Attentiveness: Gird Up Your Minds
Dr. Scott W. Sunquist
At a time of pandemic and poverty, racism and rioting, and seemingly irreversible global damage, who has time for theological education?
I remember Billy Graham saying something very instructive about this at an Urbana mission conference long ago. It is one of the main reasons I went to seminary.
“If someone told me Jesus was going to return in three years, what would I do for God’s mission? I’ll tell you what I would do. I would spend two years in careful study of the Bible, theology, history, evangelism and mission. Then I would spend a year to reach unreached people with the Good News of Jesus.”
Education may seem a luxury at a time like we live in today. However, we are seeing more than ever how important it is to have church, political, educational and business leaders who are well-trained. Our hearts are broken and so all the more reason we must gird up our minds (I Peter 1:13).
Well-equipped academic leaders provide academic leadership for the church in our times.
Esau McCaulley, prepared with a Gordon-Conwell M.Div., recently published a book entitled, Reading While Black. The subtitle is significant: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope. The book is as advertised, interpretation based on the black Christian experience in the United States. McCaulley learned good biblical exegesis at Gordon-Conwell, and it shows as he carefully exegetes passages. This is a great volume to point the way forward in responsible theological education and church leadership in our time of racial tensions and confusion. I highly recommend it to be used in seminary courses and for church leaders to study in mixed racial gatherings.
A second brief but helpful essay is from another of our graduates, now the Chief Editor of Christianity Today, Daniel Harrell. Harrell is from Minneapolis and in introducing the new issue of C.T. he describes being on the streets during protests over the killing of George Floyd. As he tells it, “White people joined in, along with pastors and Christians of every tradition. I stood alongside Orthodox priests and Pentecostal preachers at the site of Floyd’s death, an intersection transformed by prayer and protest into sacred ground.” Christian responses to injustice should unite us and Harrell helps the Christian community move forward together through well-thought out articles on police, politics and Christian citizenship.
A third recent writing is the reprint of a chapter our faculty member Dr. Emmett Price published earlier entitled, “There is a Balm in Gilead: A Call to Lament Together.” Price calls for corporate lament in a “worldwide season of a pandemic that is killing millions, conflated with vast protests against racism [and so] the one holy catholic (universal) and apostolic church must lean in and lead.” The first element of that leadership is to heed the call for corporate lament. Lament involves four rituals or movements: an honest complaint, a vulnerable plea, a transparent confession and a song of praise. I view this as part of the answer to Jesus’ (and Dalrymple’s question), “Do you want to get well?” If so, we must begin with coming together to lament and listen.
There are other ways our faculty and alumni are providing leadership for the Church in their scholarship. We will try to let you know about future publications in our alumni newsletters and in the news section of our web page.
For now, I want you to hear this clearly: academic leadership is our high and holy calling at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. This president, in partnership with our deans and board members, will make sure that we continue to lead with thoughtful minds and broken hearts.
 (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2020)
 From Scott Harrower and Sean McDonough ed. A Time for Sorrow: Recovering the Practice of Lament in the Life of the Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2019).
Scott W. Sunquist, the new President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Monday morning on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses and good ideas.