Monday, January 22, 2007

Reflections on Christian Leadership

As Jeremiah reminds us, the responsibility of leadership is sobering. Henri Nouwen, in In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership, draws parallels between the three temptations that Jesus faced in the desert and temptations that face leaders in the church today. The first of these, he calls the temptation to be relevant - to do, solve, prove, create - to demonstrate competence in those things that the modern world uses to measure success.

Nouwen says that when Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread, he was being tempted to be relevant. He had the ability to turn stones into food for all of the hungry people he would meet, but his mission was greater. The bread that he would provide was himself.

According to Nouwen, "the leader of the future will be the one who dares to claim his irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows him or her to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success and to bring the light of Jesus there...

It is not enough to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time. All of that is very valuable and important, but it is not the heart of Christian leadership. 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...

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, and they need to find there the source of their words, advice, and guidance."

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