While prepping for Sunday's message on Serving Others, I picked up Henri Nouwen's short book In the Name of Jesus and read it for the 10th time or so. Every time I read this book, from when it was assigned reading in preparing to be a freshman seminar leader during my second year of college to my fourth summer as a pastor, I'm struck by something new. Nouwen wrote this book for Christian leaders and the longer I'm in ministry, the more I appreciate Nouwen's depth.
In leaving his high profile position as a professor at Harvard and giving the rest of his life serving at the L'Arche community for the mentally handicapped in Toronto, Nouwen was able to reflect upon the temptations and challenges of Christian leadership. Nouwen proposes 3 movements for Christian leaders; 1) from relevance to prayer, 2) from popularity to ministry and 3) from leading to being lead. I want to share some quotes that nailed me upside the head this morning.
"I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God's love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God's word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life."
"The leader of the future will be the one who dares to claim his irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows him or her to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success and to bring the light of Jesus there."
"When you look at today's Church, it is easy to see the prevalence of individualism among ministers and priests. Not too many of us have a vast repertoire of skills to be proud of, but most of us still feel that, if we have anything at all to show, it is something we have to do solo. You could say that many of us feel like failed tightrope walkers who discovered that we did not have the power to draw thousands of people, that we could not make many conversions, that we did not have the talents to create beautiful liturgies, that we were not as popular with the youth, the young adults, or the elderly as we had hoped, and that we were not as able to respond to the needs of our people as we had expected. But most of us still feel that, ideally, we should have been able to do it all and do it successfully. Stardom and individual heroism, which are such obvious aspects of our competitive society, are not at all alien to the Church. There too the dominant image is that of the self-made man or woman who can do it all alone."