Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Saying No to the Tyranny of the Urgent

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan

Years ago a friend of mine who is a pastor called me. He was stressed out, because the conference speaker for the weekend at his church was sick. He needed a replacement. He told me the story, and asked,

"John, will you fill in as our conference speaker this weekend?"

I replied, "No, I cannot."

"Why not?"

I think it was inappropriate for him to ask this. I did not need to tell him why I said no. But I chose to, and answered,

"Because Linda and I have planned something to do together."

My friend got angry. He did not think I gave a good enough reason. We ended the call abruptly.

Ten minutes later he called back, saying,

"I am sorry. Would you forgive me? Your marriage is more important than our conference."


God did not call me to take on his urgency. God did not tell me to sacrifice even a little bit of my marriage for his dilemma.

We are not meant to be ruled by the urgency of others. Discernment, not urgency, is the rule.

This made me think of a book published by Intervarsity Press that I read way back in the 1970s, called "The Tyranny of the Urgent." It says,

"You may find it necessary to resist the temptation to accept an engagement when the invitation first comes over the telephone. No matter how clear the calendar may look at the moment, ask for a day or two to pray for guidance before committing yourself. Surprisingly the engagement often appears less imperative after the pleading voice has become silent. If you can withstand the urgency of the initial moment, you will be in a better position to weigh the cost and discern whether the task is God's will for you."

When urgency is the predominant operative mood in ministry there are systemic leadership problems, to include (most likely) you.

This little book stayed with me. The revised Kindle edition is only $0.99.