Well, it’s New Year’s Eve. And I would imagine that most of us are more than ready to get 2021 in the rear-view mirror. We all thought it would be different than 2020, but, alas, it was not to be. Not only is COVID back with a vengeance, but the year has been filled with it’s share of division and in-fighting, both politically and in the church.
But even with these challenges, there were a number of things to be thankful for in 2021. Several years ago, I began a new tradition of the RTS Charlotte “year in review” where I recap how God has blessed our ministry over the last twelve months. While this year’s been harder than most, there are still plenty of positives:
1. Record Enrollment. It’s been a tough stretch to be a grad student. Educational institutions have been disrupted in every conceivable way. But, incredibly, RTS Charlotte has seen three straight years of all-time record enrollment. In the 2019-20 AY, we reached an all-time high since the campus began in Charlotte in 1992. Then that record was broken in 2020-21 AY, and we are set to break that record in our current 2021-22 AY. Credit goes to our admissions team: Nate Groelsema, Kristen Schonover, Phoebe Pritchett, Filipe Heringer, Juan Rodriguez, Jack Roylston and Veronica Tipton.
2. Our Christian Counseling Program. While all our academic programs have done well this last year, our Master of Arts in Christian Counseling has exploded. And it’s not just the new counseling students that are coming to study here. Many of our MDiv students are also doing the counseling emphasis, or even the 4-year dual degree (MDiv and MACC). A special word of thanks to our two counseling profs, Jim Newheiser and Nate Brooks, as well as our many counseling adjuncts. Well done!
3. Faculty Publications. One of the great blessings of the RTS Charlotte campus is our wonderful faculty. And 2021 was another great year for faculty publications. A few examples include Will Ross and Greg Lanier, The Septuagint: What It Is and Why It Matters (Crossway, 2021); Jim Newheiser, Money, Debt and Finances: Critical Questions and Answers (P&R, 2021); and my own Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College (Crossway, 2021).
4. Amazing generosity. As many people probably know, RTS survives almost entirely on the charitable giving of supporters and friends. Our tuition revenue covers only a small percentage of our annual budget. Thus, every year we are forced to trust the Lord to provide. Well, 2021 was an amazing picture of that provision. In addition to our normal giving, we had two large gifts that will allow the Charlotte campus to move forward on some key capital projects. Special thanks goes to our VP of Development, Ed Barnes. But we are not there yet. If you are interested in helping, please check out ways to give.
5. Online Vision Banquet. Speaking of charitable giving, this past April we also held our first-ever Virtual Vision Banquet. This virtual banquet included a main address by J.D. Greear, senior pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh, NC, along with greetings from PGA golfer Webb Simpson, NFL coach Frank Reich, and author/speaker Nancy Guthrie. Although we couldn’t gather all in one place due to COVID, we organized in-person viewings around the city of Charlotte in private homes with 10 or fewer people. The virtual event was a great success, raising much-needed funds for the RTS Charlotte general scholarship fund. You can still watch the event here!
6. The Center for Church Planting. One unique feature of the Charlotte campus is that MDiv students can get an emphasis in church planting, with specialized classes that cover the complexities of that unique calling. This was a great year for the Center for Church Planting: we appointed a new director, Dean Faulkner; we hosted the church planter assessment for the PCA; and we invited numerous church planter cohorts to campus for specialized training. In just a few days, we will be hosting the Forge Conference on Jan 10th with speakers Elliott Grudem and Bob Cargo.
7. Protection. When it comes to safety protocols—masks, social distancing, etc.—it has been a long and exhausting stretch for everyone. In the midst of conflicting advice from experts, as well as the merry-go-round of local government ordinances, it has been tough to know what to do. But here at Charlotte, we’ve worked hard to be as cautious and careful as possible—not only to show that we are trying to follow our governing authorities, but also as a way to love our neighbor who may either be worried, or immune-compromised. And God has protected our campus from any major illnesses or outbreaks. Credit goes to the students, staff, and faculty for hanging in there.
In sum, 2021, despite its difficulties and sorrows, was still a blessed year for RTS Charlotte. “Praise him for his mighty deeds” (Ps 150:2)!