Thank You Dallas Willard

The great Dallas Willard passed away yesterday and Jesus followers all over the world mourn the loss of one of Christendom’s greatest minds.

It has long been my contention that much of what we see emerging from the church today: from the actual “emergent” movement, to the Shane Claiborne/social justice crowd, to Willow Creek’s renewed focus on discipleship, to the “missional” cohorts, all of it is response to Willard’s monumental work, The Divine Conspiracy. Starting pulling on the thread of any of these movements and you don’t have to unravel much to get to Willard.

On a personal level, Divine Conspiracy was the first book I read “for fun” after graduating from college and it profoundly shaped not only my thinking but practical decisions about my vocation.

So, thank you Dallas, for calling us to actually follow Jesus, the master teacher, to be his disciples, and for reminding us of the counter-intuitive power of the upside down kingdom.

Also, Willard taught at the most revered institution of higher education in our household: the University of Southern California.

Fight On, Dallas.

Thursday Links

  1. Campus Ministry/Pastoring/Theology themes today…we begin with: Daniel Kirk posts about the importance of community in embodying the “presence” (the new temple).
  2. Ed Cyzewski on what every pastor secretly wants 
  3. Thom Ranier on the five biggest challenges for pastors
  4. The Faith on Campus “blogathon” has produced some great stuff including these two posts from Cor Chmieleski: One reminding us that there is no ministry silver bullet, and…
  5. How to use the summer to get ready for another year of work in campus ministry

NT Wright Quote of the Week

I just finished NT Wright’s excellent book on character and virtue: After You Believe. In it he argues winsomely to wrap up the quest for Christian character inside the ideas of worship and mission. They all go together. We pursue virtue and character as an act of worship and to help us in our mission.

He writes that the 4 big virtues are humility, patience, chastity, and charity. These four big words contain a bunch of other ideas (i.e. faith, hope, and love, the fruits of the spirit, etc). This section comes from his thoughts on chastity, but I would argue they really capture the essence of the book:

“Christians have always insisted that self-control is one of the nine fold varieties of Spirit’s fruit. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, you have to work at it and discover why certain temptations, at certain times and places, are hard to resist.

“That because chastity is a virtue: it’s not first and foremost a rule which you decide either to keep or to break; it’s certainly not something you can calculate according to a principle, such as the greatest happiness for the greatest number; and in particular, as Jesus himself indicated, it won’t be generated by going with the flow of what comes naturally.

“This is where the genuinely celibate, like Jesus himself…have discovered the joy of a ‘second nature’ self-control which much of our culture, like most of the ancient world, never even imagines.

“By contrast, as those of us who care pastorally, or in families, for people who have embraced the present habits of society will know, the bruises and wounds caused by those habits are deep, long-lasting, and life-decaying. The church is often called a killjoy for protesting against sexual license. But the real killing of joy comes with the grabbing of pleasure…the price tag is hidden at the start, but the physical and emotional debt incurred will take a long time to pay off.

“Here Patience and Humility come into play once more. The frantic urge toward sexual intimacy is part of the drive to express yourself, to push yourself forward, to insist that this is who you are and this is how you intend to behave.

“No, says Humility; you don’t discover your true self that way. You find it by giving yourself away. Precisely, agrees Patience: taking the waiting out of wanting is short-changing yourself and everybody else. The virtues are linked together…if you want one of them, you better practice them all.”

Must Reads

Links of the Week:

  1. An interesting graphic on philanthropy (people will give money to colleges, will they give money to college ministry?)
  2. John Piper caused a stir with his “masculine feel to Christianity comment”…here’s an overview and some helpful responses
  3. Daniel Kirk with some great insight on what the Bible is for and the narrative approach
  4. Logan Gentry with some good thoughts on how missional communities can fail
  5. 2 posts from Scot McKnight’s blog on eschatology that is grounded in story versus escapism.