jesus’ maturity

11 06 2008

Jesus has a different vision of maturity: It is the ability and willingness to be led where you would rather not go

i have thought of myself as being rather mature, rather wise in my ways for my age. of course i would never tell anyone else that i think i am mature and especially more than specific people around me, but we all have the thoughts. we tend to suppress these thoughts because it is prideful to hold such a thought and especially to hold it over others. but what if our idea of this profound maturity wasn’t at all what us “mature” people thought we had cornered the market on?

we believe that maturity is all about having the experience and head knowledge to act a certain way or carry ourselves in a specific manner. maybe, however, Nouwen is on to something in saying that maturity is going where we would rather not go. the notion of maturity is that the person can correctly identify where they should go according to human sense, or the logical choice. such a person chooses to stay at home and work for a few years, to “get some more cash” so that they can get started in life, when they know full well that they should be over in Africa. it’s the guy who decides to stay with his girlfriend for years even though he knows it’s not working out but it’s just safest in the relationship. it’s the pastor who preaches the prosperity gospel or that God just wants the best for you because you are good, in fear that he might damage the moral of his congregants and lose his job.

perhaps maturity is doing what doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem like the wise option, and isn’t necessarily the popular choice, but a deep connectedness with God to the degree that the individual understands what must be done. perhaps we should stop deferring to our humanity all the time and take a risk, take a chance and trust the heart of God and what he may have in-store where he is leading us. so stop rejecting the prompting and jump at what God is offering, because he wants you to seize your life, not sit back and pretend to be mature.

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knowing the heart of God

5 06 2008

The Christian leader of the future is the one who truly knows the heart of God as it has become flesh, “a heart of flesh,” in Jesus.  Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God.  This sounds very simple and maybe even trite, but very few people know that they are loved without any condition or limits

with all the secrets to leadership, the irrefutable laws, and magic potions that we have concocted for leadership in the 21st century, we fail to see the simplicity at the heart of the Christian leader.  everyone is out there looking for the new radical, or the next visionary that is going to change the world on its head and, in the Christian sphere, bring a bunch of people back to Christ.  funny that we go looking for the experience, the know-how, and the typically-bred leaders as the ones that can lead the revolution.

i think Nouwen’s words here are so far beyond us that we don’t even truly understand what is being said.  what if the leaders that are going to make the biggest differences are the ones that are living sacrificial lives on the street, hanging out with the destitute in society, and learning what it means to live the simple life?  as leaders and attempted visionaries, i believe that we have faltered because we have lost the heart of the matter, which is the heart of God.  we need to come back to the simple message that unites all people in all places, because it has the power to change everything: love.

we’ve gone far beyond the heart of the matter and lost our focus most of the time, but there is still time, there still is hope.  but we need to be willing to deal with the heart of God and build from that, his heart of love.  D.A. Carson, in a conversation with a friend of mine this past week, was quoted as saying that the advice he would give to a new generation of Christian leaders is that:

The challenge for each new generation is to address the margins from the center, and not simply assume the center

so profound.  the center is the gospel of love preached by Jesus Christ, and we as new generational leaders must go out and proclaim the center, so that the world might understand a love that truly has no condition or limit.





the servant leader

5 06 2008

It is servant leadership…in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader

this follows closely on the heels of yesterday’s post about the responsibility of the leader to the community and the community to the leader.

a current struggle of mine is in regards to the role of the community in supporting their leader, beyond nodding the head during the sermon on Sunday morning, or shaking his hand on the way in or out.  in one sense the pastor or minister is an employee of the church, or the larger organization, that serves the community when they show up to “worship” with all the baggage out there.  if we hold just to this view, than the leader is just there to give the listener the product, or the message wrapped up with a nice little bow, and then withdraw until the next time or the next need shows up.  this is wrong, purely flawed.

the leader, assuming that he or she has an ounce of humility to lower themselves to some degree of servitude, is as much a part of the community as the man or woman who walks in with worries.  to take the position that the leader is above all others and therefore to be left alone at the top and to deal in a power exhortation downwards, is a corrupt view of the western Christian Church.  on a whole, pastors are left on an island by their people, the very ones who sing the praises of the preacher, or of the visit that the pastor made to the hospital during the past week.  one wonders if it’s that this is expected or that it is genuinely appreciated and valued.  what would it look like if your pastor was in the hospital?

