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Dallas Willard’s Definitions and Quotes

Dallas Willard is famous for his definitions of the way things are in reality, especially pertaining to our life in Christ. Listening to Dallas talk it seems he has a definition for everything!

Quotes from Dallas Willard abound in sermons, books, and on the Internet. For my own study I decided to gather what I felt were the most important of Dallas Willard’s definitions and quotes related to spiritual formation in Christ. I organized these definitions into key categories to form a glossary of Dallas Willard’s Definitions and Quotes.

I have been earnestly studying under Dallas’ teaching since 2002 for my own formation in Christ and our ministry to pastors and leaders. I started developing my list of Dallas Willard’s definitions and quotes from his books (Hearing God, The Spirit of the Disciplines, The Divine Conspiracy, Renovation of the Heart, and The Great Omission), his two-week Doctor of Ministry class on “Spirituality and Ministry,” his teachings on CD, my personal conversations with him, and the Dallas Willard ministry website where you can find many free articles and links to purchase his curriculum series’ on CD or DVD. I also gathered ideas from Willard Words article and Elane O’Rourke’s excellent book A Dallas Willard Dictionary (available on Amazon).

These definitions include some paraphrasing of his wording and many are from more than one source, often including my memory of things he’s said. (I didn’t take the time to footnote all the sources.)

My book Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-Stress and Live Empowered unpacks key insights and lessons I learned from Dallas Willard on how to live as an apprentice of Christ in the Kingdom of God. Dallas’ comment about this book was: “This is groundbreaking! Pastors and others will come under this teaching and develop aspects of it in their own ministry.”

God, His Nature, and His Word

  • God is the happiest, most joyful being in the universe. God is not mean, but he is dangerous. (Obviously God is a lot more! He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and eternal. He is holy and he is love. He is the creator of life, the savior of sinners, and the judge of all. But for many people Dallas Willard’s descriptions of God as supremely happy and not mean are startling!)
  • The Trinity is real. The cosmos environing us actually is, beyond all else, a self-sufficing community of unspeakably magnificent personal beings of boundless love, knowledge, and power. God is a sweet society of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is no subordination in the Trinity, not because of some metaphysical fact but because they won’t put up with it.
  • Jesus is the Smartest Person ever to live. (Of course, he is also the Son of God and Son of Man, Lord, Savior, Teacher, and Friend.)
  • The Word of God is a real substance that nourishes our body and soul. The Bible is the Word of God in its unique written form. But the Bible is not Jesus Christ, who is the living Word. Neither is the Bible the word (small “w”) that Jesus spoke of as being sown by the active speaking of the ministry. All of these are God’s “word.”
  • The Bible is the unique written Word of God. It is inerrant in its original form and infallible in all of its forms for the purpose of guiding you into a life-saving relationship with God in His kingdom. The Bible contains a body of knowledge without which human beings cannot survive. It reliably fixes the boundaries of everything God will ever say to humankind.
  • Beauty is God’s goodness made manifest to the senses (e.g., in nature).
  • Glory is the magnificent outpouring of the radiant splendor of God’s power, strength, beauty, and goodness.

The Three Kingdoms

  • The Kingdom of God is God reigning. It is present wherever what God wants done is done. It is the range of God’s effective will. God’s reign is all around you and is from “everlasting to everlasting” — it is the natural home of the soul. Matthew uses the term the Kingdom of the Heavens to emphasize that the Kingdom of God is not far off and way later but is immediately and directly accessible to us through Jesus Christ. (Note that “heavens” is plural because the Bible presents levels to the heavens.)
  • The Kingdom of Satan is Satan in action, directly or indirectly. It is where what Satan wants done is done.
  • The Kingdom of Me (and You) is where what I want done is done. It is what I can do or control, directly or indirectly (e.g., my purse, my car, or my body). Our opportunity is to bring our kingdom (or queendom) into God’s kingdom.

