The last command Jesus gave the church before he ascended to heaven was the Great Commission, the call for Christians to "make disciples of all the nations." But Christians have responded by making "Christians," not "disciples." This, according to brilliant scholar and renowned Christian thinker Dallas Willard, has been the church's Great Omission.
"The word disciple occurs 269 times in the New Testament," writes Willard. "Christian is found three times and was first introduced to refer precisely to disciples of Jesus. . . . The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus Christ. But the point is not merely verbal. What is more important is that the kind of life we see in the earliest church is that of a special type of person. All of the assurances and benefits offered to humankind in the gospel evidently presuppose such a life and do not make realistic sense apart from it. The disciple of Jesus is not the deluxe or heavy-duty model of the Christian -- especially padded, textured, streamlined, and empowered for the fast lane on the straight and narrow way. He or she stands on the pages of the New Testament as the first level of basic transportation in the Kingdom of God."
Willard boldly challenges the thought that we can be Christians without being disciples, or call ourselves Christians without applying this understanding of life in the Kingdom of God to every aspect of life on earth. He calls on believers to restore what should be the heart of Christianity -- being active disciples of Jesus Christ. Willard shows us that in the school of life, we are apprentices of the Teacher whose brilliance encourages us to rise above traditional church understanding and embrace the true meaning of discipleship -- an active, concrete, 24/7 life with Jesus.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Pretty much everything Willard wrote was gold. This book addresses the lack of discipleship in the church today, which Willard believed would 'solve most of the church's problems.' Probably true, but we may never know. Today we can't even get people to show up for corporate worship more than twice a month, and such folk think they are really committed, or as committed as their lives will allow. Now, they may be fasting, praying, studying the Bible, witnessing, involved in acts of compassion, pursuing social justice and so on in all the free time they have as a result of only giving two hours or so a month to public worship. I doubt it. If more people would read Willard it would help, in my view.
From the start, Dallas Willard pulls no punches in defining and staying on point with his subject, which in essence is that the church has not made discipleship an essential and critical part of Christianity, but they rather have made it an option for those so inclined or interested. Yet the heart of the Great Commission could not be more clear, to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19). In Willard's succinct words, "he told us as disciples to make disciples" (xii) and "The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus Christ" (3)--which stands in great contrast to the church's big problem, which is that it is "filled with undiscipled disciples" (4). Rather than adhering to the Great Commission, the general state of the church, to its shame, has in effect translated it as the Great Omission. Such "easy Christianity" is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer more than half a century ago called "cheap grace," and it has extolled an individual and collective...
Willard was a fine Biblical philosopher and I admire his numerous writings on the Christian life. His heavy emphasis on the various disciplines of the Christian inner life is important. The work of believers becoming true disciples requires real love of God and genuine obedience to all the scripture. Serious Christians seeking a deeper walk and a greater impact will gain much insight about what discipleship means. However, one cannot overlook the fact that though he is Baptist in a general sense, he is much influenced by his close association with Quaker theology. His long connection during his life with Quaker Richard Foster (once his pastor) is part of his influence. Although very popular with many Christians as a writer, one needs to examine all things through scripture. The problem is few Christians will find the passion of Willard and Foster for the life approach he proposes. I am a pastor of 35 years and struggle with being consistent in such a life.
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