New York Times best-selling author and Regent alumnus Mark Batterson ’12 (Divinity) believes in dreaming big and praying bold prayers.
It is a principle that he explored in his popular book The Circle Maker, and one that has guided his ministry for the last 18 years. As lead pastor of National Community Church (NCC) in Washington, D.C., his God-sized dreams have resulted in a vast ministry reaching thousands.
Batterson’s journey to becoming pastor of the D.C. ministry was one he says he never expected. After attempting a failed church plant in Chicago as a seminary student, Batterson says he felt called to move his family to D.C., where they connected with a small group already meeting regularly. “When I started pastoring NCC, we had 19 people,” Batterson recalls. “We started very small, but we had a big dream. We dreamed of reaching thousands of people. The Lord has blessed us, and we are now one church with seven locations.”
The congregation continued to dream big when they started praying about purchasing an abandoned building — a former crack house — one block from Union Station so they could convert it into a coffeehouse. The $1 million price tag made the project seem impossible. Today, Ebenezers Coffeehouse is a reality. It sells fair trade coffee with all the proceeds going to local and international mission projects.
“People will ask me, ‘Why would a church build a coffeehouse?’” Batterson says. “Simply put, Jesus didn’t just hang out in the synagogue; He hung out at wells. I think coffeehouses are postmodern wells. We wanted to be in a place where the church and the community could cross paths.”
Missions is at the heart of NCC’s ministry
In 2013, the church gave $1.8 million to mission projects around the world, and it plans to increase its giving to $2 million annually by 2020.
The church also wants to mobilize to make an impact locally. In summer 2012, NCC acquired an abandoned apartment building which it plans to convert into the D.C. Dream Center, a facility that will serve the poor and destitute in an area of the city known for high rates of poverty, unemployment and teen pregnancy.
With all of these huge endeavors, what does it take to oversee a ministry the size of NCC? Batterson says it requires the willingness to ask God for big things and the flexibility to follow His leading. “Nothing keeps me on my knees like a God-sized dream,” he says. “Those dreams help me rely on Him and operate in faith.”
Honing leadership gifts
Directing NCC also requires strong leadership skills — something the pastor honed during his studies in Regent’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program. He says he chose Regent because he greatly respected the faculty — several have become lifelong friends — and he was drawn to the university’s theological perspective.
“It was the beginning stages of the D.Min. program that really helped define my leadership gift and lay a foundation for what the Lord’s done. It gave me the practical tools that I needed,” he says. “We now have 55 staff members with seven locations, and our vision is to have 20 locations by the year 2020. The only way to get from here to there is as I keep growing as a leader. I knew the program at Regent would be a catalyst for that, and it has been.”
Regent’s School of Divinity is a transdenominational seminary located in Virginia Beach, VA. The school offers a spectrum of course-delivery options — completely on campus, completely online, online with minimal residency, and blended structures — to put students in the driver’s seat as they earn their degree. Recently, Regent’s Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Practical Theology was approved by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) to be offered completely online, with no residency. Other Regent programs include the Master of Theological Studies, Doctor of Ministry, and Ph.D. in Theological Studies.
“At Regent, no matter which format you choose, you will receive an affordable, streamlined, high-quality education,” says the school’s interim dean, Dr. Joseph Umidi. “More than that, you’ll receive a biblically based education that emphasizes the vital role of the Holy Spirit in transforming lives. And you’ll connect with professors who care deeply about you and your God-sized dreams.”
This article is provided by Regent University’s School of Divinity in Virginia Beach, VA.