Monday, December 17, 2012

BookPastor >> "In the Name of Jesus" (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

TITLE: In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership
AUTHOR: Henri J.M. Nouwen
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1991, (82 pages).

This is a classic work on Christian leadership from one of the world's most popular spiritual writers. With honest sharing of his own personal struggles and battles against pride, Nouwen reflects on the three temptations of Christ, drawing lessons from his own experience to give us a beautiful work on Christian leadership and insights into what it means to be human. Nouwen begins with a reflection of his call to serve in the L'Arche community for the mentally handicapped people. With his experience and qualification, the author could have worked in many prestigious places. Yet, he chooses to respond to a call to serve in a place where few people will want to work in. It is a call to self-denial. It is a call to stop his slide toward "praying poorly." It is a call to go forward in faith, to do something that he normally will not do. This little book is on Christ-following, with Nouwen seeing Jesus' personal struggle with the three temptations, very much our own struggles.

The first temptation touches on the danger of becoming too fixated on bread and food for our physical needs. Nouwen makes a parallel to being relevant. His vision of Christian leadership is to be "completely irrelevant" and to only offer one's "vulnerable self" as the first requirement for leadership. Instead of being relevant by turning stones into bread,  one needs to learn a deep dependence on God. Instead of being busy for God, the Christian leader needs to be strong in God's strength, and weak in human strength. This overcoming of the temptation enables one to move from relevance to prayer.

Overcoming the second temptation aims to move the Christian leader from being infatuated with worldly popularity to humble ministry.Too much individualism and self-seeking attitudes are in people serving in the name of God. Christian service is about laying down one's life for the flock in the name of God.

The last movement is from leading people to being led by God. Instead of being tempted by power, one needs to surrender to God's leading.

My Thoughts

This book is a fresh reminder of what Christian ministry is all about, that it is all about God, and we are all servants to that purpose. It warns us of how easy it is to yield to temptations, and to fall into worldly disrepute and prideful behaviour. Too many people in leadership have been shaped more by the world rather than by obedience to the teachings of Scripture. Too many people follow worldly wisdom rather than the ways of Jesus, which is humble service. The book is written and easily understood by most readers. The language is not difficult but the challenge is a tough one to follow. Every Christian leader should read this book.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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