Rev. David Engelsma

David Engelsma is an emeritus minister that goes to Trinity Protestant Reformed Church with me, which is why I had the chance to interview him. 

When Adolf Hitler was preparing to storm Poland, on May 30th, 1939, Professor David Engelsma was born on a farm near the Grand River. His childhood was the life of a farmer, and in his spare time he would hunt and fish. One of the memories he treasured the most throughout his life was that of his family. He was the oldest of 12 children.  

He went to Hope Protestant Reformed School. Professor Engelsma first felt called to be a minister when his teacher, Alice Reitsma, called him to stay after school and told him he should be a minister. Originally he went to college because he loved learning and he thought God would reveal what he was to do. He finally knew he should be a minister in his 2nd year in Calvin College.
He started Seminary in 1960, and his professors were Herman Hoeksema and his son Homer Hoeksema. There was one exception: because he wanted to learn Dutch, they called in Gerrit Vos to teach him. The first two years he was the only student. The last year another man joined, and he was Robert Decker, who would later become a professor with Engelsma. He graduated from seminary in 1963. 

The first church Engelsma preached in was Loveland, Colorado, and he stayed there for 11 years. One of the problems in that church was an incorrect teaching about marriage. The members of that church were from German Reformed congregations that taught it was okay to remarry after divorce.  

In 1974 he was called to the large congregation of South Holland (now called Crete), and he accepted. There were over 600 people in the church. It was a busy time with children being born both in his family and in the church, Bible studies to lead, members to counsel, and family visitation. He had 6 regular catechism classes, and occasionally he had another for those who were going to do confession of faith. Professor Engelsma always took seriously the importance of teaching the young people.  He stayed in South Holland for 14 years.  

In 1988 he became a professor at the Protestant Reformed Seminary, where he served for 20 years. In seminary he taught Dogmatics, which is systematic theology, the doctrine of the Reformed faith. If he had to choose what he thinks is the most important doctrine, he would say the doctrine of God because God is the main truth, and everything has to do with God. He also taught Hebrew and Old Testament subjects. Additionally, he worked with the other seminary professors, Robert Decker and Herman Hanko, in practice preaching. A struggle he faced as a professor was getting ready to teach all the classes. He wanted to teach thoroughly, so he would often spend extra hours preparing, doing a lot of reading and writing. He also had to learn Hebrew better to teach it. Often during the three months off in the summer he spent much time in the seminary creating courses. His favorite part of being a professor was the teaching of the students. He taught about 40 students, and out of the 40 students many graduated and became ministers.  

He was appointed as the editor of the Standard Bearer, and he stayed in that position for 16 years. He still enjoys writing. He still writes in the Standard Bearer. He also has written many books about doctrine, marriage, and Old Testament history.  

The thing he enjoyed most in his career was his pastoral work.  One of the highlights in the time he was a professor was his debate with Dr. Richard Mouw on Common Grace.  

Right now in our churches there is a need for ministers. Professor Engelsma’s advice for young men who are good students is that he should pray to ask if God wants him to be a minister. If he feels like he is being called, he should go to his minister to discuss that with him. 

We praise God for Professor Engelsma’s work in our churches through his writing, preaching, and teaching our ministers. 


Archivist’s note:

This article was submitted to a Beacon Lights writing contest, with the prompt to briefly describe the life and service of a Reformed minister who had since retired or gone to glory. The article above was selected as one of the top 5 submissions in its category.