I am certain that God knew my pride, stubbornness, and independence, and therefore surrounded me with “a great cloud of witnesses” so that I could not escape his love. Left to my own devices, I am sure I would not have found God…thus, God never let me stray far from persons who were teachers and servants to me in my faith journey. My parents, early teachers, church members, college professors, professional mentors, business partners, and my spouse are all God’s gifts to me in my faith journey. I have come to know God, to love God, and to accept God’s Lordship and saving love through these people ministering to me over the course of my life.

The God I know, love, and serve is the Triune God of Scripture, revealed to me both through my personal reading of the Bible and through the opportunity given to me to live in the beauty and bounty of God’s creation. I am simultaneously convinced of my having been created in the image of God and also convicted of my sinfulness and unworthiness to serve that God faithfully without the redemption offered by the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. I am daily sustained in my belief and brought in closer relationship to God by the fellowship of God’s Holy Spirit working in me and in the world to renew a right relationship to God. Regular times of prayer, both alone and with other believers, allow me to approach God in Christ’s name and give me comfort and assurance of God’s providential care for me.

As a result of this relationship of knowledge, love, and acceptance, I have also developed a strong desire to live in joyful obedience each day, Coram Deo—before the face of God. I have been presented with many avenues and countless opportunities to be “redemptively engaged” working and worshipfully serving God in thankfulness for the gift of salvation offered to me. As I encounter God’s redemptive plan in the Bible, I live in anticipation of the new heaven and new earth as God’s Kingdom and know that my calling is to be active by ushering in that Kingdom, always working collaboratively with other of God’s servants—family, church, community, business, and other organizations. My daily life needs to be an act of thankful worship—my leadership decisions, how I spend my time, the words that I use, my parenting, my leisure time, my volunteer time—all need to be done as worship to the King. Falling short of doing rightly in these matters daily, I seek forgiveness and lean on the promises and grace given to me in Christ’s redeeming work.

I have found serving God faithfully means for me to live in community with other believers in an active church. Through God’s covenantal providence, I was baptized in the Christian Reformed Church and have been a life–long member of this denomination. While the baptismal home was planned by God and affirmed by my parents, I came to the decision of continuing my membership in this church through an active choice as an adult, having studied and tested my own convictions and foundations of faith. I know it is a blessing, opportunity, and responsibility to be a member of a church in the historic Reformed tradition. I am blessed to be fed by a rich history of faith and doctrine focused on the five Solas of the Reformation and the Christo–centric nature of that tradition. I have the opportunity to live out my faith by sharing and proclaiming the depth, and height, and breadth of that tradition in hospitable, yet exciting ways so that others may know it too. I have the responsibility to participate actively in the process of continually renewing that faith tradition in the context of how God is working today in the on–going process of redemption.

My faith and spiritual journey also give me the opportunity to serve God as a husband and father. I am built in my faith through these relationships and I also have the responsibility to serve my wife and children in their faith development because of Christ’s work in me. Living in a covenantal marriage with my wife for 23 years and helping raise four of God’s covenant children shapes and challenges me in my faith development and is an important part of my thankful service to Christ for his gift of grace to me.

God continues to nurture my personal faith development and my readiness to serve God by means of study, relationships, and prayer. The practices I find most helpful in my faith development include regular personal prayer, daily family devotional time around the table, mentoring relationships with other believers, personal reading of Scripture, and regularly journaling my faith and life progress.

My faith and spiritual journey are inherently woven into my vocation and work life. In carrying out my vocation as a full–orbed act of faithful worship, the path God has led me to travel seems to point to leadership in Christian higher education. From my earliest memories as a child of parents intimately involved in Christian higher education to my current role as Provost, God has developed by faith through daily work in amazing ways. In this too, I find a home in the Reformed tradition which affirms our personal faith to be fully integrated with our involvement ‘here and now’ in daily life and work with our ‘not yet’ expectancy of the coming Kingdom.

