Published on Fuller Seminary’s Burner Blog for Pastors and Leaders.
Read the Article here
by Marcus J. Carlson
The church and the world suffered a great loss on May 8 when Dallas Willard passed away shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. Like many who are paying tribute to Dallas, I never had the opportunity to get to know him personally, yet he changed my life in ways I could have never imagined possible. Dallas Willard has been one of the most significant influences on my life, faith, and ministry, and God has used him to impact the church.
Dallas Willard in both his speaking and writing had the ability to share the difficult things Christ followers and the church needed to hear that resonated deep within and left a lasting impact. His humility and thoughtfulness along with his incredible, yet often simple use of language penetrated listeners and readers hearts. Dallas Willard was one of those followers of Christ who not only believed and preached transformation, but he also appeared to be one who lived it out well, demonstrating great commitment to this notion that God can transform us, change us, make us new and lead us to the abundant life promised in the gospel of John.
I first encountered Dallas Willard in a class my sophomore year of college on Christian spirituality. Spirit of the Disciplines was the first book I read by Willard, and it was also my first exposure to the spiritual disciplines. I would not be the person I am today without Willard’s words and the disciplines. The spiritual disciplines have transformed my relationship with Christ and have been one of the primary formation tools in my own life, faith and ministry. Willard’s treatment of the disciplines as well as discipleship always seemed to address the tension between works and grace in a way no one in this modern era could. My spiritual director who is also an important mentor in my life was shaped most dramatically by Dallas Willard. As I reflect on the role Howard has played in my life, I know much of it comes out of the role that Dallas has played in his. The fruit of Dallas Willard’s writings, work, ministry and life are undeniable. Without Dallas, I would not be the person, husband, father, pastor or leader I am today. My journey is infused with the words, life and ministry of Dallas, and God gave the world a great gift in allowing us to share in the power of the Holy Spirit in his life here on earth.
I cannot think of any modern writer, speaker or thinker who could adequately describe and point others to discipleship like Dallas Willard. One of my favorite quotes by Dallas sums up what I believe is his legacy and ministry: “The greatest challenge the church faces today is to be authentic disciples of Jesus.” That is who Dallas Willard was during his time here on earth, an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ. It is easy to let go of authenticity in our world today, and the hard work of discipleship is often avoided, even in the church. Dallas kept pointing us to Christ and encouraging us to live a life of authentic discipleship, a life-changing, hard, grace-filled life of following Jesus Christ. Abundant life is found in authentic discipleship and Dallas Willard will continue to be one who will help us to understand what it means to be an authentic disciple of Jesus.
In the words of Dallas Willard, “If you don’t have a teacher, you can’t have a disciple.” Thank you Dallas for allowing Jesus to be your teacher, for helping us to know that he needs to be ours as well and for being a disciple of Jesus while teaching the rest of us.
In closing, a prayer Dallas offered his Doctor of Ministry students at Fuller Seminary:
“My hope and prayer for each of you,
that you would have a
rich life of joy and power
abundant in supernatural results
with a constant, clear vision
never-ending life in God’s world
and of the
of your work day by day.
A radiant life and a radiant death.”
Thank you Dallas for sharing your life with us, for offering this prayer, but most importantly for living a life of authentic discipleship that demonstrates to us what this prayer really means.
Rev. Marcus J Carlson has served in ministry for almost 15 years and resides in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife Jessica and their two children. Marcus is passionate about the Kingdom of God and is a pastor, spiritual director, teacher, speaker, writer and consultant. You can learn more about Marcus and follow some of his blogs by visiting his website marcusjcarlson.com.