In his little book on leadership, ‘In the Name of Jesus’, Henri Nouwen reminds us that we need to be rooted in the love of God. He describes the three temptations that seek to draw us away from God – relevance, popularity and power.
When we think it is important to be relevant, we need to remember that that was the first temptation faced by Jesus – to turn stones into bread. What an impact that would have had! But, as Nouwen reminds us: “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 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. … “
The temptation to popularity is the temptation to do the spectacular – like jumping off the pinnacle of the temple. We may think we won't fact that one, but the fact is that it is there. As Nouwen says, “Not too many of us have a vast repertoire of skills to be proud of, but most of us still feel that, if we have anything at all to show, it is something we have to do solo.” We need to remember that the leadership to which we are called is servant leadership “in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need him or her.”
The third temptation is the temptation to be powerful, to possess all the kingdoms of the world. Nouwen sums it up beautifully – “The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross.”