The path to ministry from Michigan to New Zealand

benedictionOn December 10, 2016, Aaron Warner was ordained in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ) and installed as the minister of the Reformed Church of Palmerston North. Rev. Warner was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a 2015 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary.

About 100 people attended the ordination and installation, which took place at 1:30 on a warm Saturday afternoon during New Zealand’s summer. Rev. Albert Couperus, a recently-ordained Mid-America graduate, led the service.

“Albert was a classmate with me at the Seminary and spent all three years convincing me to come to New Zealand,” said Rev. Warner.

Another Mid-America graduate, Rev. Andre Holtslag (who supervised Aaron’s vicariate at the Reformed Church of Dovedale in Christchurch), preached from 2 Timothy 1:1-14. He focused on the essence of ministry revealed in five remembrances: prayer, fellowship, discipleship, preaching, and Jesus Christ.

Just as verse 3 notes Paul’s constant prayer for Timothy, the minister and congregation are called to pray continually for each other. Paul’s longing to see Timothy, expressed in verse 4, reflects the joy of fellowship believers can experience. Verse 5 relates Timothy’s godly upbringing and indicates the necessity to disciple others. In verse 6, Paul reminds Timothy to “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (NASB). That gift was the calling to preach the Word. Rev. Holtslag encouraged Aaron to spend time in the Word so that he would be ready to preach it. He drew the final point from 2 Timothy 2:8, when Paul urged Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ.” A minister must always remember Christ in his personal life and in his preaching.

Rev. Michael Flinn, a retired minister and elder at Palmerston North, led the ordination section of the service. His son, Daniel Flinn, led a concluding portion of the service. He welcomed to the podium elders from several visiting churches, who brought greetings from their congregations and expressed wishes for God’s blessings. He also read letters from many other congregations without representatives present.

The Flinns have a Mid-America connection as Daniel planned to begin studies there in the fall of 2017, and his brother, Josh, graduated in 2016. Josh also persuaded Aaron to consider ministry in New Zealand, particularly at Palmerston North (which in on the North Island), and is now serving his vicariate at the Reformed Church of Nelson (on the South Island).

Aaron’s journey to ministry in New Zealand, which encompassed far more than moving his family to another country, began many years ago. He explains that God used Rev. Arthur Besteman, his former pastor in Michigan, “in a substantial way” in his life, and he made his public profession at a young age.

Having little desire for further education after high school, Aaron entered an electrician apprenticeship. Two years later, he shadowed a missionary in Toronto for a weekend and began to feel called to the mission field. But the prospect of completing both undergraduate and graduate degrees was daunting.

“I decided instead to invest myself in the church and other programs. I went on several short-term mission trips, led junior high youth group, and did a mentorship program for men dealing with substance abuse,” he said. “I had hoped these things would satisfy the hunger I had for working in ministry without all the schooling.”

Still, he continued to feel the tug toward more formal ministry and its prerequisite education. During a mission trip to Trinidad, a minister heard one of Aaron’s lectures to young people and suggested he consider ministry.

“He did not know that this had been already heavy on my heart,” Aaron said. After his return, he spoke to his own minister, who encouraged him to pursue the internal call he was feeling. He began university classes with a view toward attending seminary.

On that same trip to Trinidad, Aaron had become acquainted with Audra, a fellow team member who shared his passion for missions and interest in other cultures. The two were married in 2008 and blessed with their first child a year later.

Being a non-traditional student and caring for a family was not easy, but Aaron graduated from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a minor in philosophy. His plan to attend seminary, however, was put on hold.

charge to ministerWhen the Warners approached their church council for assistance, the elders expressed concern about their college debt and their anticipated second child. The council asked them to take off a year or more to try to pay down their debt.

“At first, it was difficult for us,” Aaron said, “but we soon realized the wisdom of our elders.”

Over the next two years, Aaron worked at an automatic car wash, drying cars. He took an online class from Mid-America to determine his ability to handle seminary level course work. It went well. He began full-time studies in 2012 and graduated in 2015.

The couple’s third child was born while Aaron was in seminary, and their fourth child was born in New Zealand, while Aaron served his vicariate at Dovedale. (The RCNZ requires its ministers to serve a year-long internship as a vicar in an established congregation under the supervision of an ordained minister and elders.)

When Aaron entered seminary, he and Audra had a goal of doing mission work. “New Zealand was not even a thought in our minds until I met Albert,” he said. “He helped us understand the need for pastors in New Zealand.”

By the time the Warner family arrived in Christchurch, seven out of the 20 churches had no full-time pastor. Some had been without a minister for several years. If ministers preparing to retire were not replaced, the federation could face empty pulpits in half its churches. Two of the three existing church plants had no minister.

