Last night I read Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. It’s required reading for our little group of preachers that meets in Waco once a month. We’ve all read it this month and we’re going to break it down one week from today. It’s short—I read it in about 45 minutes—but it packs a powerful punch.
Nouwen uses two stories from the gospels, Jesus’ temptation in the desert and his commissioning of Peter to feed the sheep in John 21, to lead the reader in a discourse on Christian leadership. Most of the book centers around the idea of Christian leaders being servant leaders, seeking to be led by Christ’s Spirit into areas of service and sacrifice and submission instead of seeking power and popularity and relevance. He paints a Christ-centered life of “downward mobility ending on the cross.” And it’s all very good. But I was especially touched by the author’s angle on theological reflection as a spiritual discipline.
Thinking theologically, the way I understand it, is to recognize the salvation work our God has been doing in his world since the beginning of time and will continue to do until time ends and then using that as the guiding force behind everything we do and say. It’s realizing that every single thing relates to and goes back to God’s eternal plan for the reconciliation of the world and then jumping all the way into that plan and work with everything we have. It’s seeing how it all connects to redemption and salvation and deliverance and making sure the things we do connect to those things as well.
Even though we speak and teach in Scriptural terms, most ministers and preachers today are raising psychological and sociological questions. Thinking with the mind of Christ is more difficult. Nouwen writes,
“Without solid theological reflection, Christian leaders are little more than pseudo-psychologists, pseudo-sociologists, pseudo-social workers. They think of themselves as enablers, facilitators, role models, father or mother figures, big brothers or big sisters, and so on, and thus join the countless men and women who make a living by trying to help their fellow human beings cope with the stresses and strains of everyday living.
The task of Christian leaders is not to make a little contribution to the solution of the pains and tribulations of their time, but to identify and announce the ways in which Jesus is leading God’s people out of slavery, through the desert to a new land of freedom.”
Thinking theologically, which I was first introduced to at Austin Grad and which still does not come easily to me, is seeing God’s saving work in everything around us and seeing our efforts as nothing more and nothing less than joining that divine work. Thinking that way and being guided by that careful reflection serves us well as leaders; it keeps us focused on the things that truly matter and diverts our attention away from the peripheral things that take up way too much of our time and energy.
Carrie-Anne and I are leaving in the morning for the annual Soul Winning Workshop in Tulsa. And I can’t wait. I love Tulsa. I love the four days of get-away-time with my wonderful wife. I love getting re-acquainted with old friends from Mesquite, Arlington, and Oklahoma and making new friends from all over the country. I love worshiping in song with hundreds and hundreds of other saints. I love the great collection of powerful speakers and the opportunity to sit at their feet from morning to night. It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating.
We always come back from Tulsa wishing there were a way to bring back to our home congregation that same spirit and fire we see and feel and experience up there. What are the differences? Why is being in Tulsa so radically different from being in our home churches? Is it because Jeff Walling and Terry Rush and Rubel Shelly and Randy Harris are preaching? Is it because Keith Lancaster is leading singing? Is it because there are so many people there? Is it because 99-percent of the people there are all going there for pretty much the same reasons? Is it just because we’re in a different location? There is an unmistakable fire and energy there that feeds me. And I can’t wait.
Tomorrow is also our Day of Prayer and Fasting at Legacy in preparation for Missions Sunday. And, be assured, I’m holding off on the jalapeno potato chips, the Whoppers, and the Little Debbies until Thursday morning. Those are my traveling foods. But I’m fasting with the rest of our church body during this day of prayer and preparation.
Please remember to encourage each other tomorrow. Call or email your friends. Keep in touch. Get together sometime during the day for an hour of prayer. Use the building here for those times. Or just kneel with a buddy in your living room or kitchen. The prayer meeting here at Legacy Wednesday night at 6:00 will also be a wonderful time for mutual encouragement. And while you’re breaking your fast with a bagel and coffee here at the building Thursday morning, I’ll be doing the same with a continental breakfast at the Hampton Inn.
The blogging will be short and sporadic for the next few days. May our God bless us all with his vision and his passion for lost souls as we pray and prepare for Missions Sunday.