Modern life sets so many obligations to us that it is very easy to miss truly urgent things. The areas of the highest significance consist of interpersonal relationships, spare time, and spirituality. All these things are discussed in Henri Nouwen’s works, where he described his own experience. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Roman Catholic priest, is a famous spiritual writer of the twentieth century, a representative of the Christian viewpoint.
Nouwen underlines the conversion from thinking about ourselves to thinking about others. He emphasizes that a Christian leader must be irrelevant and vulnerable. He explains that people should let him “reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments” (Nouwen, 1989, p.16). This statement shows liberty that is obtained from vulnerability in a leadership position, learning to be loved and give love.
Henri is deeply convinced that the future Christian leader is called to be totally irrelevant with offering only vulnerable self, proclaiming love as the only true source of all human life.
Meaning to be relevant in a negative sense seems strange at first, but focus on own performance leads to egocentricity. Another danger of focusing too much is that there is little praise but a lot of criticism in work as well as in ministry (Nouwen, 1989).
A human being can be more efficient with vulnerability. Vulnerability opens hearts, offers understanding and empathy. But how to make oneself vulnerable to others? The answer can be founded in Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved. Only having a Christ in the heart can motivate a person to be no longer self-conscious about opening to others.
Success brings much reward and fame; however, fruits, such as community, intimacy, children come from vulnerability,. That is why we must remember, what brings us true joy – it is not success, but fruitfulness (Nouwen, 2002).
Nouwen wrote that the keeping out of fragmentation had to be in “mystical“ or the “ínner” way. It helps us to enlarge the vulnerability of ourselves and society as well, and in such a way one develops a revolutionary relevance. We all have to be mystics, but whom can we call a real mystic? A mystic is someone whose personality is extremely close to God and highly developed spiritually. The examples of mystics are set in the Bible – they are Abraham, Moses and others.
Henri Nouwen is one of the most admired New Age mystics. In the book In the Name of Jesus he wrote, “For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required” (Nouwen, 1989, p.82). He felt that the church had many venerable qualities, but often lacked the vital one – mysticism. Mystics not only “think with the church”, but have God in their hearts and serve him communally.
Nouwen also explains the necessity of peacemaking and calling. He reminds us that Christians can fulfill their call to be leaders of creation in a modern world and behave according to God’s calling in life. Henri Nouwen followed his true calling of being a “healer”.
Christian church has a remarkable history. At all times it has existed in many forms and configurations, but the fundamental objective has always remained the same – shepherding the Lord’s community. The church uniting is particularly valuable, because of its development and sharing a common vision and mission.
The spirituality of the pastoral minister is described in Henri Nouwen’s book The Living Reminder of Jesus Christ. Nouwen mentions that the Minister’s relationship with the Lord must be the priority. The burnout of the ministry means a spiritual death.
Among the issues raised by Nouwen is the thought that fundraising is the first and principal form of ministry. It is about meeting requirements and share the love of God.
According to Nouwen’s view, every Christian is a minister, striving to live his life with God’s truth. Nouwen reflects on the main tasks of the minister separated into the five functions: preaching, teaching, organizing, individual pastoral care and celebrating. He shows how these areas are joined with the minister’s spiritual life. Nouwen also observes that there is a strong demand today for a new spirituality that opens new forms of ministry. He brings the understanding of both the Christian way and the Christian Ministry and explains why ministry is relevant (Nouwen, 2009).
Nouwen concludes that psychiatrists and other doctors can not change the minister, because his true mission is self-sacrifice. In his opinion, there are many people who can understand human behavior, but there are only a few who can live their lives for others and make their vision a source of inspiration (Nouwen, 1989).
Nouwen states three temptations that a leader faces: to be relevant, to be spectacular, and to be powerful. Servant style of leadership should be used by all Christian leaders. Only with spiritual wealth, beauty, human warmth, and a wish to give a person is ready to become a minister. His task is to single out those who need help.
Nouwen holds the leadership of Martin Luther King as an example, and in his book In the Name of Jesus appeals us to be leaders who are sincerely related to God, and to use our power for God’s glory. A desire to find forgiveness and be honest about doubts deepens ministry to others. A Christian leader allows himself to be governed by the Holy Spirit. That is how he becomes a real follower of the true Leader (Nouwen, 1989).
Nouwen holds a considerable place in the theological landscape. He touches upon the problem of the church losing its ability to think theologically and thinking rather sociologically or even psychologically. The aim of his theological reflection is to make God’s presence real and visible. “Even the smallest event of human history…is an opportunity to be led deeper into the heart of Christ” (Nouwen, 1989, p. 88). As we put ourselves in such reflection, we become leaders who can invite people into a life-changing encounter with Lord.
Theological thinking makes one realize the presence of God and the fact that everything around us relates to and goes back to God. It is the understanding that efforts must be put into this work. Such a pattern of thought helps us to be successful leaders and focus on the truly important things instead of peripheral things, those that take a too large part of life.
Henri Nouwen summarized the main life principles that Jesus had described, and principal steps to beginning to live according to them. The purpose is to make the point of attention and the source of motivation the one notable thing instead of many unsignificant ones. For Nouwen, it is the Kingdom of God. It can be reached by understanding the importance of vulnerability and theological thinking, the necessity of calling and willingness to be lead, the value of mysticism and ministry.