Although Aaron and Audra realized they would miss family and friends in the United States and regretted living so far from their children’s grandparents, they came to believe that their struggles were well worth enduring to help God’s people in New Zealand.

After completing his vicariate, Aaron sustained his preliminary examination on July 8, 2016, making him eligible for call within the RCNZ. Two churches extended calls to him prior to the ten-week deadline. He accepted the call to Palmerston North on September 22, and passed a final examination on November 4 & 5.

laying on handsHis ordination on December 10 concluded his eleven-year seminary odyssey and marked the beginning of the formal ministry toward which the Spirit had nudged him so many years ago.

As the Warners adjust to cultural, geographical, and federational differences, they find Kiwis friendly and God faithful.

Aaron shared his personal goals. “In these first years, I hope to increase in my prayer life,” he said. “I hope to be shaped more by God’s word, so as to be a better shepherd to my family (both immediate and church). I hope and pray that God would strengthen me to the immense task that He and the church have called me to.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10-12 of the March 1, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal


Classis Michigan declares URCNA candidate

Arjen Vreugdenil
Arjen Vreugdenhil

When Classis Michigan of the URCNA met on October 11, 2016, the primary item on the agenda was the candidacy examination of Arjen Vreugdenhil. According to Classis Clerk Greg Lubbers, delegates took most of the day to conduct a through exam before determining “without dissent” that Mr. Vreugdenhil had sustained all sections of the examination.

“I questioned Arjen in Bible Knowledge, and he was exceptional,” said Rev. Matthew Nuiver, pastor of Faith URC in West Olive, MI, “and he was just that through the rest of the exam as well.”

Because Vreugdenhil graduated from Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Mike Deckinga (representing the Seminary at Classis as its Vice-President of Advancement) was an interested observer. “Arjen readily provided answers to the many questions that were asked of him, making evident his love for Christ and his desire to serve him as a minister of the Word,” he said. “I was thankful to witness this event and I join, with many others, in prayer that God will make clear His will for Arjen and his family.”

While the Vreugdenhil family awaits God’s will regarding a pastoral call, they remain living in Lansing, IL, where Arjen is teaching at Lansing Christian School.

“This period of waiting is exciting, as we look forward to what the Lord has in store,” he said. “It is also a bit unsatisfactory to just sit tight and wait. I am glad I have work for the next few months; but even though I enjoy teaching, I am looking forward to fulfill my calling in the ministry, for which I have been preparing in the past several years.”

Arjen taught at the middle and high school levels in the Netherlands prior to arriving in the US to marry Jodi in 2001. He taught physics at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI, for nine years before attending Mid-America.

Rev. Tuinstra questions Arjen

During his seminary years, the family grew to include three young sons and the Vreugdenhils’ membership remained at Bethel URC in Jenison, MI (the church that requested his candidacy exam). Pastor Wm. Jason Tuinstra explained that the distance between church and seminary was not that great and didn’t preclude continuing supervision and support.

“Early on in Arjen’s seminary education, the consistory stayed in contact with the professors at Mid-America to give their input about his progress,” he said. Elders visited with Arjen at the Seminary and in his home as well as when he returned to the Grand Rapids area. “He also provided pulpit supply for us on numerous occasions, which has given the consistory a chance to observe his progress. Besides this encouragement and oversight, our council was very faithful to make sure that his physical needs were met.”

At its October meeting, Classis Michigan also conducted routine matters and offered advice on discipline cases. Delegates heard reports from Trinity, Dutton, and Eastmanville URCs, evidencing what Clerk Lubbers called “the on-going work of the Lord” in those churches.

“The reports emphasized the continual building of the Kingdom of God through the faithful preaching of the gospel and the proper administration of the sacraments,” he wrote. “In addition, the healthy organic life of these respective congregations was noted as displayed in the various societies, studies, and activities.”

Bethany URC in Wyoming, MI, hosted the 48th meeting of Classis, with Rev. Casey Freswick serving as chairman and Rev. Mike Schout as vice-chairman. Grace URC was scheduled to convene the next meeting on March 14, 2017.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 11 of the November 30, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal

Mid-America appoints new Vice President of Advancement


Mike Deckinga-1On May 4, 2016, Mr. Michael B. Deckinga began his position as the Vice President of Advancement at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, IN. The VP of Advancement nurtures the Seminary’s external relationships and advances its mission through marketing, communications, and development. Mr. Deckinga’s work includes managing fundraisers and gifts as well as providing input on matters ranging from technology to finance to planning for the Seminary’s future.

While still new to the position, Mr. Deckinga was enjoying his work, particularly its relational aspects. “It has been a really enjoyable two months here, and I have loved getting to know the faculty and staff,” he said. “I eagerly await the return of the students in the fall so I can begin to get to know them.”

