In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen is one of my most treasured books. I have read it a total of 5 times now, and will probably read it again and again throughout my life.
In the introduction of the book, Nouwen says that he asked himself a question, "Does getting older bring me closer to God?"
I thought, "Wow, what an honest question." I was hooked from that point on.
Henri Nouwen is a catholic priest and he wrote this book in the late 1980's. He had spent many years teaching theology in various Ivy League schools, but later moved to minister a parish dedicated to mentally handicapped people. The stark contrast of the live he lived for a very long time and the new one he was creating, greatly influenced his writings.
This little book is a recount of the experiences he had leading up to a conference that he was invited to and the speech that he gave. He was invited to give a speech on what the Christian leader of the 21st century would need to be or do in order to be successful.
The book has a prologue, introduction, and an epilogue. Don't skip ANY of those parts. The prologue explains some things that color the rest of the speech, and the epilogue puts a nice bookend to the narrative. If the epilogue were left unread would be bring a major cliff hanger to the book. I repeat. DON'T. SKIP. ANY. OF. THESE. PARTS.
It's a short pithy book. It only has a total of 107 pages. However, the prologue doesn't start until page 11 and there are many pictures that take up a whole page. This book also has a study guide section, so if anyone wants to do a book study, they can. In reality, a person that is just reading the book through is really only reading 75-80 pages. It can most certainly be read in one sitting.
The priest's speech is broken down into three points (chapters), with each point containing three parts: a temptation, a question, and a discipline.
The temptations are what he would consider the traps that every Christian leader faces. The question is where he fleshes his concept out from both sides. The discipline is where Nouwen lays out a way for the Christian leader to not fall into temptation.
His three temptations and disciplines are as such:
From Relevance to Prayer
From Popularity to Ministry
From Leading to being Led
It is very tempting to want to be relevant, popular, and just do all the leading. However, Nouwen advises against it.
Nouwen uses two passages of scripture to frame his speech, Jesus's temptation ins the gospels (Matthew 4: 1-11) and Peter's restoration and call to shepherd (John 21:15-19).
I must say that I will never hear Peter's story the same way ever again. The way Nouwen teaches this passage, I believe it will always move me.
Nouwen's book is completely raw. It pulls the curtain back on what any layman in the church, or minister really feels. He exposes the burdens, the weight of ministry. He also inspires, encourages, and gives hope for his vocation. This is what makes his book still relevant today. It is a must read for anyone who works in ministry, layperson or trained.