In sum, my faith statement and spiritual journey align well with these historic words from the Heidelberg Catechism which have been meaningful to me and animate my daily life in Christ:

I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

It is in my desire to ‘wholeheartedly live for Him’ that I submit these materials, standing ‘ready and willing’—if called—to serve as Dordt College’s next President.

Attractions of this position at this particular time in my life

As Provost at Dordt College, I have had the privilege of teaching the Core 100 course—Kingdom, Identity, and Calling. A major focus of this course is to help freshmen students see and gain excitement for both God’s larger ‘story’ of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation; and their own individual ‘story’ as Christ–followers within God’s larger plan. The beauty in those two ‘stories’ is how God providentially weaves them together and how the stories both culminate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In writing about the attractiveness of this position at this particular time in my life, I see a similar thematic element of the ‘story within a story’ from Core 100. God is involved in a larger cosmic story of redemption which integrally involves Dordt College. God is also author of the ‘macro–story’ for Dordt College as a Kingdom instrument of education. Finally, God has been authoring a ‘life story’ in me which seems to provide hints as to my call to serve in leadership in Reformed Christian higher education, specifically at Dordt College and perhaps, in the role of President. In all of these ‘stories within a story’ as well, the culmination must point faithfully to serving Jesus Christ as the Risen Savior and Lord.

Specifically, I see three specific points of attraction at this particular time in my life:

1. I have experience in, and passion for, Reformed Christian Higher Education

As a history and philosophy major from a Reformed Christian college at the undergraduate level, I have personally experienced the difference that a thoroughly Christian and distinctively Reformed education can have in one’s life. Thus, I have a personal passion for continuing to make this type of education available in the future for students and constituents as an act of faithful service to God.

As a child, I lived on the campus of Trinity Christian College while my father was President. Later, I courted my wife on those grounds, while her father served as President of the same institution. These two relationships with my father and father–in–law were formative for me in my early career, shaping and deepening my passion and desire to serve in leadership within Reformed Christian higher education.

I also have had the privilege of serving as a Board Member at Northwestern (IA) College including a term on the Executive Board. This first–hand experience of working closely with a college President provided me insight and excitement about how such a role can be formative and energizing to build the organization. Finally, in the role of Provost at Dordt College, I have had first–hand access and involvement with the President on a daily basis and see the role and responsibility of President to be interesting, challenging, and important.

As I look back upon these experiences and opportunities and ask myself, “God, what are you trying to show me?,” I see a consistent theme of God challenging me to be ‘redemptively active’ in–and–around Reformed Christian higher education for most of my life. Thus, it seems obedient and appropriate for me to raise my hand and offer myself for consideration….and I am excited to do so for this particular role at Dordt College.

2. God has given and honed within me organizational leadership gifts which I must use, and perhaps use them here and now in this role

In 2002, I wrote a first draft of a personal mission statement (see attached CV). In doing so, I spent about 9 months with various mentors trying to discern themes within my life. Through that process, I saw clearly that God has put within me a passion and ability to create organizational spaces where people’s gifts and talents can blossom towards Shalom.

I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunities to carry out that work in a variety of contexts, but the attraction has always been the same—furthering God’s Kingdom purposes. In my understanding of this Kingdom vision, God doesn’t differentiate (nor should we) between a poorly–run Christian adoption agency and a manufacturing firm slowly going bankrupt. God’s name and God’s praise is no more well–supported in a thriving Christian college than in a thriving construction company. Here, I resonate with the Psalmist, “The Earth is the Lord’s….and everything in it (Ps. 24:1).”

God has given me the passion and ability to serve in organizational leadership roles, thus at this particular time in my life it seems appropriate and obedient to put my name forward for consideration for this role.

3. Dordt College is a specific Reformed Christian College with resonant values

Two particular values (among others) which seem core for Dordt College and which are shared values of mine include:

  1. to be a college that blends theory and practice well—to gain insight that leads to Kingdom service
  2. to be highly relational in doing so—to build a community of students, faculty, and supporting constituents with a clear common purpose.

