Carve Out Time of Solitude Without Excuse, Says Former Mega-Church Pastor John Mark Comer

By: Laura Bennett

Can you imagine a life without ‘hurry’? Oftentimes the schedule of our lives is dictated by where we have to be next, what’s coming up at work, and the “go, go, go” of family, fun and social commitments.

In the COVID-19 crisis we’ve seen the pendulum swing between extreme stress for some workers and their households, and an extreme slow, where the activity of life has reduced the pace of your own two feet and the boundaries of your home.

Before the pandemic began, writer, pastor and father John Mark Comer wrote, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry — a guidebook on how to stay emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world.

Sharing from his experiences as a burned-out, former mega-church pastor, John Mark’s reflections on Jesus’ approach to solitude and communing with God in the quiet place have become quite timely with many of us forced into an all-of-life ‘stop’.

John said, “I really felt that I had stalled out in my growth and maturity to become more like Jesus; to become more loving, and joyful and peaceful…I wondered, ‘Why am I in such a hurry to become somebody I don’t even like?’”.

When John Mark decided to take stock of the life choices he was making, and focus on why he was working so hard, he realised, “One of the things that becomes painfully obvious with my role [as a pastor and leader] in the church is how easy it is to do good things for bad reasons.”

We can all fall into patterns of rushed busyness, but John says it’s important to look at what’s driving our need to do good things like community work, planting a church, or simply attending all the social events we can.

“It can be out of love for God and neighbour,” John said, “and as a response to what God’s spirit has put on your heart, or it can be out of ego and ambition and an anxious desire for control.”

To say we all need ‘less hurry’ can sound like a luxury to those in a high-pressure job or large community organisation. In fact, in some instances, you could say the high output and activity of a mega-church is unattainable without hurry.

So how can we create thriving churches of any size without compromising on ‘slow values’?

“No matter what size your church is, you basically have to embrace your limitations,” John said, “and that will bump up against your ego and your core and your spirit — whether you’re a community church pastor or a mega-church pastor of over 30,000. [The goal is] to lead from an unhurried pace of love.

“Any way of doing church that’s outside of your limitations or is outside the pace and the peace of Jesus, just isn’t compatible with an unhurried life.”

During this COVID-19 crisis, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry offers us an invitation to embrace solitude and, in fact, carve out time for it.

Instead of filling our schedule with online appointments, it may be that practising time in quiet, and reintroducing ourselves to the idea of Sabbath could be our best defence against the stressors of the season.

John says unlike isolation and its connotations of drawing away from relationship, solitude is “a place where we separate out from the stimuli of noise and crowds and people and technology…to really just come to quiet before God.

“I think cultivating and nurturing — and not only carving out times to be quiet, but learning how to come to quiet — is one of the greatest lost skills that we need to develop as followers of Jesus.”

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry is available now in print and via Audible.

a photo of john mark comer's book called the ruthless elimination of hurry

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

About the Author: Laura is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.