In February of 1982 I was hired to be the pastor of a very small (25 people) Bible church in the Dallas area. I pastored that church as I finished the master’s program at DTS and then during my doctoral work.
Sharon and I went to Arkansas for a week of vacation the last week of 1984. We arrived back at DFW Airport on the morning of January 1. One of the elders of the Bible church, now up to 75 people, picked us up. He said that he and another elder would come over that night to give me my Christmas present.
It was a shocking present. Well, the beautiful leather-bound Ryrie Study Bible was not a shock. It was great. But then the elders said something like this, “Bob, as you know we hit a disagreement on your compensation over the past few months. We’ve decided you are a teacher at heart and will do well teaching in a Bible college or seminary. Thus we want you resign, effective immediately.”
That was shocking. I had no idea. None. I stammered, “Do you have someone to replace me?”
“No. We will start looking right away.”
“Well,” I said, “can I stay and preach until you find someone? It will probably take you six months or more. Besides, I’d like to be able to say goodbye to everyone.”
“No. We think it best that you cease your ministry immediately. We will give you two month’s of severance pay.”
I wrote a resignation letter and urged all the people in the church to stay during the transition. I wanted my three years of ministry to have maximum impact for Christ. I sure didn’t want to hinder the ministry there. The elders and I left on good terms, which was important to all of us.
For six months I did pulpit supply all over Texas. Often Sharon and I would drive two hours each way to speak morning and evening for a $50 or $100 honorarium. I wasn’t doing it for the money. I wanted to minister.
Around June I was hired by Dallas Bible College to teach Greek and Bible. I helped recruit students until mid-August when the school moved to Lindale, TX, in east Texas. The school had a long history. Over the past decade enrollment had dropped down to around 200. The move to east Texas was designed to build the study body back up.
Only about 120 students made the move. During that semester Sharon worked in the business office. There were rumors the school might fold. Then just before Christmas break the Academic Dean announced that there was good news. Due to some pledges, the school would definitely continue in the spring semester. Everyone cheered.
On December 31 Sharon and all the office staff were called into a meeting. “The college is folding, effective immediately. There will be no spring semester. There will be no more paychecks after the one to cover the last two weeks.
I lost two jobs, two ministries, in the same year. On the very first day. And on the very last day. I remembered thinking, This is a test. I also thought, God probably has hand in this since the timing is so unusual.
Six months later I was hired by Multnomah Bible College to teach Greek and Bible. Thank you, Lord. More on that in another blog. What I learned in 1985 is that Christian ministry requires staying power. We must focus on Jesus, the Bema, and His soon return to persevere through the hard times.