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Creative Ministry by Henri J. M. Nouwen

May 24, 2015

CMThe first book of his that I read. All the people I respect rave about him so I came with a decree of eepectation. I agree with most of his conclusions but am left with a feeling of ‘if only the real world were like that’ – doubtless, the ‘real’ world is but the daily world at the surface of our perceptions is not thus, the vulnerable pastor who shares doubts gets disliked for not giving a lead, the understanding pastor listening to tales of sexual immorality gets a reputation for being immoral himself &c.


“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 do not 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.”

“In many ways we are like the busy man who walks up to a precious flower and says: ‘What for God’s sake are you doing here? Can’t you get busy someway?’ and then finds himself unable to understand the flower’s response: ‘I am sorry, sir, but I am just here to be beautiful.'” In other words, the teacher’s role is first to help a person realize who he is in Christ, and then by that fact, what he is to do.

“[W]hen schools are places . . . where people can live together without fear of each other, and learning can be based on a creative exchange of experiences and ideas, then there is a chance that those who come from them will have an increasing desire to bring about in the world what they experienced during their years of formation.”

“endless academic quarrels in a world filled with atrocities”

“much talk about hunger by people suffering from overweight”

“allows church people to indulge in comfortable discussions about the Kingdom of God while they should know that God is with the poor, the hungry, and the dying.”

“There is perhaps no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilized and free countries, than the necessity of listening to sermons.”

“every preacher . . . to assist men in their ongoing struggle of becoming.”

Dialogue = “a way of relating to men and women so that they are able to respond to what is said with their own life experience.”

“What you say loudly, I whispered in the dark; what you pronounce so clearly, I had some suspicion about; what you put in the foreground, I felt in the back of my mind.”

“A preacher who is not willing to make his understanding of his own faith and doubt, anxiety and hope, fear and joy available as a source of recognition for others can never expect to remove the many obstacles which prevent the Word of God from bearing fruit.”

“[w]hat is most personal is most general.”

“Repeatedly I have found, to my astonishment, that the feelings which have seemed to me most private, most personal, and therefore the feelings I least expect to be understood by others, when clearly expressed, resonate deeply and consistently with their own experience.”

“When a man listens to a preacher who is really available to himself and, therefore, able to offer his own life experience as a source of recognition, he no longer has to be afraid to face his own condition and that of his world because the one who stands in front of him is the living witness that insight makes him free and does not create new anxieties.”

“What happiness can there be in the world where everyone is born to die?”

“the continuing search for God in the life of the people we want to serve.”

“The paradox of the ministry indeed is that we will find the God we want to give in the lives of the people to whom we want to give Him.”

“Why do I spend so many hours talking about the individual pains of people, while I leave the society that creates these pains unchanged?”

“The most subtle desire for power, and the most difficult to overcome is thanks. As long as people keep thanking us for what we have done for them, they are, in effect, admitting that they were at least for some time dependant on us.”

“a small kingdom of thankful people who are willing to say that without him they would not be who they are now or do what they do now.”

“As long as a man sees only distatestful poverty, he is not really entitled to give.”

“[W]hen we start discovering that in many ways we are the poor and those who need our help are the wealthy, who have a lot to give, no true social agent gives in to the temptation of power since he has discovered that his task is not a heavy burden or a sacrifice but an opportunity to see more and more of the face of Him whom he

“believes that God will fulfil his promises”

“this perspective of hope. . . makes man free to look beyond the immediate needs of the community and understand his activities in a larger perspective.”

“The Christian minister is the one whose vocation is to make it possible for man not only to fully face his human situation but also to celebrate it in all its awesome reality.”

“to see what he saw, to hear what he heard”

“Only a man of prayer can lead others to celebration because everyone who comes in contact with him realizes that he draws his powers from a source they cannot easily locate but they know is strong and deep.”

“There are many people who, through long training, have reached a high level of competence in terms of the understanding of human behaviour, but few who are willing to lay down their own lives for others and make their weakness a source of creativity. For many individuals professional training means power. But the minister, who takes off his clothes to wash the feet of his friends, is powerless, and his training and formation are meant to enable him to face his own weakness without fear and make it available to others. It is exactly this creative weakness that gives the ministry its momentum.”

People of hope do not worry about the results of their work, because they believe that God will fulfil all promises and that it is only a temptation to want to know exactly how this will happen.

Our task is not a heavy burden or brave sacrifice but an opportunity to see more and more of the face of Him whom we meet.

Ministers and priests are challenged to offer the way; to be like an artist who lays his work before the community in the hope that through it, as through a window, the reality he has fathomed can be witnessed by all who give attention.

“A Christian minister will never be able to be a minister if it is not his own most personal faith and insight that forms the core of his pastoral work”

“individual pastoral care can never be limited to the application of any skill or technique since ultimately it is the continuing search for God in the life of the people we want to serve”

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