Visiting with Seminary supporters has touched his heart. “I’ve especially enjoyed meeting many of our friends out on the road,” he added. “It’s such a blessing to hear their stories of how God has sustained them and their families, and I’m humbled that they choose to support Mid-America by lifting us up in prayer and sharing with us financially.”

Mr. Deckinga came to the Seminary after a successful ten-year career with the Sherwin-Williams paint company. He began as Assistant Market Manager, but quickly progressed to Market Manager, and then was promoted to Professional Coatings Sales Representative. He explains that because the paint supply business is more of a service industry than a consumer commodity business, it prepared him well for the multiple tasks he now faces.

“As a sales representative, I learned first-hand the importance of a quality professional relationship tailored to individual need,” he said. “As a market manager, I focused on relationships with my customers and employees, but other duties helped me develop a strong business acumen. This financial aspect taught me the importance of exceeding budgeted plans for the development of an organization’s sound future.”

He sees how these skills are being utilized in his work for Mid-America. “My previous career equipped me to handle multiple tasks simultaneously and taught me about being an effective and motivating leader, which is essential in working closely with other staff members in a ‘self-motivating’ environment.” He also learned a great deal about becoming a more patient person, and jokingly adds, “Picking out the right color for a den can be a tremendously hard decision for some folks.”

While Mr. Deckinga’s business experience has its benefits, he recognizes the priority of fostering personal relationships. “Everything comes down to the quality of the relationships built. This focus on relationships will continue for me in my duties on behalf of the Seminary.”

Seminary President Dr. Cornel Venema related how, when Mr. Deckinga was under consideration, “He impressed us with his enthusiasm for the task, energetic manner, and openness to developing in the position.” He added, “Mike’s strengths are his familiarity with and enthusiastic commitment to Mid-America’s statement of its purpose as well as his understanding of how students who aspire to the gospel ministry need to be prepared academically and vocationally for this calling.”

Mr. Deckinga was educated in Christian schools in the southwest Chicago area, graduating from Trinity Christian College in 2006 with a B.S. in History and minors in Theology and Business. He and Kim live in Beecher, IL, with their four children, who range in age from ten months to five years. Mike is Chairman of the Deacons at Lynwood United Reformed Church, where the family attends.

Dr. Venema explains that the Vice President of Advancement is not a new position, although it is part of a larger transition at Mid-America Reformed Seminary. Subsequent to the retirement of Mrs. Florence Kooiman, Vice President of Administration, Mr. Keith LeMahieu (who most recently served as Vice President of Development) assumed her role.

Another part of the transition includes Rev. Andrew Compton’s recent appointment as Assistant Professor of Old Testament studies.

Dr. Venema said, “These changes, though they do not quite amount to a ‘changing of the guard,’ do remind us of the need to find staff and faculty who will be able to serve effectively and faithfully in the future.”

Mike Deckinga has embraced his new calling with joy. “Training men to go out to the nations to preach the good news of salvation in Christ is good work, and I am humbled and delighted to be a part of it,” he said. “Working alongside and for like-minded Reformed brothers and sisters, and getting to meet and develop relationships with similar friends of the school is invigorating. I thank God every day for His providence in my life and for calling me to this work.”

The above is a slightly edited version of an article by Glenda Mathes that appeared on pages 12 & 13 of the August 3, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

Mid-America no longer going with the “Flo”


Vice President of Administration retires after 35 years

Over 100 people gathered on the evening of May 11, 2016, to celebrate Florence Kooiman’s 35 years of faithful service to Mid-America Reformed Seminary

Forence Kooiman with Rev. Ed Marcusse

. The bittersweet celebration also marked her retirement in the summer of 2016 from her position as Vice President of Administration.

Anyone who’s had much contact with the Seminary very likely knows Flo. She’s been the dynamo behind the scenes, the institution at the institution.

Florence’s pastor, Rev. Jacque Roets (Mid-America alumnus, 2001), characterized her as “courageous and humble,” performing her “hidden service” so that “the men in charge looked good.”

Dr. Cornel Venema noted how apropos the old joke: “Do you want to speak to the man in charge, or to the woman who knows what’s going on?”

He expressed his thanks for Florence’s energetic contributions over the years: running, reacting, multitasking, helping, and volunteering. He contrasted Florence’s devotion to the Seminary with the Lord’s example of the hired hand who doesn’t really love the sheep. Even though her volunteer work soon turned into full-time employment, Dr. Venema stated she remained “a volunteer all the way through.”

Board of Trustees President, Rev. Ed Marcusse, remarked how Florence was “in on the ground floor” of the Seminary’s establishment and how it “would not be what it is” without her and will not be the same. He described her in many ways, including: surrogate mother, life coach, time keeper, and sympathetic listener. He said, “You’ve made a huge difference in the lives of every single person you’ve met, and we thank you for that.”

