george hancock stefanI have been preaching/teaching since I was 16 years old.  I was ordained to the ministry in 1977 at the First Romanian Baptist Church of Detroit and installed as a pastor at the First Baptist Church of Hightstown. If I have preached an average of 50 sermons per year since I was ordained, I am approaching my 2000 sermon mark. I have preached many theological sermons, topical sermons, occasional sermons (dedications, baptisms, weddings, funerals, Christian and secular holidays) and many practical sermons.

One of the practical sermons was about our jobs. I have mentioned on many occasions that our jobs are gifts from God. That causes us to behave differently than if we think our jobs are given by the company or the boss. Likewise, I have mentioned that how long we stay on that job also depends on God. This does not mean that we should not do an excellent job, but it does mean that we should not be afraid to speak positively when things go well or to speak up when there are ethical or moral breaches.

From 1977 until now, I have had full-time jobs and part time jobs. I had jobs where I felt that my time there was finished and I had to move on. I have also had jobs where I knew that I will be terminated and I left before I received the pink slip.

This year, our seminary is becoming more integrated into the university. Because funds were 10% less then envisioned for the school, the Board of Trustees has been empowered by the President of the University to reduce expenses and he has lifted tenure for one year. In the summer, various expenses have been reduced but it was also concluded that by the end of this November, 10% of the faculty will be reduced.  Practically it could be any one of us since tenure is not on the table for this evaluation. A committee is empowered to make suggestions for the cuts, which the president has the prerogative to accept, modify, or reject. (In previous situations, the president accepted almost completely the presentations of the committee.)

Since I could end up among the 10% that will be let go, I had to remember the sermons that I have preached. This job, just like any other job, is a gift from God from all blessings flow.  I will stay in the seminary as long as God wants me to stay and do the work that I have been hired/called to do.

In this waiting period, I have done my little charts. I have listed all my positives and all my negatives as a professor and argued with myself about why I should be kept.  I have some stellar positives, but I have some Achilles’ heels as well.  I have not published as much as some of my colleagues, I am in those nebulous sixties when people are pressed into retirement, and the people in the committee are recently hired people who have very little knowledge of the current faculty.

On some mornings, I have so much confidence that I will stay. But then there are mornings when I wake up having dreamt that the colleagues I thought were secure were asked to leave. This means that my mind is constantly thinking about it.  I also have said to some of my fellow professors that I will not mention faculty realignment, only to find that it has slipped again.

And then an avalanche of verses come to mind, “Rest in the Lord.” “Trust in the Lord.” “Love the Lord with all your heart and he will provide the desire of your heart,” “according to his riches in Christ Jesus.”