DJ's Book Rants

A Seminary student and pastor trying to find an outlet for all the books he has to read.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

In The Name of Jesus

Henry Nouwen writes his reflections on leadership out of his struggle with spiritual burnout. He like so many was about the business of doing more Godly things, than he was being a Godly man. His move to L’Arche is a great example of finding Jesus among the marginalized of society. I have read “In the Name of Jesus” more than once, but each time I am still stung by its truth. I am also stung by how relevant I try to be, while all the time calling it discipleship.
Nowen says in his opening chapter, “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 he created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.” I would love to live out that sentence as a Christian leader and human being. I rarely do because of my desire to do something and be somebody. I scramble for great success and accomplishments, while shielding people from the offensive message of God’s crazy love. His love doesn’t always make sense and so I try to win people over with my pathetic niceness. I am convinced I need to work less at convincing and courting people, and more time simply telling them about God’s great love.
In Chapter 2 “The Question: ‘Do You Love Me” Nouwen draws a clear line between the love of God and the love of friends and family. We all know there are limits to the love of our friends and family, and often project those assumptions on God. I agree with Nouwen that it is a powerful gift to know the difference between God’s boundless love, and our limited love. To know this difference is to get a glimpse of God’s heart. I have seen and felt the difference between God’s love and the love of others. Where I need to grow as a leader is in sharing my glimpse and understanding of God’s love with others.
Nouwen’s instruction on being a well informed leader was a great word for me, at a great time. His words describe the situation well, “Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-formed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus...” It has been a season of life where my opinion on many topics has seemed pressing and important. I have felt drawn more and more into the issues of politics. It was important for me to remember where my sense of identity should come from. More than an American, a liberal, a democrat, or republican I want to be know as a follower of Jesus.
The next temptation that Jesus and ministers face is to be spectacular. In a consumer driven society it seems so easy to use flash to sell the message of Jesus. I am amazed that Jesus was forced to wrestle with the same temptation. The problem with those won by flash and miracles is their constant need to be wowed. Jesus was making disciples and I need to have the same goal in mind.
The final temptation Nouwen mentions is to be powerful. He writes this, “It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.” I have to agree with him that many Christian leaders are in leadership because they love power. The temptation to control has reared its ugly head in my life and ministry. So often it feels that if I don’t hold on tight enough everything will fall apart. The truth is that if I would loosen up a little bit God might have room to work. I am coming to believe it is hard for God’s Spirit to move among a people who are controlled and programmed into thinking they already have all of God they need. I believe my job as a leader is to help our community hear from God (both individuals and groups). When I have all the answers they can stop listening and just follow my directions. I believe I must constantly push against my tendency to control, and move towards being a fellow traveler who needs to listen.


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