08 November 2006

In the 1999 book In The Name Of Jesus, Henri Nouwen writes some words that have been stirring my heart and mind for several days now. I'd read them before in the various times I've gone through this deceptively simple little Nouwen volume ... but with the recent downfall of Ted Haggard in Colorado Springs, the Spirit of Christ had brought Nouwen's words back to mind for reasons that have more to do with own proclivity to sin than as a convenient way to pick up stones and throw them Ted's way.

Nouwen writes in his Conclusion (pages 71-73) ...

My movement from Harvard to L'Arche made me aware
in a new way how much
of my own thinking about Christian
leadership had been affected by the desire to be relevant,
the desire for popularity,
and the desire for power.

Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful
as ingredients of
an effective ministry. The truth, however, is
that these are not
vocations but temptations.

Jesus asks
me, "Do you love me?" Jesus sends us out to be
shepherds, and Jesus promises a
life in which we increasingly
have to
stretch out our hands and be led to places where we
would rather not go.


He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life
of prayer
, from worries
about popularity to communal
and
mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on
power to a leadership in which
we critically discern
where God is leading
us and people.

The people of L'Arche are showing me new ways.
I am a slow learner. Old
patterns that have proved
quite effective
are not easy to give up.

But as I think
about the Christian leader for the next century,
I do believe that those from
whom I least expected to learn
are
showing me the way. I hope and pray that what I am
learning
in my new life is something that is not just good for me
to learn, but something that helps you as well, to catch a
glimpse of the Christian leader of the future.

What I have said is, obviously, nothing new, but I hope and pray that
you have
seen that the oldest, most traditional vision of Christian
leadership is still a
vision that awaits realization in the future.

I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands,
who chooses
a life of downward mobility. It is an image of
the praying leader, the
vulnerable leader, and the trusting leader.
May that image fill your hearts
with hope, courage, and
confidence as
you anticipate the next century.

May we all learn from Nouwen's words ... and from Ted Haggard's choices. We are feeble, weak, stumbling people. Every last one of us. And without a keen, God-Light-discerned witness to this reality that is discovered and lived out in the twin realms of community and accountability, any desire to stay in step with Jesus Christ will be short-lived at best. Godspeed.

read.think.pray.live.

Gregg

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent quotation, Gregg. Nouwen's perspective is particularly relevant and telling as he struggled with homosexual attraction throughout his life.

"Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful
as ingredients of an effective ministry. The truth, however, is
that these are not vocations but temptations.
"

Oh man, that hits hard but it's good stuff...

D said...

A fantastic reminder Gregg! Thanks!

Dennis The Mayberry Driven Church
Florence, OR