Presidential Pressure: 4 Pressures on Seminary Presidents, Pt 1
I felt like I had discovered a stray bag of coins next to a well-stocked vending machine. I kept feeding Dr Paul Negrut a long litany of questions while his lunch got cold. After the story about how he lost $15mill in a half-hour telephone conversation with a potential donor, he went to dispense nuggets of wisdom on what is involved in starting a seminary.
One of the trains of thought that accelerated at a rapid pace was warnings about the unique pressures on seminary presidents. Dr Negrut is the president of Emanual Universtity & Seminary, the only evangelical, conservative, accredited university on the European Continent. That’s quite a feather in this pastor’s cap. But it was not easily acquired, nor maintained.
The inception of the seminary was pounded out in the pestle of 1980′s Communist persecution. So when he started speaking of the pressures on a seminary president I assumed he would muse about his time in prison, the death threats to his family, the dread of secret police visits at night. But the strain he had in mind is of the universal difficulty common to all seminary presidents who desire to guard the school in their charge.
Here are the first 2 of 4 pressures seminary presidents deal with:
1. Pressure from Donors
Big donors have big egos and their big money comes with big expectations. Little donors are poor and their 10 bucks comes with prayer each month.
Negrut says that he lovingly told an American donor that,
At Emanual we never pray ‘Our Father which art in America.’
He suggests asking donors if they trust God to use their donation to do His will. If so, then they should renounce all expectations they may have on influence in the school based on their money. If they feel God needs their help to back-seat drive the seminary with their checkbooks, “then they can keep their grubby money.” (Ok, so I added “grubby” but the Romanian accent implied it!)
2. Pressure from Trustees
The most important factor in the success of a seminary is to assemble a board of trustees who will back up the president when he makes difficult decisions that may cost the school money.
The trustees are there to ensure the survival of the school, not only doctrinally, but fiscally too. It is this financial pressure that pushes boards of trustees to try turn a dynamic, respected seminary president into a fundraising figurehead instead of a spiritual stalwart and shepherd.
Negrut was asked by one of the seminary’s trustees: What is your strategy for fundraising? “Prayer,” was the simple reply.
“Yes, of course, of course, amen; but then what is your follow-up plan to implement once you have prayed?”
Negrut’s confidence in the sovereignty of God’s provision is remarkable. He recounted this most recent anecdote. The day before he left for this trip to South Africa he had been told that the seminary was short on cash-flow for that month. The heating bill needed to be paid, but there was insufficient cash freed up to meet the need. Negrut’s only plan was what he always did: he prayed to God to meet the need. Hours later, while he was packing for the trip an old widow in his church called and asked to see him about a financial matter. He assumed she needed financial assistance from the church. He was not able to visit her before his departure, but asked one of the other elders to go and see how they could help her. The elder called after the visit and announced that the widow wanted to give $15,000 to the seminary that month. Negrut was surprised at the channel God had used to meet the seminary’s need this time, but he was not at all surprised that God had met the need.
1. For those who donate to seminaries:
1 Tim 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,
2. For those who don’t support seminaries:
2 Cor 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Join us tomorrow for the next two pressures.