Few books in my library have offered more quotable material than Jean Vanier's Community and Growth (Paulist Press, 1989).
Here's a nugget:
"In order to be able to assume the responsibility for other people's growth, leaders must themselves have grown to true maturity and inner freedom. They must not be locked up in a prison of illusion or selfishness, and they must have allowed others to guide them.
"We can only command if we know how to obey. We can only be a leader if we know how to be a servant. We can only be a mother - or a father - figure if we are conscious of ourselves as a daughter or a son. Jesus is the Lamb before the He is the Shepherd. His authority comes from the Father; He is the beloved Son of the Father" (p. 225).
In the order of thought in Vanier's two paragraphs, I should like to raise these questions for some of us to ponder:
1. What is "true maturity" in the biblical sense and is our Christian movement producing those kinds of persons in any reasonable quantity?
2. What does it mean to "allow others to guide them?" How are "apprentice" leaders guided in growth toward maturity?
3. Is the notion of Christian obedience still alive in our new view of discipleship? What does it mean to veer away from generally accepted cultural practices because one becomes convinced that they must first reckon with the yes's and the no's of Jesus?
4. What does it mean to be a "daughter" or "son" in Vanier's perspective? And how does that lead to becoming a "mother" or a "father" in the community of faith?
5. Might it not be profitable to take a fresh look to the relationship between Jesus and His Father and see if this is not the primary template of the true Christian life?
Questions like these nag at me because I sense that there are growing suspicions that our Christian movement is simply not producing the kinds of Christ-followers who can stand up to the rigors of this new age in which we live. As has been the case for a long time, we are a movement that can get people to cross a discernable line into faith. But once they've been on the Jesus side of the line for a while, there arises an insipid boredom and bogging down in terms of spiritual growth and service. If there is any credibility to this wild generalization, then the operational question becomes why?
Gordon MacDonald, Leadership editor at large