Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Review: In the Name of Jesus

On the way to California I read the book In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen. I really enjoyed this book, it was a short and quick read but full of wisdom regarding Christian leadership.
He starts off the book by unpacking a big change in his own life. After 20 years in the academic world as a teacher of pastoral psychology, theology and Christian spirituality, he began to experience deep inner longer for a change. He explains that he was living in a very dark place feeling burned out, a convenient psychological translation for a spiritual death. The change came from a move from Harvard to L'Arche, L'Arche communities for mentally handicapped people. He felt God's voice say to him "Go and live among the poor in spirit, and they will heal you." Henri then unpacked how he had created a life for himself around the success that he had found in the world, the books that he had written, the classes that he taught, all of that changed.
In sharing his reflections he also guided the reader through two stories from the Gospel: the story of Jesus' temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11) and the story of Peter's call to be a shepherd (John 21:15-19).
He then starts to unpack the temptations that Jesus faced in the desert and how those same temptations impact us today. The first he addressed was the temptation to be relevant in the world. He makes this statement that really stuck out to me "The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there."
He also brings up the point that the basis of any ministry should be love. Looking at Peter's call, Peter was first asked three times by Jesus "Do you love me?" Henri then reminds us that we shouldn't be asking ourselves: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? Instead we should ask: Are you in love with Jesus? In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, cares, reaches out and wants to heal.
He reminds us that when we are called to ministry, we shouldn't go into ministry alone. Jesus sent out twelve in pairs. We are called to proclaim the Gospel together, in community.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It is very challenging and asks a lot of great questions regarding leadership and ministry. Henri Nouwen does a good job at challenging the reader but also giving examples from his own life. I would highly recommend this book, with over 100 pages, it is a quick read but a good read!

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