Father Henri Nouwen, in his book In the Name of Jesus, discusses Christian leadership for the contemporary world. Here are some of the best lines from a short section on relevancy:
And we claim our irrelevance not by killing ourselves but by letting ourselves die to the dead-ends the world offers us. We learn to live in the animating, life-giving grace from God. We witness to Christ with our lives. How universally appealing that is.
The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God's Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life (p 30).We are thus left with nothing but our witness, a vulnerable, poor, instrument that only His grace can animate. All we can do is accept love and love in return.
One of the main sufferings experience in the ministry is that of low self-esteem. Many priests and ministers today increasingly perceive themselves as having very little impact. They are very busy, but they do not see much change. It seems that their efforts are fruitless (p 31).This would not be a concern if they (we) lived in the poor love of God cited in the previous line from page 30.
God, the church, and the minister have been used for centuries to fill the gaps of incompetence, but today the gaps are being filled in other ways, and we no longer need spiritual answers to practical questions (p 33).We think we don't. How much different we are without a clear understanding of the spiritual reality in which we live. The only remedy is our own poverty, our witness to the spiritual reality by having nothing else to give us life. Then others will see how real God is - and how He can really work in them, too.
The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there (p 35).