Henri Nouwen, the well-known Dutch priest, wrote a lot of books, though I’ve found some more helpful than others. In the Name of Jesus, for instance, is one of my absolute favorite books, and I re-read it more or less annually. I just finished Nouwen’s Creative Ministry, and while I wouldn’t say it’s his best, I thought this excerpt was a real gem:
Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but don’t know how. Therefore, ministry in no way is a privilege. Instead, it is the core of the Christian life. No Christian is a Christian without being a minister. There are many more forms of ministry than the five I have discussed in this book [teaching, preaching, individual pastoral care, organizing and celebrating], which usually fill the daily life of the ordained minister and priest. But whatever form the Christian ministry takes, the basis is always the same: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
But why does a man lay down his life for his friends? There is only one answer to that question: to give new life. All functions of the ministry are life giving. Whether a man teaches, preaches, counsels, plans, or celebrates, his aim is to open new perspectives, to offer new insight, to give new strength, to break through the chains of death and destruction, and to create new life which can be affirmed. In short — to make his weakness creative.
- Henri J.M. Nouwen, Creative Ministry (Doubleday, 1991)