My review of John Mark Comer’s “Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”.
Goals of the Book:
Every once in a while, themes seem to develop across Christian publishing, wherein many publishers publish similar books at the same time. (Of course, this may be a bit of confirmation bias, but it could also be that Christian publishing is correctly identifying the pulse of culture and is addressing its issues with the gospel.) You might have noticed an uptick in books based on Charles Taylor’s book on secularism, usually coupled with discussions about Jamie Smith’s work on Christian formation. Related, but slightly different, we’re seeing books on reclaiming your life across the board. From Christian publishers like Moody (Your Future Self Will Thank You) or IVP (The Common Rule), to even non-Christian books like How to Break Up with Your Phone or Digital Minimalism, books across the board are showing us how to fix our rhythms, and, hopefully, reclaim our lives.
Enter John Mark Comer. A former pastor of a multi-site mega church, Comer knows what it is like to be busy. But one day, watching Keanu Reeves, he learned that he was too busy and was heading toward disaster. This led him to make drastic changes in his work life, the context of his life, and how he practiced his Christianity. He also learned that the whole world struggled in ways with how busy they are, how they prioritize their lives, and how this affects them mentally and spiritually.
What does this book offer the church?:
Hopefully, this book helps people get their lives back. The book is split into three sections: the problem, the solution, and a third section on spiritual practices. The first section is helpful, though some might not see the import right away. When you get backed into a corner, the best way out might be to trace your steps and figure out how exactly you got into this situation. Comer starts by tracing the development of our culture of speed, from the microwave to cell phones to 5G data, showing how we’ve become accustomed to getting what we want as soon as we want it. And, unfortunately, this is dangerous. He shows how this has a disastrous effect on our spiritual lives and suggests that it’s time to fight back and take these back.
This is where the second and third sections become important. He then points our attention to Christ, specifically his invitation to ease up and rest in Matthew 11:28-30. Our solution is not necessarily doing less or gaining more time in the day (as he says early in part 2), but following Jesus. He shows us how following Jesus bucks the trends of modern living and invites us into a deeper, yet slower, way of life.
How effectively does this book meet its goals?:
This book, no matter how good it is (or isn’t), is vitally important for today’s Christian. I think we would all say that we are too busy; whether we have to be or not. When I was finishing up my graduate program, I was working full-time, volunteering part time, working two part time internships, and still doing ministry at church. I was vitally in need of learning how to slow down and tend to my spiritual health. This book can do just that.
There are times where chapters feel a bit long – this is written very much like a conversational blog post, so Comer doesn’t always get right to the point. Many paragraphs are only one or two lines long, which adds to the length of the book but sometimes hinders the reading experience. (Think Rupi Kaur or Rob Bell-esque formatting.) Books like this, or Common Ruleor Your Future Self, should be read slowly so that the content and appeals can make it to your heart. This formatting/writing style does not lend itself to slow reading. (I finished my copy in one sitting.)
But because it’s conversational, I felt much more inclined to listen to Comer and accept some of the advice that he had for me. Starting with a personal appeal/story rather than hard data helped, too. I would say that this book is worth checking out, but the current $22 price tag feels a bit high for the amount of content.
You can read more about The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry at the publisher’s website, or you can pre-order it now on Amazon ahead of its October 29, 2019 release date. (I received a review copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, not necessarily a positive one.)