Dallas Willard on Being the Church

church dallas willard disciple dsciplines rhythms Aug 26, 2020

Sometimes, when I’m mining my journal, I stumble on a treasure. Today I’m sharing notes I took from a morning with Dallas Willard at Tree of Life Community in Orange, CA on Sunday, August 14, 2011. The theme was “Being Church.”


I was typing on my iPad, which I don’t do quickly, so this is not a transcript. These are insights that I gained from listening to Dallas. They are sometimes in my own words. So, don’t assume that every word here is straight from him. With that in mind, I pray these notes will help you in your own journey with Christ.

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Ephesians 1:15-23

Do we make the mistake of thinking that because Paul prays for us in his letter to the Ephesians that it means there is nothing for us to do?

Question: What do we do to live in the reality of the scriptures?

Psalm 1 as our scripture reading earlier was very good. It helps us see the active side of our lives. It invites us to meditate continually on God’s law--day and night. And as Christians, we have something even better to meditate on—Jesus Himself. It's easier to delight in Jesus all the time than it is to meditate on the law (which reminds us of God’s ways, but often makes us realize how far short we fall).

Have your mind always fixed on Christ. Always! This will take care of 99% of your troubles.

Do you want to trust in God? Then keep Him always before your eyes. Seeing Him in His goodness, His beauty and His love will enable you to trust Him more.

We live by grace. But we are not waiting on grace. Grace is waiting on us. God is there ready and waiting to be gracious to us.

What is the church? It consists of people living with Jesus under God’s kingdom reign. This is His body. It is a body of redeemed people who are caught up in the life of God.

How do we fix our hearts and minds on Jesus? Use a simple phrase from the Lord’s prayer. Let it renew your mind. Remember Romans 12:2 - Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. God is ready to go, ready to enable and empower us.

Mind is key. What you think of is the first level of your freedom. Set your mind on God first and always. Ps 16:8 - I have set the lord always before me.

You can constantly invoke the presence of Christ. But this requires that he would always be before you.


What we set our minds on shapes us. Being obsessed with money, sex, fame or politics doesn't help much. But setting your mind on Christ will take care of all of these concerns.

Murmuring the Word to ourselves is better than murmuring commercial jingles or cultural slogans.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – We acknowledge God in all our ways. We invoke him in everything we do. We begin to expect Him to act. This is where resurrection power comes in. Ephesians says much about power, but it's all about resurrection power.

The biggest threat to God’s kingdom in my life is Dallas Willard's kingdom. (Our own kingdom is the biggest enemy to living in God’s kingdom).

The biblical idea of “waiting” is simply expecting God to act. I act, doing my best, but I don't rely on my best. I trust God to intervene, bless and even improve what I do.

Invocation and expectation become the structure of our lives. Sometimes I will have to speak and act to command things around me to be as God intends them to be. When the kingdom is present, God’s power flows. Transformation of character and supernatural power have always been marks of His kingdom among His people through the ages.

Invoke, expect, inject. We bring something of God’s kingdom to the places where He has us.

We must be present as a receptive community in the world. We are not the church when we come to church unless we are the church when we are away from church. We must be church back at home, in our workplaces and everywhere else.

Banks and governments are in trouble because of the sinful foolishness of people. The church must bring the kingdom into these arenas though our lives and our shared faith.


Conversation / Q & A with the pastors:

Question: "What is the primary barrier to being a disciple of Jesus?"

Answer: The default system of thinking that you can be a Christian without being a disciple. This belief is rooted in the current reigning understanding among Evangelicals of what it means to be saved. Too many think salvation is only about a guarantee of going to heaven when we die. This understanding really requires nothing of believers. We only expect to have to profess certain things and perhaps associate with certain people. Discipleship then feels like a “bait and switch” in this understanding of the gospel. It wasn't part of the original invitation.

If you are bored with worship, you won't like heaven at all.

Will the gospel we preach be an invitation to discipleship?

The New Testament calls the default system around us “the world.” It always puts self first. "The customer is always right" is one the ways this is stated.


Question: Spiritual disciples and rhythms are difficult. Where do young parents find the time?

Answer: This is where the battle sets in. You have to plan and think about why you don't have time for what matters to you.

Here’s a good question to ask ourselves: Does God ever give us too much to do? If I find myself feeling like I have too much to do, I must ask myself where those jobs came from? Who am I trying to please? What have I taken on myself that God didn’t give me?

There is value in sharing life creatively with others who can help us in our discipleship.

How does success relate to the fruits of the Spirit? The Spirit and grace do not make us passive, but the goal isn’t necessarily success as it is usually understood.

We are tempted in our spiritual lives to think that it’s all about our work. Then, if things don’t seem to work out, we just work harder.

The good news isn’t just about getting into heaven when we die. It’s about getting heaven into us now while we are alive. By trusting Jesus we can live eternal life now--eternal living. We enter into eternal life now under His reign.

I should count on what Jesus says about spiritual reality. Trust the things that Jesus said. The beatitudes, for example, are a statement about spiritual reality. We put the teachings of Jesus into practice for this reason.

Eternity is now in process. It is the life of God. It is a quality of life.

We are being caught up in the life Jesus is now living on earth.


Question: Dallas, what are your daily rhythms of life? Daily constants?

  • Before I get out of bed, I go through the Lord's prayer and Psalm 23. I work through them a few times each. I linger with each phrase.
  • When I then sit up, I proclaim aloud, "The Lord is here."
  • What happens next depends on the day. I want my "quiet time" to last all day long.
  • On some days, I can study scripture or pray for others before I leave home.
  • I will often take a break here and there to remember God. I renew my awareness of "Our Father in heaven.”

One good way to think about spiritual disciplines and how we use them is how we feel if we don't practice them. If we feel guilt, then we need to rethink our plan. Guilt doesn’t help us much. Spiritual disciplines aren’t righteousness, but wisdom. We do them joyfully and receive grace through them.

I have daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythms in my life. Fasting. Solitude days. Etc.


Question: Where should I begin if I am new to the disciplines?

Answer: Be experimental. Don't be heroic. Be easy. Take things slow. Begin small.

Breaking bad habits will cause us discomfort. Come to God as a happy student of Jesus. Expect resistance. Focus on the friendly face of Jesus.

When something doesn't work, figure out why it didn’t before just trying the same thing again.


For Reflection

  • What did Dallas say about church that helped you most?


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