Author Archives: Trent Erickson

Commencement 2016

A momentous event is on the horizon for Northwest Baptist Seminary.

It has been fourteen years since Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary hosted its own graduation celebration. That is about to change.

On Friday, September 23, Northwest will once again host a Commencement Celebration, our 56th, and we couldn’t be happier.

Since 2002, when NBTC/S hosted its 55th Commencement Celebration, we have been celebrating student commencement with the partner schools of the ACTS Consortium, based on the Trinity Western University campus. We are still proud to be a part of the ground breaking, collaborative, theological educational partnership that is ACTS. Our relationship with ACTS is healthy and our work together is thriving as we seek to provide theological education and training to students from different denominational backgrounds. But the work at Northwest has been growing.

Artboard-2Northwest’s commitment and vision has always been to serve well our primary partners, Fellowship Pacific and the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches across Canada. In these last 4 years, the close partnership between Northwest and Fellowship Pacific has been leveraged in another ground-breaking and collaborative effort to develop Immerse, a program and educational model of context and competency based education that is influential in changing the face of theological education across North America.

What began as a dream and developed into the Immerse program, is now an officially recognized “experimental model” of competency based education by The Association of Theological Schools (ATS), the accrediting agency of Theological schools across North America. We are currently the only school accredited to grant a Master of Divinity degree through this context and competency based model – and our first students are nearing the completion of their program of studies.

While graduating a few Immerse Masters of Divinity students doesn’t seem like a huge splash in today’s academic world, this is indeed a momentous occasion for Northwest. First, graduating students from programs unique to our vision of providing quality and innovative context based ministry solutions is important to our historical identity as a Theological College and Seminary. Second, our Immerse graduates represent the first of what potentially is the next significant wave of advanced theological education – and Northwest is leading the way. Regardless, we are excited to have our school once again graduating students independently.

In all this, we continue to be most grateful for our friends and partners in ministry – our Fellowship Baptist family. We invite you to join us in our celebration of the future of our movement. To God be the Glory!

Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary will host our 56th Commencement Celebration at SouthRidge Fellowship in Langley on Friday evening, September 23rd, 2016.

 

Northwest Alumnus – Dr. Mike Mawhorter

“Dr. Mike Mawhorter…”  – It draws a smile and a hearty chuckle as I begin my conversation with Mike. Perhaps it is the newness of the title “Doctor,” or the humility of the man behind the title who still seems slightly uncomfortable with his new moniker. But for a man who is used to being called simply Mike, Pastor Mike, Dad, or Grandpa, it does draw attention to his latest achievement. Mike Mawhorter graduated from the Doctor of Ministry program at Northwest Baptist Seminary in April, 2015. At 63 years of age, it is significant as a personal achievement, but also as a reflection of one of the values that characterizes his life.

I met with Mike on a damp morning, in his simply designed and uncluttered office. Mike is a career Pastor, ministering at Fellowship Baptist Markham for 10 years, Central Fellowship Prince George for 12 years, and now Ladner Baptist Church for the last 12 years. He has been married to his wife Kathy for 41 years, has 4 children, 3 of whom currently live close by in Ladner, and proudly announces that he has 13.5 grandchildren! I asked what he did for fun. He replied that spending time with the grandchildren, and cycling around Ladner were high on the priority list. He mentioned horseback riding as an enjoyable past time, but one he doesn’t have enough time to pursue anymore. I asked him to give me an interesting fact about Mike Mawhorter that most people don’t know. His response: “When I was younger one of my life goals was to be a cowboy!”

My interest was in one of Mike’s recently completed goals. What motivates a man, later in a successful ministry career, to pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree? Mike began the DMin program in 2008, after completing two prerequisite courses to gain entry into the program. His short answer to my question was to keep growing and learning. I didn’t ask a follow up question, but Mike continued with an animated response: lifelong learning has always been a personal value, most people’s tendency is to find a comfort zone and stay there, and he wanted to be intentional about stretching out of any comfort zone that he might find himself in.
Northwest’s Doctor of Ministry program caught his attention because of its focus on two broad areas of interest: leadership and spiritual formation. His specific focus evolved, eventually narrowing in on understanding organizational culture as it relates to the church.

I asked him to explain further. He continued by stating that most discussions on culture in an organization are focused either on how the culture has changed, or how it needs to change. He then very clearly articulated the questions that directed his research and dissertation – “What if a culture was a gift from God to make you effective at your place of ministry for this time and in this place? Is it possible to understand your culture, not for the purpose of changing it, but to allow you to be more strategic and effective in using the culture you have to effectively focus your ministry efforts?” His research focused his attention on the Ladner congregation, and the specific tool he utilized convinced him that a church’s culture can be a powerful tool as a means of directing effective ministry.

