In June 2005, as part of my Doctor of Ministry program with Fuller Theological Seminary, I participated in a two week intensive course on Spirituality and Ministry with Dallas Willard.
Dallas Willard is a very godly and gifted person who has written widely on the topic of 'spirituality'. He also lectures on philosophy at the University of California. Our focus included a study of the various Christian disciplines that enable a person to be truly 'like Christ'.
Here are a few of my favourite quotes and thoughts from Dallas:
- Unfortunately, we often think that being a Christian is about trying hard to be like Jesus. Spiritual transformation is not a matter of trying harder, but of training wisely (1 Tim.4:7-8). A lot of Christians 'try' hard to be like Jesus and then either 'fake it' (act like they’re doing okay) or they give up ('I’m not perfect just forgiven').
- "Authentic transformation really is possible if we’re willing to do one thing: arrange our life around the kind of practices Jesus engaged in to receive power from the Father."
- "How many people are radically and permanently repelled from The Way by Christians who are unfeeling, stiff, unapproachable, boringly lifeless, obsessive and dissatisfied? Yet such Christians are everywhere, and what they are missing is the wholesome liveliness springing from a balanced vitality with the freedom of God’s loving rule … Spirituality wrongly understood or pursued is a major source of human misery and rebelling against God."
- On the discipline of celebration – "Joy is strength. Its absence will create weakness. Failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good. Here lies the strength of temptation … Normally, our success in overcoming temptation will be easier if we are basically happy in our lives."
- Not long after moving to Chicago into a new fairly high pressured ministry position, John Ortberg asked his mentor, Dallas Willard, "What do I need to do to stay healthy and alive spiritually?" Long pause. "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life", he said at last. Another long pause. "Okay, I’ve written that down", John told him, a little impatiently. "That’s a good one. Now what else is there?" John had many things to do and this was a long distance conversation, so he was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least time possible. Another long pause. "There is nothing else", Dallas said.
For those interested in reading some of Dallas' material, I'd recommend the following books. They are not light reading but they have a great deal of depth in them.
- The Divine Conspiracy – this book is a comprehensive exploration of life in the Kingdom.
- The Spirit of the Disciplines – this is a classic book on spiritual disciplines. You might also want to check out The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg, who studied under Dallas Willard. He refers to this book as 'Dallas for Dummies'.
- Renovation of the Heart – a practical book focused on helping us put on the character of Christ.
- The Great Omission – this book takes a fresh look at Jesus' teaching on discipleship.
- Hearing God – a book explaining how to build an intimate relationship with our Creator.