Ivan Perrino is a lifelong student of the Bible. He transferred to Ambassador University (AU) in 1976, as a Junior, after attending Colorado State University. Ambassador was a church founded, accredited Bible College dedicated to training church leaders. AU offered to its students the unique opportunity to attend any of its three sister campuses. One campus was located in the then country setting of Bricketwood, England. Another campus was situated in a rural setting located in Big Sandy, Texas. The third and really the flagship campus was located in the city setting of Pasadena, California.
Ivan was able to serve at the Bricketwood campus while enrolled at the Big Sandy campus. That experience and others while serving in various programs and positions working with God‘s people from around the world, richly contributed to his early Christian development. These experiences were the seed bed into which God cultivated His love. Ivan relates that it was into his heart that, “God planted and grew HIS deep love for His own people, and the heart to view them in His grace.”
Ambassador University provided these experiences to students for the purpose of church enrichment. Ultimately, the church organization itself was served by the university graduates. Ironically, Ivan freely points out that he was taught more about God’s love by interaction with God’s people, than by any University professor. In learning about the love of God in that way, Ivan explains that the treasure of God, His people, is the treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 13:44). The treasure is the house of God and this understanding led to a significant life change that was shinning upon his horizon.
Little did Ivan know that by the time he attended AU, the University had evolved to a place within the church organization that made it impossible to achieve its stated purposes, “Recapturing True Values.” In reality, by the end of the 1970’s, the University had already reached its zenith. Ivan has repeatedly said that seeing this, even if only in hindsight, is the greater part of his education. Here is why:
The University was in decline for one major reason. Ivan reflects that it seems clear to him at least, that the time of preparing leaders for the church through this particular process, was over. Formalized and centralized education of “all knowing” leaders is a 16th century modality if not entirely a dark-ages mentality.
In the Protestant context, with tongue in cheek, it has only taken 300 years to understand this: “More damage has been done by “seminary trained” leaders, than has been done by those responding to God’s Word with open hearts.” In the present age of information, there is no excuse for ignorance of God’s Word, except the myth of “centralized knowing.” This single fact speaks loudly to the old bondage of religion functioning in the body of Christ. “Every captive will be free in the year of Jubilee!”
In the Ambassador University model, some have attempted to revise history in order to place blame upon one leader or another, suggesting duplicitous motives, political intrigues, power-grubbing, and even the lack of “conversion” of one person or another. Pointing fingers is a child‘s game; a sad attempt to palliate the misapplied, widespread, and overburdening teaching of church authority. However, none can deny, this one fact remains: God is in charge - essentially and eternally. We may think what we will, but essential change is His domain - no matter what we think, or do, or say.
Ivan teaches that, “While man has dominion, and satan is the ruler of this world, God is in essential control and remains elementally engaged.” “God has things in hand - unfolding to a blind and desperate world, His great plan for the salvation of the world. Jesus Christ added to His deity humanity with its limitations and He became human – subject to death, as prophesied, Immanuel: God with us. Yeshua, Jesus - fully God and perfect man united in one person. Then He died for the sins of all humanity. In His resurrection, His changed (glorified) elemental substance ensured the truth of the Word of God, [“He shall never leave or forsake us.”] Right now in the heavenly, there is a man with scars on His hands sitting at the right hand of God. Knowing this, what human can conclude that in their awe-inspiring humanity, they may have any effect on His appointed times?”
Today Ambassador University operates in an adjunct fashion to Azusa Pacific University. The purposes which at one point in time made AU unique are now only a faint idea in suspension. AU is now but a ripple in another stream of ideas and faith.
Sitting in a box seat watching the inner workings of the organization go through changes, Ivan remains deliberately quiet about the management and choices of others. However, he is clearly outspoken about what seems to be the clear intent found in the Word of God. In matters of personal growth and change, the believer is to come to know the unconditional love of God and to understand through personal examination without condemnation, the change that the power of Christ’s resurrection will have in our lives. We are new creations in Him.
