In the 1960s, The Marvelettes released a hit called ‘Please Mister Postman’ which The Beatles, and later The Carpenters, made widely popular. The final line of the song goes like this: ‘Please, Mr. Postman / Deliver the letter, the sooner the better.’
‘The sooner the better.’ As Christians, we all want to move forward quickly, and to remove anything that might impede the progress of the Lord’s work.
Scripture speaks firmly against neglect, indifference, and procrastination. It asks us to be quick to love, obey, and serve. We are to be prompt to proclaim Jesus (Rom 1:15) and do the good works prepared beforehand for us. James could not be clearer when he commands us to be ‘quick to hear’ (1:19).
In the Gospels we see Jesus and the disciples on the move. Jesus prompted the betrayer, ‘What you are going to do, do it sooner’ (John 13:27). Paul on several occasions expresses his desire for speed, for example, to his fellow missionaries to meet him (Acts 17:15).
Finally, and this settles any discussion, our Christian hope has to do with the return of Jesus Christ who declared, ‘Behold, I am coming soon!’ (Rev 22:7, 12).
However, another type of urgency is observed. It is the one that states we must value efficiency and seek the best possible processes to avoid delays, maximize resources, and reach goals. ‘Silver bullet’ strategies appear again and again, assuring us that we can reduce time and produce unheard of results for evangelism, discipleship, church planting, etc. The methods and formulas for this become books and programs; their authors are required to tell the success of applying them. Then they are exported to different latitudes for application around the world.
I confess that I am uneasy about our fascination with speed. We need to recognize that it is easy to move from a sense of legitimate and consecrated urgency to a state of agitation, of shattering haste.
We have known people driven by a rush that did not seem to come from the Lord. Proverbs has something to tell us about these unholy urgencies: ‘Do not trap yourself by making a hasty promise to God and calculating the cost later’ (20:25). It also says, ‘The thoughts of the diligent surely bring gain; but everyone who hastens madly, surely goes to poverty’ (21:5).
In addition, there are examples of the consequences of haste, such as that which caused little Mephibosheth to be impeded in his walking for the rest of his life (2 Sam 4:4). The parable of the sower puts it bluntly: the seed that grew quickly was sown in shallow soil and lacked roots.
Processes, whether historical or personal, take time and usually take longer than we expect. Let us admit, there are things that cannot be accelerated and do not allow shortcuts. There is a ‘fast pass’ at Disney World that allows you to move quickly to front of the attraction while many others must wait in line. But not so in the kingdom. Have we pointed out to others that their process of Christian maturity seems slow to us? If so, let us recognize that our own commitment to and understanding of God is not as fast as we sometimes claim. In fact, the opposite may be true: we may be quite slow.
There is a well-known African saying: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.’ I wonder why some choose to go alone. What do they leave behind on their journey in order to pick up speed? It is not good to arrive without companions, devoid of content, lacking substance. After all, is Christian leadership not precisely the capacity to empower others to arrive and, even more, to help them to go further?
Like the postman in the song, we also have a letter—a letter from God in Christ. It is a letter that should be read by all. Its message is eternal and transforming. Many still do not know it. We have much to do and we must get to work.
At the same time, and unlike the song, we recognize that it is not just a matter of delivery. It’s not always true that sooner is better. This letter needs to be sincerely incarnated in the proclaimers and in those who receive it.
The author of Hebrews calls us to run with patience and perseverance (12:1). And a long time ago, the preacher in Ecclesiastes observed that the race is not to the swift (9:11). The race is long, and there is no shortcut under penalty of being disqualified.
Let us look within ourselves to recognize whether we should repent of carnal and worldly haste, as well as apathy and comfort. We need a healthy and wise sense of urgency. May we move in step and speed up with the prompts of the Spirit of God. May the Lord fill us with that holy urgency!
Daniel Bianchi is the Lausanne regional director for Latin America. He has served in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East in areas such as mission mobilization, training, sending, and member care. He is a teacher and is involved in leadership formation. His focus is on unreached people groups, suffering Christians, and refugees.