I’ve attended a different Christian college, I’ve served on a board of a different Christian college, and I’ve looked at leadership roles in other Christian colleges….Dordt is different….and different in a way that seems to resonate with how God has shaped me.

With regard to these values, it is exciting for me to serve at a Christian college with an equal openness to programs in Agriculture and English. It is good that we encourage some students to consider graduate school and that we prepare them well for doing so; but it is equally good that we do not put such a calling hierarchically ‘above’ any other path for our graduates. It is wonderful that we celebrate the shared role that work–study supervisors and professors alike play in the ‘education’ of our students. The deep ‘ownership’ of the college within the multi–generational supporting constituency is a unique feature with which I feel a kinship of purpose. The size and climate of the campus in which we can be ‘vulnerable’ and ‘known’ to one another is a wonderful expression of Christian community not found in every similar context. The opportunity that I have had as Provost to mentor 6 individual students on a monthly basis is part of what makes Dordt College feel very much ‘home’ to me.

Thus, as I put myself forward for consideration as Dordt’s next President, I do so because I feel a specific affinity with the type of Reformed, Christian college that Dordt has been, is today, and should continue to be in the next chapter of her story. I also seek to offer my gifts and talents toward that effort.

Challenges and Opportunities of Christian Higher Education in the next 10 years

To those immersed in any epoch, the winds of change seem to blow with an intensity and direction previously unknown and unseen to previous travelers. When one listens to today’s pundits and prognosticators, the sociological and financial global shifts of today seem to resonate with that insight. We consistently hear things like “The New Normal” and “Never before have we seen…”

And we are in a unique epoch…certainly, there are shifts within Christian higher education that will require a sense of history, wise insights, broad conversations, and good decision making to navigate the treacherous waters ahead. However, as I answer this question, I want to be clear on two points. First, the most important thing a leader must do in the face of these challenges and opportunities is to commit the work to God’s plans and purposes on one’s knees in humble prayer and regularly ask and lead others to join and do likewise. Second, a leader must rise from prayer with a confidence that God has the work well in hand and therefore one should carry on the work optimistically. Christians focused on the task of Christian higher education should not shrink nor cower in the face of the next 10 years—we should be heartened, taking the words of Christ from John 16:33 as our guide…..”In this world you will have trouble, but fear not, I have overcome the world.”

I will also seek to answer this item with a single list—that is to say that in every challenge, I see opportunity—and in every opportunity, I see challenges. Further, I respond generally as the item requested, focusing on the macro–level issues for ‘Christian Higher Education’ and less so on the micro–level issues, as I know them, at Dordt College as an individual institution.

Thus, I provide the following five areas of challenge and opportunity facing Christian higher education today:

1. (Re)Defining Purpose while Faithfully Being Open to Changes in Form—‘Higher Education’ is a term that is currently in a great deal of ‘flux’ with regard to purpose and form. With regard to purpose, higher education historically prepared students ‘liberally’ for a holistic life as employees, citizens, family members, friends, spouses, parents, etc. Today, more and more, higher education has a narrower ‘economic’ and ‘employment’ purpose, as it has moved more exclusively toward vocational training at the expense of the broader preparation for other life–roles in society.

As participants in the arena of ‘Higher Education,’ Christian higher education, and more specifically individual institutions, must face the challenge and embrace the opportunity to (re) define and (re) establish a clarity of purpose that takes account of the holism of persons as beings created in the image of God. Generally speaking, Christian higher education has too long assumed that the purpose—namely, holistic Christian discipleship—was clear and evident to the audience of stakeholders. As ‘Higher Education’ changed focus from ‘broad development for life success’ to more narrow ‘training for vocational readiness,’ the perceptual comparison of cost and value of a comprehensive Christian college education has suffered.

The opportunity is for Christian higher education to be clear and intentional about the purpose of preparing Christian disciples holistically for cultural engagement and transformation. The challenge is to resist succumbing to become Christian versions of on–line diploma mills at a low–cost (in terms of time and money) and merely provide graduates with preparation for gainful employment guided by Christian professors. While quality of preparation for employment must be one aspect of the purpose of Christian higher education, it should not be the single measure of organizational purpose or effectiveness for true Christian higher education. Without renewal of purpose, Christian higher education is in danger of becoming an antiquated relic of a by–gone era.

