Every Thought Captive

The Impetus to Stop, Listen, and Follow

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1

We are a church in a hurried and harried age. High speed and high volume characterize every facet of our lives. In 2014, to live in Dallas is to live in the most mobile moment in the history of civilization. Many of you will travel farther, faster, and more frequently in the next 24 hours than the majority of humanity has ever traveled. Many others will communicate with more people from more places simultaneously than the majority of humanity has ever communicated.

Is this impressive? Of course. Is it astonishing? Absolutely. Does it have unintended consequences? Most certainly. An economist would call it an externality. A surgeon would say that there are complications and side effects if it involved medication. And so on.

So then what are the side effects of being a church in a hurried and harried age? I would say there are two things at minimum: stress and fracture. These terms carry different meanings in different fields, but the essence is the same because it always involves pressure. It is the pressure embedded within the word more in every area of our lives. Pressure for more travel and more communication means greater stress. With greater stress comes fracture. Greater fracture means we are a church body of individuals rather than one.

Is there hope? Here we rest on Paul’s word to the Romans: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

First, we have hope in this moment because Christ tells us we are okay in this present moment. Like, right now, we are okay. Everything is okay with the One who made us. We do not have to be ecstatic; we do not have to be forlorn. There is a peace for the one who is justified in Jesus Christ, a peace that says, “Because it is finished, it is enough.”

Practically, we are ready to be a loving presence that helps each parishioner answer the question, "Am I okay?" with a loving answer, "Yes, we are okay." We live this out in our consistency from week to week coming together in worship, able to smile and greet one another because we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The pressure behind the more loosens its grip as we sit in this present reality.

Second, because we are okay, we have the freedom to be honest about where we are not okay this side of heaven. We can say where the pressure has caused stress and fracture. We can acknowledge when we are burned out, that we have barely survived the daily gauntlet of e-mails and errands. If leading a group is difficult, we can admit it without tacitly confessing our inability or unworthiness to lead. We can even speak openly to our ministry leaders when they have fallen short (except for the Elementary Children’s Ministry, whose leadership has been unparalleled and beyond question. And yes, I may or may not be the Elementary Coordinator…)

Third, because we are okay, we cannot only admit where we are not okay, but we are free to dream about when all of creation will be okay. Because we have been justified by faith and are at peace with God from here to eternity, we are not running out of time. We are running into time. The hurried and harried life will not be so in eternity. Indeed, this is one of the benefits of eternity, where we can expectantly say, “What’s the rush?”

If we are to live as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5, as new creations, there must be sufficient time and space to ask the question, “Can it be?” We are empowered to look to the future with what has been called a "redemptive creativity.” There is room for imagination within New Creation, both within ourselves and in the world around us. This peace moves us from fretting to flourishing in a harried and hurried time. We must take time to dream what type of church we want. Where do we want to be in five years? Ten years? Can it be?

These are questions that can only be asked if we will stop, listen, and follow our Lord Jesus Christ. The impetus for abiding in Christ is to recognize how the world is pushing in on us and to move in a direction where we know we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Stopping does not mean apathy but rather surrendering autonomy to Christ’s lordship. Listening does not mean inferiority but rather humility to take direction while sitting at another’s feet. And following does not mean we are never called to lead but rather that leadership looks like stewardship, that we are placeholders rather than power brokers in the realm in which we are called to responsibility. May the peace we enjoy through justification by faith push against the harried spirit and towards the One who calls us to stop, listen, and follow Him from today to eternity.

About the Author

Photograph of James Madden

James Madden

RUF Campus Minister at SMU

Park Cities Presbyterian Church

James Madden grew up in Dallas at PCPC. He attended Washington and Lee University and later worked with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Wake Forest University. James was recently ordained on March 22, 2015, and currently serves as the RUF Campus Minister at SMU.