An audio-visual presentation featured photos of Florence through the years and showcased greetings from many alumni and their families.

Alumnus and Board member Rev. Jim Sawtelle (1993 graduate) said, “I think the best way to describe Flo is ‘friend.’ She was a friend to every student.”

As a young mom, Florence attended the first Sem-Fest in 1981, a year before classes began. Because her daughter was starting Kindergarten, she signed up to volunteer two days per week.

She said, “The Board underestimated how much work there was to do in setting up a new school, so I spent quite a bit of time there in September. In October, Dr. P.Y. De Jong said, ‘Flo, you’re here so much, I think we should just put you on the payroll.’ That’s how I started my career at Mid-America.”

family sings
Kooiman family members singing at the celebration

Among the unique experiences that Florence recalled during the retirement party were two “sleepovers” at Mid-America. The first occurred on the original campus, when an Iowa blizzard with blowing snow kept many people at the Seminary overnight. After she and her husband, Orv, found places for everyone to sleep, the only spot left for them was on the mailbags in the janitor’s workroom. “They had an awful odor,” she said. “I can still remember the smell. That was a long night, and morning was a welcome sight.”

The second “sleepover” happened in Indiana, when Dyer police called Florence one night and asked if she could open the Seminary for flood victims. “The people arrived on flatbed trucks, and we created makeshift beds in every room.” Several nearby students and Professor Vander Hart assisted by bringing in blankets and helping with crowd control, which included herding dogs into one room and cats into another.

Dr. Venema mentioned some concern about Flo’s heart after the “Darth Vader episode,” and Florence admitted, “It probably took some years off my life.” She later explained, “I went out to lunch, and when I returned, I offered to take some boxes back to the storage room. When I walked into the room, the light was off. I switched it on, and there, by the back wall stood a person in a Darth Vader costume, mask and all, with a big stick in his hand. I screamed and collapsed to the floor, as this creature jumped over me and ran out.”

She recalled getting to know Board member James Folkerts as a boy when his father, Fred (1992 graduate), enrolled at Mid-America in 1989. James graduated from the Seminary in 2004, and his brother Christopher graduated in 2005.

With the assistance of individuals and churches in the area, Florence has helped dozens of students and their families settle into the community. She also answered countless of student questions, a couple of the more memorable being: Can I wear patent shoes with blue jeans? Where do I shop for a diamond ring?

Over the last 35 years, Florence has seen technology transition from the electric typewriter to a word processor with floppy discs to a computer. Filing documents has gone from metal cabinet to invisible cloud.

Her work at the Seminary was a godsend after the loss of her husband. “When God called Orv home, I felt my world had ended. But He revealed that He had plans for my life,” she said. “My family and the Mid-America community played an important part in my healing.”

A precious time for Florence was a trip to New Zealand with other Seminary personnel a few years ago. “I anticipated the scenery would be the highlight, but God showed me something even more beautiful. He filled me with joy at seeing what He had done and continues to do in the church through the training of men for the gospel ministry.”

As she anticipates this new chapter in her life, Florence praise the Lord for the privilege of serving Him at Mid-America. “Thanks be to God for allowing me, in spite of my human failings, to be a part of training men to proclaim His Word!”

Flo and Glenda

The above is a slightly edited version of an article by Glenda Mathes that appeared on pages 11 & 12 of the August 3, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

Seminary’s alumni conference focuses on conflict


group-cYou or your pastor may be all too familiar with conflict within the church. According to Rev. Jeff De Boer, Director of Enrollment Management at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, it is the primary reason for pastors leaving the ministry.

“Preparing for and reflecting on conflict is very important for the continued well-being of the church,” he says. That helps explain why the 2016 Mid-America Alumni Conference focused on “Christlike in Conflict: Understanding, Responding, and Growing during Church Struggle.”

Pastors Zekveld, Fagrey, Sorensen

About a dozen alumni from URCNA, PCA, RCUS, and OPC fellowships attended the conference, held at the Seminary from April 5-7, 2016. The conference featured teaching from professors as well as pastors in the field.

“One of the great things about the conference was having men reflect on conflict after experiencing it themselves,” Rev. De Boer says. “A biblical view of conflict can be taught and discussed in seminary. But it is often not until conflict is experienced that a more thorough need for wisdom and understanding becomes apparent.”

Mid-America’s Professor of Church History, Dr. Alan Strange, discussed Lessons in Conflict from Church History. Rev. Harry Zekveld, pastor of Providence URC in Strathroy, ON, spoke about A Pastor’s Perspective on Conflict. Assistant Professor in New Testament Studies, Marcus Mininger, addressed A Biblical Exposition of Conflict from a New Testament Perspective; while Associate Professor of Old Testament Studies, Mark Vander Hart, explained A Biblical View of Conflict from the Old Testament. Rev. Kyle Sorensen, who pastors Salem Ebenezer Reformed Church (RCUS) in Manitowoc, WI, examined Conflict through the Lenses of our Polities.