With regard to purpose, we must not chase traditional secular higher education into the vocational trap. However, with regard to form, we must not put our heads in the sand and resist available opportunities for improvement. Given changes in demographics and advances in technologies, the specific form utilized to carry out the central purpose for Christian higher education must embrace new delivery methods and new audiences in pursuit of our guiding purpose. The opportunities are many, including considering global partnerships, serving non–traditional students, embracing new pedagogies, and applying technologies in new ways, but the challenge is to use discernment about which aspects are changes in form (positive) versus changes in purpose (negative) as Christian higher education seeks to remain vibrant and relevant in building holistic Christian followers seeking to participate faithfully in God’s redemptive work.

2. Defending Religious Freedom of Expression—particularly in the American context, the wider societal debate about religious freedom of expression and how that freedom should be worked out organizationally, will create challenges for Christian colleges in the areas of curriculum, campus culture, and hiring rights, among others. Working through this challenge will also create opportunities to role model a Christian approach to civil discourse, to witness to the power of a Christian worldview in society, and, in particular, the debate will provide an opportunity for a distinctively Reformed voice and perspective (sphere sovereignty) to point to a faithful and workable solution. Presidents of Christian colleges individually, and the wider movement of Christian higher education collectively, must be active in this national dialogue to seize these opportunities and not be overcome by this challenge.

3. Solidifying and Refreshing Distinctiveness—Over the past 40 years, too many institutions of Christian higher education have either taken for granted their distinctiveness and/or watered down their distinctiveness and therefore become either irrelevant or defunct. This history is well–documented by James Tunstead Burtchaell in Dying of the Light (1998) and very close to home regionally with the closure of Westmar College in 1997 and that of Dana College in 2010. As Christian colleges have faced changes in their own ‘traditional constituency,’ the siren song is often to become more ‘academic’ at the expense of continuing to be ‘distinctively Christian.’ Early in America’s history, this path seemed successful for some (i.e. Harvard, Grinnell), but such a route is ultimately a divergence away from Christian higher education rather than an appropriate evolution of form. The opportunity for Christian higher education is to simultaneously embrace and solidify God’s claim on Truth and the normativity of Scripture for teaching and scholarship about God’s world while refreshing that perspective in ways which make it relevant and engaging, and hospitably Christian, as a contemporary response for today’s context.

4. Building and Communicating the Value—in an increasingly consumerist culture, the perceptual ‘value’ of Christian higher education is a challenge and an opportunity. It is clear to me that people will spend enormous sums of money for that which they ‘value.’ In building the value message, Christian higher education must make a commitment to measurement, assessment, and continuous improvement. Today, it is no longer acceptable—either to parents, students, or accreditors—to lack assessment and measurement data showing the ‘value–added’ of a particular educational program or institution. While many may see this only as a threat or a challenge, institutions which take up the opportunity to do assessment well will reap enormous benefits both to communicate their value to external audiences and to use this data to make needed program improvements. Thus, assessment and measurement are the first steps in the journey of increasing value, efficiency, and effectiveness. In communicating the value, the main challenge is to develop methods of breaking through with a message of distinctiveness and the difference that Christian higher education can bring to a hurting world. Increasingly, I see this challenge as one which will require new methods (i.e. social media) but also tried–and–true forms (i.e. long–term personal relationships based on 1/1 interactions). Yes, higher education of any sort is an expensive proposition, but distinctively high–quality Christian higher education which Dordt College seeks to provide is an investment of infinite return.

