her heart to her God and to the people of Thailand – and we were delighted. But that did not change the things that were happening to my heart on Monday. In the intervening year, since she had returned from Thailand, we enjoyed a delightful time of getting to know our youngest as she lived at home while preparing herself for this adventure. The three of us shared many delightful evenings together and both Becky and I felt that we got to know our daughter in a whole new way. We took in movies together. We enjoyed meals together along with many cups of coffee. We debriefed the joys and struggles of our days together. We teased each other and grew in love and respect for one another. Now she was gone and a corner of my heart was gone too – I believe it followed her to Thailand. There is another emotion in my heart – deep gratitude to my Heavenly Father. I remember a time when Becky and I wondered and worried what would ever become of our willful youngest child. But God, in His boundless mercy, got hold of that will (and of her heart) and she surrendered her life to Him. Now she was on an adventure with Him – following her Lord where ever He might lead. So we celebrated her departure. There were no regrets. At some point last week we all had a chuckle together as we realized that we probably would not shed any tears at the airport – that is just not how we do it in our family. We might shed them later, privately! But even those tears are not tears of grief over missed opportunities or unfinished business or unforgiven grievances. We were able to see her off with no regrets! We are just plain and simply going to miss her. As I pondered these conflicting emotions in my heart I paused to ask, “I wonder what happened in the heart of the Father when he sent His Son on the ultimate missions trip?” Is it in any way possible for me as a human dad to comprehend the heart of the Heavenly Father? I took a few moments to considered the depths that lie behind the statement “For God so loved that he gave …” (John 3:16) This experience has made me appreciate Galatians 4:4 a little more. “In the fullness of time, God sent his Son …” There is an unfathomable vastness to those simple words. The Eternal Son, who throughout that eternity had never left the Father’s side (John 1:18), was now stepping into time and space and into the human experience to undertake the greatest missionary adventure of all as He “…came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) It is comforting to know that my daughter is following in His footsteps.

Visit my daughter’s blog and read of her adventure with Jesus

The Tomb of Jesus – Empty or Still Occupied?

Has all the hype surrounding the "documentary" film The Lost Tomb of Jesus caught you off guard? The film’s website proclaims, “An incredible archaeological discovery in Israel changes history and shocks the world.” Well, what about it? The website contains a "proviso" stating that they are not disputing the resurrection of Jesus. The film makers claim, “Even if Jesus were moved from one tomb to another, this does not negate the possibility that he was resurrected from the second tomb” and then add in relation to the ascension: “If Jesus’ mortal remains have indeed been found, this would contradict only the idea of a physical ascension. However, it says nothing against the possibility of a spiritual one nor does it dispute the idea of the Ascension.” The fact remains that, if it is true that Jesus’ bones are contained in an ossuary somewhere in present day Jerusalem, then Peter’s statement in Acts 2:22-24* "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." (emphasis added); and Paul’s declaration in Acts 13:34 "… God raised him from the dead, never to decay…", are nothing but empty lies! If, in fact, Jesus did not rise from the dead, victorious over sin and the curse, death and the grave, then in Paul’s words, we have believed in vain! But have we? What does the New Testament record tell us? Here is what Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth – countering the claims of some, who even in that day were disputing the possibility of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-25 – headings and emphasis added).

The Case: (1) Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. (2) By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. The Claim: (3) For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, The Evidence: (5)and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (6) After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (7) Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, (8)and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. The Summary: (9) For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (10) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (11) Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. The Question: (12)But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? The Stakes: (13) If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. (14) And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (15) More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. (16) For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. (17) And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (18) Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. (19) If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. The Fact: (20) But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. The Theology: (21) For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. (22) For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (23) But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (24) Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. (25) For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The apostle Paul continues in Acts 13:37 “… the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay” and in Romans 6:9-10 he declares, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Allow the import of the necessity of the bodily resurrection, ascension and imminent return of Jesus penetrate deeply into your soul. The New Testament is replete with eye-witness accounts and public declarations of the physical resurrection of Jesus. When the disciples first saw Jesus after the resurrection they wondered if he were a ghost. Jesus told them to both look at him and touch him to assure themselves that he was the flesh and blood Jesus – and if that were not enough he asked for some food to eat in their presence (Luke 24:36-43). Later when Thomas doubted, Jesus urged him to touch the very scars and believe (John 20:27). It was Jesus’ intention that his followers have full assurance that he was physically alive. Now listen to the words of the two men to the watching disciples on the morning of the Ascension, “ ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ ” (Acts 1:11) This same physically alive Jesus has promised to return and take us to be with him (John 14) Here is the hope we have; "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." (Romans 8:11) Let us rejoice together with all Christians everywhere that “He is risen indeed!” *All Scripture quotations are from the NIV Bible