About Matthew R. Olson


Posts by Matthew R. Olson:

Counting the Cost & Paying the Price

After returning from the Middle East and spending time with believers there, I am more convinced that we know very little of what it means to count the cost and pay the price for Christ. We live very comfortable lives and end up spending a lot of time on things that hardly matter in light of eternity.

Now I begin to be a disciple…. Let fire and cross, flocks of beasts, broken bones, dismemberment,… come upon me so long as I attain to Jesus Christ. —Ignatius of Antioch

Rocky Mountain Youth Conference

IMG_7078Chris Anderson and I got to share speaking opportunities in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Youth Conference. (Yes, Jack Klem, you can thank me for the free Clearwater advertising in the background of this picture 🙂 I love what you are doing and there is no one I would rather do that for!) Chris recently took the pastorate at Killian Hill Baptist Church in Atlanta—a place where we have a lot of mutual friends. We are so happy for the Andersons and for the folks at Killian Hill.

We shared messages surrounding the theme “In Awe of HIm—the Heart of Worship”. Mike Durrill and Kip Doan did an outstanding job putting on the conference. Paul Ice led the worship time and had the teens singing better than I can ever remember hearing. It was amazing.

The theme was one that Chris and I are very passionate about in our own lives. We see it as core to the purpose of our living. As A.W. Tozer reminds us that our view of God is the most important thing about us. When that is right, everything else will fall into line. It is a simple thought and yet such a profound thought. Young people have so many things that compete for the place of ultimate worship in their hearts.

Whole life worship should be 24/7. My favorite line is from John MacArthur, “True worship is when all that I am responds rightly to all that He is.”

It was great to be out west and renew old friendships—including Steve Hafler who is now pastoring at Highlands Baptist Church. It was also great to get some time with Chris Anderson—another like minded brother. Thank you, Chris!

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


“Winning takes care of everything”. Nike’s new Tiger Woods add.

A lot of us have been watching Tiger Wood’s gradual return to the number one golf ranking in the world. Time has gone on and it appears that Tiger has his “A game” back. This seems good for golf, good for TV, and of course good for Nike. Just the other day I was thinking—as he once again gains his international platform, he could have the opportunity to say some very helpful things to a watching world.

It would be hard to imagine anything worse than Tiger’s fall in 2009. As a result of choices he made and his inability to control the consequences of those choices, his whole life seemed to come crashing down. He lost his wife, his family, his world golf ranking, much of his wealth, and to a great degree his popularity among the masses. While these things didn’t just happen overnight, those of us looking from the outside marveled at how quickly a man could go from the top of the world to the bottom of the pit. Surveys among fans put his respect level on par with Mike Tyson’s. Personally, I felt a great deal of sadness for Tiger Woods and his family.

Nike has recently marketed a rendition of Tiger’s past responses to the media, “Winning takes care of everything.” To a degree that is true. To a much larger degree it is not. If we create a small enough world, we can be at the top of it. We can be successful. Because we draw our box and create our rules and define our success, we can be winners. But we are only deceiving ourselves. Life is not a small box, and we do not define it, nor will we ultimately assess it. Even we as Christians can live like this.

God is creator, sustainer, and ultimate judge of all the earth. There is no success apart from what He declares success to be. “For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36.

Winning may take care of a few things, but it does not take care of everything. Really, it does not take care of the most important and eternal things. “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36.

Thank God for the grace He has showered upon us in the person and work of His dear Son. Thank God for the offer of eternal life and for the opportunity that we all have to receive it. I like to play golf. I like to watch Tiger Woods compete. But I also pray that God helps me keep what really matters in perspective.

Winning is not everything. Jesus Christ is everything. And that will always prove to be true.

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

Christian Work Now Evading Christ?

“Christian work may be a means of evading the soul’s concentration on Jesus Christ.” – Oswald Chambers. He expands this thought:

“Goodness and purity ought never to attract attention to themselves, they ought simply to be magnets to draw to Jesus Christ. If my holiness is not drawing towards Him, it is not holiness of the right order, but an influence that will awaken inordinate affection and lead souls away into side-eddies. A beautiful saint may be a hindrance if he does not present Jesus Christ but only what Christ has done for him. He will leave the impression – ‘What a fine character that man is!’ That is not being a true friend of the Bridegroom; I am increasing all the time, He is not.”

“In order to maintain this friendship and loyalty to the Bridegroom, we have to be more careful of our moral and vital relationship to him than of any other thing, even of obedience. Sometimes there is nothing to obey, the only thing to do is to maintain vital connection with Jesus Christ, to see that nothing interferes with that. Only occasionally do we have to obey. When a crisis arises we have to find out what God’s will is, but the greater part of the life is not conscious obedience but the maintenance of this relationship – the friend of the Bridegroom. Christian work may be a means of evading the soul’s concentration on Jesus Christ. Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, we may become amateur providences, and may work against Him whilst we use His weapons.”

From My Upmost for His Highest, March 25. Oswald Chambers.

