From Dallas Willard’s The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship:
“For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship. Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition of membership — either of entering into or continuing in fellowship of a denominationn or local church. I would be glad to learn of any exception to this claim, but it would only serve to highlight its general validity and make the general rule more glaring. So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship clearly is optional.”
Cornelius Plantinga has an insightful piece in the latest CT entitled “Dr. Willard’s Diagnosis: Why We Need to Really Die Before We Can Really Live.” It’s about Dallas Willard’s “mighty project” to encourage the church to take transformation seriously, to read the Sermon on the Mount as the way he really expects us to live (modern circumstances not withstanding).
“According to Willard, the problem is that a lot of us nod amiably at these instructions for a big Christian life in God’s kingdom. Then we ignore them . . . .
“Dr. Willard’s diagnosis: A lot of us are doing Christianity at a putt-putt level. We want to be forgiven without following Jesus.
“We’re afraid to follow Jesus, because then we’d have to die and rise with him. . . . The truth is, we’re mildly attracted to his virtues, but we’re strongly attracted to our vices. We wouldn’t like to lose them because they please us, and the prospect of a significant life with Jesus doesn’t so much. Do we expect a new Christian life will just happen without our having to make inconvenient changes in how we live Monday to Sunday? If so, we are like people who want to be solvent and who also max out their credit cards. Or people who want to be sexually pure and who also bookmark porn sites. Or people who want to speak Japanese without all the tiresome study that’s normally required. . . .
“Willard shows us how to get this life — eloquently and enduringly. He tells us that learning to enjoy God forever and to particiipate in his big project is entirely like learning competitive baseball or the violin or Italian. God has put joy inside sports, music-making, and cross-cultural conversation, but the only way to get joy out of them is to work at them. You’ve got to listen to your teacher, imitate him or her, and then practice a lot. The disciple is not greater than his master. If Jesus needed to learn obedience, so will Jesus’ disciples. We will need to train our brain, heart, hand, eye, and tongue to get us in shape for robust Christian living. Eyebrows, too, when they still have a haughty spirit. Fortunately, says Willard, the essential disciplines for Jesus’ disciples have been taught and learned for centuries, including by our Lord himself.”