In a Christianity Today article titled, “Shape-Shifting Leadership,” featuring Dan Kimball, Mark Driscoll, and Leith Anderson, Kimball states:
I’ve read Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership a dozen times. It convicts me to the core about motives and the heart of leadership. But Henri was shepherding and loving a relatively few people. Leading a church that is growing, launching new ministries, and building multi-level leadership teams needs Nouwen, but also [John] Maxwell.1(see also Maxwell/Blanchard book)
Kimball is proposing that in order to be a successful, effective leader in today’s church, we must combine the “heart” of Henri Nouwen with the leadership skills of John Maxwell. What is wrong with that?
We must first understand that Nouwen’s “heart of leadership” is mystical. He says so himself right in the book that Kimball recognizes. In In the Name of Jesus, Nouwen states:
Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love … For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required.
Moving “from the moral to mystical” is another way of saying that mystical experience is more important in leadership than doctrine or theology. Interestingly, Leith Anderson who contributed to the Christianity Today article with Kimball and Driscoll has stated virtually the same thing. Roger Oakland explains:
In 1992, Leith Anderson (Doug Pagitt’s former pastor), currently the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, spoke of this new emerging 21st century church. His views eventually
became set in stone as the emerging church has chosen experience over doctrine. Anderson reveals:
The old paradigm taught that if you had the right
teaching, you will experience God. The new paradigm says that if you experience God, you will have the right teaching. This may be disturbing for many who
assume propositional truth must always precede and dictate religious experience. That mindset is the product of systematic theology and has much to contribute … However, biblical theology looks to the Bible for a pattern of experience followed by proposition. The experience of the Exodus from Egypt preceded the recording of Exodus in the Bible. The experience of the crucifixion, the resurrection and Pentecost all predate the propositional declaration of those events in the New Testament. It is not so much that one is right and the other is wrong: it is more of a matter of the perspective one takes on God’s touch and God’s truth.
Anderson is saying that the Word of God is still being written,
and today’s experiences can dictate what that Word is. (Faith Undone, p. 55,56)
Nouwen reveals what he means by “mystical” when he states: “The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart … This way of simple prayer … opens us to God is active presence” (Way of the Heart, p. 81).
Dan Kimball proposes that leadership must combine Nouwen’s spirituality with John Maxwell’s leadership skills. Someone who emulates such a combination is business guru and meditation promoter, Ken Blanchard. Blanchard sees great value in meditation and has endorsed and promoted avid meditators for over two decades. His current participation in the Hoffman Institute shows that he is still in support of such a philosophy.
This may come as a surprise to some, but Rick Warren (who has won the trust of hundreds of thousands of pastors and church goers around the world) shares Kimball’s views. On his pastors.com website, Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus is a recommended book. (Nouwen devotes an entire chapter of that book to contemplative prayer.) And in a Saddleback training book, Soul Construction: Solitude Tool (p. 12), Nouwen is quoted as saying we need to set aside a “time and space to give God our undivided attention.” Ray Yungen explains Nouwen’s “space”:
When we understand what Nouwen really means by “time and space” given to God we can also see the emptiness and deception of his spirituality. In his recent biography of Nouwen, God’s Beloved, Michael O’ Laughlin says:
Some new elements began to emerge in Nouwenâ€™s thinking when he discovered Thomas Merton. Merton opened up for Henri an enticing vista of the world of contemplation and a way of seeing not only God but also the world through new eyes.â€¦ If ever there was a time when Henri Nouwen wished to enter the realm of the spiritual masters or dedicate himself to a higher spiritual path, it was when he fell under the spell of Cistercian monasticism and the writings of Thomas Merton.
In his book, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic, Nouwen talks about these “new eyes” that Merton helped to formulate; he praises Merton who “had such an impact” on his life, being the man who “inspired” him greatly. But when we read Nouwen’s very revealing account, something disturbing is unveiled. Nouwen lays out the path of Merton’s spiritual pilgrimage into contemplative spirituality. Those who have studied Merton from a critical point of view, such as myself, have tried to understand what are the roots behind Merton’s spiritual affinities. Nouwen explains that Merton was influenced by LSD mystic Aldous Huxley who “brought him to a deeper level of knowledge” and “was one of Merton’s favorite novelists.” It was Huxley’s book, Ends and Means, that first brought Merton “into contact with mysticism.” … This is why, as Nouwen revealed, Merton’s mystical journey took him right into the arms of Buddhism. (ATOD, 2nd ed., pp. 197)
If Dan Kimball’s hope for the future of Christianity is realized, it will resemble the spirituality of Ken Blanchard (Nouwen’s mysticism and Maxwell’s leadership skills) who said that the Hoffman Quadrinity Process made his “spirituality come alive” (ATOD, p. 165). The Hoffman Institute is:
“… an organization that was founded by a psychic and is based on panentheism (i.e., God is in all) and meditation! In the book, The Hoffman Process, the institute’s mystical perspective is laid out clearly:
I am you and you are me. We are all parts of the whole…. You can use a short meditation to remind yourself of this connection to all others in this world of ours…. As you breathe, feel that breath coming from your core essence … When you are open to life, you start noticing the divine in everything. (ATOD, p. 165)
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