When incoming student John Scott of St. Augustine, Florida received the phone call informing him that he was the 1,000th student enrolled in Regent University’s School of Divinity (DIV) program, his first thought was, “great, you have 1,000 other students to take care of.”
“Then I was given the context from the different staff and faculty members about how much prayer and planning had gone into this year and the DIV department,” said Scott. “I wouldn’t have minded being number 999 or 1,001, because it seemed like an exciting time for the department.”
And indeed, it has been. Scott’s enrollment as the 1,000th student for the Spring 2017 semester coincides with DIV’s largest enrollment in its history. Earlier in the academic year, DIV was named one of the top-15 largest seminaries in the nation.
It was also granted an experimental exception from the Association for Theological Schools (ATS), the premiere accreditation group for theological education in North America, to offer its Doctor of Ministry degree fully online as well. Regent is one of two accredited seminaries in the United States to offer this.
However, what drew Scott to Regent from the get-go wasn’t necessarily its accolades, it was the specialized attention he received from his admissions counselor and the two-hour conversation about what his hopes were for his degree program.
As an added bonus to the celebration, Scott received a $1,000 scholarship per term as he begins his studies at Regent.
“There were a lot of uncertainties, to take that step of faith and walk out on the water a little bit,” said Scott. “And then I got the phone call and it feels like my feet are on solid ground. I thought, ‘Okay, God. I’m on the right track. I don’t always get it right, not even close. But that was a really cool day.”
Scott serves on the staff for a multi-campus church based in Jacksonville, Florida. His history began with the church in 2004 when he was hired as a youth pastor, and eventually oversaw one of the church’s campuses. Over time, he had the opportunity to serve in missions trips to places like Costa Rica, India and Russia.
His pastor noticed his heart for missions. And what began as Scott’s initial job traveling to Northern Ireland several times a year in part to oversee a small group the church started turned into an invitation to live in Northern Ireland to help the plant “take the next step.”
“You have to be careful during seasons of fasting and prayer – crazy things happen,” said Scott.
In June 2011, Scott and his wife, Rachel, and their six month-old-child moved to Northern Ireland to lead a church plant. Over the course of five years and having a second child abroad, the church grew from 30 congregants to 350.
“We don’t take any credit for it,” said Scott. “We were a part of a healthy church body, a multi-site church over several continents. We thought if we stayed healthy and connected to Jesus, and to one another as a couple…and encouraged the people around us to do the same that it would do well. We felt really good about it.”
Then, about a year ago as Scott headed into another season of fasting and prayer, he found himself journaling, asking himself the question, “If you could do one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?”
The answer for Scott was simple. He wanted to train others to do what his family had done: start churches all over the world. He approached his pastor about his vision for training others to start a total of six churches in Ireland and Scotland.
His vision landed him in his current role overseeing the missions department of the church. Close to six years after his initial upheaval abroad he returned to the United States, leaving behind a home and people he loved.
As he walks into his new role at his church and his new degree program at Regent, Scott’s vision remains ever-missional. He said that when he graduates in 2020, he hopes that he will be applying what he’s learned in his church and continuing to help others find the passion he has.
“God is a missional God, and I don’t think missions is just for the uber-Christian, the super-Christian, it should be for all of us,” said Scott. “And as the world has gotten smaller, why not? If I can take what I’ve experienced and begin to process it, express it and communicate it, I’ll be happy.”