I was born October 17, 1969, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Clarence and Janice (Lotterman) Kuiper, the second of eight children, and first of five sons. My father is a life-long member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan, and in that church I was baptized and raised. We lived in Wyoming, Michigan for the first 10 years of my life, at which time my parents moved to their current address on Riverbend Drive in Walker, two buildings east of Hope church, with the Hope Protestant Reformed Christian School in the backyard, and Covenant Christian High School within walking distance. From these two schools I received my elementary and high school education, graduating from Covenant in 1987. I then graduated from Calvin College in 1991, and from our Protestant Reformed Theological School in 1995.
Soon after graduating from seminary, I was called to the Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church, which I served from November 1995 to November 2001. From December 2001 until the present, I have served the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin. I have the distinction of being the third Kuiper to serve as Randolph’s pastor, for both Rev. Dale Kuiper and his father, Rev. Henry Kuiper, served here. No, I am not related to them.
Another distinction I think I can claim is that of being the Protestant Reformed minister to serve longest as a pastor before being married. I was a bachelor in the parsonage in Byron Center for 17 months. I had met my wife, Teresa Brands of Loveland, Colorado, the summer before being ordained. We had a long distance courtship until God brought us together in marriage in April, 1997. God has blessed me with a wife suited for me; has blessed us with four children, Daniel, Sarah, Ryan, and Jared; and has given me, through my marriage and parenthood, a better understanding of the joys, struggles, and even trials of life which God’s people all face in one way or another.
My spare time during the busy season might be taken up with my children, taking a walk or watching a college football game on TV. My favorite recreational activities are summer activities—family bike rides, tending a vegetable garden, gardening, and enjoying the town pool.
God begins preparing a man for the ministry of the gospel long before the man is conscious of it. While God prepared some of our ministers for the ministry by converting them from unbelief and ungodliness, and others by opening their eyes to see the apostasy in the churches in which they were raised, He prepared me for the ministry in the Protestant Reformed Churches by causing me to be born into the Protestant Reformed Churches, brought up in a godly home, catechized under faithful preachers (Revs. VanOverloop, Flikkema, and Slopsema), and taught by godly and believing school teachers. Through these means, He strengthened my faith in Him, worked in me an awareness of the distinctiveness of the Protestant Reformed Churches, and worked in me a desire to maintain that distinctiveness by preaching the gospel.
As a youngster, the idea of being a minister did occasionally cross my mind. I wrestled with the internal call (or, it wrestled with me) most intensely during the summer before my senior year in high school (summer 1986). From that time on, I knew that I had to prepare for the ministry, and that if I was truly called, the Lord would bless those preparations. This wrestling process began when the late Mr. Dewey Engelsma, member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church and father to Prof. Engelsma, told me that he saw gifts in me that would be useful in the ministry, and encouraged me to consider that work. I remember meeting later with Prof. Hanko to discuss my inward struggle with the call. He turned on its head every argument I had why I might not really be called. At the time my pastor was Rev. Richard Flikkema, who in August of that summer accepted a call to the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Wyckoff, New Jersey. I remember knocking on his door as he was packing up his study to move, to discuss the matter with him. A few months later, I discussed the same matter with my new pastor, Rev. James Slopsema. Through these means, God convinced me that I must prepare for that work.
My period of wrestling with the consciousness of the call seems brief, in retrospect. Other men have wrestled much longer. I think two factors in this were that I still had to complete a year of high school before I could begin preparations in earnest, and that, while I wanted to go to college, I simply could think of no goal for my college education, other than to prepare for the ministry.
I enjoyed my years at Calvin College. They did have their dark side, in that they exposed me to many of the errors that characterize the Christian Reformed Church today. One of the sadder moments was to sit in a class at Calvin College, studying Calvin’s Institutes, taught by a professor who was very critical of Calvin, and quite weak in his commitment to the Reformed faith generally. God used Calvin College to prepare me for the ministry, not only in that I received a good college education, but also that I saw firsthand how close to us errors of doctrine and life can be found. Furthermore, it helped me understand that the price one pays to defend the truth, and the courage one needs to do so, is at least as great, perhaps greater, for the one who defends it in the face of apostasy, than for the one who does so on a mission field, to the heathen.
