george hancock stefanAs soon as we bought our 2018 calendars, the days started to fill up. My wife is an excellent planner and her calendar is organized with various colors. She immediately wrote all the 2018 birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and trips onto the calendar. She has also penciled in items that are not certain yet.

On the other hand, I sometimes feel like the centurion in the story of Jesus who said that he lives under the commands of others. My calendar is also full, and I start with the fact that I will be in church every Sunday. I am the pastor of the church and it is understood that I need to be here each week to preach and teach. On that day, I do not make any other plans. For all the years I have been at this church, we have held board meetings on Tuesdays. The life of the church happens because of the decisions that our boards and committees make. My preaching is very important, but my development of leaders in the church happens during those meetings. I also teach one or two Bible studies during the week because I treasure the presentation of the Word of God in smaller groups.

About six months ahead of filling in my new calendar, the dean of the seminary where I teach has already scheduled my courses. Thus, I spend two days each week in Philadelphia where I teach two to four courses per semester. Each course needs a syllabus so that the students and professor have the same expectations for the class. As a part of the seminary community, I also participate in faculty meetings, chapel services, and counseling with my students. One of the commitments that I make to my students is that I will participate in their ordination and installation services as often as possible. Many of them take this offer seriously and let me know the date far in advance, so I can take part in these sacred events.

I usually plan preaching schedule six months in advance, as well. Because our church is celebrating its 125th year, I have given my Board of Deacons my sermons for the entire year. I choose topics and biblical texts and I have time to collect data, find illustrations, study the texts, and pray about my sermons. I also know that a few times each year, my planned sermon will be bumped because of infant dedications, believer’s baptisms, or sermons that must be preached because of unexpected circumstances.

Then there are the columns for the Atlantic Highlands Herald. I have been writing for this electronic newspaper since its inception and I write between 40-45 weeks each year. One of my favorite stories about writing is from a Romanian author, who used to say that he needed a bottle of good wine, a good swamp, and some musical frogs to write a book. I have never tried his method, but I used to retreat to a nearby restaurant for breakfast and then stay there until lunch time. I would sketch out five to ten articles, with the knowledge that some of them would get rescheduled when current events forced me to write something else.

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This year, I plan to go and celebrate with my parents’ pastor who will turn 100 this year. My parents were blessed with centenarian pastors in two of their churches—in Detroit, their pastor lived to be 104 and in Los Angeles, their pastor will be 100 years old. It has been my privilege to know both of these men who influenced my life greatly by living each day to its fullest and planning great things for their futures. Yet, both of them lived by the words of the Apostle James who wrote, “Instead, you ought to say: If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)

Thus, as I look to my calendar, I remember the words of King David: “Commit your way (plans) to the Lord. Trust also in Him. And He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5)

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George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...