About Matthew R. Olson


Posts by Matthew R. Olson:

Introduction to “Called to Be Free”

Today at 10:00 am I will be meeting with 8 guys to start our year long discipleship program called, Impact Groups. This year we are studying through the book of Galatians with the theme “Called to be Free.” Each week myself, or someone from our Bible faculty, will lay a foundation for the study of the week by preaching on a section from the book.

Yesterday I preached the first message in this series as an introduction message and today I’m excited to be able to talk to the 8 guys the Lord has given me for the year to pour into. If you care to listen along with us, the message I preached is linked above or can be downloaded at Sermon Audio.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

What Matters Most: Functional Distinctives

This is part 4 of a multi-part series on “What Matters Most. Click these links for part 1part 2, or part 3.

Most Christians that I know would agree on “the fundamentals of the faith,” the sine que non of true, historic, Christian orthodoxy. After that, we begin to differ, both in our functional distinctives and in our personal convictions. And while everything we believe is important, not everything is equally important.

Functional distinctives are beliefs and practices that are necessary for a local church to operate in a healthy way. These might include, but not be limited to; mode of baptism, church polity, eschatology, spiritual gifts, view of soteriology (reformed or not), and basic philosophy of ministry (doxological or soteriological). The temptation might be to add everything we believe to this list, but I am not convinced that “everything we believe” fits here. Not every belief is a fundamental of the faith, and not every belief is necessary for a church to have healthy life. Some of our beliefs should remain as our personal convictions. We need to strive for unity—not unanimity.

The church, as well as the para-church organization, will need to decide upon the functional distinctives as well as the degree of compliance necessary for organizational participants: administrators, representatives, faculty, staff, accepted students, candidates for graduation, members of the alumni association, etc. I think these distinctions should be drawn very thoughtfully and carefully.

If everything we believe is important, but not equally so, it might even be a good idea to develop at least a two-tier doctrinal statement:

  1. A statement of faith that would clearly delineate an orthodox position.
  2. A statement of functional distinctives that would give necessary clarity and guidance for the healthy operation of a church or organization.

Both of these doctrinal statements should include what is necessary, but not more than what is necessary. After that, freedom should be allowed for different views as long as they do not violate Scripture, prove to be divisive, or hinder the work of the church.

I believe it was Augustine who said it first, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

My Thanks to the Patz Family

This past week I had another opportunity to meet with the Patz family. Northland’s founder, Paul Patz, is with the Lord, but his children have also been engaged with the ministry from the very beginning by leading, building, serving, and giving. They have literally poured their lives and resources into Northland in sacrificial measure and still care deeply about its future. Ten years ago they handed me a trust and stewardship. It has always been incredibly important to me how they see things. I could not have gone away from this last meeting more encouraged. They have been very supportive of me as a president.

I thank the Lord for our founder. No man could have been more perfectly fitted for this calling—God gave him children who carried the vision, the passion, and the balance. This gives those of us at Northland even greater confidence as we press on toward a healthier, more vibrant ministry—preparing a new generation to ignite gospel movements worldwide. We not only share a gratitude for the past but a renewed excitement for our future.

Thank you, Patz family.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Starting Up!

Facebook was flooded on Monday with pictures of children heading off to their first day of school. I loved seeing these smiling faces and watching many of our young families grow up!

We too, are off and running with our fall semester here at Northland. The campus looks better than ever and a totally renovated dining hall has been a big hit with everyone. Thank you to our students who led the charge with Campus Cause 2011 and helped raise the $350,000 needed to get the job done.

Wednesday we begin our Impact Groups – a small group approach that will serve as a catalyst for discipleship and an intentional plan to “Be One. Make Many.” These small groups will consist of faculty and students and will be focused on four primary objectives: spiritual growth, community, ministry, and accountability.

We plan to study through the book of Galatians over the course of the year with the theme “Called to be free.” Each week (Monday or Tuesday) a Bible faculty member will lay a foundation for the study by preaching on a section from this epistle.

Wednesday morning at 10:00 am, I will have eight guys meeting with me. I am really excited about spending time with them over the course of the year and growing together.

What Matters Most: How We Draw the Lines

This is part 3 of a multi-part series on “What Matters Most. Click these links for part 1 or part 2.

I believe that the same lines that I draw for an orthodox Christian faith are the same lines that I should draw for Christian fellowship. I believe that every true born again Christian is a brother or sister in Christ and that not only can I have fellowship with him or her, it is what Christ has intended, and it is what brings him great delight (Romans 1:1; Philippians 2:1-11). For me to draw dividing lines that He has not drawn grieves Him, hurts the body of Christ, and hinders the work of the Great Commission.

The mode of baptism, timing of the rapture, cessationist or non-cessationist positions, dispensational or covenant positions, church polity, style of music, philosophy of ministry—are NOT fundamentals of the faith. They never have been. When we get to heaven I think there are going to be a lot of people feeling ashamed about how they fought over these things and neglected what matters most.

Every local church or ministry will have its functional distinctives, and we need these. Every believer will have his own personal convictions, beliefs, and opinions. We need these as well. They are not unimportant and they may even affect the degree of practical cooperation in certain ministry contexts. But, these are not matters of separation and those who don’t agree with someone else’s opinions are not simply disobedient brothers.

A disobedient brother is someone who is in clear violation of biblical teaching and one who after repeated confrontation continues in his sin. The Bible gives plenty of instruction on how to work through these situations in love and toward restoration (Galatians 6:1-5).

What do we separate over?

