A few takeaways from “In the Name of Jesus” by Henri Nouwen

I read this book over a year ago and some of the themes raised by Nouwen are still resonating with me. Here are a few:

Reflections on Christian Leadership based upon a lecture he gave in Washington DC in the mid 1980s on The Future of Christian Leadership.
Reflections on Christian Leadership based upon a lecture he gave in Washington DC in the mid 1980s on The Future of Christian Leadership.

1. The Temptation: To Be Spectacular. What are ways that I try to do things individualistically? Most everything — around the house; with my health. Instead of asking for help, I tend to say, “I’ve got this.” Why do I hesitate to ask for help? Am I afraid to expose my weakness? Fear of confessing my sin? Instead, we try to show strength, think big, pray big, so that we can become big. I don’t recall “blessed are those who think big for they will become big.” Instead Nouwen calls leaders to listen to Jesus who said, “Feed My Sheep” and to live lives of confession and forgiveness.

2. Henri shows profound insight to the challenges that pastors, ministers and church leaders face: “What if my people [congregation] really knew how I feel?”

He wrote, “When ministers and priests live their ministry mostly in their heads and relate to the Gospel as a set of valuable ideas to be announced, the body quickly takes revenge by screaming loudly for affection and intimacy. Christian leaders are called to live the Incarnation, that is, to live in the body, not only their own bodies, but also in the corporate body of the community, and to discover there the presence of the Holy Spirit.” (pp. 67-68)

This is so powerful. And is an approach that many can’t take because we lack faith. We fear being vulnerable. How do I do this in my church? Can you help us, Lord? Where do you want us to live in the body?

3. Recapturing Community — The need for simple community is real and ongoing. While we desire closer connections with fellow human beings, we fear the disclosure that more intimate connections will bring. Nouwen challenges leaders to allow themselves to be led.

If my friends come for a meal, they will see my old furniture, dirty carpet, and my food choices. What will they think? The first century church saw a vision of the body of Christ and the beauty of enjoying freedom and grace. They looked at each other and saw the resurrected Jesus. Instead of old carpet, we can see the hospitality of Jesus.

This book is available on most every book selling website. Here is the publisher information:

  • Paperback: 107 pages
  • Publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company (October 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824512596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824512590

“There’s a book for that. Really?” Not always.

Do you ever feel that your day has a theme? When it seems that the Universe is trying to get a message to you? And when you started to connect the dots, it seems like an important message to share? Welcome to today.

This morning I attending another Creative Mornings Atlanta breakfast {http://www.creativemornings.com/} and heard an inspiring presentation on art, craftsmanship and work from Jason & Julie Henry { http://www.henryandco.com/ }. As the Q. & A. would prove, one of the more intriguing themes that Jason brought up was the apprenticeship that he served with his father many years ago and how, over time, his hands became tools of his trade. My friend Ryan Tuttle, with whom I sat at the meeting, later shared how he had apprenticed with his father many years ago in Savannah. And last weekend when talking with my son Justin Locklear, he brought up the now legendary 10,000-Hour Rule explicated by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers as the entry point for being an expert in your field. Justin feels he is about 6,000 hours into that “apprenticeship.”

Finally, as I put my computer down on a table in this coffee shop a woman at the next table said to her friend, “You know, [insert famous evangelical pastor’s name here] has done a series on that.” There it was. Our fast answer to any challenge. There’s a book, a video, a course or even a TV program that will give you the knowledge you need to overcome your present obstacle.

Actually, more knowledge is not usually our problem. We are human beings. We are mind, body, emotions, soul, spirit, heart, muscles, bones and the list goes on. We’re complicated and complex. And the phrase, “Experience is the best teacher;” is, in fact, true.

A good friend of mine is an experience designer for a high-impact 501(c)3 organization involved with church leadership and congregational renewal. {www.wellspringgroup.org} Often times I’m sure she has to explain what that means and inevitably folks say, “Oh, you develop the curriculum.” Because, you see, that’s where we want to go. We want to gain more knowledge in the hope that our life’s issues will be solved if we can just find that key bit, or byte, of knowledge that will unlock my struggles and put me on the road to success. We want to arrive without walking or driving all of those miles.

You see, it is only in the crucible of pain that we learn that we have strength. Even Jesus wanted to forego the pain of crucifixion if there was a way to purchase back the people of the world some other way. John 22:41 Then He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, 42 “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me — nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”  {HCSB}

I have several books on running. And they definitely helped me run three marathons in 2011. But what helped me more was running four days a week for about three years. The books told me about adding miles, but it was my experience of running those miles that prepared my body and my mind to actually run 26.2 miles.

But, my most profound experience of growth has occurred in my relationship with God over the past five years. I had read books about God, about what we should believe about God and how he works in the world, but I learned who he was and is and how he wanted to relate to me by sitting in silence with empty and open hands and bringing my distracted heart to him. I felt and saw his love in tangible ways. We developed a relationship by actually spending time together. Not reading another book. Although I’ve read more books in the past five years than during any other time in my life, my learning was actualized by consistently spending time in solitude with the heart of an apprentice who wanted to learn how to live, love, work. And somehow that was enough. Experience God’s love. It’s better than a book.