5. Creatively Focusing on Affordability—As I consider the annual operational plans for Christian higher education, it is clear to me that tuition must become a smaller percentage of the operating budget for successful schools in the future. There are three main opportunities to overcome this challenge. First, successful institutions must be efficient and well–run. Costs must be clearly understood and budgets must be strategically well–built and spent wisely (which is different than cheaply). Second, institutions must put an increased focus on (and the President must be intimately active in) fund–raising to provide annual support of operations and build the endowment so that tuition as a percentage of overall operating budgets can be lowered. However, operational efficiency and strong traditional fund–raising alone will likely fall short as long–term solutions to the affordability challenge. Thus third, Christian higher education must also seize the opportunity to bring a new level of creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit in building non–tuition revenue sources to support a robust campus and the financial needs of students and faculty. The opportunities here are tremendous, including partnerships with other public and private institutions, creating non–tuition revenue sources from college expertise and facilities, providing services on a ‘fee–basis,’ and creating new revenue streams from other sources.

Summarizing these challenges and opportunities, I remain extremely optimistic about future prospects for Christian higher education. While not every private, nor every Christian institution will likely survive the coming years, I do remain confident that Dordt College has a wonderful opportunity to move from strength–to–strength. Keys to seizing this opportunity include daily committing of the work to God’s glory and not our own, remaining focused on her unique mission and purpose, continuing to build a positive organizational context and a performance climate, and reaching out to the large (and growing) pool of Christians, both nationally and internationally, for prospective students and potential donors.

Skills and Experiences for Effective Leadership at Dordt College

Growing People and Growing Organizations,
to Glorify God and Grow the Kingdom

My personal mission statement is to glorify God and further God’s redemptive plan and Kingdom by being a growth steward of resources (people, organizations, self, assets) God has entrusted to my care.

As I have contemplated, prayed, and discussed whether to submit my name for consideration as Dordt College’s next President, I have consistently gone back to the above statements which constitute the prelude to my personal mission statement (see attached C.V.). In my life, the challenge of being loved and accepted by a God who is Lord of every square inch of creation is this: In which inch is he calling me to grow? Through prayerful reflection and dialogue over the past months, it is clear to me that God is calling me to offer my gifts for consideration to serve at Dordt College in the role of President. Serving as Provost at Dordt College has been foundational to this decision. Seeing first–hand the challenges, joys, and responsibilities of serving in such a role are clearer to me now and I thus put myself forward for consideration humbly, yet eagerly.

While it is difficult to see one’s own skills and experiences in a completely objective manner, I do find the following skills and life experiences potentially useful in leadership within Christian higher education and perhaps, specifically for this role at Dordt College at this time:

1. A love for Christ, a knowledge of and passion for Reformed thought, and a desire to share these gifts meaningfully with other Christ–Followers

I am deeply motivated and eager to share with God’s people the unique perspective that Dordt College’s Educational Framework brings to the challenges of our times and the building of God’s people for Shalom. A primary role for a college President, in my view, is the consistent building and communication of the vision and mission to both internal and external audiences.

Having an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy from a college in the Reformed tradition, I know personally the difference that having a comprehensive ‘world–and–life’ viewpoint can make in all facets of a Christian’s daily walk. The difference raises one’s eyes and opens up the possibilities for cultural engagement in powerful ways! Individual Christian college students and the entire Christian body needs to know this difference! They need the encouragement from a Reformed worldview to go out into the world to use those ‘ways of thinking’ and the attendant ‘ways of working’ for Christ–centered change in all areas of life.

I believe that there are insights, appreciation, and inspiration that I could bring to the Presidency to further Dordt’s participation and impact in today’s world. I believe that my professional academic experience, both as a teaching faculty member and now as Provost, will enable me uniquely to participate and assist in building a robust, vibrant, and enticing learning community as President of Dordt College. While I am a life–long member of the Christian Reformed Church, I have a record of leading and serving enthusiastically, yet hospitably, with Christians of different traditions and with non–believers as well. Thus, I believe that I could assist in building appropriate bridges with other traditions to work collaboratively for Dordt, while also holding fast to the central core tenants of a Reformed perspective for which Dordt is widely known and deeply respected.

