the shape of leadership

An Unhurried Leader | Book Review

Alan Fadling wants Christians to slow down and work in harmony with God

George P Wood on July 11, 2017


As the father of three children under 9 years of age, I often find myself in a hurry. A few days ago, for example, I got home from work, grabbed a sandwich and headed back out the door to take my son to baseball practice. One of the other dads was envious that I at least got a sandwich — he was too hurried even to eat.

“Life moves pretty fast,” that great theologian Ferris Bueller once said. “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Three hundred years earlier, John Ray wrote something similar: “Haste makes waste, and waste makes want, and want makes strife between the good man and his wife.”

In short, we hurry to get more but end up getting less.

We hurry to get more but end up getting less.

The solution is to slow down. Alan Fadling wrote about following Jesus’ rhythm of work and rest in his 2013 book, An Unhurried Life. Now, he returns with An Unhurried Leader to show what “grace-paced leadership” looks like. Hint: It isn’t hurried. Also, leadership isn’t limited to people with full-time ministry jobs. “We need not have a position of influence to be a person of influence,” he writes.

Fadling defines unhurried leadership as “a process of learning to work in harmony with the purposes of God. It is also the awareness that so much of what God does begins in people’s hearts.” Truly Christian leadership, in other words, is heart-work, and heart-work takes lots of time. This is true whether we’re talking about the hearts of the people we’re leading — or our own hearts.

For this reason, Fadling spends most of the book helping leaders unhurry. If we’re hasty with ourselves, we’ll be hasty with others, and we all know what haste makes. To unhurry us, Fadling turns to Scripture to show us what God’s purposes for us are and how those purposes change the way we lead others.

Chapter 5, “Questions That Unhurry Leaders,” made a deep impression on me, so let me share a bit more about it. Fadling uses the five questions Paul asks in Romans 8:31–35 to illuminate “deep truths” about life and leadership. Here are the questions and the truths about God’s purposes they demonstrate:

  • “If God is for us, who can be against us?” demonstrates God’s “unfailing favor.”
  • “How will he not also, along with Christ, graciously give us all things?” illuminates God’s “unfathomable generosity.”
  • “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” identifies God’s “unending justification.”
  • “Who then is the one who condemns?” illustrates Christ’s “unceasing intercession” for us.
  • “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” reminds us of God’s “unconditional love.”

These “deep truths” resonate with the soul of every Christian. What makes Fadling’s treatment of them unique is that he shows how they change the way we do leadership as Christians.

Take the first question, for example: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Fadling comments: “It’s remarkable how many Christian leaders have found themselves, in some blurry and ill-defined way, trying to earn God’s favor or to prove their worth to him or parents or a spouse, or perhaps to themselves. But God is already for us … If that’s true, then who or what in this world could effectively stand against us?”

Leaders who allow God’s favor, generosity, justification, intercession and love to sink deeply into their hearts lead differently than those who don’t. Their leadership comes to be marked by those same qualities as well. In that sense, unhurried leadership is “overflow leadership.” Citing John 7:37–39, Fadling writes: “What I bring to Jesus as a thirst can be transformed into more refreshment and life than I can possibly hold. That abundance, that excess, that overflow can become manifest in my work, my service, my leadership.”

The key thing, then, is for Christian leaders to let Jesus into their hearts. Does that sound too simple? Perhaps. Then again, I was amazed at how often An Unhurried Leader opened my eyes to things in my heart that are crowding out Jesus and thus misshaping my influence. I hope it will do the same for you.


Book Reviewed:
Alan Fadling, An Unhurried Leader: The Lasting Fruit of Daily Influence (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2017).

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