The schedule wove times for reflection and conversation, fellowship and prayer, around the presentations.

“I found the conference to be tremendously worthwhile,” Rev. Doug Barnes (Covenant URC, Pella, IA) says. “The teaching provided helpful insights, and the fellowship offered true refreshment to the soul.”

Rev. De Boer sees value in the conference on three levels. “First, the content of the conference is important. Second, the conference may be important as part of a pastor’s continuing education. Third, an alumni conference is important for the Seminary to connect with our alumni and our alumni to connect with each other.”

He explains that although ministers do not have continuing education requirements like attorneys or medical doctors or teachers, many churches provide funding for books or conferences in their pastor’s compensation package. “But these funds only present opportunities for continued learning,” he adds. “They do not necessarily emphasize the importance of that learning. One of the prime indicators for a pastor’s long-term well-being is his ability to continue to grow and mature. And I hope, Lord willing, that our conference helped the participants do precisely that.”

Rev. Kyle Sorensen

Organizers heard many positive comments regarding the conference including appreciation for consistency among the presenters and the necessity for discussing the issue.

“To be honest, I was not too excited about the topic, so went more out of a sense of obligation,” says Rev. Jacques Roets (Redeemer URC; Dyer, IN). “But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was blessed and encouraged by the messages. I especially appreciated the reflections of Rev. Mininger and Rev. Vander Hart, looking at conflict in the New Testament and Old Testament.”

Rev. Doug Barnes says, “I would encourage my fellow pastors to take advantage of such opportunities in the future, both for their own encouragement and for the blessing it will bring to the congregations they serve.”

Professor Mininger

This was the second alumni conference held at Mid-America. An earlier one was held in 2014. The conference was planned and sponsored by the Alumni Association with arrangements handled through the Seminary.

“While I knew most of the men who attended, I was glad to meet new alumni and become reacquainted with others. That sense of camaraderie is critical for us as an institution and as part of healthy churches,” Rev. De Boer says. “Our institution is committed to the well-being of our graduates and the churches they pastor. Hosting this conference is one of the ways we continue to express that commitment.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 13 & 14 of the May4, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

Mid-America announces new appointment


Compton_Family_cThe Board of Trustees of Mid-America Reformed Seminary recently announced the appointment of Rev. Andrew Compton as Assistant Professor of Theology to teach Old Testament courses, beginning June 1, 2016.

Dr. Cornelis P. Venema, President of Mid-America, says, “Andrew was judged to have the combination of pastoral experience and academic excellence in Old Testament studies that we hoped for to fill this position.”

Rev. Compton has served as associate pastor at Christ Reformed Church (URCNA) in Anaheim, CA, for the last few years and is a 2007 graduate of Westminster Seminary California. He has an M.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of California, Los Angeles.

At Mid-America, Rev. Compton will work with Rev. Mark Vander Hart, Associate Professor of Old Testament Studies.

“I am very much looking forward to working with Rev. Compton as he adjusts to the Seminary work environment,” Rev. Vander Hart says. “He is articulate in his positions, and he appears to be very well-read, not just in matters pertaining to the Old Testament, but to other areas of dogmatic and pastoral theology.”

In addition to his teaching duties, Rev. Compton may take on some administrative responsibilities and will serve as a faculty counselor, encouraging students to cultivate godly conduct and pastoral attitudes.

In recent years, he has worked toward a degree in pastoral care and counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Although he has given up that pursuit in order to resume his study for a Ph.D. in the Old Testament, it remains an area of interest that he hopes to incorporate into teaching as well as counseling aspects of his work.

“I have been richly blessed to spend so many hours with my congregation in counsel and discipleship,” he explains, “so it is a topic dear to my heart and one I hope I can carry on to the seminarians, even in my OT instruction.”

Andrew and Pamela Compton have three young daughters and anticipate another child in December. Before next June, they plan to move from Lakewood, CA, to St. John, IN. He describes himself as “humbled by this appointment and excited to support the mission” of Mid-America.

He hopes to guide students in becoming careful and literary readers of Old Testament texts, while they gain awareness of how those books are connected with each other and used in the New Testament. He wants to help students utilize scholarly insights but effectively challenge the “naturalistic and anti-revelatory assumptions” of many critical conclusions, dismissing those that do not accord with the Bible.

His prayer is that his labors will benefit Christ’s church through any personal preaching, speaking, and writing opportunities, but primarily in the training of future pastors, “who will bring what they have learned from God’s Word in seminary to God’s people over the course of their ministries.”

