Reaction time is a measure of how quickly someone can respond to a certain stimulus. Athletes want quick reaction times to the snap of football, the speed of a pitch or the firing of the starter’s gun. Leaders are often gauged by their reaction time to the stimuli in their field of expertise. Pastors want to empty the inbox, clear the voicemails and wrap up the loose ends as soon as possible.
Ministerial reaction time must be understood with a little nuance, though. Pastoral leadership is servant leadership. The reaction is always about and toward people. It’s not the compliments we struggle to handle well, it’s the moments when our email or text message rings with a message that tests our self-control.
For ministry, there is a distinction that needs to be understood. There is a difference between responding and reacting. Reacting tends to be impulsive, uneven and generally not well thought out. The need of most moments is not for a quick, off-the-cuff reaction; rather, a compassionate and mature response. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23; italics added).
The 24 Hour Rule is not new, but it is helpful. When a message or comment pushes your buttons, do not react. Take 24 hours to respond. Unless the message is time sensitive, there is no harm in taking 24 hours to respond. You will likely cool down. I have even found that when I re-read the message, I understand it in a better way. I realize that my first response was more flesh than anything else and the message was not what I initially took it to mean.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14).
So, next time try it. When you receive an email, text or comment that pushes your buttons, take the necessary time to respond. Wait 24 hours. You’ll be glad you did and you will be more likely to maintain the privilege of leading and serving the one(s) to whom you are responding.