What I learned from Pat Robertson
The great communicator and entrepreneur believed the Creator of all deserves our best
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Millions of Christians around the world will mourn the passing of M.G. “Pat” Robertson, who died yesterday. Robertson was a great communicator, innovator, and entrepreneur who impacted higher education, religious life, broadcasting, American law and politics, and civil society. He was a major figure in the development of both Christian broadcasting and evangelical political engagement. I did not share a close relationship with Regent University’s founder and long-time chancellor, but I had the honor of working for him for six years.
Here are two things that I learned from the man I knew as Chancellor Robertson.
Pat Robertson emphasized excellence of quality. He famously wanted Regent University to go down in history as the Sorbonne or Oxford of the 21st century. He was proud of founding outstanding faculties of law, government, communications, and other disciplines. In recent years a cyber-security ‘range’ (for government and corporate simulations) and medical degrees were added, with Regent routinely winning academic achievement and recognition.
Moreover, he and his beloved wife Dede worked hard to make the Regent University campus look as splendid as the education that was being delivered. If you have not visited the campus, you should. The lovely grounds, authentic Virginia red-brick architecture, expensive artworks, and professional theatre and other facilities demonstrate the Robertsons’ commitment to art and beauty.
He relished the recognition students earned off-campus at competitions, from moot court and debate to sports, film awards, and alumni accolades, such as over 1,000 alumni named “teacher of the year.” This was external evidence of quality.
Why focus on enduring quality, peer recognition, and beauty? Robertson did all of this as an act of worship. He believed that the Creator of all that is beautiful in the universe deserved our best in education, training, scholarship, as well as in the environment where it takes place.
Robertson asserted that God does not deserve our second best, and he was frustrated that Christians have often settled for lesser quality in order to get by. Thus, excellence was the benchmark, not just at Regent but also at other organizations he founded including the Christian Broadcasting Network, Orphan’s Promise, Operation Blessing, the American Center for Law and Justice, and The Family Channel.
The second thing that I take from his legacy was his attitude toward responsibility and success. He would often remark that if things did not go well, he would take the blame, but that all of the things that were successful in his life were entirely the work of God. Indeed, I think that many misunderstand the title of his recent memoir, I Have Walked with the Living God. He was emphasizing his dependence on God, a servant watching the majestic works of “the living God.”
Robertson would stress this by telling the Regent founding story to students at a commencement ceremony launching every academic year. While eating a late breakfast of cantaloupe and cottage cheese at a diner in Anaheim, Calif., Robertson felt the Lord direct him to “build a school for My glory.” In faith, he did so. This is no small undertaking, from purchasing property to hiring faculty and seeking accreditation! Part of that founding was an appeal to CBN viewers to give to build the Regent University library. Robertson led a prayer service on the site of the library, where the facility’s future floorplan had been designated with chalk. That year a million dollars of new giving came each month, for twelve months, paying for a first-class home for the university’s library.
Again, Robertson extolled that it was the Lord who provided both the vision and the means to attain it.
Perhaps the most obvious testament to giving God the glory is the fact that Robertson named nothing after himself, no ministry and no edifice. A visitor to the CBN-Regent headquarters will find a small lake named for Mrs. Robertson (“Lake Dede”). They will also find Robertson Hall and the Robertson School of Government, both of which are named for his father, the late U.S. Sen. A. Willis Robertson. But, with the exception of a single portrait in a classroom building and the recent “Pat Robertson Memorial Scholarship Fund,” one would be hard pressed to find his name on any permanent memorial.
Robertson earned many awards for his humanitarian, civic, religious, and patriotic contributions, all of which provided a platform for him to testify to God’s direction and provision. This week he received the last of these: “well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of the Lord.”
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