Mid-America Reformed Seminary welcomes a new professor to its ranks, Rev. Paul Ipema. Rev. Ipema has been appointed as an Assistant Professor in Ministerial Studies. A native of Chicagoland, Rev. Ipema grew up on a farm in Beecher, Illinois. He tells us that his proximity to a major metropolitan area enabled him to have exposure to the broad cultural context of the city, but he still enjoyed the simplicity and seclusion of rural life. At Dordt College, he met his wife, Karin (who grew up in Lynden, Washington), and the Lord blessed them with three children and two grandchildren.
Rev. Ipema’s journey to becoming a professor at Mid-America began with his decision to attend Mid-America Reformed Seminary in the Fall of 1989. His childhood pastor had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Seminary from its infancy, and he persuaded Rev. Ipema to study at Mid-America. He graduated from the Seminary in 1992. Afterward, he completed two years of additional study at Calvin Theological Seminary in order to qualify for candidacy in the Christian Reformed Church.
Besides his firsthand experience as a pastor in several churches, Rev. Ipema has pursued additional studies beyond his M.Div. years. In 2010 he enrolled at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation in Glenside, Pennsylvania, where he completed the pastoral counseling curriculum. Exposure to the work of pastoral counselors such as David Powlison, Paul Tripp, and Ed Welch led him in this direction. Rev. Ipema believes that this course of study transformed his preaching and pastoral ministry. In particular, he began to see the need to make closer connections between the biblical gospel message and believers’ daily experiences and needs. In his words, “Ministry took on a whole new dimension for me.”
This focus on counseling ministry, with its informative impulse for shaping pulpit ministry, led Rev. Ipema to accept a call to serve as the Instructor in Ministerial Studies at Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary, a prison ministry serving several prisons in Illinois and Indiana. Prison ministry has very much shaped Rev. Ipema’s approach to the gospel ministry itself, for his work with prisoners not only reinforced in him the conviction that biblical truth must be practically applied but it also pressed him to present the Reformed faith in a far more evangelistic and understandable manner. That is, ministry must be accessible to all to whom we would bring the Good News of Jesus Christ. Rev. Ipema observes that many of his students in prison struggled with academic deficiencies, and even more of them knew little or nothing about the Bible, so in that context, it was imperative that ministry be clear, simple, and compelling. One of Rev. Ipema’s greatest joys in ministry at prisons was the development of a Gospel Communication course in which specially gifted inmates would prepare and deliver messages for the prison chapel services.
Prior to Rev. Ipema’s involvement with Divine Hope and theological instruction there, he served several churches. His first charge came in 1994 with the Oak Glen Christian Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois. He served that church until 2001. It was during this time that the Oak Glen congregation left the Christian Reformed denomination and eventually joined the newly formed United Reformed Churches. Rev. Ipema observes that being a young and inexperienced pastor during such a critical time in the life of that church proved to be difficult, but the lessons learned about God’s sustaining grace for the work of ministry also proved invaluable. From there, the Lord led Rev. Ipema to accept the call as a church planter in Nampa, Idaho, where he served the congregation for five years as their first pastor. He tells us that the experience of church planting left an indelible mark upon him and his ministry—among other things, planting a Reformed Church in a decidedly un-Reformed cultural setting pushed the limits of his ministerial training and impressed upon him the need for further pastoral development. A call to the Community United Reformed Church of Schererville, Indiana, brought him back to the Midwest in 2006, and he served there until 2015.
Given Rev. Ipema’s wide-ranging pastoral experience, along with his unique and expansive perspective on gospel ministry, the Faculty and Board believe that he will naturally transition to his work at Mid-America. Rev. Ipema is eager to share the fruits of nearly 30 years of pastoral ministry. This will take place, he believes, not only in the classroom but also in the cultivation and nurturing of meaningful relationships with the seminary students and with the leadership of their local churches. As both a teacher and a mentor, he hopes to instill within his students not only a love for God and the Reformed faith but also a passion for the visible, hands-on outworking of that love through gospel ministry.