I’ve been reading a lot of Dallas Willard lately. One of the reasons is that his premise is the same as that I’ve been championing for several years, but some of the “therefore” thinking he has done from that premise is really putting some pieces of the puzzle into perspective for me. So I started re-reading The Great Omission yesterday and here are some excerpts that pertain directly to the premise that Willard and I share.
Who, among Christians today, is a disciple of Jesus, in any substantive sense of the world “disciple”? A disciple is a learner, a student, an apprentice–a practitioner, even if only a beginner. The New Testament literature, which must be allowed to define our terms if we are ever to get our bearings in the Way with Christ, makes this clear. In that context, disciples of Jesus are people who do not just profess certain views as their own but apply their growing understanding of life in the Kingdom of the Heavens to every aspect of their life on earth.
In contrast, the governing assumption today, among professing Christians, is that we can be “Christians” forever and never become disciples….That is the accepted teaching now. Check it out wherever you are. And this (with its various consequences) is the Great Omission from the “Great Commission”….
For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship….So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship clearly is optional.
…Obedience and training in obedience form no intelligible doctrinal or practical unity with the “salvation” presented in recent versions of the gospel.
The only thing I would change if it was me writing those paragraphs is that I would say, “The Scriptural literature, which must be allowed to define our terms….” Man, I feel like cheering!
The next step is for someone to develop a “curriculum” from the Scriptures. A “since we can’t literally go walk with Jesus through the highways and byways of Galilee and Judea, this is how to become his apprentice today” manual. I feel called to do this and I am currently petitioning God to make clear the practical details of how to make this possible.
To quote Willard again, I need to be “systematically and progressively rearranging my affairs to that end.”