3 TEMPTATIONS LEADERS FACE - EVEN PRAYER LEADERS
By editor Kevin A. Miller
13 Aug 2001
3 Temptations of the Christian Leader
They're not what you think they are.
Temptations become even more difficult to resist when I don't recognize
them. Oh, sure, I can spot bank robbery and adultery and murder. But
certain evils fly in under my spiritual radar because they don't look
evil; they look like something good. It takes spiritual discernment to
realize that something I eagerly want and pursue may actually destroy or
weaken me and my ministry.
The late Henri Nouwen names three such temptations in his insightful book,
In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership:
1. The temptation to be relevant.
2. The temptation to be popular by doing something remarkable.
3. The temptation to be powerful in your leadership; to lead rather than
This week you and I probably will be sent brochures promoting conferences
that will help us and our churches do precisely this: become relevant, do
something remarkable, and lead boldly. Such conferences offer many helpful
insights, and I've benefited from some. But pause and reflect on the fact
that Jesus regularly refused to do miracles on demand (John 6:26-31), that
he asked many of the people who did receive his miracles not to talk about
them (Mark 5:41-43), that he said some things almost certain to drive
people away (John 6:53, 60, 61). And ultimately he was led away, like a
lamb to the butcher.
I don't like those facts. I want to be relevant, a leader who does
something remarkable. The question is, Why?
The answer, if I can peer through the murky silt and see the bottom of my
spirit, is that I want to be liked, noticed, significant. I thought my
drives were all about ministry for God, but it turns out they're only a
little about God and a whole lot about me.
As Nouwen puts it simply and piercingly: "The question is not: How many
people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you
show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?"
Do I love Jesus? Really? If the answer is "mostly" or "somewhat," what has
displaced my first, full love? Maybe a desire to be a Christian leader who
does something relevant and remarkable.
But if the answer to "Do I love Jesus?" is an unqualified yes, then no
matter how uncertain and frustrated I am, no matter how insignificant and
unremarkable the current ministry, God will one day tell me, with equal
certainty, "Well done!"
--Kevin A. Miller is editor at large of Leadership Journal
P.S. I strongly encourage you to read Nouwen's little book in its
entirety. It has more insights than most books three times its size. To
order at a discount, go to