Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Leadership and Theological Minimalism

(Cancun - 2/25/19)

Pastors should do two things.

First, they should focus on their own ongoing connectedness to Jesus. They should live the abiding life.

Second, they should teach their people how to do this, how to be branches living in connection with Jesus, the Vine.

As you and your people do this, discernment will come. Your lives will bear much fruit.

That's it. No more steps. No "50 rules of leadership" to follow. No strategizing, just discerning.

Just...  follow... the Holy Spirit. Put all your theological eggs into this basket.

This is "The Lord is my shepherd." This is "He leadeth me."

This is minimalist leadership, minimalist theology. 

I pay a monthly fee to be able to access and listen to every music cd that exists. I listen to multiple genres of music. One of them is minimalism. I listen to Steve Reich and Philip Glass and Brian Eno and their like.

I like minimalist repetition. I like the breathing room it gives me. Mostly, I do not care for over-production. I have a musical suspicion of over-production, and tend to see it as a cover-up for poor musicianship.

The apostle Paul was a minimalist. As Paul traveled from church to church across the first-century Roman Empire, he was not dragging a production team with him. In First  Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul says he did not come to visit the Jesus-followers in Corinth with fog machines, black lights, powerful preaching, great intellectual arguments, stacks of Marshall amps, perfectly timed studio production, quality music, a fair trade coffee bar, tight jeans, stage lighting, creative videos, clocks, and full color glossy programs.

Instead, Paul came minimally, so that God might be worshiped maximally. He writes:

When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Paul came with two things:
  1. Proclamation
  2. Demonstration
Paul showed up with 1) his testimony about God; and 2) a demonstration of the Spirit's power. Nothing else. Because anything more would subtract. Because crowd-pleasing techniques would compete with Christ and him crucified. People might rest their faith on the coffee bar and the jeans and the fog and the volume rather than God's power.

In a Presence-Driven Church there is no need to "put on our best" for the visitors, because God always brings his best whenever two or more are gathered. If God leads you to bring out the special drama, or the kids choir, or the pancake breakfast, then do it out of obedience. Otherwise, God's earth-shattering presence will be more than enough.

Do church as usual. Worship, preach, and pray. Recently at Redeemer I preached about knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection. We prayed for sick people who were there. As far as I can tell, the man who came with the hip out of his socket, which caused him a lot of pain, experienced a healing. As someone told me afterward, "Did you see the smile on his face as the pain had left him? Did you see him walking, carrying his cane but not using it?"

Presence-driven churches are minimalist in these ways:
  • They worship
  • They experience God
  • The gifts of the Spirit are manifested
  • God demonstrates his power
  • Everyone gets to participate
  • Every Sunday is Easter
Beyond that, what more could there be?

I develop Theological Minimalism in my two books:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church