Book Review: In The Name of Jesus: Refections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen

 

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about the books of Henri Nouwen is that they are all relatively short, at least most of them. In The Name of Jesus, is no exception. This small book of only 81 pages is so simple in its message to those who are privileged enough to lead God’s people that I am surprised it is not required reading for all ministry students.

Nouwen often reminds me of a Catholic version of Eugene Peterson in that he, like Peterson, is constantly taking the North American pastor back to their roots. For Nouwen the effectiveness in ministry does not lie in the intellect but in the soul. Nouwen is not impressed with busyness but with closeness. In The Name of Jesus is Nouwen’s way of gently calling out to pastors, “Over here, over here. Come away and be with Jesus.”

Below are some of the passages that stood out to me:

God is a God of the present and reveals to those who are willing to listen carefully to the moment in which they live the steps they are to take forward in the future.

What decisions have you been making lately and how are they a reflection of the way you sense the future?

Nouwen asked himself, “Did becoming older bring me closer to Jesus?”

If there is any focus that the Christian leader of the future will need, it is the discipline of dwelling in the presence of the One who keeps asking us, “Do you love Me? Do you love Me? Do you love Me?”

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’s incarnate Word and taste fully God’s infinite goodness?

For the future of Christian leadership it is of vital importance to reclaim the mystical aspect of theology so that every word spoken, every advice given, and every strategy developed can come from a heart that knows God intimately.

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.

Real theological thinking, which is thinking with the mind of Christ, is hard to find in the practice of the ministry.

God’s presence is often a hidden presence, a presence that needs to be discovered. The loud, boisterous noises of the world make us deaf to the soft, gentle, and loving voice of God. A Christian leader is called to help people to hear that voice and so be comforted and consoled.

The oldest, most traditional vision of Christian leadership is still a vision that awaits realization in the future.