Seeking to be transformed into the image of Jesus

Relevant Leadership?

This week I began a new class on Christian Leadership. Our first reading assignment was In the Name of Jesus by the late Henri Nouwen. Nouwen, a Catholic priest, spent years teaching at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard. He writes, “Everyone was saying that I was doing really well, but something inside was telling me that my success was putting my own soul in danger” (p. 20). He went from Harvard to the Daybreak Center in Toronto – a home for mentally handicapped men. The book is his reflections on the direction he believes Christian leadership should take in the future.

Nouwen suggests leaders need to stop seeking to be relevant and commit themselves to seeking God through contemplative prayer. He says, “The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?” He goes on to say, “The central question is, 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 incarnate word, and to taste fully God’s infinite goodness” (p. 43).

In a world where many churches seem to operate by more of a corporate model, I was challenged and refreshed by Nouwen’s challenge to seek God first and foremost. His challenge takes the onus off us to figure out what people want and catering to their perceptions and desires, and calls us to a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus that we might be led by the Holy Spirit.

I agree with him that “very few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits” (p. 38). As a result, “Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice and guidance” p. 45). Such a person will be “flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative” (pp. 45-47).

Such leaders – who lead from intimate relationship with Jesus rather than giftedness or ability – are leaders who may swim against the current of what is popular or deemed relevant, but they are surely the kind of leaders who touch people in deep places and make a difference that cannot be quantified or programmed.

In times of silence, solitude, and contemplative prayer, we find our true selves and experience the freedom that comes from knowing we are loved deeply and unconditionally. As leaders, as Christian leaders, how much more important is that intimacy that as we lead and as we serve we are not playing to the masses but to the “Audience of One”.


2 responses

  1. Ambassador

    Good read. It reminds me of “Ashamed of the Gospel” by John McArthur. I don’t agree with every thing he says in the book but he makes some very good points. The gospel cannot be compromised to suit peoples itching ears. The Gospel needs to be preached straight up and the hard things said.

    February 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm

  2. GAH

    Wonderful blog.

    It is SAD that the church in the west follows THE CORPORATE MODEL. Many churches seek to bring in more YOUNG members, increase revenue, to build bigger churches, hire more employees, increase payrolls, to attend more conferences, organize bigger fund raisers, encourage more giving, to buy fancier furniture and other material things, and the corporate cycle GOES ON.

    The CHURCH IN THE WEST needs to REFOCUS and follow the JESUS MODEL instead of THE CORPORATE MODEL. The church should be more responsive to the social and economic needs of the people.

    Jesus came to the poor, the underprevilaged, the sick, the lame and the depressed. He gave them hope, healed them and gave them moral and spiritual support. He rebuked the RICH and POWERFUL and called them hypocrites. He told them it is “easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle….”

    It is unfortunate that the church in the west caters to those who are young, active and productive. Those who are able GIVE MUCH, while it neglects those who are old, less active, less productive, those who are not able to GIVE much.

    Like the CORPORATE MODEL, The church pays little attention to SENIORS in our society. Seniors are, ignored, neglected, lonely, helpless, useless, depressed, sick and left to die with little MORAL OR SPIRITUAL support from the church.


    February 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm

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