Mike then summarized some significant discoveries he made in the educational journey. He was at first concerned about whether he would be able to handle the level of academics that would be required. “Pleasantly surprised” was his conclusion. Secondly, he enjoyed the engagement of in-class learning, and especially the preparation for the classes and the projects to follow up the class time.

As Mike reflected on how this training has shaped his ministry at Ladner, he drew three positive conclusions. First, it required that he be more sensitive to ministering within the cultural framework of the church. Second, it provided insight in to how to bring about change in a way that doesn’t disrupt who we are. Third, it provided a fresh appreciation of the people who make up God’s church in Ladner.

Mike and grandkids4As we began wrapping up our conversation, I asked, “What are the current challenges facing you as a pastor? What potential are you seeing? What gets you excited?” Mike responded slowly and thoughtfully, making sure that I understood that he needed to choose his words carefully. “My challenge is knowing that we need to address the church facility, and that it will require all of the energy, money and work that goes into a building project. Yet this also excites me. It stretches my faith; it is an opportunity to realize potential that is yet untapped; and it requires God to accomplish.” Perhaps without even knowing it, he answered all three of the diverse questions that I thought I was asking with one answer. As I look back, I couldn’t help but notice the direct correlation between what we had just been speaking of in his dissertation – the sensitivity towards his congregation and not wanting to be offensive, but not wanting to stay comfortable when God is at work either. His learning has obviously shaped his thinking in ministry.

I asked three quick questions to conclude.

What is most important to Mike Mawhorter?

“Being a faithful, growing follower of Jesus for the rest of my life. Being a student. Being a teacher. Giving glory to God.”

What do you want to be known for at the end of your life?

“For modelling what it means to be a godly husband, father, and grandfather. To give people a love for God and His Word by ministering in a way that attracts them to Jesus.”

What would you say is uniquely significant about your life and ministry?

“I’m an early adopter, constantly looking for new and better ways of thinking and doing ministry. I like change and exploring new ways of doing old things. But I want to balance that with a perspective that leading people to change takes time, sensitivity, gentleness and respect.”

I gave Mike the opportunity for the last word. He framed it this way. “For pastors who have thought of pursuing a DMin, you’re going to be living those years anyway. This is an opportunity to push yourself and grow. I would encourage you to take the opportunity to do it!”
Mike has offered to share his dissertation with those who are interested. NBS can help you get in contact with him.

Two books were primary resources in his research: “What is Your Church’s Personality? Discovering and Developing the Ministry Style of Your Church” by Philip Douglas; and “The Character of Organizations: Using Personality Type in Organizational Development” by William Bridges.

Mike and grandkids1

Immerse has gone International

Immerse continues to have a broadening ripple effect in the delivery of context-based ministry leadership development. What began as a vision for developing the next generation of leaders in Fellowship Pacific, has grown to become an expanding network of partnerships for making a kingdom impact across Canada and the US. With 28 churches and 54 mentors touching 34 students in Western Canada last year, NBS found itself entering the Fall 2015 semester with 51 students either returning, fully enrolled, or in various stages of preparation. These students join us from our primary partner, Fellowship Pacific, as well as five External Fellowship Agencies and four Third Party networks expanding our reach across Canada and into California and Texas.
One network in particular is the 17:6 Network: a group of churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and California that share our heart for context-based ministry leadership development. Rooted in Hope Church in Fort Worth, Texas, Hope has sent out men and women who have planted over 70 churches and catalyzed roughly 160 additional churches since 1978 (additionally several student ministries have been started and over 70 missionaries have served in over 30 countries). Several of these churches have banded together to create the 17:6 Network – These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also (Acts 17:6, ESV). By pooling their efforts and resources they strive to help “life changing churches multiply throughout the cities of the world.” One way in which they do this is through the Antioch Project.

The Antioch Project was developed as a five year, graduate level training program for rising leaders in their Network. The Antioch Project, like the Immerse program, focuses on training men and women in the context of the church, with hands-on skills and experiences in leadership, mentoring focused on developing the character and heart of students, and strong academic rigor of study.

For many years the 17:6 Network prayed for a way to partner with a seminary to add accreditation to the Antioch Project.  In October, 2013 Dr. Kent Anderson was in conversation with Hope Church’s lead pastor Harold Bullock, having known him from the time he spent attending Bullock’s church while attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 90’s. Kent mentioned Immerse. In February of 2014, Kent met with Harold Bullock and the 17:6 Network leadership team to discuss the viability of the Antioch Project training program as a match for Immerse. Both programs seek to shape men and women of character who can have long-term impact in the Kingdom. Immerse seemed to be God’s answer to a long-term prayer, allowing them to partner with a seminary who shared a like heart and vision to see the Kingdom advanced through men and women trained in their program.

