CBC Alumni Perspective: David Searles
Name: David Searles
Graduation Year: 1983
Current Position: Pastor of Central Assembly of God Church
City and State: Boston, Massachusetts
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
After I graduated from CBC, I attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS) and graduated with a master’s degree in Theological Studies in 1987. While a student at GCTS, I served in youth ministry in Gloucester, MA and subsequently became the part-time youth pastor. From 1984-1988, I worked as a caseworker at the Anchorage House, a boy’s adolescent group home in Beverly, MA. In 1989, I authored a resolution that called on the Assemblies of God to oppose and confront the sin of racism. The resolution was passed by the General Council and has become the official statement of the Assemblies of God on racism.
In 1990, my family and I moved to Boston to work with church planting pastors David and Marsha McNeely, and I served as a bi-vocational assistant pastor. I was also employed as a caseworker at an inner-city school called the COMPASS School which educated children who needed additional psychological and social support to be successful in their education.
In 1993, I became the pastor of Central Assembly of God Church located in East Boston, a neighborhood of the city of Boston. I have now been in ministry at Central for 27 years. During my time as pastor, the church has transitioned to become a multi-ethnic church in its membership and leadership. We have recently ramped up our food pantry ministry to meet the needs of our immigrant neighbors who have been greatly impacted by the economic challenges of the pandemic. We also participate in Project Angel Tree, an outreach to the children and families of prisoners.
We also provide English as a Second Language classes for our immigrant neighbors and a clothing pantry that serves those in need. You can find other information about the church at cagboston.com.
In 2013, I completed a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Center for Urban Ministerial Education of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a concentration in Ministry in Complex Urban Settings.
My ministry extends into the community through my work as an organizer of the East Boston Peace Walks which brings together community leaders, clergy, police, and residents to publicly advocate for peace and build strong neighborhood relationships. This was a response to a series of youth gang murders in 2015. I also serve on the East Boston Trauma Team which is prepared to respond with services to the family and the community when there is a homicide. In addition, I am a member of the East Boston HUB, which is a collaboration between community service organizations, clergy, and police to help people who are struggling with addiction, homelessness, and mental illness.
I am the Boston presbyter for the Southern New England Ministry Network of the Assemblies of God and provide some oversite and support for the 23 churches and 65 ministers in Boston and nearby communities.
I am also the founder and director of the Simon Institute that promotes the church’s global urban mission. The Simon Institute provides training in global urban ministry, utilizing the resources of the church and of the city of Boston, to enable people to learn the transferable skills necessary for urban ministry. There are some important theological, theoretical, and practical skills that are necessary for people to have an enduring and fruitful ministry in the urban environment. We seek to a be a resource to provide this important foundational training.
What is your favorite memory from CBC?
There are many good memories that I have while a student at CBC, but I did enjoy the opportunity to be a hall counselor and build relationships with some amazing people. Intramural softball was also a fun time.
How did CBC help you identify/develop your calling?
The spiritual environment nurtured an openness to God’s leading us in ministry. Pastor Spencer Jones preached in chapel on the call to urban ministry and God used that to put in my heart the call that led me to inner city Boston.
How did your experience at CBC prepare you for life after graduation?
I loved the academic instruction I received from professors like Ben Aker, Gary McGee, and Don Johns. Their teaching lit a fire in me for learning biblical exegesis, theology, and church history. These teachers gave me the tools for life-long learning which provided the foundation for enduring urban ministry. Some of the same concepts necessary to exegete scripture are necessary to exegete a neighborhood in order to be prepared for effective ministry there.
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
I would encourage students to be flexible and available to serve wherever God takes them.
Students are learning skills in their academic work and in their internships that may be transferable to a variety of positions in the church and in other jobs outside the church. Bi-vocational ministry is the reality for many people and should be a form of ministry that is accepted and embraced.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire a new graduate?
I would look for someone who is called to urban ministry, theologically engaged, able to form healthy relationships, willing to work in a multicultural setting, and teachable.