The Law, Sin, and Distress

  • The Law is not opposed to grace — it is a grace. (Legalism is opposed to grace.) The Bible says that the law restores our souls; it is the structure of a life of grace in the Kingdom of God. The law is the course of rightness, but not the source of rightness.
  • The Ten Commandments are God’s gift of specific information on how best to conduct human existence.
  • The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge refers to the current condition in our society in which the institutions of education do not “officially” present a body of truths about good and bad, right and wrong, as knowledge, rationally developed and critiqued.
  • Sin is when we inwardly say yes to a temptation, when we would do the deed if the conditions were right, even if we do not actually do it. Relational sin manifests as attack or withdrawal. Often we want to do what is good, but are prepared without thinking about it to do what is evil. (This is true when sin lives in our bodily members as habit.)
  • Evil is intent upon the destruction of what is good in human life. It becomes ingrained, not only in thoughts and images, but also in a person’s body and is therefore habitually carried out. Evil springs from self-idolatry and becomes monstrous.
  • Idolatry is an image of God we make for our own manipulation.
  • Anger is like a headache in that it tells me something is wrong. It’s a feeling that seizes us in our body and immediately impels us toward interfering with, and possibly even harming, those who have thwarted our will and interfered with our life. Anger includes a will to harm them. Most wrongdoing traces back to anger. We talk about “righteous anger,” but usually people feel their anger is righteous in the moment they’re angry. We say anger is an energy for action, but anything you can do with anger you can do better without it.
  • Contempt is to think or speak of someone in such a degrading way that they are dehumanized. It spits on the deep need to belong and is inherently poisonous. It stabs the soul to its core and deflates its powers of life. Contempt can hurt so badly and destroy so deeply that murder would almost be a mercy.
  • The Thief is not the person who steals, but the one who would steal if he or she could get away with it.
  • Fear is anticipation of evil.
  • Hurry is an attitude. It’s not necessarily the same thing as speed — it’s trusting in your speed. It comes from pride and trying to do too much. Good things do not come from being in a hurry! We need to ruthlessly eliminate hurry! 
  • We are Wounded when people, especially significant others, attack or withdraw from us. Woundedness is where we must start in the spiritual formation of our social dimension. It is hard to imagine anyone in this world who has not been deeply injured in his or her relationship to others.
  • Addiction is abandonment to feeling as the ultimate value in one’s life. Allowing oneself to be “carried away” by feeling leads to deadness of soul.
  • The Ruined Soul is malformed and dysfunctional in mind, feelings, body, and social relations largely due to hidden sin. The slide into pervasive soul corruption begins with the heart (or will) deflecting the mind from God and trusting in God.
  • Depravity does not, properly, refer to the inability to act, but to the unwillingness to act and clearly the inability to earn. Everyone must be active in the process of their salvation and transformation to Christlikeness, but the initiative is always God’s. Total depravity? Sufficient depravity is a better description of the human condition. No one when they get to heaven will be able to say, “I got here on my own merits” — they will know that it was a gift of God’s grace.

General Aspects of Human Nature

  • Glory is part of the original nature of a human being and all of God’s creation. Human beings were created by God as “very good,” so much so that Adam and Eve glowed. Perhaps prior to the fall Adam and Eve were like light bulbs and this is why they didn’t need clothing! Think “gloooow-ry!”
  • Our “Creation Covenant” or job description from God is to function in a conscious, personal relationship of interactive responsibility with him. We are meant to exercise our “rule” only in union with God. Our divine purpose is confirmed by the deepest longings of our hearts to be creative of good.
  • Fallen human nature is our deformed condition inherited from our original parents. The good powers deposited at creation in our human flesh are twisted and organized against God. The only way to escape being conformed to a fallen humanity is by receiving the mind of Christ himself. Then our heart can be renovated and our soul restored.
  • “Flesh” in the Biblical usage is not the same thing as the body — it is the merely natural powers of a human being, based in the human body. In Galatians 5 Paul described “the deeds of the flesh” when natural human impulses and abilities are allowed to be the rule of life. But flesh is not the “sinful nature” as it is sometimes translated (trusting in flesh is sinful), which is why in Philippians 3 Paul gives examples of nice flesh that he sets aside in order to rely upon Christ. In the final analysis it is true that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” But the flesh and blood person can inherit it.  
  • A Person is a living entity that has a certain kind of life: primarily one of self-determination in terms of adopted values, with the possibility (and vital need) of worship. We each become a certain kind of person in the depths of our being, gaining a specific type of character. Persons rarely become present when they are not heartily wanted.
  • Identity: You are a never-ceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe. It’s important to think about what you’ll be doing in 10,000 years and to prepare for this now!