Rev. Compton enjoys cycling, playing trumpet, and listening to classical music.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 9 & 10 of the January 13, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal. Rev. Compton has since taken up his new position.

New Director of Enrollment for Mid-America

The Jeff and Karen De Boer family
The Jeff and Karen De Boer family

Rev. Jeff De Boer has been appointed by Mid-America Reformed Seminary to its newly-created Director of Enrollment Management (DEM) position. The 2000 graduate of Mid-America pastored the RCUS congregation in Garner, IA, and currently serves a PCA in North Liberty, IA. He begins in January of 2015.

Rev. De Boer said his responsibilities will include recruiting students, and “I anticipate spending a great deal of time with the current students as well as performing other duties like reviewing summer assignments, connecting with alumni, and teaching a class here and there.”

Seminary president Cornel Venema explained, “Previously, the task of recruiting students was one of a long list of duties assigned to Keith LeMahieu as our Director of Development. For the last two and a half years, Grant Dykstra, our business officer, was asked to temporarily assume recruiting responsibilities, in order to free up time for Keith to concentrate on development.”

Rev. De Boer hopes to accomplish three goals: Inform more potential students and supporters about Mid-America’s excellent and affordable program of training men for ministry in Christ’s church, assist the Seminary in its intentional goal of developing spiritual maturity in its students, and recruit men “who sense that our times and our churches need the most capable to serve in pastoral ministry.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 11 of the December 17, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Rev. Edward J. Knott’s journey and leadership

Rev. Edward J. Knott
Rev. Edward J. Knott

Members of the United Reformed Churches owe Rev. Edward J. Knott a debt far greater than most realize. He provided biblical servant leadership at crucial points in the federation’s history, but this humble hero would be the first to downplay his role and redirect all glory to God.

Few ministers have accomplished more during their retirement to promote Reformed community and education. Rev. Knott provided direction during years of denominational turmoil. He and others were instrumental in the forming of the Concerned Members of the CRC, the Alliance of Reformed Churches, and eventually the United Reformed Churches of North America. He chaired the meeting organizing the URCNA, presided over its first synod, and chaired its first general classis. He provided counsel and pulpit supply for many churches during the URC’s early days. He served multiple terms on the boards of Mid-America Reformed Seminary and Reformed Fellowship.

Rev. Knott turned 92 on March 5, 2014. An Associate Minister (Emeritus) at Bethany URC in Wyoming, MI, he still lives in his own home and drives a car. But pain in his legs and back led him to give up preaching at the end of September, 2013.

“I told Pastor Freswick I was finished with preaching,” he says. “It was just too difficult for me to stand that long.”

For over nine years, Rev. Knott had led worship services at a local retirement home every other month. The committee that arranges those services agreed that last September, with its five Sundays, would be his final month. He continues to lead a Bible study for women on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. He also currently serves on the Board of Reformed Fellowship.

Asked how he felt about finally relinquishing preaching, he said, “I’m okay with it. But I always enjoyed preaching.”

Preaching instruction, however, was his least favorite subject at the Seminary of the Protestant Reformed Churches. That class was extremely demanding with sermons extensively critiqued. But it became easier when Rev. Herman Hoeksema took an interest in him, and his classmate and close friend—Rev. Hoeksema’s son, Homer.

Edward Knott married Harriet Doezema in 1946, and he was ordained in the Protestant Reformed Churches of America in 1947. The couple lived in various locations during his three years as a home missionary. In 1950, he accepted a call to the Kalamazoo PRC, which he served for nine years. He ministered to the Second PRC in Grand Rapids from 1959-1961.

He entered the most difficult period of his ministerial career when the De Wolf segment of the Protestant Reformed Churches merged with the Christian Reformed Church—a merger he opposed.

“I was dyed-in-the-wool Protestant Reformed,” he says. “But a number of the older ministers felt we had more of a future in the CRC.”

His strong commitment to the PRC and his close relationship with Rev. Herman Hoeksema led to a summer-long struggle, trying to decide if his should leave the PRC behind to join the CRC.

“It was necessary for the PR ministers to go through a colloquium doctum to be received into the CR ministerial ranks,” he says. “The decision to apply for such an examination was difficult for me, as was the exam itself.”

When he finally submitted to a CRC colloquium doctum, he told examiners that he still had differences with the denomination.

“I felt this might be the end of my ministry,” he says.

After a break in the meeting, however, a committee presented three questions in a brief re-examination. When he was able to answer their questions affirmatively, he sustained the exam. Shortly thereafter he accepted a call to Beverly CRC, where he served ten years, from 1961-1971.

He next spent seven years at West Leonard CRC in Grand Rapids before serving five years at Calvin CRC in Rock Valley, IA. During this time, Rev. Knott was diagnosed with melanoma and underwent chemo therapy for six months. The Knotts returned to Michigan in 1983, when he accepted a call to Forest Grove CRC.

