The Great Omission, pt. 1

Great OmissionI’ve been reading Dallas Willard’s most recent book, The Great Omission. It is fantastic and should be read by all Christian leaders. I’m gonna just try to provide a few seminal passages that outline Willard’s thesis.

Its most basic premise, which is a truth that should be clearly understood and fully digested by all Christians, is this: “the governing assumption today, among professing Christians, is that we can be ‘Christians’ forever and never become disciples” (p. xi). The Great Omission, namely, to “make disciples,” which is the guiding verbal thought of the Great Commission, has been erased from expectations of membership in the Church. He writes, “So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship is clearly optional. Churches are filled with ‘undiscipled disciples,’ as Jess Moody has called them. Of course there is in reality no such thing. Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have never decided to follow Christ” (pp. 4-5). Wow! Willard points us that the word “disciple” occurs 269 times in the New Testament, yet “Christian” is found 3 times. Of course he’s not arguing about semantics, but pointing out that being a Christian is tantamount to superficial believing in stuff while discipleship is, of course, something entirely different. Here’s one way he unpacks this. He says that discipleship during the New Testament was simply. He says, “Primarily it meant to go with him, in an attitude of observation, study, obedience, and imitation…. One knew what to do and what it would cost….. So when Jesus observed that one must forsake the dearest things-family, ‘all that he hath,’ and ‘his own life also’ (Luke 14:26, 33)-insofar as that was necessary to accompany him” (pp. 6-7). Discipleship now, though, is not so easily understood and executed. Willard writes, “The mechanics are not the same today. We cannot literally be with him in the same way as his first disciples could. But the priorities and intentions-the heart or inner attitudes-of disciples are forever the same. In the heart of the disciple there is a desire, and there is a decision or settled intent” (p. 7). So, today, he writes,

The disciple is one who, intent upon becoming Christ-like and so dwelling in his “faith and practice,” systematically and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end (p. 7).

This is good stuff. This has been something I’ve hinted at and talked about in a sort of circuitous manner for some time. It seems to me that intentionality and turning desires into decisions gets at the crux of being a disciple in today’s whatever, go-with-the-flow world. If not, we allow the world to unwittingly mold us. If not, we ensure that we are disciples to the many other priorities that creep into our lives and push God to the margins. Willard goes on to contrast the disciple with “the nondisciple, whether inside or outside the church, [who] has something ‘more important’ to do or undertake than to become like Jesus Christ” (p. 7). Yeow!

Just some preliminary ideas to get the blood flowing. More later…


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