I’ve been thinking again this week about the connection between what spoke to me powerfully when I first read Henri Nouwen’s ‘In the Name of Jesus’ and the present conversation around missional leadership.
Nouwen passed on to many what he found to be his own deepest challenge when he said ‘I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is to be completely irrelevant.’ I guess this is at the heart of my own conviction and yet it doesn’t sound right does it?
How can such a thing as leadership ever be irrelevant? One of the chapter’s in Nouwen’s book was entitled ‘from relevance to prayer’ and it may be that gets us closer to the heart of the matter. Let’s face it prayer is frequently regarded as irrelevant. The statistics tell us even most Christian leaders live as practical atheists, if intentional prayer can ever be measured in minutes. Most members of congregations regard prayer as crucial – especially for those in leadership, but only one person, at an exploration evening last week I led, mentioned it unprompted.
Nouwen was both a pastor and a teacher, but he recognised they were too often roles, which he played and produced ‘ministry’ to which he could easily become addicted. Isn’t that what we’re discovering again, slowly, begrudgingly. The roles are not our identity. The work is not what produces ‘results’. I’m looking forward to watching the new Robin Hood film – especially when it has a trailer ending with the quote: ‘are you ready to become who you are’. Sounds like Jesus to me.