He initially retired in January 1988, but continued to serve the Forest Grove congregation as counselor and one Sunday per month pulpit supply. In 1992, he and Harriet became members of the Beverly congregation they’d previously served.

Rev. Knot conducted the morning worship service at Beverly URC on October 21, 2007, as part of a celebration marking his 60 years in ministry. The Lord unexpectedly took Harriett to her heavenly home on July 3, 2011. She had gone with Rev. Knott as he preached at the retirement home that morning, and when they returned she complained of a headache. Only a few hours later, she was gone.

The biggest challenge of Rev. Knott’s ministry was balancing congregational and denominational requirements with personal commitments to wife and family. It was also difficult to find time for personal growth through reading and reflection.

He views his largest reward as “a good conscience that the work accomplished was done to God’s glory and the welfare of the church.” Other rewards of his work included times of peace and harmony within a congregation, when good relationships among the members nourished the ministry. He enjoyed witnessing young people profess their faith, and was touched when members expressed appreciation for the proclamation of the Word. He found personal satisfaction in doing what he was called to do and rejoiced to see evidences of God’s blessing.

Highlights of his ministerial career were the meeting at which Mid-America Reformed Seminary was formed (April 22, 1981), the meeting at which the United Reformed Churches came into being (Lynwood Independent Reformed Church in November, 1995), and the first synod of the URCNA (also at Lynwood in October of 1996).

Rev. Knott believes the URCNA faces some crucial issues, the most pressing a danger of doctrinal drift. He’s concerned about the indifference to and a lack of understanding about the antithesis and the resultant worldliness. He thinks ecumenicity is being overemphasized during this initial stage of the URCNA, when it should focus on growing in its own identity. He also sees remaining elements of individualism and independentism that prohibit unity.

He quotes the White Horse Inn theme in encouraging United Reformed members to “know what you believe, and why you believe it.”

Rev. Knott shares these words of advice for pastors: “Ministry is a full-time occupation; regard it as such.” He adds, “Love God’s people!”

The above is a slightly edited version of an article by Glenda Mathes that appeared on pages 22 & 23 of the March 5, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

The privilege of proclamation: Reflections on 55 years of ministry

Bestemans-cIn August of [2013], Rev. Arthur Besteman gave up preaching. He’d hoped to continue until he was 85, the age at which his wife’s father retired, but he was 80 and felt that it was time. He still goes out on pastoral visits and conducts funerals. In fact, the same week he gave up regular preaching he officiated at two funerals.

Rev. Besteman originally retired almost 15 years ago, at age 66, but he found retirement didn’t suit him. In God’s providence, he was asked to be Stated Supply for the Kalamazoo URC for a year, then at the URC in OliveCenter for 20 months, and then two times each at Eastmanville URC and Walker URC.

Rev. Besteman received his B.D. from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1958 and did one year of graduate study at Westminster Theological Study in Philedelphia. He accepted a call to the CRC in Leota, MN.

“All through seminary I had hoped that somewhere was a small church I could serve,” he says. “I was led to accept the largest church to which I received a call. The church was over a hundred families and had been without a pastor for twenty months. It taught me to depend upon the grace of God. Later on when I had five funerals in ten days, it was the grace of God that carried me through. The first service I conducted after my ordination was that of a 3½ year-old who was killed the day I was examined. It taught me to depend upon the Lord, a lesson which served me throughout my ministry.”

Rev. Besteman served his first five years in Leota as a bachelor, but people were constantly introducing young women to him. When some good friends suggested that the next time he was in Grand Rapids he have coffee with their acquaintance, Audrey Honderd, who worked as a case worker there, he thought, “What would a cup of coffee hurt?”

The two were married in September of 1964 and now have three children and nine grandchildren. One daughter teaches in the Dominican Republic, but her family recently returned to the States when their child was diagnosed with leukemia and subsequently spent 17 days in intensive care. The Bestemans are thankful that retirement allows them to spend more time with their daughter and her family, despite the reason for their return.

Following the Besteman’s marriage in 1964, Rev. Besteman went on to serve several congregations in Michigan: Messiah in Hudsonville from 1964-1972; North Street in Zeeland until 1986, when he accepted a call to the Beverly CRC in Wyoming. That church became an independent congregation affiliated with the ARC in 1992 and part of the URCNA in 1996. He retired in 1999 and began a new avenue of service to the churches.

The joys during his 55 years of ministry have been the “privilege of proclaiming the gospel of salvation” and “seeing that gospel highlighted in the lives of so many who made their profession of faith.”