What captured the attention of the 17:6 Network’s leadership team? I asked Randy Lanthripe and Jessica Sturdevant, two of the 17:6 Network’s leaders, “Why add Immerse? What benefits are you envisioning in your partnership with Northwest?” They responded with these insights. “Immerse strengthens our credibility….the process has enhanced the academic aspects of our program and provided new insights as we aim to faithfully steward our version of Immerse.”
They added this statement. “It is encouraging and inspiring to think about what God could do long-term through this partnership between Northwest Baptist Seminary and the 17:6 Network. Our prayer is that God will use the similar heart and vision of our organizations to see many men and women of character and heart trained to be effective in long-term ministry to the glory of Jesus Christ and the expansion of His Kingdom on earth.”

The 17:6 Network’s Antioch Project Immerse is currently in its first year, with nine students registered in the program. They are anticipating many more in the years to come. Dr. Anderson and I recently visited the California churches that are part of the 17:6 Network, to provide New Student and Mentor Orientation. They are friends, both literally and figuratively. We are excited to work with these partners and friends to see Kingdom impact for God’s glory.

As you can tell, we are excited about Immerse. We have the opportunity to regularly see the positive effect it is having on our students, pastors, churches and ministries in BC. We are humbled to hear the buzz that the Immerse model is creating in the North American academic world and we are excited to explore the possibilities for kingdom impact that Immerse could provide for other like-minded organizations in a collaborative partnership with NBS.

Northwest’s Newest Member – Trent Erickson

Hi! My name is Trent Erickson and I am the Chief Operating Officer at Northwest Baptist Seminary, a new role implemented to assist the President’s office in managing the operations of Northwest internally, and its growing network of relationships with partners in Canada, the US and abroad.

My wife, Karen, and I live in Abbotsford. We have two boys. Evan is married to Alyssa and has just begun a ministry career in the Fellowship, serving as a pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Maple Ridge. Our other son, Lukas, currently lives with us at home and is preparing to be an elementary school teacher and a husband, getting married in September to his beautiful fiancé, Crystal.

Over 27 years, Karen and I have served in pastoral ministry roles in Victoria (Central Baptist, Youth Pastor), Vernon (Emmanuel Fellowship, Youth and Music), Edmonton (Millwoods Evangelical Free Church, Lead Pastor) and Abbotsford (Immanuel Fellowship Baptist, Senior Associate). I started working at Northwest in January 2015 after completing our ministry at Immanuel earlier in 2014.

One of the questions that I have been asked, and have frequently contemplated, is, “Why the move from the church to the seminary?” It’s a good question, and while I am sure I do not yet have the complete answer, I am encouraged by the one I have – that God is the one who is obviously in control. Just as we have seen His fingerprints in the decisions and direction of our past ministry roles, we are able to see them here as well.

I did not apply for a position at the Seminary for two reasons – first, there wasn’t one to apply for; and second, I am a pastor, and pastors apply for jobs in churches. I did ask for prayer at one of our FEB Pacific board meetings for clarity in God’s direction for the role and placement that He had for me, and God began bringing the understanding of two worlds together. Our Northwest President, Dr. Kent Anderson, was sitting at that table contemplating his unique need for someone to help in furthering the work of Northwest. His question at the time was, “How do I find someone I trust, someone who knows the uniqueness of the Fellowship network, and can quickly learn to understand Immerse and represent Northwest well to potential partners?” After our prayer time, Dr. Anderson caught my eye across the table and whispered, “Trent, I’m hiring. Can I talk to you at the break?”

As I continue to grow my understanding of how a career pastor can contribute to the operation of Northwest, some things are readily obvious. The development of Immerse within the Fellowship, and its potential to spread nationally and internationally through like-minded networks provides an opportunity that must be stewarded well. Having been privileged to be part of the concept and conversation about Immerse almost since its inception, I have experienced its growing pains in the church from the eyes of its potential, its implications in implementation, and its needs in ongoing development.

I also appreciate the importance of our partnerships. Serving in the church, on the Fellowship Board, and now as part of the seminary staff, I am benefiting from the perspective of all three partners in the Immerse concept. It is not a stretch to realize that the identification, development and training of the next generation of pastors, ministry leaders, and effective church leadership is important to the Church, the Fellowship, and the Seminary. In this new role, I am especially learning to appreciate the gifts and passion that our seminary staff and faculty bring to the partnership. I believe it is important that we appreciate each other in our work towards the common goal of real world kingdom and spiritual impact, whether it be through Immerse, or any other partnerships we have, perspectives we bring, or pursuits we engage.

This is an exciting time, and I feel privileged to be part of God’s plan as part of the Northwest team and the broader partners it represents and serves.

Northwest Alumni – Andy and Nancy Steiger

Northwest Baptist Seminary is approaching 80 years of history in partnering students and churches to make a God honoring impact. God has used, and continues to use, faithful men and women in ministry to make His mark on our world today.

