The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry | Book Review


John Mark Comer lived many pastors’ dream. He led a growing congregation (adding 1,000 adherents annually for seven years running) in the Pacific Northwest (one of the nation’s most secular regions). You’d think he’d be happy, but he wasn’t. He was burnt out, enduring most pastors’ nightmare.

Busyness, “where your life is full with things that matter,” wasn’t the problem. The problem was hurriedness, “when you have too much to do and the only way to keep the quota up is to hurry.” Jesus was busy, but He never hurried. Hurry is of the devil. So, as Dallas Willard once remarked to John Ortberg, who wrote the Foreword to this book, giving it its title: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

To ruthlessly eliminate hurry, Comer maintains, you need to establish a rule of life, “a schedule and a set of practices to order your life around the way of Jesus in community.” At the heart of this rule are spiritual disciplines, especially silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and slowing.

These are not the only spiritual disciplines. They are crucial to unhurrying your life, however. Solitude and silence tune out the “noise,” both external and internal, that so easily distract your attention. Sabbath reminds you that God created the world, and it still spins on its axis without your frenzied efforts. Simplicity of lifestyle eliminates the desire for “more” that so often drives our nonstop work. And slowing is just that: taking time to be present in the moment.

These disciplines aren’t just good ideas, though. They’re Jesus’ practices, which He invites us to imitate. “Follow me!” isn’t just a call to belief, after all; it’s a call to walk in Christ’s footsteps, to practice His way of life.

“In the years to come,” Comer concludes, “our world will most likely go from fast to faster; more hurried, more soulless, more vapid; ‘deceiving and being deceived’” (2 Timothy 3:13). The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry urges readers to put on Jesus’ easy yoke (Matthew 11:30). Only by moving slowly but deliberately will we find our soul’s rest, for Christ’s “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light.”

Comer did not write merely for pastors. His book is suitable for a wide readership. But pastors, only by slowing down will you be able to busy yourself helping others find rest for their souls too. In this matter as in others, you cannot lead where you have not followed first.

Book Reviewed
John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

The Preacher’s Catechism | Book Review


Preaching is the most important public ministry of pastors. Many books describe how preachers can improve their craft. The Preacher’s Catechismis not one of them. Instead, it focuses on how preachers can improve their character.

Lewis Allen offers this reminder of the greater importance of character to craft in his Introduction:

“And yet, having all of these tools [to improve preaching skills] will not ensure that you are a preacher after God’s own heart, someone who is really serving those who listen to you. Skills have an essential place, but more essential to our calling are a heart and mind captivated by God and his gospel.”

In other words, the heart of preachers is the heart of preaching.

Allen bases his counsel in The Preacher’s Catechismon three convictions:

  1. The church needs preachers who last and thrive.
  2. Preachers must understand how preaching works, and how their own souls work.
  3. The Westminster Shorter Catechism is an outstanding resource for the heart needs of every preacher.

The book organizes its material around 43 questions modeled on that catechism.

The first and second convictions should be uncontroversial points among evangelical Christians. I found the third conviction a bit of a stretch, at first glance anyway. I am Pentecostal — Arminian and egalitarian to boot — so what could I learn from a catechism produced by high Calvinist English Presbyterians? (Allen himself is a Calvinist Baptist.)

A lot, it turns out. Allen’s use of the catechism sheds light on heart issues that allChristian ministers need to address.

For example, consider his repurposing of the catechism’s teaching on the Ten Commandments. The catechism asks, “What does the _____ commandment teach us?” (with first, second, third, etc. filling in the blank). Here are Allen’s answers, which follow the order of the commandments (Exodus 20:2–17):

  1. You shall preach as a love expression to the Lord your God.
  2. You shall not make a preaching idol of your image or of anyone else’s.
  3. You shall honor the name of God as you preach.
  4. You shall rest from finding your justification in your preaching, and rest content and safe in the finished work of the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.
  5. You shall honor those who preached the Word of God to you, and obey what they taught you.
  6. You shall not use your ministry to harm in any way.
  7. You shall not be unfaithful to your ministry by failing to love those you preach to.
  8. You shall not withhold your heart and soul from the hard work of preaching.
  9. You shall not say anything untrue in your preaching.
  10. You shall not set your heart on another’s ministry and gifts.

There is far more to The Preacher’s Catechismthan these reworked commandments, which appear in Part 3, titled “Loving the Word,” of a four-part book. Part 1 is titled “The Glory of God and the Greatness of Preaching,” Part 2 “Jesus for Preachers,” and Part 3 “Preaching with Conviction.”

In fact, there is more to this book on preaching than preaching. Part 4 includes helpful chapters on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Preaching may be a pastor’s most important public duty, but it is not the only one. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are New Testament ordinances, God-given means of grace that too many evangelical pastors — including Pentecostals — neglect.

Allen closes the book with this statement: “Our preaching will never satisfy us. It isn’t meant to. Let’s give our hearts to God.” In many ways, that’s the core message of this excellent little book.

Some books make for a good read, once. The Preacher’s Catechismis a volume I think I’ll take up and read again. And then again.

Book Reviewed
Lewis Allen, The Preacher’s Catechism(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

Monday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • George O. Wood–aka, “Dad”–uses dot-to-dot art as a reminder to live one day at a time. “If you choose to draw the line today that connects the morning to the evening — God will show you the next day where the new dot is. Keep the pencil of your life moving according to His daily will, and someday God will let you look back and see a portrait that makes sense … and is beautiful.”
  • I interview Alan Fadling for the Influence Podcast about his new book, An Unhurried Leader: The Lasting Fruit of Daily Influence (IVP Books, 2017). Here’s what I wrote about Alan’s book in my review: “The key thing, then, is for Christian leaders to let Jesus into their hearts. Does that sound too simple? Perhaps. Then again, I was amazed at how often An Unhurried Leader opened my eyes to things in my heart that are crowding out Jesus and thus misshaping my influence. I hope it will do the same for you.”
  • We note a Pew Research Center finding about Americans’ continued high regard for the Church. “Nearly 6 in 10 U.S. adults say the church has a positive effect on the country, while 26 percent say it has a negative effect. By comparison, 55 percent have positive views of postsecondary learning institutions, and 36 percent believe higher education is doing more harm than good. Just 26 percent believe the national news media is helping the country, compared to 63 percent who say the media’s effect is negative.”

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