The seminary years were also good years, and certainly valuable in preparing for the ministry. During them, I grew spiritually and intellectually ready for the work of the ministry. We can never be thankful enough for that institution, and the men who teach in it.
The most memorable event of my seminary years, however, was not the time I was at seminary, but the time I was away from it. Rev. Allen Brummel and I were the first students to spend 6 months on an internship, working with one of our pastors and congregations. Mine was the privilege of going to Doon, Iowa, to work under Rev. Russell Dykstra. The “hands on” experience of leading societies, teaching catechism, making and delivering sermons regularly, and doing pastoral work was most beneficial, as was observing how a consistory works. Prior to the internship program, many a man, newly ordained into the ministry, and entering the consistory room for his first consistory meeting ever, was given the chairman’s seat and expected to lead the meeting with all the knowledge, wisdom, and expertise expected of our ministers. The internship program enables our students to begin their work with more than only a “theoretical” knowledge of how to be a pastor. My time in Doon was especially enjoyable because, while not having all the pressures of the work of the ministry, I felt I had all the joys—especially in the area of visiting the fellow saints. And being single helped—women were always willing to feed me! All too quickly, those six months ended.
Increasingly, I enjoy my work as pastor, and especially the work with children and young people. I am reminded from Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:3-6, that being pastor of children is a weighty responsibility. It is so, first, because the children are an example to the minister, with all his learning and authority and other gifts, of how one enters the kingdom of heaven. I must both teach them and learn from them. Second, the passage shows the greatness of Christ’s love for children in His church. This reminds the pastor that he must reflect that love in his dealings with these children. Thirdly, the passage gives this warning: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (vs 6). And yet how many pastors have offended the children of the church, have put stumbling blocks before them, by not teaching them the truth and law of God! This work, therefore, I take seriously, and all the more so when I realize that our children will have to fight battles more severe than we, and perhaps have to give their life for the cause of God in a way that we in America have not had to, to this point in time.
So one of the most rewarding things for me as a minister is to see such children grow in the faith, visibly live their faith, make confession of their faith and then marry in their faith.
I’ve been asked to comment on what things encourage me about our young people. The very fact that God continues to give children to covenant parents, and cause them to become young people, is encouraging. God is fulfilling His promises to save believers and their seed. And the fact that young people are interested in catechism, ready to discuss in Bible studies, eager to go to conventions (and other youth group activities) for the right reason, is encouraging. Someone might point out that many of our young people aren’t so interested in catechism, aren’t so ready to discuss at Bible studies, and aren’t so eager to fellowship with young people of the same faith. That has always been true of some young people in the church. Sometimes it is because even the adults in the church do not always have right priorities. But at the same time, many of our young people are interested in spiritual things. This is encouraging; and it manifests God’s faithfulness.
It is true that each of our young people are sinners. This can be discouraging. But I am a sinner too, and my sins discourage me also. What is again encouraging is that many of our young people have a true sense of sorrow for sin, a genuine desire to be right in God’s sight and a delight in obedience to His law.
Again, what encourages me is that I have seen God mercifully chastise some young people who have not sorrowed for their sins, and delighted in obedience, until those young people are brought to true repentance.
Young people, let us all remember to govern our thinking, attitudes and behavior by God’s Word. It is also our nature to think at times that God’s Word doesn’t apply to us for some reason, or that God’s Word doesn’t speak to the issue of dress, to the fads around us, and such like things. God’s Word always sets forth principles by which we must govern all our life. And it reminds us not to be conformed to this world, but transformed (Romans 12:1-2). Young people, we can do this only by grace, I know; yet, so long as we seek grace to be led by God’s Word, He will give it, and will bless us, by keeping us faithful to Him!
And I’ve been asked to give advice to men who are considering the ministry of the Word as their calling. To them I would say: pray every day for wisdom, patience, humility, love, and faithfulness. No pastor can do his work without these gifts; and yet, he does not have these gifts in him by nature. God alone gives them!