2016 marks the 25th anniversary of Emanuel University in Oradea, Romania. Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) has had a long history with Emanuel, which today includes funding scholarships that allow students to attend the university. SGA asked Dr Paul Negrut to reflect on the past 25 years and look forward to what they wish to achieve, with the help of God, in the future. He writes:
As we celebrate 25 years since Emanuel University opened its doors, it is obvious that this school is one of the greatest miracles of God for our time. Four hundred years after the Protestant Reformation followed by great revivals, Europe is one of the spiritually darkest continents, collapsing under the weight of secularism and paganism.
It seems that in spite of its great spiritual heritage, Europe has failed to keep the light of the gospel shining in those places where the minds and the hearts of future leaders are shaped, universities.
At this time, Emanuel University is the only accredited conservative evangelical university in all of Europe. Speaking generally, it seems that evangelical Christians in Europe have lost the vision for the strategic role of a conservative evangelical school in fulfilling the Great Commission.
The birth of the vision, 1974-1985
The revival that started in 1974 at Emanuel Baptist Church, Oradea (then 2nd Baptist Church of Oradea), under the ministry of Pastor Liviu Olah, came at the darkest hour of persecution.
Dramatic decrease in membership and pastoral leadership gave the impression that Christianity had been defeated by communism. Yet, in that dark hour, we prayed and trusted God for great things.
During those years of fervent prayers and fasting, the Holy Spirit planted the seed of the vision for a Christian university in Romania, where a new generation of men and women would be equipped for evangelism, church planting and discipleship.
The underground years, 1986-1989
Once the vision had been born, the passionate desire to nurture it led us to start an underground school for lay people. The aim was to equip them with sound biblical knowledge, passion for ministry, and courage to share the gospel with family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and the community.
The curriculum was set up for four semesters, and the enrolment for the first class was very encouraging, 50 students. We met in hiding, away from the eyes of the communist secret police, in the mountains, in the woods, or in homes at night.
Two years later, we took 50 more students. The vision caught the imagination of our students, when they experienced first-hand God’s protection from the secret police and God’s provision for teaching, through SGA’s provision of teachers and Bible study resources.
Once we started the underground programme, the floodgates opened wide for a new day in the life of Romanian evangelicals. The wind of the revival and equipping for ministry was in our sails!
Young evangelicals were on fire for Christ and his kingdom. Communism was losing ground and, in December 1989, lost the battle for Eastern Europe.
From nothing to silver, 1990-2015
With the demise of communism, we understood God’s kairos (time). The underground school emerged from secrecy as an evangelical theological seminary, with the faith, fire and passion of the persecuted church to fulfil the Great Commission, to equip a new generation of leaders.
During the following years, under divine guidance, the theological school developed into a fully accredited evangelical university, with an expanded vision to train the next generation of pastors, missionaries, schoolteachers, social workers, musicians and business leaders for Romania, Europe (East and West), the Middle East and beyond, into Africa and Asia.
Emanuel University started with nothing: no campus, budget, library or faculty. By the grace of God, during the past 25 years we have moved from ‘nothing to silver’. With over 2,500 graduates serving Christ in 39 countries of the world, Emanuel University has become one of the most effective centres in Europe for equipping and sending missionaries into the harvest field.
In that period it has grown slowly but steadily, and today offers accredited undergraduate and post-graduate awards in such disciplines as pastoral theology, practical theology, social work, literature-languages, musical pedagogy and business management.
From silver to gold, 2016-2040
Having experienced first-hand what God can bring from nothing when visionary people trust him, we anticipate an exciting next 25 years, from silver to gold.
Our vision includes such practical developments as a new building for classrooms, library and offices, and a dormitory building for married students. We would also plan to develop further our online capability, in order to offer courses to those who cannot attend the school in person and to widen the number of subjects available to our students. In particular, the development of our research/PhD programme in biblical and systematic theology is a cherished aim.
We invite readers to pray with us to realise an even greater vision, to saturate Romania and the whole of Eastern and Western Europe with a new generation of men and women, equipped to make the promise of Psalm 84:6-7 a reality for our times: ‘As they pass through the Valley of Baca [weeping], they make it a place of springs; the autumn rain covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength until each one appears before God in Zion’.
We believe that the solution to the crises of our world is not to be found in Brussels, London, Washington, Moscow or any other great capital city, but in God alone.
Therefore, the need of the hour is not for more worldly leaders, but for more godly leaders — people who know, worship and serve the only true, living and loving God our Father, through his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Dr Paul Negrut
This article is edited, with kind permission, from Breakthrough, April-June 2016, the newsletter of the Slavic Gospel Association (UK), (www.sga.org.uk). The author is president of Emanuel University, Oradea, and senior pastor of Emanuel Baptist Church, Oradea.