This is a line drawing of Jesus being tempted by the devil. Jesus is sitting amongst stones with a little bit of vegetation near His feet. A snake can be seen next to the grasses. The devil, who looks like a beast of some sort, is next to Jesus. He is holding something in his hands.

A Book Review of In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J.M. Nouwen

In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership

In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J.M. Nouwen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes I read a book that initially appears simple, but constantly leads me to consider what is written on its pages. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J. M. Nouwen is one such book. I read it in just a few days, but I still think about it from time to time.

Much of what Mr. Nouwen writes about are his experiences after being a priest at a L’Arche community for the mentally handicapped. I didn’t think that this would have much to do with leadership, but I was pleasantly surprised. Outside of these sections, the author’s primary texts for the book are Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness and His commands to Peter at the end of the Gospel of John. As I read the book I found the connection between these passages and his community at L’Arche to be fascinating. The things that Henri learned while he served there were written in a vivid manner. I felt like I could relate to his experiences with these people, and it made the book feel like a novel.

Despite that, there are some serious spiritual truths in this work. He doesn’t use the most number of verses compared to some other books I have read, but he still engages with his two primary texts. Even though they are often spoken of in the context of leadership, much of what he shares is applicable to anyone who seeks to follow Christ. That is one of the great things about this book. It led me to reflect on matters of the heart. Is this what Jesus expects of me? Am I doing things so that I earn prestige? These are the kinds of questions that I considered as I read various parts of the text.

Beyond Henri Nouwen’s use of the temptations in the wilderness and Jesus’ commands to Peter, he also discusses three spiritual disciplines. These are contemplative prayer, confession and forgiveness, and theological reflection. They are designed to help the reader combat the temptations that he or she faces while in leadership. After the chapter on theological reflection the book finishes with a conclusion and satisfying epilogue. Upon completion I felt like I had gone on a short journey with Mr. Nouwen and those at L’Arche.

Sure, there are some things that I didn’t totally “get.” The most confusing of which was his perspective of the first temptation. Early in the book he writes, “Jesus’ first temptation was to be relevant: to turn stones into bread” (pg. 30). The author does explain more of what he means later in the section, but I still find that part hard to swallow. For those curious, the best explanation for what he means is on page 35. There are a few other passages that I find unusual, but the book’s ability to cause me to consider my life and situations from a different perspective was impressive. As such, I recommend In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J. M. Nouwen highly. It is the first book I have reviewed that I feel compelled to give five stars. I’m looking forward to reading other books by Mr. Nouwen in the future.

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