My friend Wes recently sent me this quotation from Henri Nouwen:
Real theological thinking, which is thinking with the mind of Christ, is hard to find in the practice of the ministry. Without solid theological reflection, future leaders will be little more than pseudo-psychologists, pseudo-sociologists, pseudo-social workers. They will think of themselves as enablers, facilitators, role models, father or mother figures, big brothers or sisters, and so on, and thus join the countless men and women who make a living by trying to help their fellow human beings to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday living. But that has little to do with Christian leadership because the Christian leader thinks, speaks, and acts in the name of Jesus, who came to free humanity from the power of death and open the way to eternal life.
Nouwen’s words seem to be directed mainly against a form of therapeutic ministry that is probably now on the wane, but the basic point remains valid: we are constantly challenged to demonstrate to ourselves and to others that our various activities qua church are meaningfully done in the name of Jesus.
All I would add is that we are having to restate what ‘in the name of Jesus’ means. So in my view it should invoke for us not some restrictive personal gospel or pious attitude or ideologically motivated agenda but the whole New Testament narrative by which the status of the people of God amongst the nations was transformed through the faithfulness of this ‘Son of God’, who was not only firstborn from the dead but also firstborn of all creation.