I recently had opportunity to interview Northwest Baptist Theological College alumni Andy and Nancy Steiger.

They noted in my interview, and I had heard before, that they were declared “the most unlikely couple” to emerge from Northwest. It would seem that God knew what He was doing bringing the two of them together for partnership in life and ministry. Andy (NBTC 1998-2000) serves as the Pastor of Young Adults at Northview Community Church in Abbotsford, and is the founder and director of Apologetics Canada, while his wife Nancy (Schellenberg – NBTC 96-99) is full time mother, and part time Executive Assistant for Apologetics Canada. They have two children, Tristan (7) and William (5) and live in Abbotsford.

Apologetics Canada has developed a significant identity in the Lower Mainland through its conference ministry over the last four years, bringing together thousands to benefit from the teaching of top apologists from around the world. Apologetics Canada has captivated a younger generation of believers looking for an authentic community where their significant questions and doubts about Christianity and faith can be addressed with reasoned and logically plausible answers. The appeal is apparently broader than just the next generation. While they specifically target young adults and the next generation of leaders, they are drawing in multiple generations of believers from multiple denominations and faith expressions.

Curious about the God-shaping developments and events that are part of any ministry’s growth and effectiveness, I asked, “How did God bring this thing about?” They responded that they both recognized early on that they were missionaries at heart. As they began their life journey together, they envisioned serving God as missionaries to a small people group – “running around naked with the natives” as Andy so eloquently expresses it. God was nudging them in a slightly different direction.

As they were waiting on applications to missions agencies, God began to make Andy aware of a struggling people group and culture within North America – young adults. This next generation is either leaving the church or just leaving the church behind, unsure of what they believe and unsure of the reasonableness of the faith they have been taught. His bent towards missionary service helped him understand that you need two things to be successful in reaching any people group – you need to know their language and their culture. He thought he knew the language and culture of this people group because he was serving them within the church. He began to realize he didn’t, and was therefore drawn to understand more fully this particularly needy group in his own back yard.

In 2009 the Steiger’s young family moved to California to attend Biola University. Andy packed a 2 year master’s degree into a year and a half, graduating with a Masters in Apologetics (with Highest Honors) in 2010. During this time, a vision was birthed for Apologetics Canada. The Steiger’s passion for the work of Apologetics Canada is obvious as you talk with them. They both speak with passion and insight as they describe the core of what they do and how they seek to do it. The name “Apologetics Canada” is strategic. “Apologetics is a term (and discipline) that needs to be redeemed,” says Andy. It comes from a Greek word that means to “give reason” for the hope you have. Andy sees himself as a translator, appreciating the work of theologians and academics pursuing disciplines in high thinking, but seeking to make it possible for the average person to understand and express deep thinking in their own thoughts and words. They faithfully uphold that Christianity is not a tradition of blind faith, but a reasoned faith. Faith is another key word in their vocabulary. It means “trusting what you have good reason to believe is true.” Their vision biblically is from Romans 12, that transforming your mind should result in transforming the way you live; that faith touches your head and your heart; that loving God also means loving people!

Nancy’s passion for the work of Apologetics Canada is evident. I asked how it came about, since Andy was the one going to school and studying. Her response – knowledge has grown from reading, listening, and conversation. More importantly, her motivation to learn was birthed through her desire to engage her son Tristan in conversation equivocal to the depth of the questions she was being asked by him. Her desire to be a great mom for her kids highlights an important question for us all – who is the motivating force behind your desire to grow your knowledge and skill in answering the questions of faith for our day and the next generations?
As we concluded our time together, I asked what insight they might have for what the questions and issues of church and culture in the future might be. Andy responded with two thoughts.
The question that has dominated the Enlightenment period has been “Does God Exist?” The resulting question for our time might just be “Do people exist?” Andy’s recent seminar at the Apologetics Canada Conference, “Zombie Culture,” addressed the evidence and issues that result from a culture that is uncertain of God’s existence and leads to the next logical uncertainty, our own existence.

He also suggested that the church needs to monitor the effects of social media on our culture, especially noting the tendency of people to prefer a virtual community over a real community, their walls being the computer, phone, or tablet screen, keeping them from engaging in community with God, the church, and peers.

ThinkingWhat’s next for Apologetics Canada? The big goal for the immediate future is to take the new “Thinking Series” across Canada and the US. This resource enables pastors and lay ministry leaders to equip their church for thinking deeply and engaging the culture. They are also looking forward to presenting their first Eastern Canada Apologetics Conference in Ontario.

Many resources are available for people to discover on the Apologetics Canada website
www.apologeticscanada.com and www.thinkingseries.com. While you are there, check out Andy’s new book, “Thinking? Answering Life’s 5 Biggest Questions.”