|Credit: U.S. Navy Photo/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW) Christopher D. Blachly|
Liberty University alumnus Chaplain Lt. Justin Bernard (’06) was recently featured in a video on the U.S. Navy’s website promoting the Navy chaplain candidate program, which he manages.
Bernard graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, received two master’s degrees in 2008 in religion-church ministries and religious education, and then entered into the Navy Reserve.
“When God had called me to ministry in college, I was kind of torn because I wanted to be in the military and wanted to serve as a pastor as well,” Bernard said.
Bernard found a way to combine his two callings into one. While he was attending Liberty, the university launched its Master of Religious Education in Military Chaplaincy program through Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary and he pursued it. He soon became a Navy chaplain candidate.
Bernard said the seminary program taught him to understand practical day-to-day ministry.
“My courses there, from pastoral counseling to discipleship ministries, were very much geared toward day-to-day living life with your people as a pastor and as a shepherd,” he said. “I think they [Liberty] prepared me in a way to not just stand behind a pulpit and preach good sermons, which they did, but they more effectively taught me how to take the late-night phone calls and how to literally live life with people and lean into them for discipleship and counseling.”
In 2011, Bernard chose to enter into active duty and moved to Tennessee with his wife, where he took on the assignment of Navy chaplain candidate program manager. He now oversees about 180 chaplain candidates all over the country who are earning seminary degrees.
Bernard describes his job as a one-stop shop for the candidates. He mentors them as they graduate and are accepted in the program, making sure the requirements for the position are being fulfilled. Bernard said this opportunity is humbling.
“You wear the uniform and you live life with them on a daily basis and when joyful times and sorrowful times happen, you are just there with them.”
Bernard and his wife, Lindsay, who is an adjunct professor for Liberty University Online, are scheduled to move to Norfolk, Va., next June where he will become the Command Chaplain for the USS New York, LPD 21.
“It’s been a blessing to coach them through and be there for them just like I had a program manager who was there for me as I was waiting for that answer, waiting to see if that is what God had for us,” he said.