Saturday, April 30, 2022

Presence-Driven Leaders Practice A.S.L.O.

                                                             (Oak tree, in my backyard)

(This is from my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)


This exemplifies leadership in the presence-driven church. 

Abide in Christ 

Saturate in the Scriptures 

Listen (Discern God’s voice) 

Obey 

A.S.L.O. 

It’s not a real acronym, I know. At one of my conferences a pastor said it means, “Go as low as you can!” I like that. 

Here are three things a presence-driven leader does. 

Presence-Driven Leaders Practice A.S.L.O. 

Presence-Driven Leaders Teach A.S.L.O. to their people. 

Presence-Driven Leaders Steward and Champion Transcendence. 

am sometimes asked, after doing these three things, what is the next step? My answer is: there is no next step. These are not “steps.” They are more like a system. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your likelihood of the desired outcome. Do these things, and you and your people will be blessed.

They run together, informing each other. They describe ongoing conditions of relationship. No one can predict what is coming down the road as these moments are lived, except that it will be good, and God will be magnified. 

Presence-Driven Pastors Practice A.S.L.O. 

The primary thing a presence-driven pastor does is dwell in God’s presence. They resolutely abide in Christ. Then, they are led, by the Spirit. Presence-driven leaders lead by being led. “Dwelling in God’s presence” is how the Old Testament expresses it. “Abiding in Christ” is the New Testament upgrade. In the Old Testament, we have “the presence of God,” especially manifested in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and the Temple in Jerusalem. In the New Testament, we have “abiding in Christ,” as given by Jesus, and our “in Christ” status in Paul’s letters. In the New Testament, the presence motif gets more intimate, more intense. We become living temples, where God makes his home. 

Before going to the cross, Jesus told his disciples about the coming upgrade. They are now to live connected to him, as their first act of being. 

We hear Jesus’ final leaderships instructions in John chapters 14-17. It is Easter week as he addresses his followers. The disciples are troubled. What, they wonder, will they do once their Master is gone? How is Jesus able to do the things he did? Jesus’ response was crucial, and counterintuitive

It was crucial, in that Jesus set before the disciples, and anyone who would follow him, the pattern of leadership foundational for the church. If the disciples don’t do what Jesus says, they will fall away. Presence-driven leadership rises and falls on connectedness to Christ. 

It was counterintuitive. Jesus’ leadership counsel goes against any leadership strategy the disciples ever heard. I doubt anyone could have anticipated what Jesus was about to say. 

It is instructive to note what he did not say. Regarding the origin of his supernatural activity, Jesus did not counsel us to form committees and figure things out on our own. Nor did he say, “I did such great things because I worked really hard.” Instead, Jesus put forth something that sounds mystical, and impractical. “I did what I did, because I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” 

Say what?! Jesus’ authoritative words, healings, deliverances, and dead-raisings, were possible because he indwelt the Trinitarian personhood of God.206 Here Jesus gets ontological. He’s going deeper than any fisherman ever lowered his nets. 

That may have been fine for Jesus, but what about us? The answer he gives his disciples must have stunned them. They, he reveals, are invited to share in God’s Trinitarian being, with all its resources. 

Like a connected branch shares the nutrients of the vine, a disciple connected to Jesus shares in the life-giving flow of peace and joy that transcends this world’s happiness. Experientially, the peace and joy that has existed everlastingly between Father, Son, and Spirit, can be ours.

Within the vast spaces of this super-reality, real church happens. A presence-driven pastor relocates here. Here is where presence-driven leadership begins, and remains. How do you lead a presence-driven church? Do this: stay connected

The promise is, as we abide in Christ, we will do the things Jesus did, and even greater things. I have heard sermons on the promised “greater things.” While that excites me, I confess to simply desiring the things Jesus did; viz., heal the sick, raise the dead, deliver the oppressed, and speak words of authority that bring people into God’s kingdom. 

This is the key to the Presence-Driven Church. Jesus said: 

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 

”I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, 

you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 

This is the New Testament upgrade to the presence motif. It is the new reality of full intimacy with God. How close can we get? John Jefferson Davis writes: 

“The believer is really, truly, factually, ontologically united in communion with all three persons of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This truth of the believer’s new state of being precedes and is the proper foundation of any particular act of worship.”

As followers of Jesus, we have a new ontological status. The nature of our identity, our being, has changed. The core concept the apostle Paul is trying to get the early church to realize and understand is this: now, they are “in Christ.” Christ, the hope of glory, resides in them. This is central to how we are to understand ourselves, and why Paul uses the “in Christ” metaphor, and variations of it (e.g., “through Christ,” “with Christ”), 216 times. 

Davis describes the intimate connection.

“As Herman Ridderbos has astutely noted, the mystical union, being “in Christ,” is not just an occasional reality in certain sublime spiritual moments; rather it is, in Pauline and New Testament teaching, “an abiding reality determinative for the whole of the Christian life…. we have to do here with the church’s `objective’ state of salvation.” We are as really connected to Christ and to other believers by the bond of the Holy Spirit as teenagers, texting one another other on their cell phones, are connected to one another by the invisible signals broadcast from the nearest cell tower.”

Constantine Cambell says the Pauline “metatheme of union, participation, identification, incorporation is… the essential ingredient that binds all other [Pauline] elements together.” 

The presence-driven pastor, as their first order of life and leadership, abides in Christ. They live in constant connectedness. This includes saturation in The Narrative. They listen for the guiding voice of God. They obey. 

Presence-driven pastors do this well. Without this, they are irrelevant and inauthentic. Disconnected branches produce nothing for Christ. They have fallen away from God’s presence. 

The pastor-as-connected-branch lives up close and personal with the trunk of the tree. Fruit-bearing nutrients ooze into them. The properties of the tree just are the properties of the branch. In the same way, properties of God are shared with the connected human heart, which then “bears fruit.” These include the God-properties of love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. 

The final piece of A.S.L.O. is obedience. We lead, by being led. We are led, as we abide in God’s presence. We discern what God calls us to do, and then we follow. 

This is the job description for presence-driven pastors and leaders. This is so radical, so revolutionary, so pregnant with possibilities, that leadership shares it with their people. This is the second ongoing condition of presence-driven leadership.