Why We Slow Down

Russ Johnson

In the camp focused primarily on the mission Jesus gave to the Church, you will find one statistic that always rises to the top:

• 70% of the population is uninterested in attending a church service of any kind. [1]

As someone who was well versed in conventional ministry---think Sunday-centered, sermon-driven, staff-led, program-oriented, location-based ministry---the statistic about 70% of the population having zero interest in attending what we were offering was a hard pill to swallow. Especially when you’re doing “well” based off the number of nickels and noses you’re counting.

Yet, for some reason, all the things that were going well aimed at the 30% of the population interested in church services, just didn’t capture my heart anymore. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about those people, I do, just as Jesus does. But with all the countless efforts and energy spent on the 30% in the name of the “Church”, I felt a freedom to pursue the 70% who just simply, no matter how modern or how antique your service is, aren’t going to come.

There was just one problem, all my conventional church tactics offered me no tangible help in actually making disciples amongst those uninterested in the Church.

Knowing something and pursuing something are two different things.

Staring into the face of this dilemma I found the need, not to learn something new, but to pursue what I already knew about how Jesus went about the mission He gave us. Naturally, this wasn’t an easy task, because I approached the Scriptures in terms of what to do through my conventional filter. But no matter, God was gracious, and I began to see how at the core of Jesus’ efforts was something pretty foreign to what I had known: unrushed presence.

Unlike all the demands, pressure, and exhaustion that’s all too familiar with the ministry, here is Jesus, relaxed, present, never in a rush.

As progress-loving people, we naturally love talks around “what” Jesus accomplished in this approach (think insights from Robert Coleman), and we especially love conversations about “how” we can do this better. But what we often miss is the question that actually leads to the practice of slowing down to journey with those we love. The question is: “With the need being so vast, ‘why’ was Jesus able to slow down with others?”

Having something and trusting in something are two different things.

To love and disciple someone, whether to Jesus or in Jesus, is something that requires presence because it’s something that requires relationship. It’s hard to know what to say or how to say it, just as it’s hard to know what to do or what not to do as we serve someone, apart from hearing where they are. It’s in this practice of listening we are able to share and serve in ways relevant to those we love. We see this in Jesus’ life as he speaks directly to the thoughts, wonders, fears, and even doubts of those around him. We see this in how he serves and heals. And then we start to see “why” he is able to walk in this.

Jesus knew his mission on earth was not to help the world straighten up and fly right, because he knew the world needed resurrection, not improvement. To die, he said, was his mission. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). On the cross, he announced His Father’s dealings with the sin problem of this world is “finished” (John 19:30). On that day the religion shop was closed and in its place Jesus set a table before us all, with an invitation to come and dine -- just as you are.

In Jesus, we already have everything we need and long for in this world. No need to rush.

In Jesus, those we love and are reaching out to already have everything they need and long for in this world. No need to fret.

Trusting in what would be through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus could slow down, love well, and invite others to the table.

By his grace, we can too.


1. https://blog.lifeway.com/newsroom/2016/06/28/research-unchurched-will-talk-about-faith-not-interested-in-going-to-church/