Dr. Scott W. Sunquist
President & Professor of Missiology
Here is a good question to ask any local church: Does your presence add value to the neighborhood or the town?
Here is a good question to ask any local church: Does your presence add value to the neighborhood or the town? In other words, if your church were to close, would your neighbors even notice? Would it make any difference?
In some cities, large old churches and even cathedrals are being sold to become restaurants, breweries, dance studios, or office buildings. There is a former church near our campus in South Hamilton that is now a charming looking home for a local family. When each of those churches closed, I wonder if the local community protested the closing?
Recently, I have been reflecting on the presence of the church (or even a seminary) in local contexts of a post-Christendom world. When I was growing up, most everyone from my local neighborhood and public schools attended church. We all assumed that local churches served “us,” the local people who participated in those churches.
Today, most people do not attend church, and the local needs of communities are often met by local governmental agencies, the United Way, and other NGOs. Churches may or may not be integral to serving the local community.
“A local church’s presence should be value added for all those around. More churches should mean more human thriving, as more and more people experience the loving presence of Christ.”
Last week, five of us from the Hamilton campus of Gordon-Conwell met with local officials of the town of Hamilton. We met to talk about how the seminary could serve the local community. We talked about working with the elderly, providing space for civil interactions about local issues and encouraging students and staff living in our apartments to donate a day a year to serve the local community.
It seems like the thing a church or seminary—in Massachusetts, North Carolina or Florida—should do: add value to the local community by lifting up Christ in all we do.
I think if we give our students a chance to serve and witness in the local community while at seminary, it will prepare them better for a lifetime of ministry.
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.
 From Why Church? A Basic Introduction (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2019), p. 153.