The small church that was like ‘home’ to me growing up had a concentrated emphasis on God’s Word, and made the goal of every message, to receive Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour (Canadian spelling). I still cherish the fondest memories of many, many times in that little sanctuary, so much so, that even as a young boy I had a strong desire to be present at every meeting, including Wednesday night prayer meeting. As I grew older, I sensed that something was amiss, that there was an indefinable ‘more.’ Maybe it was a kind of hunger I was feeling.
I began noticing a discrepancy between the lives of church folk on Sunday and those same folk during the week. And for myself, Sunday joy didn’t seem to be making it all the way to Monday. I was confused and began, in my teens, asking a lot of questions (impertinently, I’m sure!). It was distressing to see that those to whom I was a major nuisance, didn’t have answers – including most pastors! One time in particular, when I was really struggling with an issue, I dared to ‘share’ my situation with someone I trusted, after which I heard: “I’m glad it’s you and not me, brother!” (that person then just got up and walked away!) That was not helpful.
In church, we never talked much about the Holy Spirit, other than to mention him in a Scripture passage. We were taught that his gifts and ministry had ceased in the 1st Century. I began hearing other Christians who placed a great deal of emphasis on him and was greatly intrigued. I felt there was a key here, a key to problems I faced for which I had no resolution. I started to read everything I could find on the Holy Spirit and discovered a whole Christian world I didn’t know existed (that habit continues these many decades later). This voracious reading led me to, among others, Dallas Willard* (1935-2013). He had one driving passion – the relentless pursuit of discipleship. What he saw as the largely disciple-less condition of the church so concerned him he wrote a book titled, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship. Willard’s concern was that churches were busy making Christians, not disciples. “The disciple of Jesus is not the deluxe or heavy-duty model of the Christian – especially padded, textured, streamlined, and empowered for the fast lane on the straight and narrow way.”
Jesus promises to be with us to the very end of the age. He also promises that his Spirit will live in us to teach, remind, correct, encourage, console. The concept of being a Christian without thought of being a disciple is, according to Willard, anti-Biblical. May it not be said of us. PD
*I’ve just finished his biography, written by Gary M. Moon. It’s titled Becoming Dallas Willard. So good! It’s available in analog, audio and ebook if you’d like to see why he’s become one of my all-time heroes. 😊