This hour-long session was recorded in January 2012 at Rolling Hills Covenant Church at Rolling Hills Estates near Long Beach, California.
Watch on YouTube: “Planning for Spiritual Formation in the Local Church”
Download the audio-only version here: Link to audio version of “Planning for Spiritual Formation in the Local Church”
Summary and Recommendations
I have collected and studied over 175 articles and recorded lectures/sermons from Dallas Willard over the past few years. This particular recording speaks directly to the leadership of a church in southern California with whom Dallas had a long-time association. So the tone of this session is familiar and encouraging in a way that some of his other public lectures are not. He is among friends and he is speaking freely from his heart. In this presentation he is sharing a vision for discipleship and describing the means of moving toward that vision with more clarity than any other recording of his that I have heard. My hope is that you will see him as your friend, too, and listen attentively to his wise counsel.
I note that this recording was done in 2012 near the end of his long and fruitful life and ministry. He speaks out of the fullness of experience of years here and includes in his presentation several of the other major points of insight and understanding that he shared elsewhere in more detail (in books and lectures). In some very real ways, this recording is one of the “Best of” Dallas Willard because of that.
Here are some quotations I transcribed for one of my earlier blog posts. They can serve as a quick indicator of some of the content of this recording.
I have provided a link to the YouTube video version. Also, I have an audio-only version available above, too. Just a note, I usually listen on my smartphone with the speed increased to 1.5 times the normal (slow!) rhythm of Dallas’s pace. He naturally speaks slower than most speakers, but that may actually be helpful to give time and space to absorb the weight of his words.
“If you don’t have the people who are living naturally and easily in the things that Jesus taught both positive and negative, (because you know it isn’t about just not doing the wrong thing, it’s basically about doing the right thing) and easily living in a world in which honesty and love for neighbor and where you care for other people effectively, you are able to witness to others in a way that is natural and effective because it comes out of a life that is real. That is outreach. And if that’s not there, all of the other efforts at outreach may do some good, may get some people into heaven (and that’s not small) but it won’t get heaven into many people because the reality is lacking.” Section begins at 16:25 on the sermon “Planning for Spiritual Formation in the Local Church.” (this recording is posted along with a description in the next post).
“There are all kinds of details. But if you have spiritual formation of disciples into the likeness of the inner life of Christ, if that is your center, everything else will take care of itself. If you don’t have that as your center, nothing else will take care of itself. It really won’t matter that much what your arrangements are if you don’t have that as the center.”
19:21 on the sermon “Planning for Spiritual Formation in the Local Church.”
“The great omission from the Great Commission is not having a plan to teach disciples in a way that they naturally obey. They have been changed in their will, they have been changed in the other parts of their character so when they think of dealing with their enemy their natural response is love. You become a person who would love your enemy. That’s an evening’s discourse in itself. You can learn to love your enemies by going through a process of change in your thoughts and your bodily habits and so on. And if you don’t learn and you try to use will power you won’t succeed. And it will make a Pharisee of you because you now believe it’s very important. Remember what Jesus said in Luke “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” You know, you’ve got to be fair to the Pharisee. They’re concerned about a good thing but they believe in will power and they can’t do it, so they retreat to hypocrisy.”
34:48 on the sermon “Planning for Spiritual Formation in the Local Church.”
“You have to remember that the most effective form of outreach has always been transformed people. That has always been true in every age of the church, that it’s transformed people that touch other lives and understand the goodness of being Christ-like and the availability of that. And they say “I must have this.” They may not even say it consciously but they are drawn to it. As a result, transformed lives occur.”
55:37 on the sermon “Planning for Spiritual Formation in the Local Church.”