“Another highlight was the establishment of the United Reformed Church,” he adds. “Having served on two boards of the denomination with which I was formerly affiliated, it was a great privilege to serve several terms on the Board of Mid-America Reformed Seminary and know that the members were of like mind and theology.”

He has found it rewarding to see the Spirit’s work in people’s lives.

“The greatest reward was the faithful attendance of people of all ages and of all backgrounds to the preaching of the Word,” he says. “It was rewarding to see people growing in the faith.”

But ministry is never without its struggles. He says, “The biggest challenge of the ministry was to remain faithful to the gospel. Closely related to that was the challenge of loving the many different kinds of people who made up the church of Jesus Christ.”

Rev. Besteman believes the most crucial issue facing the church today is remaining true to the Word of God: “It is such a temptation to adopt the various methods that the church world adopts to attract members. And it goes from one attempt to another with no one thing working for long.”

When asked what advice he’d give young ministers today, he provides a list that prioritizes preaching.

“Young pastors have to be convinced that the power of the pulpit is in the preaching of the Word.” He adds, “The preaching of the Word alone can satisfy the hungering of the human heart. Young pastors also must be careful whom they marry. A pastor must be sure that his wife is willing to share his time and concern with others. Young pastors must also know when they should end their sermons. They don’t need to say everything they know in a single sermon. They must learn to respect their elders.”

Rev. Besteman also offers some insight for lay people: “The person in the pew must demand from the pulpit that the Word of God is preached. The person in the pew must demand that the sovereignty of God is proclaimed. Nothing less than the Reformed faith.”

After an intense stint of chemotherapy and a heart attack in recent years, Rev. Besteman is thankful to still be able to do the Lord’s work. He says, “It amazes me that the Lord has entrusted me with the responsibility and privilege of proclaiming the gospel for all these years.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 26 & 27 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal as part of the series “Shared Wisdom: Tapping into the experience of seasoned ministers.” 

New Associate Pastor ordained at Pompton Plains

Pastor Rossi 1st benedictionOn Friday, November 8, 2013, Roberto Rossi was ordained and installed as Associate Pastor at Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church (PPRBC) in Pompton Plains, NJ.

Rev. Rossi was born in New Haven, CT, but his family moved to the Chicago suburbs when he was very young. He grew up only ten minutes from Mid-America Reformed Seminary, but first attended Moody Bible Institute. After graduating from Moody, he and his wife and children moved to Ukraine, where they served as missionaries for two years before God called Rossi to pursue pastoral ministry in the Reformed churches.

“During my studies at Moody,” he says, “I’d heard about Mid-America Reformed Seminary and had made use of their library. But it wasn’t until I heard a Mid-America graduate preach that I decided to go there. The Seminary has a unique balance between solid Reformed theology/academics and pastoral care/counsel. These two strengths of the program become evident in the preaching and teaching of Mid-America graduates.”

Rossi graduated from Mid-America on May 16, 2013, and sustained his candidacy/ordination exam at Classis Eastern US on October 16, 2013.

Pompton Plains Senior Minister Rev. Kuiken explains that the search committee, elders, council, and “ultimately even the congregation” came to unanimous agreement that Mr. Rossi was “the man of God’s choosing” for their Associate Pastor. “And one of the primary reasons…why we felt so led is because…along with Brother Roberto’s possession of the graciously God-given gifts of strong preaching paired with a ‘tender shepherd’s heart’…Brother Rossi shares with us a great love for missions and burden for evangelism.” He additionally describes Mrs. Carrie Rossi as a “pastorally sensitive and spiritually gifted” pastor’s wife.

The Associate Pastor’s responsibilities at PPRBC consist of sharing with the Senior Pastor in all aspects of pastoral ministry, including teaching and preaching.

“It is my prayer and hope that our God would work mightily by His Spirit through the preaching and teaching of His Word,” says Rev. Rossi, “calling many to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and building up the people of God.”

Laying of handsHe desires to be faithful to God’s Word and will in his calling at PPRBC. He also hopes the council and congregation will be “a prayerful people, diligently praying for one another” so that together they “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and that “God, by His Spirit and Word, would increase and strengthen our faith in Him, expressing itself through love for one another.”

Rev. Rossi says he is still in the process of “observing and understanding” community needs, but notes that substance abuse is “epidemic.”

“God has given me a deep concern and passion to evangelize and counsel these people with the love of our Savior Jesus Christ,” he says. “In the next few months, my elders and I will discuss ways in which we can reach out to them with the gospel by providing biblical counsel, Bible studies and accountability partners.”

He admits this type of ministry involves “getting our hands dirty,” but the mission of PPRBC is to “love people where they are and to disciple them to where Christ wants them to be.”

“May God grant us His grace to have the heart and mind of our Savior as we pursue various ministries so that His name would be proclaimed and glorified.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 13 & 14 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.