  1. The Christian should expose and separate from a false Gospel (Galatians 1:8,9).
  2. The Christian should expose and separate from another Christian who continues to walk in disobedience (after following a biblical process for restoration, I Corinthians 5:9-13).
  3. The Christian should separate from the world (This is another discussion that I would like to take up in the future because I find many people have a wrong view of  “the world” I John 2:15-17).

I can visit a church on Sunday morning, fellowship with believers, love what I am seeing, encourage fellow believers in what they are doing—and still choose not to join that particular local assembly. When we start separating over every belief and opinion we soon find ourselves standing all alone, criticizing the rest of body of Christ. I don’t think that is what God intended (I Corinthians 1:10-17).

Let’s separate to Christ and enjoy the sweet fellowship with every believer walking with Him. Let the church be the church autonomous. Let every believer stand and give an account for his own life as a priest before God. And let us discuss our differences with grace, integrity, and humility.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Mercy Me

Today Paul Tripp emailed out his weekly “Wednesday’s Word” and I found it encouraging. Since it comes in an email format and is not posted on his website I’ve included it below for you to consider.

It was one of those moments you want to take back. It was one of those times when you go where your desires and emotions are leading you. It was one of those situations when you know you should stop or walk away but feel you can’t. And it was one of those moments when afterward you are confronted with the sin that still lives inside of you. Yes, it was one of those moments.

It wasn’t a big deal in one way. Just a small conversation that had turned a bit ugly. It wasn’t a dramatic life-altering moment. It was in the privacy of my home with one of my family members. But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps it’s very important because that’s where I live every day. You see, you and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision.

We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in 10,000 little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.

So I knew I couldn’t back away from this little moment. I knew I had to own my sin. The minute I thought this, an inner struggle began. “I wasn’t the only one at fault. If he hadn’t said what he said, I wouldn’t have become angry. I was actually pretty patient for much of the conversation.” These were some of the arguments I was giving myself.

Isn’t this interesting? Rather than appealing to the mercy of the Lord in the face of my sin, what I actually do instead is function as my own defense lawyer and present a list of arguments for my own righteousness. The theology behind the defense is that my greatest problem is outside of me, not inside of me. In so arguing, I’m telling myself that I don’t really need to be rescued by the Lord’s mercy. No, I’m telling myself that what I need to be rescued from is that sinner in the room who caused me to respond as I did.

Here’s the point. Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God; your righteousness does as well. Because when you’re convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

What’s actually true is that when I come to the Lord after I’ve blown it, I’ve only one argument to make. It’s not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I’m in. It’s not the argument of the difficult people that I’m near. It’s not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No, I only have one argument.

I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I’ve no other defense. I’ve no other standing. I’ve no other hope. I can’t escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that’s sure and will never fail. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given. I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am.

But I’m not afraid, because I’ve been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done God looks on me with mercy. It’s my only appeal, it’s the source of my hope, and it’s my life. Mercy, mercy me!

God bless

Paul David Tripp

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Fishing with Howard

Here is Howard Patz with one of the three nice size Bass he caught on our annual fishing trip this summer. Howard is chairman of the board here at Northland and has taken me fishing every year since we moved to Wisconsin. It has been a great time to fish, fellowship, and catch up on life. We even talk a little business. Then we enjoy a fish fry right in the boat! It is quite the event.

As much as Howard loves to fish, there is something he enjoys much more—fishing for men. Whenever we get together there is always another story of someone coming to Christ. I am so blessed to work for a man who always keeps before him what matters most! For Howard, every day is a day for fishing.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

What Matters Most: Is it all About the Gospel?

This is part 2 in a series, “What Matters Most.” Part 1 can be found here.

Recently I heard someone say, “It’s not all about the gospel.” This caused me to think through the scope and implications  of a term I use so often—the gospel. If we reduce the gospel down to salvation or the events of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, then I think a person might conclude that there has to be more to Christianity than just that. But, I do not see how we can reduce the gospel in such a way.

I see the gospel as the full person and work of Christ from eternity to eternity with all of its implications for us. It is more than a matter of our justification; it is also about how we live and what we are called to do. For Paul, his separation to the gospel was seen in his theology, life, and message. If we believe Christ to be God; our creator, the lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and the one to whom we will ultimately give account, then we will see this good news from eternity to eternity. While the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ prove to be the centerpiece of the story, everything flows from Him, through Him, and to Him (Romans 11:36).

We must, however, be careful. There are other ways to be overly simplistic, even shallow. If we answer in a pious tone, “It’s all about the gospel,” to everything we are asked, we can push off serious thinking or discussion. Thabiti Anyabwile last week had an excellent post on this very problem, “I’m Tired of Hearing “The ‘Gospel’ Warning: Mild Rant).”

I have referred to Galatians several times in previous posts. Paul is fiercely adamant about the gospel, and makes it very clear that we have to get this right. He shows how this effects both justification and sanctification. It is a warning about both. The same gospel that saves us from sin and gives us eternal life is the same gospel that fuels the Christian life on earth. It is a doctrine of grace, through faith, evidencing itself in love.

Yes, when it comes to Christianity in its fullest sense, it IS all about the gospel!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Some of the Top Preaching Books I’ve Read

I get these types of questions all of time…what are the best books you’ve read or what are the books that impacted you the most on the topic of __________.

Here is a short list of some of the better books on preaching I’ve read, with a few that I haven’t read that have been well reviewed.

  • Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell (Purchase)
  • The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper (Purchase)
  • Between Two Worlds by John Stott (Purchase)
  • Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Purchase)
  • Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon (Purchase)
  • Toward an Exegetical Theology by Walter Kaiser (Purchase)
  • On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons by John Broadus (Purchase)
  • Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson (Purchase)

What do you think? Are there others you would add to this list? Let me know here.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.