The Naked and Broken Leader 6.0

Embracing Our Nakedness and Brokenness 6.0

“I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands,
who chooses a life of downward mobility.
It is the image of the praying leader, the vulnerable leader, and the trusting leader.
May that image fill your hearts with hope, courage, and confidence
as you anticipate the new century.”
– Henri Nouwen {1}


The pursuit of true spiritual leadership forces a full embrace of follower-ship.  Until one is willing to be led by Jesus, they cannot fully embrace spiritual leadership.  Jesus will involve a very painful process.  Jesus walks a very difficult road… and asks us to follow him. Definitively, salvation is secure… but an immediate remedy for suffering is not.  Our Savior was a Suffering Servant.  Our Lord wept.  Our Lord bled. 
          The foundational spiritual leadership principles of nakedness and brokenness are difficult to comprehend, especially in the process of being exposed and restored.  To promote these principles as pursuits seems unreasonable.  To say that the benefit package of spiritual leadership includes such options as anguish, persecution, meekness, selflessness, uncertainty and even execution seems a terrible way to market a leadership theory.
          When Henri Nouwen went to work with the L’Arche community, he claimed it was then that his identity was truly exposed.  Reflecting on his experience working with mentally handicapped, he wrote:

These broken, wounded and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self- the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things- and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments.  I am telling you this because I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.  That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love.  The great message that we have to carry, as minister’s 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. {2}

          The contrite heart is the key to spiritual leadership.  For it is in the broken heart that God has room to walk around and restore according to his will.  The Christian community that allows God to bring exposure and healing will become a real community where real people will find restoration.  For it is in our weakness that God’s light and strength and power are made evident.  God’s power works best in our weakness.  For when we are weak, then we are made strong in God’s unlimited power. {3}   But it is a high calling – to follow Jesus and to love the way he loved, to treasure and shine the light of Jesus in these perishable bodies. {4}
          Being a follower of Jesus implies that we step in his steps, listen to his voice, and respond to his call.  We are to pattern ourselves after him, learning to do what he does, speaking into life the way he speaks, healing and reconciling and reconnecting people to God.  Dallas Willard teaches that for the Apostle Peter as for each of us, that we are to truly follow someone and be their disciple, then there is one absolutely essential condition.  We “must be with that person.”  By walking with Jesus we will learn how to walk after him.  Willard simplifies it further: “To follow him meant, in the first place, to be with him.  If I am Jesus’ disciple, that means I am with him to learn from him how to be like him." {5}
          A follower of Jesus is bound to get turned and bent and directed in uncomfortable ways.  The path won’t always make sense and many of the turns will, bluntly, hurt.  But the soul of the leader who is being led by Jesus is more able than any to still resound with the praises of heaven!  Even though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death and stroll in the presence of enemies, Jesus will guide us along right paths and bring honor to his name.  And as we pursue Jesus, goodness and mercy pursue us. 
          So, whether we are to become a Stephen or a Philip or whether we are included in a Hebrews 11:1-35 list or a Hebrews 11:36-38 list, we are to pursue Jesus by stripping off every weight that slows us down and by dealing with any brokenness that hinders our progress.  We are to follow Jesus. {6}   Spiritual leadership, as said before, and as Henri Nouwen has so eloquently stated, “is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is  made manifest.” {7}
          Because Jesus followed after you, you are to follow after him.  Because he came for you, sought after you, walked around looking and calling for you, found you, loved you and fought for you to his death, you should follow him. 
          Jesus loves you.  And you love him.  Don’t you?

{1} Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, 92-93
{2} Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, 30
{3} 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
{4} 2 Corinthians 4:7
{5} Willard, Dallas.  The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God
{6} Hebrews 11:1-40; 12:1-4
{7} Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, 81-82
. (San Francisco: Harper, 1997), 276.

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