Leaders Being Led

Dennis Voskuil

READ : John 21:15-19

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (v. 17)

The first reading assignment for a seminary leadership course I co-taught was Henri Nouwen’s classic book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. Nouwen was a noted Catholic scholar who taught for many years at the Harvard University Divinity School. Although his reputation as an author, scholar, and teacher grew, he sensed that he was spiritually and emotionally burned out and accepted an assignment to serve at L’Arche, a home for the developmentally disabled in Canada. It was during his stay at L’Arche that Nouwen came to understand the true meaning of Christian leadership.

Nouwen, troubled by his inability to identify with the folks at L’Arche, came to understand that the temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness were in many ways like those faced by Christian leaders: the temptations to be relevant, popular, and powerful. Looking to the life of Jesus, Nouwen identified the antidotes to these temptations: contemplative prayer, confession, forgiveness, and theological reflection. Nouwen also suggested that leaders must be willing to be led, as in John 21:15-19 where Jesus informed Peter that the time would come when he would be led where he did not wish to go.

When Christians are willing to be led like Jesus, who was taken to the cross, they are prepared to tend his sheep. They have become servant leaders.


O Lord, prepare us to faithfully tend the sheep of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ.