Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus


Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections of Christian Leadership. Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992.

Referenced in: Summary

Discouragement in ministry often comes from a minister’s perceived inabilities or failures in the quest to be relevant, popular, and influential. In this classic of Christian devotion, the late Henri Nouwen treats each of these quests as serious temptations that must be overcome by God’s healing grace. The book emerged out of Nouwen’s own experience. He writes:

After twenty-five years of priesthood, I found myself praying poorly, living somewhat isolated from other people, and very much preoccupied with burning issues. Everyone was saying that I was doing really well, but something inside was telling me that my success was putting my own soul in danger. I began to ask whether my lack of contemplative prayer, my loneliness, and my constantly changing involvement in what seemed most urgent were signs that the Spirit was gradually being suppressed. It was very hard for me to see clearly, and though I never spoke or only jokingly so, I woke up one day with the realization that I was living in a very dark place and that the term “burnout” was a convenient psychological translation for a spiritual death. (10-11)

Nouwen recounts his own prayer for clarity of God’s call, which was answered when he received the assignment to move from Harvard University, where he trafficked among the best and brightest, to L’Arche community, a place for mentally handicapped people. In this obscure setting, he learned to face his obsessions with significance. Using the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ temptations, he helps ministers battle the temptations to be relevant (“turn these stones into bread”), to be spectacular (“throw yourself from the temple and let the angels catch you”) and to be powerful (“I will give you all the kingdoms of the world”). He suggests spiritual disciplines appropriate for each temptation, interlaced with stories from his own experience.

From the Publisher

Henri Nouwen was a spiritual thinker with an unusual capacity to write about the life of Jesus and the love of God in ways that have inspired countless people to trust life more fully. Most widely read among the over 40 books Father Nouwen wrote is In the Name of Jesus. For a society that measures successful leadership in terms of the effectiveness of the individual, Father Nouwen offers a counter definition that is witnessed by a “communal and mutual experience.” For Nouwen, leadership cannot function apart from the community. His wisdom is grounded in the foundation that we are a people “called.” This beautiful guide to Christian Leadership is the rich fruit of Henri Nouwen’s own journey as one of the most influential spirtiual leaders of the 20th century.

Henri Nouwen undertakes to talk about Christian leadership and provides a profile in stark contrast to worldly values. His ideal leader is a praying leader, a vulnerable leader, a trusting leader, one who voluntarily chooses a life of downward mobility.

About the Author

Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932–1996) was a Catholic priest who taught at several theological institutions and universities in the United States. He spent the final years of his life teaching and ministering to the mentally and physically disabled at L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto, Canada.

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