Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Discipleship XIII

Follow Me as I follow Christ - Photo by Firefigher with a Camera

Follow Me as I follow Christ - Photo by Firefigher with a Camera

In this series of posts, I am sharing some short thoughts from each chapter of Dallas Willard’s book The Great Omission and then some brief personal reflections.

Chapter Twelve: Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, and the Restoration of the Soul
Transformation requires our engagement by the power of God’s spirit, where we “plan for routine progress in wholeness” by engaging in spiritual the spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, scripture memorization.

My Reflections
I appreciate Willard’s continual attention to the scripture that teaches God has a part and we have a part in transformation. It seems to me that we can’t do God’s part, and He won’t do ours. I haven’t engaged in memorizing entire sections of the scripture for a little while.  I have a renewed desire to do this, remembering how transformative it has been in my life.


4 Responses to Discipleship XIII

  1. Josh Rowley says:

    JR–

    It sounds like Willard is focused primarily on the transformation of the individual person, rather than transformation of neighborhoods or the public square or the world in general. Is this critique a fair one? The disciplines you mention, while undeniably important, have been called (rightly, I think) “disciplines of withdrawal” by Australian theologian Simon Carey Holt (see his excellent little book GOD NEXT DOOR); Holt advocates adding “disciplines of engagement” (walking the neighborhood, celebrating with neighbors, nurturing the neighborhood, etc.).

    Also, the word “transformation” raises some questions–perhaps as many as it answers. Transform what into what? How? Are there means that are inappropriate for Christians to employ even if they accomplish transformation?

  2. jrwoodward says:

    Josh,

    Thanks for your interaction. You raise some great questions. I would say that most of the writing that I have read of Dallas focuses on the transformation of the individual person. I think he would say we must start with the individual and the more individuals that become “transformed” to live more like Christ in private and public, the more the public square will be transformed. Personally, I think we should work to see transformation from both ends simultaneously because they both effect each other in complex ways, and there should be an emphasis on communal disciplines done together so that the church might be (in Newbigin’s words) a sign, foretaste and instrument of God’s kingdom.

    Willard would certainly support the disciplines of engagement, and speaks of some of them in various books. For Dallas transformation would involved becoming more and more like Jesus. When it comes to inappropriate means, what are you thinking about?

  3. Josh Rowley says:

    Your assessment of Willard’s primary focus (namely, on the individual) is consistent with one that one of his students gave me several months ago. I share your opinion that “we should work to see transformation from both ends simultaneously because they both effect each other in complex ways, and there should be an emphasis on communal disciplines done together so that the church might be (in Newbigin’s words) a sign, foretaste and instrument of God’s kingdom.” Willard’s approach seems to me to be garden-variety evangelicalism repackaged rather than missional. I suspect that’s at least one of the reasons for his popularity–his work allows many American Christians to remain in their long-occupied comfort zones, zones that include a focus on the individual and the private rather than on the communal and the public. This focus is more Western than it is biblical.

    As for the question of means, I did not have anything in particular in mind when I wrote (my hope was simply to generate conversation about the pros and cons of the language of “transformation”). However, broadly speaking, I often find myself concerned about issues of power. How should followers of Jesus use (or not use) power toward the end of transformation? Under the umbrella of power a number of subcategories fall–control, coercion, and violence to name a few.

  4. Arlene says:

    As valuable as Scripture memorization has been for me..and as much as I desire to get back in the swing of things…it’s probably the discipline that’s gunna go by the way side for a bit here…I am totally convinced of it’s blessing from my past…even found alot of tools very recently to make it easy….and when you do this in communal it is …well just fun!! I am amazed on how many Christains I have met who never have embraced this discipline and they have been a Christain for 20 plus years…One of my pastors as a young Christian used to devour books of the Bible…Jeff Moore…and I believe my good friend James Granger also eats the word like it was his last meal!!…It is work…but worth it!!

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