"I have been given say over everything in heaven and earth, so go make apprentices to me among people of every kind, submerge them in the reality of the Trinitarian God, and lead them into doing everything I have told you to do. Now look! I am with you every minute, until the job is completely done!" (Dallas Willard’s paraphrase of Matthew 28:18-20).
I’ve had an amazing week! I’ve been discipled/mentored by two great and godly men this week. It started on Monday when I had the privilege of driving Gordon MacDonald for the day and it finished Friday night when I found myself sitting across the dinner table from Dallas Willard.
Dallas Williard is a professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Philosophy. He is best known in Christian circles as an author of books on discipleship. His groundbreaking books The Divine Conspiracy and the The Spirit of the Disciplines have enriched the understanding of the Christian faith for thousands of believers.
I just got a copy of his recent book The Great Omission– Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings On Discipleship. Even better, I got to spend the day hearing him speak on the same topic. I’ve been so blessed to be part of a learning community that invites important speakers like Dr. Willard to spend the day with us. Being part of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence experience at Hollifield Leadership Center in Hickory, NC has really been a wonderful journey.
At the age of 71, Dallas Willard is a joyful and vibrant man. His teaching method was less about the content and more about the questions he asked. He asked penetrating questions that caused us to think about the gospel we preach and the disciples that we are commissioned to make. Hearing him teach was like drinking from a fire hydrant. It was an intellectual joy and a spiritual challenge to hear him.
After the conference I had made plans to spend another night at Hickory so I could do some writing and thinking. Imagine my surprise when I was invited to join a few of the leaders who were taking Dr. Willard to dinner. Sometimes lingering around afterwards is rewarding!
I guess that’s the new thing in my life these days. I’m willing to linger more. When I was younger I was always asking, "What’s next?" Now, I want to savor the moment more. I want to be quiet and listen to the older men and women more.
Dallas Willard said, "Most people have never been offered a meaningful opportunity to become a disciple."
I want to offer that meaningful opportunity to people. Of course it means I’ll have to linger with people more and they’ll have to linger too.
It’s worth it though. After a day of great learning, I got to have cheesecake with Dallas Willard. As we ate, I commented on needing some more discipleship on reeling in my appetite.
Dr. Willard, a twinkle in his eye, said, "Gary, have I told you about the discipline of celebration?"
"Sometimes," he continued, "you have to learn to enjoy the blessings of God!" He said, while eating another bite of double chocolate cheesecake.