‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’
Over recent months we may have heard the term ‘new normal’ regularly referred to in relation to our need to adapt to different circumstances in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, in joining in with ‘The Big Church Read’ (encouraging churches, organisations or individuals to commit to reading a book together at the same time and then engaging in discussion), John Mark Comer, the author of the book ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ speaks of a different ‘new normal’ that has nothing to do with Covid 19.
This is what he says: “an overbusy, hurried life of speed is the new normal in the Western world, and it’s toxic.” Rather sobering is the list of symptoms he suggests are signs that we suffer from hurry sickness: irritability, which is especially prone to being released with those closest to you; restlessness when you try to slow down but can’t seem to relax; working practices that mean you don’t know when to stop or you just can’t; out-of-order priorities where you feel disconnected from your calling as you are sucked into the urgent at the expense of the important; escapist behaviour when we are too tired to do things that give life to our soul and we immerse ourselves in things that distract us (Comer uses examples of binge-watching tv box sets, overeating, mindlessly surfing the internet and so on). You can read the complete list in the book but if you, like me, can recognise yourself in some or many of these, then perhaps it adds resonance to the statement that a ‘new normal’ is an overbusy, hurried life.
John Mark Comer speaks as a church pastor who has faced the reality of busyness in church life. Outwardly he was a successful pastor of a mega church, seeing growth of 1000 or more people a year. But he didn’t like the direction his life was going in: “It turns out, I don’t actually want to be the CEO/executive director of a nonprofit/HR expert/strategy guru/leader of leaders of leaders, etc. I got into this thing to teach the way of Jesus.” He ended up resigning as the senior pastor and concentrating his ministry on just one of the churches in their multi-site church.
Gather a group of ministers together, ask how they are doing and a common theme you are likely to detect amongst them is: ‘we are busy’. You might meet different levels of enthusiasm about this, depending on the encouragement or otherwise they face in their particular context. It may be harder to read the face of the person who in their busyness is actually really tired; or wondering how much longer they can carry on; or is seriously considering giving up. Currently our focus is on a pandemic called Covid 19. I wonder if it is fair to say there is another pandemic, less recognised but highly contagious? And if busyness is a pandemic, do we need to acknowledge that church leaders are in a high-risk category?
I believe it is a great topic to reflect on… and especially so at a time when church life has been thrown out of the normal and much energy has and is being expended on responding to the current ever-changing context.
There is so much to reflect on and that is why we are going to hold a Zoom discussion on Monday 2nd November at 2pm.
We hope it will be helpful to spend some time with others reflecting on some big themes:
· To what extent do you think ‘hurry’ and ‘busyness’ is the enemy of spiritual life today? Does it contribute to the danger of accepting a ‘walk with Jesus’ that is less than it should be?
· Are church leaders too busy and what effect does it have when it feels like this? What signs of overbusyness might there be?
· One of the ‘culprits’ for busyness that Comer identifies is digital technology. Should we be sensitive to this and if so, does it affect the churches newfound use of technology during lockdown?
· What is it that drives us to be busy? Is it the expectation we have of ourselves or the expectation of others? Are we driven by the need that we see? To what extent is it a sign that we may be people-pleasers or needing the affirmation of others?
I have only read the first three chapters so far and so I am sure there will be many more questions that arise. If you haven’t started reading the book, it isn’t too late to join in. And why not put the date of our discussion in your diary? Of course, you might be too busy… which is understandable, but it could also be a sign that reading the book and joining in a discussion is just what is needed!
For more details of ‘The Big Church Read’ - https://thebigchurchread.co.uk/
Zoom Discussion: Monday 2nd November, 2pm-3pm