The Dynamics of a Human Being

  • Will (Heart or Spirit) is the executive center of the self and our likeness to God, being “in his image.” Will refers to that component’s power to initiate and create. Heart is not feelings, but refers to its being the center or core of the human being and the part to which every other component of the self owes its proper functioning. Spirit refers to its fundamental nature as unbodily personal power which is self-determined, but only partially in human beings.
  • Our Mind is where thoughts and feelings originate. We get to choose what we think about which in turn affects our emotions. We live at the mercy of our ideas. This is never more true that with our ideas about God.
  • Our Body is our independent power source for action. It is the little “power pack” that God has assigned to us as the field of our freedom and development. It is the place from which we live.
  • The Social dimension of the human being is the aspect of the human self that requires rootedness in others — people and God.
  • The Soul encompasses and organizes the whole person, interrelating all the other dimensions of the self so that they form one person functioning in a flow of life. It’s like the computer that runs a business in the background.

How We Come to Know Reality

  • Reason is the ability to know things merely by thinking. The reasonable person is devoted to truth and to finding it and living in it by all available means.
  • Profession is to put forth an understanding of something.
  • Belief is the readiness to act as if what you believe is true. You believe something when your whole being is ready to act as if something is so. Faith is opposed to sight, not knowledge. Faith extends beyond knowledge on the basis of knowledge.
  • Knowledge is the ability to represent (think about, talk about, and deal with) a corresponding subject matter as it is, on an appropriate basis of thought and experience. It includes good “authority.” To know Christ is to be in an interactive relationship with him.
  • Wisdom is the settled disposition of the soul to act in accordance with knowledge.
  • Reality is what you can count on; it’s what you run into when you’re wrong. Spiritual reality is hidden, but it is reality! In fact it is the foundation of the visible, material, and finite universe.

The Good News (and the Not So Good News)

  • The Conservative Gospel: “Jesus died to pay for our sins and if we will only believe he did this then we will go to heaven when we die.” It makes the atonement the whole story. We trust something Jesus did, but not necessarily who he is.
  • The Social Gospel: “Jesus is committed to liberating the oppressed and we should do likewise.” It usually promotes total inclusiveness of all beliefs and practices except oppressive ones. In practice this becomes another version of the American dream.
  • In Gospels of Sin Management the Christian message is thought to be essentially concerned only with how to deal with sin: with wrongdoing or wrong-being and its effects. Life, our actual existence, is not included. The only thing made essential on the right wing of theology is forgiveness of the individual’s sins. On the left it is removal of social evils. Transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message.
  • Consumer Christians are people who engage in church functions regularly without ever engaging in discipleship to Jesus.
  • Vampire Christians are people who just want a little of Christ’s blood.
  • “Miserable Sinner” Christianity considers human nature, flesh, life, and its world are all essentially vile, rotten, and worthless, and especially on the inside. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Hitler, as examples, were equally vile in their hearts, this view would say.
  • Paralyzed by “Grace” is what happens when Christians develop a theology that renders them passive. Anyone who really gets a hold of God’s grace will be set on fire!
  • The Divine Conspiracy is God’s plan to intervene in human history, overcoming evil with good in human history. (The Divine Conspiracy is the title of Dallas’ best-known book.)
  • Jesus’ Gospel: “Re-think how you’re living your life in light of your opportunity to live in God’s Kingdom today and forever by putting your confidence in him.” (Of course, Jesus’ gospel includes forgiveness of sins, liberating the oppressed, and being faithful to a community of Christ-followers.) The gospel of the kingdom steadies us against believing anything bad about God. It calls us, rather, to believe that what is good God will bring to pass. In fact, this world is a perfectly safe place to be as long as you’re in the Kingdom of God. 

Jesus’ Answers to the Four Great Questions of Life

  • 1. What is reality? God and his kingdom.
  • 2. Who is blessed? (Who has the good life?)  Anyone who is alive in God’s kingdom.
  • 3. Who is a really good person? Those who are pervaded with agape love.
  • 4. How do you become a really good person? Apprentice yourself to Jesus.


