A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, August 12, 2011

What Happened to the Sense of Urgency?

There is a sense of urgency in the New Testament. In the Gospel of Mark we are told that the essence of Jesus' message is a call to repentance for the kingdom of God is at hand, that is, it is knocking at the door (1:14-15). As Jesus grows in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52) he comes to the realization that God is now doing something decisive through him for Israel and the world. The time for humanity to respond is now. There is no time to lose.

The Apostle Paul also feels this sense of urgency in his ministry when he tells the Romans,
The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh (Romans 13:11-14).

It is important to notice this sense of eschatological urgency engenders two inter-related things: First is the necessity of proclaiming the same message Jesus did-- the kingdom has arrived and all are invited to respond in repentance. Second, is that in order for this kingdom message to be credible, those who proclaim it must live lives of faithfulness and integrity. If the followers of Jesus do not put aside "the deeds of darkness" the truthfulness of their message will be highly suspect.

It seems to me that the church in the twenty-first century has lost the sense of urgency that occupied the ministries of Jesus and Paul. I suppose after two thousand years it has become easy to settle in for the long-haul. But two thousand or four thousand years should not mitigate the tone of the message we Christians proclaim and embody in our lives-- God has been and is doing something new in Jesus, and there is no time to lose in working to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Moreover, such urgency should encourage us as believers to put away "the deeds of darkness; for the credibility of our message demands that we do so. I must say that I dislike the bumper sticker, "Christians are not perfect, just forgiven." That's terrible theology. Instead it should read "Christians are forgiven so that they can go on to perfection."

I confess that I have struggled to hang on to that sense of urgency. I feel at times that I have settled in for the long-haul. But I need to remind myself that my own life on this planet is fleeting, and I have only so many days, months, and years to bear witness to the Good News. I must remember that now is my time to proclaim salvation.

Perhaps John Wesley had that in mind when he charged his preachers not to trifle away their time.


Mitchell said...

Allan - I am not at all convinced there is a sacred pace to life, or if there is, that "urgent" is it. Have you ever seen the films "Tender Mercies" or "In this House of Brede"? Certainly "patient and routine" has its own spiritual dangers. I'm not sure that "frantic urgency" is the solution. The need for speed may owe as much to the spirit of this result-driven age as it does to anything else.

John Partridge said...

@Mitchell, 'Urgent' does not necessarily carry the same meaning as frantic, frenetic or fast but more of an understanding of critical priority. Patience is a virtue but without urgency, patience becomes sloth. I become more convicted of the urgency of the gospel every time that the church buries a neighbor or friend whom no one ever found the time to tell about Christ.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Well said. You nailed it!


The New Testament holds both patience and urgency together. Your words are a reminder to us not to neglect the significance of either.

Richard H said...

What destroys my sense of urgency is probably the multplicity of that very sense. When I have urgent things coming from the angle of ministry, job (you know that ministry and job sometimes conflict even when they're ostensibly the same thing), family and community.

Only way I know to maintain it is to live in a community that has a healthy shared sense of urgency.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Good point. The necessity of the ecclesial context is something I should have emphasized.

Thanks for reminding us!