Several times each year I visit the Grand Rapids area of Western Michigan. I have a number of friends in the area and have preached in churches here for many years. I am here these three days for ministry at several different places. Last evening I preached at Seventh Reformed Church in the city. Today I spoke at Kuyper College, situated northeast of downtown Grand Radids on the Beltline. Wednesday I speak at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. These campus visits allow for speaking in chapel as well as meeting with faculty for conversation. As you know I aim at impacting the thinking and missional perspective of the next generation of leaders so these typees of venues allow that to happen. This is, by the way, one of the reasons why we need donors to support this mission. The payment for such ministry covers only my expenses, at best. Our board sees this work as an investment in the future of the Church.
Seventh Reformed Church is a historic church that has had a long ministry in this city. It has been pastored by some well-known Reformed ministers over the years, including Dr. John R. de Witt. It is now pastored by Dr. Tim Trumper, a pastor/scholar with a warm heart and a deep commitment to both truth and love. Tim and I met through my relationship with several friends at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. We have been, I think, mutually encouraged by this developing friendship. I shared in his formal installation service back in May (with Sam Logan and David Bast). I preached last evening from Ephesians 6:10-20 on the church’s need for focused prayer so that the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, would be used with power and great effect. Tim is a fine preacher/expositor and my hope, in this context, was to bring a message that would help his flock see the need to pray fervently for the success of his ministry.
Today I spoke at Kuyper College. I gave an address on the "discipling" and "teaching" ministry of Jesus and urged students to never make learning an end in itself but rather a means to the obedience of faith. I warned them of the dangers of finding and following gurus and prayed that they would look to Jesus alone to be their true mentor and disciple-maker. I also shared a time with the president, Dr. Nicholas V. Kroeze, and then had lunch with members of the faculty. I was hosted by Professor Gregory Alley, who teaches music and coordinates the worship of the Kuyper community. I was warmly received by all and encourged by the conversations that I had with some students who seemed to "get" it from my message.
Kuyper College was formerly known as Reformed Bible College. Before that, many years ago, it began as the Reformed Bible Institute. I do not know its history that well but it seems to have grown up in a city where the large Reformed community was desirous of offering a type of education to students that would give them an alternative to the dispensationalism of a school like Grand Rapids Baptist College, which is now the much larger Cornerstone University. The wonderfully and delicious irony of this history is that these two schools not only changed their names but their direction has moved away from the sectarianism and rigidity of the past decades of Reformed and dispensational strife. They are not only a few miles apart but they are very friendly with each other, not seeing the other as competition in any sense at all. One of the interesting things about living from 1950 until the present is to see how the institutional forms of older fundamentalism have often opened up and embraced a more catholic spirit and missional emphasis that is attuned to the modern world and its needs.
I loved my time today at Kuyper College today. I believe that this little school, with about 300 students, has a real opportunity to make a considerable difference for many followers of Christ in the years ahead. I pray that the school will embrace all that their name truly means and become a strong representative of the kind of Christian life and worldview represented by the great Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper.
Grand Rapids Theological Seminary is my venue on Wednesday morning. I have been at GRTS several times in the past and have always enjoyed my time there with students and faculty. (I once gave three lectures there, on the authority of Scripture, over the course of three days.) This school has moved from being the Grand Rapids Baptist Theological Seminary to its newer, shorter, and less denominational name. This name change represents changes for both the mission and the school’s church constituency and reflects the broader vision that exists in 2007. There is a solid faculty at GRTS and the leadership is seeking to push the school into the wider world of missional Christianity in every way. I applaud this shift and thus I am very glad to have an opportunity to be back at GRTS.
Please pray for me as I meet with scores of people, interact with students and faculty alike, and labor among churches and educational instititutions for the mission of ACT 3. Our goal is to renew the Church by strengthening the grasp of both biblical and historical Christianity among as many as possible. I believe that we are living in the decisive third act of Christian history, the third millennium. My desire is to contribute something to the lives of some of God’s people, especially future leaders. My physical weakness conspires against robust ministry these days but I am continually asking God for strength, in my weakness, to give out what will edify and build up a new generation. Soli Deo Gloria.