Review: An Unhurried Leader

An Unhurried Leader

An Unhurried LeaderAlan Fadling. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2017/

Summary: Proposes that influential spiritual leadership that bears lasting fruit arises out of unhurried life in God’s presence that results in unhurried presence in the lives of those one leads.

Leadership can be demanding. People come from many directions with needs, agendas, and sometimes, criticism. To-do lists are longer than there are hours in the day. One may feel they have to run faster and faster, even as energy seems to be draining away. In more reflective moments, we might ask, are the people we lead maturing as Christ-followers, more effectively able to use their gifts and engage their world? That is, if we get a chance to ask the question in the midst of a hurried life.

Alan Fadling doesn’t think we will ever evade these demands. Rather, his thesis is that leadership that bears lasting fruit comes out of unhurried time in the presence of God that both fills us, and overflows into our leadership life. Most of all, he contends that when we cultivate this unhurried life with God, it allows us to come along people as an unhurried presence, able to wait and listen for what God is doing in their lives and through our encounter with them.

A key verse for Fadling is Isaiah 30:15:  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Fadling writes:

“…Isaiah said that we’ll find salvation—help, wholeness, or rescue—in repentance and rest. He said that we’ll find strength—power, influence, and energy—in quietness and trust. Unhurried leaders are different.

  • Rather than fill their lives with noise, unhurried leaders make time for silence in which to listen (quietness).
  • Rather than allow anxiety to drive them, unhurried leaders learn to depend on a reliable God who invites them to join a good kingdom work already well underway (trust).
  • Rather than tackle self-initiated projects under the guise of doing them for God, unhurried leaders humbly orient themselves to the Leader of all, learning to take their cues from him (repentance).
  • Unhurried leaders also learn to rest as hard as they work.
  • Rather than measuring the productivity of their lives only in terms of what they do, unhurried leaders understand the importance of certain things they don’t do.”

Fadling walks us through what he has learned about leading out of abundance, allowing God’s living water to flow through us. He invites us to “come, listen, buy, and eat” in God’s presence, and to cultivate practices of contemplating God’s greatness where we open ourselves to a vision of God from which we lead. “Questions that Unhurry Leaders” was a delightful chapter that was not what I expected but rather a reflection on the wonderful questions Paul asks in Romans 8.

He turns to how our unhurried life with God flows into unhurried influence in leadership. He explores how developing fruitful leaders takes time–not trying to pursue quick, but not abiding fruit. He talks about how grace empowers us, as God meets and works through us in our weakness. Grace doesn’t make us strong, but rather we are strong in God’s grace in our weakness.

One of the most challenging aspects of leadership is the relentless stream of thoughts that hurry through our heads. Fadling offers a practice of noticing, discerning, and responding, allowing God into our thoughts–both those unworthy of us, and those that are, in fact, his promptings. This takes us into a life of prayer, in which our primary influence comes through prayer, and in which we do our work “with God,” which has the power to transform our “to do” lists–not necessarily by shortening them, but by allowing us to rest in God rather than anxiously work. He ties all this up by proposing a cycle of contemplation, discernment, engagement, and reflection that may become a rhythm of unhurried leadership.

Fadling helps us “try out” this unhurried leadership life through practices in each chapter as well as reflective questions that help us examine our own leadership. I took this book with me on a recent retreat and found the content, the practices, and the questions all helpful in reflecting on my own leadership journey. Most of all, he reminded me of the foundational truth that I learned as a student leader, and am still learning that he succinctly sums up:

“The secret of my spiritual leadership is God.”

Fadling helps us to examine our own leadership and ask if God is really enough for us. He helps us consider whether our leadership is simply a function of technique and skill, done in our own strength, often leading to hurried drivenness, or whether it is the unhurried leadership that is the overflow of abundant life with God. This is a great book to read for personal renewal, and even better with a team of leaders who can think together how they might encourage each other in the “unhurry” practices Fadling commends. The rest and refreshment both leaders and those they lead experience will more than amply repay the cost and time spent on this book.

____________________________

Visit my review of Alan Fadling’s earlier book, An Unhurried Life.

Review: An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest

An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus' Rhythms of Work and Rest
An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Fadling contends many of us are suffering from hurry sickness, and that it is not only detrimental to our bodies but also to our souls. We are going too fast to hear God, too fast to grow deeply, too fast to discern the temptations that lead us astray.

He begins by painting a picture of the frenetic life that characterizes modern life. He contrasts this with the idea of apprenticeship with Jesus, the unhurried learning with him. He argues from the life of Jesus that unhurry isn’t laziness and that there is no such thing as holy hurry, only holy unhurry. Unhurry enables us to resist temptations, which often come in the form of pressure to take shortcuts to some seemingly good thing. Unhurry gives us time to stop and care, to stop and pray. Sabbath is the gift of unhurried rest for God’s people. The next chapters (8 and 9) were most significant for me. He talks about suffering and how it can stop us in our tracks and take us into a place of unhurry where we meet God. And he talks about maturity, which if it is to happen well and deeply, cannot happen fast.

He concludes with a helpful chapter on practices for unhurry including EPC (Extended Personal Communion with God) which seemed to me another word for taking periods of spiritual retreat. Perhaps most helpfully, he suggests a one-third rule in the learning of spiritual practices, where one third of one’s learning time is devoted to actual practice. He also commends the practices of slowing down (for example, driving in the slow lane) and sleep, of which too many of us are deprived. His last chapter is on eternal life, in which we are already living. An eternal perspective can help us by reminding us that such a life is life with the Triune God, and that we are already where Christ is with God and this is what most matters.

I appreciated this book for its practicality (an eternal perspective is intensely practical!). I also appreciated his challenges to the numbers mentality that sets aside apprenticeships to pursue the fickle masses. Unhurried, deep work in the lives of people will touch many, as it did with Jesus work with the twelve. And this is what the author contends will happen when we follow Jesus in his rhythms of work and rest.

View all my reviews