Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Looking for the next small thing

Father Henri Nouwen was surprised one day by a request he received. He was asked to speak at a conference on Christian Leadership in the 21st Century. Surprise quickly gave way to perplexity. It was the late 1980's. The world was in a state of constant change. How can one predict what the 21st Century will be like? No one could have imagined in the 1950's what it would be like in 20 years time!

But recent experience proved that much could be said on the topic. Nouwen was a revered Professor in Pastoral Practice. He had written a stack load of books and taught large numbers of students. He effectively influenced a generation in how they thought about Christian ministry. Then, quite unexpectedly, Nouwen was called to L'Arche, a community for people with mental disabilities. He swapped the prestigious halls of Harvard University for a simple life among simple people; the grandeur of professorship and fame for a simple ministry amongst people who didn't know or care about his accolades.

What Nouwen shared from that experience is helpful for us all. There are three major temptations we face: to be relevant, to be spectacular and to be powerful. Christian ministry is none of those things. The challenge for us isn't to be the next Billy Graham or Benny Hinn. The challenge is to serve faithfully—even if it means serving someone who isn't exactly going to raise our profile. I wonder how often we need to stop looking at Harvard University and, instead, seek to serve at L'Arche.

Originally penned for East Taieri Church bulletin.

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