In the next three posts, I’ll be writing some thoughts from Henri Nouwen‘s book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership.This book is undoubtedly in my top five books on leadership from a Christian perspective.
Whether you’ve read the book or not, feel free to interact with what I write here.
Relevance vs. Irrelevance
Throughout the first section of part one, Nouwen contrasts the irrelevance of ministry with the push of our society for relevance. I struggled with this because I do not want my life or ministry to be driven by relevance, but do want to communicate God’s truth in a way that connects with people and is not obtuse. Here is my rendering of what Nouwen means by these terms. Does this catch the idea?
Relevance: an obsession with success, impact, and practicality that is closely linked with the things we do rather than who we are.
Irrelevance: walking the way of vulnerability and weakness in connection with the weakness and struggles of the world around us while living in the love of God
Nouwen writes: “The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation” (35).
Knowing the Heart of God
I was impressed by how Nouwen brought attention to Jesus’ question of Peter: ‘Do you love me?’ He emphasizes that this love of Jesus is the central issue at hand in our ministry.
The Christian leader of the future is the one who truly knows the heart of God as it has become flesh, ‘a heart of flesh’, in Jesus. Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, that is not something that comes from God. The sounds very simple and maybe even trite, but very few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits. (38)
Wow. These words cut to the core of our beings. Do I live in such a way that I proclaim the unconditional love of God to others? Do I know that love of God in my soul so that I can proclaim it to others?
Nouwen brings this first part to a close by calling us to a life of contemplative prayer as mystic leaders. What all of this really means is attentively pondering the love of God throughout our lives. The question here is not only do we love Jesus, but do we live a life of love with Him.
Read these words:
A mystic is a person whose identity is deeply rooted in God’s first love. . . Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God’s presence, to listen to God’s voice, to look at God’s beauty, to touch God’s incarnate Word, and to taste fully God’s infinite goodness? (42-43)
Again, Nouwen pierces to the heart. Who am I as a leader? Am I devoted to Jesus? Am I loving Him fully?