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

Many Who Oppose Me

“…a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” -1 Corinthians 16:9

Diane and I are in the Middle East and only a few hundred miles from the city where the apostle Paul first penned these words to the Corinthian church. The same truths remain today, and in very evident ways. Where there is great need and great opportunity there is also great opposition. It is aways the case. As the gospel advances, the attacks increase. We would like to think that the warfare subsides with each spiritual victory, but that is not the reality. The opposition comes from within and from without. It is both spiritual and physical. Believers in this part of the world do not have an easy life. And neither should you.

When you grow weary in the battle, remember this:

  1. The need for the gospel is larger than it has ever been.
  2. The opportunities for the gospel are greater than ever before.
  3. The opposition to gospel advances will only increase.
  4. His grace is more than sufficient for us.

Paul follows up his words, “…a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me”, with an admonition for all of us:

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:13-14

This is the nature of the Christian walk. And this is how we are to respond. It is true in the Middle East and in Dunbar, WI, both in Paul’s day and in our own. Take heart and believe!

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

Heading to the Middle East

On Friday Diane and I will be heading to the Middle East. Over the past many months we have prayed for one particular city and for God to ignite a gospel movement there. We have visited before. A dark place. A city where oppression hovers. Workers are few. In such places that have no light we quickly realize that unless God does something supernatural nothing is going to take place. Well, God does answer prayer. Recently, there have been a number of university students coming to Jesus. It seems to have taken so long, yet now we look forward to meeting our new brothers and sisters in Christ. We will be able to see their faces, and join them in prayer for others. It has been a humbling thing to have had such a small part in this—praying from the other side of the world. It has been the only thing we could do. Yet, it has also been one of the most rewarding and joyful experiences we have ever had. All God.

We will also try to meet up with a few Northland alumni in that part of the world before heading back home and to the final weeks of this semester. Thanks for your prayers.

A Tribute To Les Ollila

Les & Charlene

Today and tomorrow we will be celebrating the life and ministry of Les Ollila. While “Doc O” still has plenty of ministry left in him, this is an appropriate time to pause and say “thank you.” It will be impossible to accurately measure Doc O’s impact, but everywhere we turn we see the fruit of it—and all in the lives of people. Seventy years of life, fifty years of ministry, and thirty years at Northland. He has been, among many things, a pastor, evangelist, disciple-maker, college president, and chancellor. But we would probably best describe him as God’s servant…and our friend. And those are the titles he would naturally embrace.

More than titles though, I think of qualities. I would like to note one quality, that for me, stands out more than any other—humility. As a young man I found this quality so rare in a leader. I find it even more rare today. We have heard, “humility is the soil in which all of the other graces grow” (Andrew Murray). Total dependence upon God. This is how a life will flourish and bear lasting fruit. We also use the word “brokenness.” Brokenness is what happens when we really get a right view of God. There can be no other response. And when we respond in that way He changes us, fills us, and uses us. The world sees God. This is the kind of life we see in Les Ollila. It is why many of us came to Northland.

Thank you Doc O for living such an approachable life, and one that attracts us to Jesus.

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

Alumni Contribute Back

It has been a real blessing to have alumni contributing back to Northland by investing in our present student body by way of chapel. Outstanding messages have been brought by Steve Sauers, Donny Varney, Ryan McCammack, Jason Janz, and most recently Daniel Patz. These messages can be listened to on our sermon page.

Daniel has shared a few thoughts on his view of Northland in the video below and in a letter he recently wrote.

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

My Visit to Southeastern

This past week business took me to Raleigh, NC where I was able to spend some time with my good friends Ken and Kathy Coley. Ken is a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. I was also able to see my nephew Wesley Davey who is enrolled in a Ph.D. program there and who works in an office right across from Ken! Later in the day I was able to spend some time with Southeastern president, Danny Aiken.

It was my first time to be on the campus of Southeastern, but I have followed its history with great interest over the past couple of decades. Robert D. Crowley, my former pastor at Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, MD, was the chairman of the board during those “resurgence” years (late 80’s and early 90’s). Something happened at Southeastern that many said could never take place. But it did. While Pastor Crowley was always larger than life to me as a boy, he was also a mentor. After this visit I only admire him more.

During my time with Danny Aiken I saw that he is passionate about three things: theology, the church, and missions. These are the the things he likes to talk about. He gave me a copy of his recent book Ten Who Changed the World.

Russell Moore said, “Reading any page in this book can kindle a fire in your bones.” I just started it and it is already doing that in me.

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


We all want to be great, do great. We want to be successful in who we are and what we do. But the pursuit of true greatness is the antitheses of everything the world will tell us – and it is impossible to escape that ubiquitous influence.

I find that every morning the Word is there to correct my thinking, and I hope, my behavior. Diane and I have been reading The One Year Bible (NLT) together. This morning’s passage in the New Testament was another reminder of the paradox of the Christian to greatness.

The Greatest in the Kingdom (Mark 9:33–37)

After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

“Be Great, Serve”