Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Great Omission

This book by Dallas Willard, published in 2006 is a collection of his earlier writings on discipleship and spiritual formation which were published in journals and from his talks.

However, one still can read them and see how it helped shaped his thoughts as he focused and developed his thinking into his later books, The Spirit of the Disciplines, The Divine Conspiracy, and The Renovation of the Heart. While his earlier emphasis is on discipleship, one can discern the change as he recognise the deeper and wider implications of spiritual formation.

The central theme of this book is to answer the question, "Can you be a Christian without being a disciple of Christ?"

Obviously, in our evangelical theology the answer is yes! In our emphasis on justification by faith, we often forgot the part about sanctification. Hence, yes, it is possible to be a Christian without being a disciple. Willard used this to show "an obvious Great Disparity between, on the one hand, the hope for life expressed in Jesus - found real in the Bible and in many shining examples from among his followers - and, on the other hand, the actual day-to-day behavior, inner life, and social presence of most of those who now profess adherence to him." (p.x)

According to Willard, the Great Commission is the mandate for us to go forth and make disciples. The Great Omission occurs when we have changed the “making disciples” part into “go forth and make converts and baptize them into church members.” Our emphasis is focused on making converts rather than making disciples. What we have effectively done is that we have a church full of converts but no disciples. Evangelism and seek-friendliness is our first priority rather than disciple making. It is this failure of Christians becoming disciples of Christ first that led us to the present state of the church today.

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Blogger lilian koh said...

Yes Alex, I fully agree. In fact I thank God that he allowed several crises in my life to make me stop in my tracks...and discover that there was more to being a Christian than church attendance and service...that he was interested in changes at deeper levels. Change is uncomfortable to many, but then they do not realize what grace, in fact, Who they will encounter in the process.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous blogpastor said...

I was half-way through this book.Good stuff. We seem to share a common appreciation for Dallas Willard's precise and clear and enlightening writings!

9:15 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi lilian,
There is such a great difference between religiosity and obedience to Christ. Yes, change is uncomfortable and scary but inevitable if we are alive.


I like Dallas Willard's books because he is so systematic in his approach. This must be because of his intial training in philosophy. However he has added psychology and theology into the mixed.

However I do find most of this work too 'theoretical' and not too practical, even his VIM approach to spiritual formation in Renovation of the Heart. I am surprised that in the Renovation of the Heart he devoted only one chapter to formation by the church while the rest of the book is about individual character formation.

My personal impression is that he is advocating an individualistic spiritual formation, which is suitable for a North American Christians (which is mostly whom he is writing for). I am interested to exploring how his ideas cna be applied in an Asian context.

3:11 AM  
Blogger Global-South said...

hi alex,

I like your comment about "exploring how his ideas can be applied in an Asian context."

I am in the midst of researching and writing a DMin paper on developing non-Western leaders and missionaries, in particular Asian leaders.

Would love to hear your thots.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi global-south,

I shall be glad to interact with you on this.


11:17 AM  

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