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Alumnus chosen as Briercrest's next president

By Julie Cole

Briercrest College and Seminary's next president is no stranger to the school.

Michael B. Pawelke, senior pastor of Compass Point Bible Church in Burlington, Ontario, has served on the Briercrest board for the last decade and once walked the halls as a college student.

"Briercrest gave me a framework for Biblical thinking, for theological thinking and for ministry application," he said. "I went to Briercrest with a sense of call to go into ministry, but not really a sense of confidence that I could be an influencer. The opportunities there grew me. I learned about myself. I cultivated spiritual gifts and strengths in that setting and that's what really pointed me into Christian ministry with a greater sense of confidence and clarity of call. My time at Briercrest was immensely formative."

Following that call has led to 30 years of ministry for Pawelke. Besides earning a bachelors degree in religious education from Briercrest, he also has an M.A. in biblical studies from Dallas Seminary and a D.Min from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.  Along with pastoring several congregations in Manitoba and Ontario, Pawelke has taught at McMaster Divinity College and serves as an adjunct professor at Briercrest.

For the last 19 years at Compass Point Bible Church (formerly Brant Bible Church) Pawelke has seen the church experience transformational growth and change.

"When we came to the church (attendance) was probably 400," Pawelke explained. "Over the years we multiplied to three services, we've planted two churches; we've gone through strategic mergers. We've had a real season of blessing and exciting things have happened in and through the church."

The Ontario pastor says a process of personal reflection led him to consider the Briercrest presidency.
"I find myself at an intersection where my thoughts have more increasingly asked this question: 'Am I now entering a season of ministry when I can be a part of shaping the next generation of leaders and influencers?'" he said.

Pawelke sees Briercrest as the place where this shaping of leaders can take place.

"Briercrest is so well postured to be an ongoing agent of change in the community context," he said. "I think that we are one of the best kept secrets in Canada. I love Briercrest's present mission statement. I love Briercrest's culture. I love Briercrest's place on the Canadian scene.  I think its soon-coming expanded degree granting status is hugely significant and strategic, but it's really in many ways a bonus because it just validates, ratifies and confirms what we've been doing all along. We're just doing it better and we're now receiving the endorsement, ratification and approval of further outside bodies. This will equip our students with the academic credentials that they deserve."

Briercrest's Board Chairman Glen Werner is pleased with the appointment of Pawelke.

"We are excited that Dr. Pawelke has agreed to be our next president," he said. "We were looking for a man who shares Briercrest's ethos and mission and also understands both the value of Briercrest's strong academics and the unique relationship we have with the church. He is a gifted leader, a wonderful orator and a man with a servant heart. We are blessed to have him lead us forward."

Pawelke and his wife Linda know how they want to begin their time at Briercrest.

"Probably the first thing we want to do is just become a part of the Briercrest community in the sense that whenever you're new you need to first, join the family," he explained. "We want to join the system and not be perceived in any way as outsiders. We want to dive in, become a part of, and embrace Briercrest."
"With this in view, I want to do a lot of listening," he said. "I want to meet with people - meet with other leaders, faculty, staff, students; I need to understand the inner workings of how Briercrest functions. Then I want to represent the mission of Briercrest on the Canadian landscape."

The new president believes clarifying and casting vision is a key part of his role.

"We need to be absolutely clear and articulate in the communication and the casting of our vision," he exclaimed. "Heralding and communicating that vision will do two things. It will affirm and glue us all together internally as a faith community and it will be our shingle that we're hanging out for people to be able to understand exactly what Briercrest is and what it represents. Then they will be able to see how we are aligned with God's purposes, and they will be able to better link with our vision."

Once vision is clarified and communicated, the remaining task is an obvious one.

"We want to reach students," Pawelke said. "We want to get the word out that this is the place to consider for your education experience. So I'm anxious to be connecting with our constituency and with perspective students with the view of really inviting them on our journey and into the experience of Briercrest as an academic and a transformative kind of community in their lives."