Attentiveness: Missional Existence - Gordon Conwell

Attentiveness: Missional Existence

In 1989 I was a fairly new seminary professor in Singapore. While I was still getting to know my way around and learning about expectations and protocols, I had already learned that students were prompt and had great respect for teachers and professors. I found out later that much of this had to do with the Confucian social order. When one of my students did not show up for the first class, I assumed that he had to drop the class. However, he showed up very (even embarrassingly) apologetic at the next class.

“Dr. Sunquist, I am so, so sorry for missing the first class. Please forgive me. Can I continue to be in your class?”

“Well, Mr. Chan, where were you? Is it an excused absence?” I queried.

“I am so sorry, Dr. Sunquist. I am a businessman, and we were setting up a new factory and Christian school in Vietnam.”

I don’t remember what I said, but I am sure it was an inadequate response. In fact, it was true: Mr. Chan was a businessman working on a divinity degree to better run his overseas businesses and schools. Driven by Jesus’ Great Commission, he wanted to use his gifts and talents in God’s mission. And he did. His factory in Vietnam started each morning with prayer and Scripture reading, and the mission of his Christian school was to teach basic skills and the Bible in impoverished communities.

Seminary. Marketplace. Education. Mission.

Last Thursday evening, the Mockler Center at Gordon-Conwell honored the leadership of Joanna Mockler by recognizing four women leaders who have led in various areas of society: business, science, ministry, and media.[1] Three themes stood out for most of us. The first is the great example of courage, leadership, and Christian humility that Joanna Mockler has been for so many people. Having served on the Board of Gordon-Conwell for over 30 years, Joanna has left her imprint on the seminary, as well as on her church and on many individuals. It is fitting that others who exemplify many of these Christ-like characteristics should be honored.

Secondly, the importance of the seminary—administration, Board, and faculty especially—staying closely connected with the marketplace and the larger society is critical, lest we become irrelevant to the lives of our parishioners. The church and church leadership do not just serve the church. The church is the Body of Christ for the world. The salt and the light are for the world (Matthew 5:13-16). I was convicted that we need to keep one eye on Scripture and one on the world as we educate our students (many of whom are working while studying).

Thirdly, one couldn’t leave the inaugural Joanna Mockler Leadership Awards Dinner without being encouraged by the four women who were honored. In Joanna’s words, they are people who “seek to know God intimately, to love and serve God faithfully, and who in their work are daily directed and enabled by God to be generous stewards of the spiritual gifts and physical resources God has entrusted to them.”[2] Gloria White-Hammond, Kristin Colber-Baker, Tish Harrison-Warren, and Rosalind Pickard are an inspiration for all of us.

Lastly, there was another impression I had from the evening. Most of the people who will come to Christ and eventually be baptized will learn about Jesus from a neighbor, business associate, or acquaintance, not from an ordained pastor. We want to make sure our students are taught that one of the most important ministries they will have will be to equip parishioners—teachers, business people, artists, sales persons, or scientists—to be witnesses in how they live, work, and speak in their jobs. A missional existence is life that is rooted in Jesus Christ.

[1] The exact areas are: “business, finance and economics; science, technology, environment, and health; ministry, community, education and justice; and media, journalism, arts and government.”
[2] Visit the event page for more information on the awardees and the criteria for awards.

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


Subscribe to President Sunquist's Attentiveness Blog