I read this book in an hour, but that one hour of reading produced many more hours of personal thought and reflection about what it means to be a leader in ministry who truly reflects (albeit imperfectly) the Savior we serve.
Nouwen is addressing this book to 'priests and ministers' but I think many of the principles he discusses are very applicable to almost anyone who wants to serve God in ministry, even in non leadership capacities. I was particularly struck by what I thought was a critical point he made when he discussed how those of us who serve in ministry can often get sidetracked and distracted in our work for God when we begin to equate our service with our own glory and not God's. He talks about how people are susceptible to impure motives when serving God, and this is a very critical point. While he doesn't explore this in as much detail as I might have liked, the message is clear. As leaders in ministry, we will regularly encounter and serve people who are in tough situations. And while it's a wonderful thing to minister to those who are hurting in one form or another, we need to realize that this is a position of tremendous responsibility. Having this responsibility can tempt people into coveting power or influence, which can lead to any number of abuses once our motives for service are not pure. All the more reason to enter into Christian leadership with the right motives and a heart that is right with God. Nouwen did not explore this in great detail, but he does explore it within the context of being an effective leader for God who has joy in their service and whom God uses to the fullest for the benefit of those we serve.
Because of its shortness, it is far from a comprehensive look at honorable Christian leadership. But I think the topics he chooses to cover are handled well, and speak very eloquently to the heart that yearns to serve God with joy. I think that Nouwen puts forward a number of ideas that if implemented, will be successful in sparking joy in the hearts of Christians who serve God, and will result in joy and transformation not only for the Christian who is serving, but also for those he/she serves. It is a plan of action that allows God to refine us and those we serve, and in my view, there is no higher purpose for ministry then this. A good book.