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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thinking about leadership with Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen’s short, concise writings convey a real depth of thought and challenge us to think in new ways about the meaning of Christian leadership. His book In the Name of Jesus is subtitled Reflections on Christian Leadership, in which Henri describes the inner experience of moving in to live and minister in L’Arche, a community of mentally handicapped people in Toronto, Canada. Here is one brief passage that will inspire continuing thoughtful reflection:

“This experience . . . forced me to rediscover my true identity. These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self—the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things –and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive love and give love regardless of any accomplishments.

“I am telling you this because I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love. The great message that we have to carry as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life” (In the Name of Jesus, Crossroad Publishing, 1989, pages 29-30).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Beginnings of the Gospel

The Training of the Twelve, is well worth a close reading because as D. Stuart Briscoe writes in his foreword, “the contemporary church needs to remember that the invaluable information gleaned from the social scientist about human behaviour must never be seen as a substitute for a personal relationship with the living Lord Jesus similar to that enjoyed by the twelve as they walked the highways and byways together.

“How they heard His word, studied His reactions, fulfilled His commands and responded to His promises is faithfully recorded for us in Scripture and beautifully applied to our situations in this book”

Dr. Bruce begins by commenting on John 1:29-51:
“All beginnings are more or less obscure in appearance, but none were ever more obscure than those of Christianity. What an insignificant event in the history of the church, not to say of the world, this first meeting of Jesus of Nazareth with five humble men, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael, and another unnamed! . . . the beginnings of an acquaintance with and of faith in Jesus on the part of certain individuals who subsequently become constant attendants on His person, and ultimately apostles of His religion.”

All five, with the Apostle John most likely the “unnamed” disciple (see John 1:37), “were men who hungered and thirsted after real righteousness, being sick of the righteousness then in vogue; they said Amen in their hearts to the preacher’s withering exposure of the hollowness of current religious profession and of the worthlessness of fashionable good works, and sighed for a sanctity other than that of pharisaic superstition and ostentation . . . they prayed fervently for the reviving of true religion, for the coming of the divine kingdom, for the advent of the Messianic King with fan in His hand to separate chaff from wheat, and to put right all things which were wrong.”

“The faith of these brethren, was, therefore, just such as we should expect in beginners. In substance it amounted to this, that they recognized in Jesus the Divine Prophet, King, Son of Old Testament prophecy; and its value lay not in its maturity, or accuracy, but in this, that however imperfect, it brought them into contact and close fellowship with Him, in whose company they were to see greater things than when they first believed, one truth after another assuming its place in the firmament of their minds, like the stars appearing in the evening sky as daylights fades away.”

(The Training of the Twelve by A.B. Bruce, published by Kregel Publications, in 1971, Reproduced from the fourth edition by A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1894. Foreword by D. Stuart Briscoe, copyright 1988 by Kregel Publications. Chapter 1 Beginnings, pages 1—10).

The Rest of the Story

My friend was released after 15 days in prison in good health. I can only imagine his joyful reunion with his family! The best news of all is that his prayers were answered and he was able to communicate with others during his prison term. In an even more unexpected turn of events, he has been asked to do work for some of those who learned about his craftsmanship while he was in prison. A good workman is worth hiring, and my friend has been rewarded with some new opportunities to use his skills in his local community because he is a man of integrity.