Reflecting on the Ecclessia Gathering One Month Later – Post 2- Willard and Discipleship

As mentioned in post 1, like so many, I have a high regard for Dallas Willard. How an 74 year old man refreshes these words to a 33 year old is amazing to me. Yeah, he’s on a high pedestal for me (and many others) but it’s not without good reason. As I have been processing this throughout Lent, the themes of Discipleship and Evangelism have repeatedly come up in my church community, seminary to some extent, and in my own mind. Discipleship is a term I have always been endeared to. I am sure I have said numerous times, “We need disciples, not just converts.” which depending on the attitude towards Evangelism can also sound like, “We don’t need anymore new Christians until we fix the old bad ones.” Perhaps that is a bit overstated but you get the picture.

Once in a job interview, I was asked to define discipleship. I said something like, “Christian Discipleship is the Spirit-led, lifelong process of following and becoming more like Jesus to give glory to the Father.” I threw her off at Spirit-led. I think my next response was, “No I do not think anyone would accuse of being “charismatic” in worship expression sense.” The next question was, “What is your discipleship program in your youth ministry look like?” I went on to explain that incorporating the themes of worship, learning, serving and creating community in youth ministry is discipleship. She asked, “Yeah but what program do you use?”. By then I knew I wouldn’t get the job.

When I listen to Dallas talk, I regret that I am not able to recreate his holistic (overused term) approach of terms like discipleship and evangelism to the scope of the Christian life. What does my/our evangelism program look like? Given my aversion to “programs” (Evangelism Explosion!), I hope it’s the practice of living and proclaiming the gospel in our everyday life. Indeed, sometimes it’s overt and sometimes it isn’t. It’s interesting to examine Jesus in the Gospels – like John 6 is very overt (“I am the bread of life …”, many left) & John 8’s woman caught in adultery (“Go and leave your life of sin”) or even more, John 9’s healing of the blind man, (“Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam”).

Umm, where are the altar calls? Why aren’t Peter and John singing, “I Surrender All”? How about a pledge card so someone call follow up or something? Is that really “evangelism” – just going around helpin’ & healin’ people? Hmmm.

The question of “What is the Gospel and its lower case younger sibling, “What is the gospel” (maybe more on that another time) are questions and thoughts that have occupied a lot of thought and conversations, including my senior pastor. I continue to be grateful that we serve together as bring our own emphases to such important the conversations. One thing that was renewed to me at Ecclessia is that these conversations need to be more in the forefront of my ministry.

Part 3 is about not relying on ourselves and the work of the Holy Spirit. Should have it posted later this week. As always, thanks for reading.


  1. Jim Peterhoff says:

    Tim, you NEED to read Willard’s The Great Omission. If you want an awesome book talking about what discipleship is meant to look like vs. what it looks like today; it’s wonderful!

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