I am trying to expand my horizons and get to know the work of thought leaders and pastors outside of my tribe.
The most recent book I read in this category is John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. Comer was leading a church that grew by over a thousand people for seven years straight! And he was burning out and, more important, not growing in discipleship.
“It hits me like a freight train: in America you can be a success as a pastor and a failure as an apprentice of Jesus; you can gain a church and lose your soul.” (4)
So Comer does something that I can’t imagine a successful United Methodist pastor doing. He resigns from pastoring the entire operation in order to be the pastor of their smallest campus in downtown Portland.
I want to reset the metrics for success, I say. I want to focus more on who I am becoming in apprenticeship to Jesus. Can I do that?
They say yes. (7)
A key Scripture for this book is Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Comer invites the reader on a “counterintuitive and very countercultural journey to explore your soul in the reality of the kingdom.” (13)
The book is divided into three parts:
The problem: Hurry
The solution: The easy yoke of Jesus
Four practices for unhurrying your life:
Silence and solitude
I enjoyed this book. Probably the best thing I can say about it is this: I will read it again. I recommend it to you if you have been feeling harried and worn down. If you are struggling to live in a way that keeps Jesus at the center of your life because you are too busy, distracted, or pulled in many directions, this book will be challenging and convicting. If you read slowly and listen for application for your life, it will also bring rest and transformation.
I found Comer’s writing to be simultaneously convicting and encouraging. He manages to offer an uncompromising and radically counterculturally way of life that avoids a judgmental or self-righteous tone. I experienced The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry as an invitation to a path to deeper intimacy with Jesus.
The chapter on sabbath was my favorite and has encouraged me to a renewed focus on practicing sabbath. Comer raised my expectations and left me anticipating deep enjoyment of sabbath. He uses a simple litmus test for sabbath: one should rest and worship on the sabbath and only rest and worship.
As a result of reading that chapter, I have started turning off devices for 24 hours as a part of my sabbath. I am increasingly convinced that our connections with our phones, especially, are a matter of Christian discipleship in urgent need of attention. It is an area where I need more discipline and one where almost everyone I know does too.
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry was the last book I read in 2019. It was a great way to finish the year and think about the new one.
I am continuing to look for thought leaders and practitioners outside of my immediate sphere to learn from and remember that the church is much more than United Methodism. A friend recently recommended I read Francis Chan’s Letters to the Church, so that is up next for me.
Whose work have you read recently that has been helpful to you? I’d love to receive your recommendations in the comments.
Kevin M. Watson is Assistant Professor of Wesleyan & Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Affiliate links used in this post.