2. Skills and experiences in organizational theory and practice in a wide variety of contexts and a blend of introversion and extraversion in leadership

God has blessed me with opportunities to study individual employee performance and organizational effectiveness at both the Masters and Doctoral levels. However, I have also been given the opportunities to lead and grow organizations in both the private and not–for–profit sectors. I have a deep appreciation for the role of theory and the ‘life of the mind.’ Yet, I also have a deep passion for putting ‘wheels under ideas’ to test the efficacy of theory in the hurly–burly of organizational life.

Personally through mentoring and personality assessments, I have found an equal comfort as a leader and a blend in my own personality as an introvert (listening, reflection, time alone) and as an extravert (building relationships, time spent with others, being ‘on the move’). In the opportunity profile and in my experiences watching various college Presidents, I notice that the responsibilities of such a role demand both of these characteristics.

3. Leading and living in two worlds—born and raised Dutch Reformed, but a lifetime of branching out globally and embracing diversity

As a leader, most of my life has been spent primarily in communities which are sociologically similar to Dordt College’s historic roots. I understand the Dutch Reformed tradition of Dordt well and feel comfortable participating in leadership within that community. However, in both my personal and professional life, I have taken advantage of opportunities to widen my participation and my familiarity with diverse groups and work in diverse contexts. As my C.V. shows, my experiences working and studying abroad in Europe, adopting children from Asia, teaching on Dordt’s SPICE program, presenting at an IAPCHE conference in Russia, and traveling to Africa are all concrete examples how God has shaped me to be an active global citizen while retaining my roots, firmly committed to the Reformed Christian tradition. If selected as President, I would seek to leverage these relationships and continue to be active in both of these areas for the furtherance of Dordt College in an increasingly globally–linked world.

4. An understanding of, and experience in building a high–performance culture, attracting and building talent, and the place of delegation in leadership

In leadership, I have consistently focused on two primary levers to improve the organizations I have been associated with, namely culture and talent. Further, I have found that these two factors are mutually reinforcing to one another in both successful and unsuccessful organizations. That is, in poorly run organizations, the culture is bland, cold, and uninspiring—–and the organization struggles to find the best talent to fill roles. Thus, the organization continues to ‘get along’ and ‘put up with’ individual sub–par performance, which further denigrates the performance culture of the place—an impending death spiral. Inversely, an organization with a positive culture/climate is an exciting and affirming place to work, which entices the very best new folks to join when positions become available, and this further enhances the overall organizational climate—a beautiful cycle of growth and improvement.

With this insight, I see the important role for the Chief Executive of any organization as culture builder and talent selector. That is, unless the organization is very small, the Chief Executive must frame and restrict his/her main participation in the workings of the organization to setting a performance tone (culture/climate) and building a talent pool (overseeing both hiring and exiting people) to carry out the daily working of the organization effectively.

Delegation, knowing both how and what to delegate—and to whom, becomes the primary tool of the Chief Executive in the daily work of the organization. Further, the Chief Executive must understand that a certain few (but very few) organizational decisions are reserved specifically for and to himself/herself alone. Finally, in a board–governed college, such as Dordt, the Chief Executive must also listen to and participate comfortably within, that leadership role as circumscribed by the Board of Trustees.

I believe that my skills and experiences in various past leadership roles would allow me to both conceptualize and operationalize this leadership framework in the role of President at Dordt College. My experiences and track–record of building positive organizational performance cultures and helping organizations build talent (including recruiting and developing high–performers and exiting low–performers with grace) would be well served to guide Dordt within the opportunities and challenges outlined in the Opportunity Profile.

Conclusion and Assurance of my Prayer and Support

As I consider the Presidential Profile and the context of Dordt College at this point in time, I sincerely offer myself for consideration for this role. I hope that I have faithfully communicated my excitement for what has been, what is, and what is yet to come for Dordt College in her role and her task to participate in Christ’s coming Kingdom. I trust that you sense my earnest desire to be considered for this role, but also my on–going prayer for the search and for Dordt College—that God will bring the right person to lead. Finally, I want to clearly communicate my pledge to work faithfully, in whatever role called, in moving forward to ensure a good start for the next President in order that the work here may be continued for God’s glory and the furtherance of God’s Kingdom.