Many have asked, “Has Northland changed?” That is a fair question, and one that I will gladly answer. Northland has not changed its mission or it’s core values. We are committed to and willing to contend for the fundamentals of the faith—more than ever before. We are growing in our passion for the glory of God, the gospel, the great commission, and the great commandments. We have, however, made a number of changes as we apply these foundational beliefs to our ministry in the 21st century. We have not done this perfectly, but we believe we are headed in a biblical direction that is focused on pursuing God’s pleasure.
Over the past several years we have written and spoken about our changes through our emails, letters, website, chapel messages, vidcasts, and blog sites. I see that these may have been inadequate, and I personally apologize for any unclear communication on my part.
Here are the changes we are talking about:
- Northland went from being unaccredited to accredited with TRACS in 2004. Earlier this month Northland’s accreditation was renewed for an additional 10 years.
- Northland went from the exclusive use of the King James Version in the pulpit and classrooms to allowing other translations.
- Northland went from a standard that did not allow women to wear slacks on or off campus to a policy that would require them to simply dress modestly and appropriately.
- Northland went from a demerit system to a discipleship platform for our students. Yes, we still have rules: we still confront, and we still have consequences. We just believe we have a better and more biblical model now. It is built on relationships. We are always looking for better ways to accomplish our mission.
- Northland went from practicing some forms of “secondary separation” to what we now understand to be a more biblical separation. Where we would not have had men like John MacArthur, Rick Holland, Ken Ham, Bruce Ware, or Mark Dever, we would now. We see no reason to separate from these men. We would consider them to be in the spirit of historic fundamentalism; they believe in the orthodox faith, will separate over it, and live godly lives.
- Northland went from only allowing “traditional” styles of music to accepting more modern styles as well. A blend of traditional and current music is used in our programs and chapel.
- We created an overarching name of Northland International University to give our students greater opportunities with the gospel worldwide. The change was driven by our passion to reach every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
These changes have been both welcomed and criticized. It has been our desire to reach out to scripturally solid churches who in the past have not been familiar with Northland as well as continue to serve our current constituents. Some might see a need to return to the way we functioned prior to 2002, observing the changes as a departure from who we were. It has always been our heart’s desire to honor the intent of the Patz family, who built and funded this ministry from the beginning. They continue to be a great encouragement to us all.
Some may ask, “Are you fundamentalists?” If you are talking about believing the fundamentals of the faith, being willing to separate over them, and being committed to living a holy life before God—then the answer is a resolute, “Yes.” If you are talking about our being willing to separate over “cultural fundamentalism” and its demands to separate over Bible translations, music, dress, methods of ministry, secondary associations, etc., the answer is an equally resolute, “No.” We cannot. Our consciences before God will not allow us to draw artificial lines of separation where God Himself has not drawn them.
We understand that it is a natural thing for people to want to assign a motive for everything. We can tell you this—the motive for our change is not to be big, popular, or accepted—but to do the right thing before God. That is it. It is also our desire to do all of this with grace. We have a great passion to continue our mission by preparing this next generation of servant leaders for great commission living—taking the gospel where it isn’t. The need is greater than ever before. So is the opportunity. May God give us grace and strength to keep serving God and one another!
Your friend and fellow servant,