Regent University’s School of Divinity Enters Its 40th Year With a Vision To Reach the World
The Fall 2022 semester marks 40 years of Regent University’s School of Divinity, equipping Christian leaders to change the world as pastors, chaplains, church leaders, and ministers of God’s Word. One of the fastest growing seminaries in America, the School of Divinity is leading the way with excellence, influence, knowledge, impact, and service to support the mission and vision of the local and global church.
“Any seminary will always find it an uphill battle in the world that we live in,” explains Dr. Corné J. Bekker, the School of Divinity’s dean since 2015. “There’s so much theological and missional drift and so many opportunities to compromise on God’s Word.”
Under Bekker’s leadership, the School of Divinity stays true to its original mission and foundational purpose. The seminary continues to build on a tremendous four-decade legacy established by previous deans, past and present faculty members, and extraordinary students and alumni.
“As we enter our 40th year, we are excited to welcome the largest incoming class of students in the history of the School of Divinity,” Bekker tells Impact. “This fall, we are at 1,180 total students. So, from a numerical perspective, this is the biggest we’ve ever been.”
He continues, “Currently, higher theological education is experiencing a lot of stresses. The paganization of society, the secularization of the Church, and then, of course, the liberalization of so many other seminaries have caused a great contraction in numbers of students.”
Bekker adds that, by God’s grace, Regent has seen a different trajectory. Over the past nine years, the School of Divinity has grown 24%.
“We are incredibly grateful for that,” he says. “We believe this has happened because of our firm commitment to the supremacy, the primacy, and the inerrancy of God’s Word. We’ve also worked hard to ensure that all of our courses reflect a singular commitment to the Gospel of Jesus as the only vehicle of transformation in our world.”
Another School of Divinity goal is to serve the body of Christ. In a society that so desperately pursues “social justice” as an agent of change, Bekker insists only the gospel can transform our world.
“God’s first plan is the Church. God’s last plan is the Church. We are the servants of the Church,” he says. “All of our degrees—from our master’s to our doctoral programs—are offered to produce ministers for the church. That is our passion. That’s what we live for.”
Among the School of Divinity’s notable alumni is Mark Batterson (DIV, ’13), a New York Times bestselling author and senior pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. He chose Regent’s Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.) program because he was drawn to the university’s theological perspective and respected the school’s faculty.
“The beginning stages of the program helped define my leadership gift and lay a foundation for what the Lord has done and what he’s going to continue to do,” Batterson explains.
The School of Divinity seeks to graduate students who are well-versed in Scripture, well-trained in ministry, well-grounded in God’s Word, and well-equipped to fulfill their unique calling to serve the Lord. Nina Anderson is the Family & Service Pastor at New Life—a missional, multiethnic, multisite church in Virginia.
“Regent was my final ‘yes’ to answering the call to ministry,” Anderson recalls. “Whether I’m preaching, counseling or coaching, I use my M.Div. degree in every facet of my career.”
After Regent’s Founder, Chancellor & CEO Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson answered God’s calling to “build a school for My glory,” the university began in 1978 as a School of Communications with 77 students and seven professors. Four years later, the School of Divinity would open its doors with the School of Business.
“The School of Divinity was always, I believe, at the heart of Dr. Robertson’s vision for the university.” Bekker admits, “I get very emotional when I think about him sharing something the Lord said to him many years ago: ‘Don’t ask for money; ask for the world.’”
In reflecting on the divinity school’s 40th anniversary, Impact asked Dr. Robertson about the history behind that statement. He explained how the Lord spoke to him in the early days of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) when significant funds were needed to pay for a new office building and television studio.
“I was on my knees at a noon prayer meeting and crying out to God for the money,” Robertson remembers. “At that time, I had a clear revelation of Jesus. I saw Him holding the world in his hands. He said to me, ‘I don’t want you to pray for the money; I want you to pray for the world.’ At that moment, He put in my heart a vision to go far beyond our local community to reach out to the entire world. Needless to say, in short order, the money we needed came in. But the vision to reach the world for the Lord Jesus still remains to this day.”
“The celebration of 40 years is not a celebration, ultimately, of our accomplishments,” Bekker insists. “It’s not a celebration of individual leadership. It is a celebration of God’s faithfulness to the School of Divinity, our faculty members, our leaders, and our students. It is a time to celebrate His sovereign call on the school and the transformation that has happened when graduates have gone forth, in the name of Christ, to be laborers into His great harvest.”