I received this book in my package to prepare for my upcoming short term mission trip.
I finished this book within a week; I couldn’t put it down. I would’ve finished it faster but Henri Nouwen’s books require a lot reflection and soul searching. This book is so good I am reading it again.
“In the Name of Jesus” is Nouwen’s reflections on the type of Christian leadership that is needed in the 21st century. It hit on things that I am struggling with.
What people expect of church leaders is what they expect of leaders of a company. People look to successful leaders in the world and want their pastors to be like them. That is totally understandable. I was like that too as a typical congregant. We don’t know any better. Nouwen says, “The world in which we live – a world of efficiency and control – has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd.” (p 62)
Some takeaways for me:
People’s greatest need is not a competent leader. I expect myself to be a “professional” and do things with “excellence”. But according to Nouwen, “while efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world…the leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitters of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there.” (p 33,35)
What I need to be is a Christian leader who truly know the heart of God as it has become flesh in Jesus. Knowing God’s heart means consistently and radically reveal that God is love. And every time fear or isolation begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God. My job is to show them God’s love. “This sounds very simple and maybe even try to, and people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits.” (p 38)
Nouwen reflected my feelings when he said Christian leaders today think that we have to do things on our own. While we know that we can’t do it all, “most of us still feel that, ideally, we should have been able to do it all and do it successfully.” (p 56) “What discipline is required for the future leader to overcome the temptation of individual heroism? I would like to propose the discipline of confession and forgiveness… Willing to confess their own brokenness and asked for forgiveness from those to whom they minister.”(p 64) I am pretty sure our church do not expect our leaders to do that.
This book reminds me that I need to fight against my self-imposed expectations to be a leader modeled by the world. Instead I need to focus on Jesus and how He wants me to lead in a way that meets people’s real needs.
I just read this that expresses more on this topic. Very helpful to me.