The Apostle Paul, the great professor of “Change University,” the good Ambassador himself, said that there was great power there, in the resurrection of Christ and in His gospel. If we are not seeing that power in believers, then what is missing? Are we to assume, as it is so often taught, that we are a culture of shallow roots, and therefore always changing? That would suppose a God who cannot make change. Or, if we do not see genuine widespread change in churches or church groups, are we to assume that God is not at work in that group? That would suppose an exclusive membership in God‘s love - leading to many other flawed hypothesis. Or is it that the people of Western democratic societies cannot hold an opinion? That would suppose that our God is not greater than a political indoctrination. Perhaps our “right” not to change is elevated above the plans of God. Or might there be a more fundamental cause? Ivan believes it is much more fundamental.
Looking into this matter is the call to the leadership of the church. Many are satisfied with adequate numbers in church attendance. Others are satisfied with teaching the “gospel” of salvation, without the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. But the Apostle Paul says if we preach only Christ, then we have a right to be miserable. Why is that?
The fundamental goal of church leadership is that the sheep get fed. The care of the sheep is to be fundamental to each leader. But the care of the sheep has so often been misunderstood as simply the present human hand called upon only when in need; temporary and wholly subject to the vicissitudes of life.
However, the goal of church leadership is to feed the sheep the Word of life, bringing-up the believer to understand the power born-into them and to discover the true value of the person whom they have been created to be. When the Word of God through the inspiration of Holy Spirit bears fruit in the person, they begin to acknowledge every good thing brought to them through Christ. That is change and the power of change through the resurrection of Christ. But that is only the scratch upon the surface.
Ivan views his experiences with Ambassador University and his former association with the church it served as vital to his growth and vital to his enduring relationship with God. In his education, he had a unique opportunity to view the ministry and the leadership from the upper echelons. Yet he did not become calloused or angry. Instead he expresses a joy at being able to observe the inter-workings of men and their fleshly pursuits. These observations are themselves educational when we do not allow them to hurt us.
“God is in control. If we really want to make a mess of things, we can say or place things in our own control.”
The fracturing of the University was the forerunner of the entire fracturing of a church membership. People moved to one side or the other in their beliefs and ultimately, many were hurt. But this is not a new phenomenon in the history of man. This kind of change has occurred time and again, over countless centuries. What can leaders learn from this?
The question remained open to Ivan for years. After college, he was encouraged to begin working for AT&T. He began his career as an entry level manager but was moved into their Management Development Program (MDP). MDP members were offered opportunities to move around in the company in various positions and learn through hands-on mentors. The purpose was to seed upper level management with leaders who were adept at dealing with change. So Ivan’s education continued.
During his job interview, a gentleman told Ivan he would never have to look for another job again. He had found his home in AT&T. Within six years, AT&T was “broken-up” into what we have today; a world of telecommunications and information exchange. The world changed. Ivan’s education continued.
After AT&T, Ivan went to become the General Manager of a company that built a funny thing called LANs (local area networks). This was entirely a new concept at the time and companies like Cisco, Intel, Sun Microsystems, were being developed. One of the crowning moments in Ivan’s LAN career was when his company was awarded the contract to build the LAN for the “Biosphere” project in Oracle, Arizona (USA). For those who remember, that was a controlled scientific experiment where people were living in a controlled, sealed environment, in order to study the complex interactions within life systems. They also hoped to understand how the biosphere could be a model for future space colonization.
The results in the Biosphere were amazing. The humans struggled to replicate the biosphere earth, even though they thought they knew all of the secrets. Humans may be able to stay alive in the God given biosphere, but they still do not know how to live. Humanity knows a little about science, and nothing of life. Ivan’s education continues.
Presently, Ivan is operating a small business and is involved in raising two sons. Ivan was one of the original Pueblo Bible Study members and he now is a member of the Board of Directors for Rivkah Ministries.