Dr. Paul Kooistra: A Tribute

By Brian Deringer, Oct 1, 2014

After 20 years of faithfully serving MTW as coordinator, Dr. Paul Kooistra and his wife Sandi have moved to Due West, S.C., where Dr. Kooistra is now serving as president of Erskine College and Theological Seminary. This tribute comes from Brian Deringer, director of MTW's Global Support Ministries. 

Many people can say that working with and for Dr. Paul Kooistra through the years is not only a productive experience, but also a formative one. It is a unique privilege to hear a good teacher and to also be exposed to that teaching many times and in many circumstances. In this way, key thoughts and principles become second nature. The following are a few of the concepts that have impacted my thinking. 

Paul taught me five things every good leader should pursue: protect the spirituality of the organization by starting with your own; hire someone better than yourself; develop common big goals together; get the resources; and stop the politics both within and without.

He also impressed on me the meaning of redemption: a process of recognizing that there is a problem (most people don't); admitting that I am the problem (the 90/10 rule); and confessing that I cannot resolve my problem without God's help. The 90/10 rule is particularly challenging. It states that sin in a broken relationship is always found on both sides. One might argue that the other person is 90 percent responsible; however, the remaining 10 percent is mine. My 10 percent is my 100 percent, the only thing I can do anything about. This rule helps one to approach conflict with humility and brokenness.

Paul's devotion to the book of Philippians has encouraged me to go deeper in a few things rather than skimming across the surface of many.

Philippians 1:21: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Philippians 3:7: "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ."
Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"
Philippians 4:6-7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and 
petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which 
transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

His commitment to teaching the foundational truths behind our doctrine of grace keeps me returning to the one message worth preaching. In fact, he recently shared something that has been remarkably helpful to me. How does one get past the fear of failure in preaching? You do it by coming to understand that a sermon doesn't have to be perfect; preach the gospel of grace and watch God do the work. It is not about performance, but about the work of the Holy Spirit. 

Good leaders make decisions, but also know when to stop the car. Paul is known as a leader who will make a decision. He encouraged me to make decisions because often even a poor decision is better than no decision. I have to admit that it has gotten me into trouble from time to time. To balance this is the insight that when one is driving down a dark road and the lights are not working, it is best to stop. Many times we have stopped and waited for further wisdom and guidance from our heavenly Father. 

We have tackled kingdom-size projects together, fought battles, repented, laughed, and cried. But one thing impresses me more than most. Paul Kooistra is someone who has a surprising capacity to work through difficult things with faith, courage, and a dependency on prayer, while seeking the help of the Holy Spirit. Though there is none perfect but Christ, Paul has strived to keep before us the gospel of grace.

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