we cannot ignore that the pastor is to minister to the people and is in place to lead the community of faith towards worship.  but the pastor is as much a member of that community that hurts, struggles, and doubts from day to day.  the pastor is not some perfect man on a pedestal, waiting to be worshiped and adored by his people because he did what was expected.  the pastor is as much in need of the very words that were spoken in the message as the man sitting three rows from the back, or the woman feverishly taking notes in the second row.  the pastor is a member of the body, is one with all other believers, not above or below, but has humbly accepted the role of leading the people to worship of the God on high.  the pastor is not greater, for he needs the people as much as they need their leader.

the question is, when will we start treating our leaders, pastors, and ministers as such?  when will we lose the stigmatism of a leader that doesn’t need the fellowship of his or her brothers and sisters as much as we need to hear the teachings and wisdom that God has given to the leader?

wake up people, we’ve got to learn to love our leaders as much as they love us.





the community and the shepherd

3 06 2008

When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over other and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits…

Ministers and priests are also called to be full members of their communities, are accountable  to them and need their affection and support and are called to minister with their whole being, including their wounded selves

the culture of this time would have the common person or churchgoer assume that secrecy is one of the most valued traits that humankind must cling onto.  some sort of lie has been built up to suggest that the human being must keep themselves hidden from those around them.  such a thought process has crept into the minds of those who lead our churches, preach to the masses, and proclaim the Good News in their lives, of which i myself am a guilty member.  i’ve kept secrets, we all have, and still do to this day, but i suppose the point of Nouwen here is to expose the minister or priest as above that standard.

if we are truly to be about community and about brothers and sisters in Christ caring for one another, we must choose to be open and transparent with each other, even if stings and wounds us.  as proclaimers of the Word we can stand up on Saturday night, Sunday morning, or whatever midweek program we run and tell people that they need to be a part of community and know what it means to love one another.  but as the one saying it and telling others about the value and importance, are we truly doing it ourselves?

maybe the reason we feel so burned out, useless, and abandoned in ministry is because we chose to hide ourselves on a higher platform than the community we are to be a part of.  we’re not to be set apart from our communities, we are to be one within it, so we must choose to be transparent and vulnerable as such so that not only can we minister to the needs of the community, but the community might minister to the needs of the leader.





do we love?

31 05 2008

The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?

we are in the business of getting consumed with our status and our image in the world, and losing sight of what it means to truly seek the heart of God. it comes down to a simple matter: love. love with Jesus, the fully-God and fully-man. nothing else really matters when it comes down to it. if we don’t love Jesus and aren’t in a love relationship with the God who saved the world, then what have we?

but if we are in love with Jesus, nothing else matters, it all falls away, because the power of a loving relationship with an infinitely powerful God blows everything else out of the water. there is no business in worrying about status or image because it means nothing when we are loving Jesus and know that we are wrapped in His arms of love.





thoughts on Nouwen

30 05 2008

i’ve recently had this longing to pull out a book that i read a couple of years ago and found to be exceptional. it’s called In The Name Of Jesus by Henri Nouwen. generally i’m pretty wary of the stuff that a Catholic priest has written, i’m not going to knock his stuff when it is some of the best i have ever read.

you know when you read someone and you are struck by the simplicity yet amazing nature of what he has to say? Nouwen fits the bill perfectly.

so i had this thought, how about i take one of his quotes, once a day until i run through what stuck out in the book, and think about it and mull it over. i can’t be any worse off for it and it’ll be a great exercise in learning to see what i might get out of this. so for the next however many days i’m going to reflect on one quote of Nouwen and see where it takes me, and if you’re reading this too, see where it takes you as well.

how about i start with something from the prologue.

God is a God of the present and reveals to those who are willing to listen carefully to the moment in which they live the steps they are to take toward the future

we often find ourselves seeking out the will of God, or the perfect plan that God has for us without really considering what’s going on around us. how much do we get stuck in the future and the past thinking that God’s will is trapped in something we have done or will do, not in what we are doing? something tells me that we might want to practice looking for God in the moment and where we’re at, not just where we’re going. maybe if we want to know what we should be doing with life, who we should marry, where we should live, etc, we should stop and slow down our lives just enough to hear the voice of God calling out to us while we live our lives away.

now that’s what i call a man with the power of simplicity and profoundness.