Attentiveness: Big Pivot–Fast and Slow - Gordon Conwell

Attentiveness: Big Pivot–Fast and Slow

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Some things happen fast like lightning.

Some things happen slowly, lugubriously, haltingly, languidly . . . but they eventually happen. Things like watching your child grow up or your father or mother slowly decline with age. Slow, incremental, but happening.

And then some things involve both fast and slow. I am sure that this was the experience of the disciples of our Lord. The years of following Jesus and listening to him seemed like a life of learning, but Judas’ sudden betrayal of Jesus, and Jesus’ trial, death, and resurrection happened so fast. Everything changed in a week. In one short week, all of reality, meaning, and purpose changed.

We are conditioned to expect everything to happen fast in our world today. I can find out the weather for tomorrow, the time to drive to Camp of the Woods in New York (where I am teaching this week), the headlines in the local newspaper, the changing demographics of Boston, and the Greek words for “power” in Colossians, all while sitting at the station waiting for the 7:41 a.m. train to North Station. And, while on the train, I can order groceries.

Fast. We expect things to happen now. No waiting. No delay.

However, the things that endure are seldom instant. Things that are enduring are often less immediate and more mediated by experiences, relationships, waiting, and seemingly unrelated occurrences.

Children need to learn to wait. It is one of the surest signs that we have prepared our children well for life if they have developed patience and self-control. We have taught our children, and now our grandchildren a simple sentence (which they all can recite really fast!). We ask, “What is patience?”

“Grandpa, you know! Patience is a virtue, difficult to attain and precious to hold.”

Adults also have to learn this. We get impatient when we have to wait for the plumber to come or for the roof to be repaired. But we also have to wait, with faith, for God to act in our lives. God’s timing is not our timing, and it seems he knows we need time. A slow process of sanctification makes us more like Jesus. A quick fix misrepresents God’s wise plan for our spiritual growth. Any disciple-maker knows that the spiritual growth of a person cannot be rushed. It is more like a cricket match than the Preakness, or more like a marathon than a sprint.

Gordon-Conwell is in a period of fast and slow. It seemed something had happened fast when we announced the Big Pivot in May, but this is a long and deliberate process of two or three years to determine what must be done. It began as a slow process: studying accounts, trends, demographics, and praying and fasting. It also involved filling out reports for our accrediting agencies. Slow, complex, mediated, and deliberate.

Then it was fast: the vote, the decision, and then the announcement and outline of what needed to be done. It seemed so fast at the time. Now it seems so slow.

The actual pivot to a new site will not be immediate. It may take two years. Two years to pray, plan, discuss, dream, and hope. Two years to work on partnerships with local churches, establish a location for the library and archives, and talk about faculty development and apartments for students.

Two years not just to move the campus, but to nurture the culture, the soul of Gordon-Conwell together.

Both fast and slow may be good and blessed at the right time. Now is the time to be slow, careful, deliberate, and prayerful about Gordon-Conwell. In a few years it will seem so fast, but now, for many of us, it seems so slow. In this case, slow is good. It is a prayerful, thoughtful, collaborative, and deeply spiritual time for the Gordon-Conwell community. It is a time to be relished, not rushed.[1]

[1] Note: Stay tuned or sign up for “Attentiveness” to receive updates on decisions about the location(s), partnerships, and other decisions regarding Gordon-Conwell. Also visit for videos, FAQs, and more.

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist, President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is author of the “Attentiveness” blog. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.


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