“Readers are leaders.” I’ve had several people tell me that over the years. I don’t know that my reading has led me to leading, but I do know that reading has opened my eyes to so much. I would say that “Learners are readers.” And, as I’ve learned to read, there are several writers who have become “must-reads” for me. John Stott, Tim Keller, David Wells, Os Guinness, Francis Schaeffer to name a few. Dallas Willard is also on that list.
Willard went to be with His Lord yesterday. I recently re-read his book The Spirit of the Disciplines. It was required reading for one of our Doctor of Ministry in Ministry to the Emerging Generations cohorts at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Such a good book. I thought I would pass on a couple of quotes from The Spirit of the Disciplines. If you’ve already read it, perhaps this will spark you to pick it up again. And if you’ve never read it, maybe you will pick it up for the first time.
“My central claim is that we can become like Christ by doing one thing – by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself.”
“What activities did Jesus practice? Such things as solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, intense study and meditation upon God’s Word and God’s ways, and service to others.”
“The ‘cost of discipleship,’ though it may take all we have, is small when compared to the lot of those who don’t accept Christ’s invitation to be a part of his company in The Way of life.”
“A thoughtless theology guides our lives with just as much force as a thoughtful and informed one.”
“One specific errant concept has done inestimable harm to the church and God’s purposes with us – and that is the concept that has restricted the Christian idea of salvation to mere forgiveness of sins.“
“When we are in isolation from God and not in the proper social bonds with others, we cannot rule the earth for good – the idea is simply absurd.”
“Where have we gotten this idea about ‘doing what feels good’? The unrestrained hedonism of our own day comes historically from the 18th-century idealization of happiness and is filtered through the 19th-century English ideology of pleasure as the good for people. Finally, it emerges in the form of our present ‘feel good’ society – tragically pandered to by the popular culture and much of popular religion as well. Think about it. Isn’t the most generally applied standard of success for a religious service whether or not people feel good in it and after it?”
“It is solitude and solitude alone that opens the possibility of a radical relationship with God that can withstand all external events up to and beyond death.”
“What individuals are ready to do, what sits in them ready to burst forth, goes far to explain why people do the ghastly things they do. They are set to do them. There is a ‘real presence’ of evil scarcely beneath the surface of every human action an transaction.”
“It is in his faith alone that we can find a basis from which the evil in human character and life can be dislodged. We have one realistic hope for dealing with the world’s problems. And that is the person and gospel of Jesus Christ, living here and now, in people who are his by total identification found through the spiritual disciplines.”
“Ministers pay fare too much attention to people who do not come to services. Those people should, generally, be given exactly that disregard by the pastor that they give to Christ. The Christian leaders has something much more important to do than pursue the godless. The leader’s task is to equip the saints until they are like Christ (Eph. 4:12), and history and the God of history waits for him to do this job. It is so easy for the leader today to get caught up in illusory goals, pursuing the marks of success which come from our training as Christian leaders or which are simply imposed by the world. It is big, Big, always BIG, and BIGGER STILL! That is the contemporary imperative. Thus we fail to take seriously the nurture and training of those, however few, who stand constantly by us.”