  • Salvation is not an event — it is a life. It is not just forgiveness and a “ticket to heaven” — it is an interactive life with God, participating now in what Jesus is doing on earth. The Biblical word for salvation is deliverance.
  • Doctrine and Salvation: You don’t need correct doctrine to be saved — you need to believe that Jesus is really it. Salvation begins in the attitude of the children’s song: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so…” Your doctrine will come along.
  • Redemption involves, in seamless unity, both the remission of guilt for sins and the deliverance of our lives from domination by sin. Though these are distinct, they were not, in our past, generally thought of as separable, and of course they aren’t separable —  ever.
  • Repentance is not beating your head on the floor or feeling bad about your sins — it’s to re-think your thinking so as to change the way you’ve been thinking and acting. We repent in light of the gospel of Jesus.
  • Forgiveness is like oxygen; it’s the grease of life.
  • Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace is not just about forgiveness — if we had never sinned we would still need grace! Grace is God acting in our life to do what we cannot do on our own. Grace is what we live by and the human system won’t work without it. The saint uses grace like a 747 jet burns gas on takeoff!
  • Regeneration is the entrance of God’s nature and life into our real existence and identity. Regeneration is to be “born from above” (the translation Dallas prefers to “born again”) and it is what enables us to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). It is what kicks off and enables sanctification.
  • Sanctification is not defined by external obedience, but by the kind of person one has become. It is living in a right relationship to Jesus Christ, the Master, that brings and sustains right thoughts, feelings, choices, and habits, enabling one to do what is right.

Spiritual Formation

  • Spiritual Formation is the process of the human spirit or will is given a definite “form” or character. Spiritual formation for the Christ-follower refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.
  • Spiritual Transformation only happens as each essential dimension of the human being is transformed into Christlikeness under the direction of a regenerate will interacting with constant overtures of grace from God in many forms. Such transformation is not the result of mere human effort and cannot be accomplished by putting pressure on the will (will power) alone.
  • Discipleship is being with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become like that what that person is. An “apprentice” of Jesus is learning from him how to lead their life as he would lead their life if he were they.
  • Change does not come through inspiration nor information, though both are important. Change comes through engagement in relationship.
  • Your Image of God is the most important thing about you. Don’t ever believe anything bad about God!
  • Abiding in Christ is dwelling in or living in Christ, like a branch abides in a grapevine. Abiding is like inhaling the reality of the Kingdom of God, especially through internalizing the words of God and then putting those words into action. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). And we can be sure that if we do nothing it’ll be apart from Jesus. This is why he tells us to abide in him as he abides in the Father. Abiding is the source of our love, joy, peace, and all of our fruitfulness.
  • Jesus’ Easy Yoke is pulling the load with Jesus — not just our load, but his. The easy yoke is a way of life and work with Jesus. One of the lies in our culture today is, “It’s hard to follow Christ.” No, it’s the easy way! The transformation of the self is what leads to the blessed life and this is what Jesus is after.
  • Community is central to spiritual formation in Christ. (It is not an individual thing!) The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons, with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.
  • To Abandon Outcomes to God is to accept that we do not have in ourselves — in our own “heart, soul, mind, and strength” — the wherewithal to make this come out right, whatever “this” is. We don’t try to make things happen. We don’t try to get people to do things. We don’t manage our image. We learn to abandon outcomes in Jesus’ easy yoke. It is the secret to peace!
  • Self-Denial or being dead to self is the condition where the mere fact that I do not get what I want does not surprise or offend me and has no control over me.  Instead we are easily controlled by the love of God and neighbor. Self-denial does not mean having no needs, but includes looking to God and others to meet our needs. Jesus taught, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Love one another.” Our God-created and Christ-redeemed self is loved, which in turn strengthens us to deny sin and self-gratifications out of love for God and others.
  • Prayer: Don’t seek to develop a prayer life — seek a praying life. A “prayer life” is a segmented time for prayer. You’ll end feeling guilty that you don’t spend more time in prayer. Eventually you’ll probably feel defeated and give up. A “praying life” is a life that is saturated with prayerfulness — you seek to do all that you do with the Lord.
  • miracle is an act of God that breaks into the regularities that characterize nature. What you would expect to happen in the course of nature does not happen because God has intervened. You should pray with expectation that God will intervene. Then you leave it to him. If it doesn’t come to pass say, “Well, God may have something better in store for me.” (You can’t pray if you’re worrying about whether God will answer your prayer.)
  • Empowerment: God’s intent for us is that we would become the kind of persons that he can empower to do what we want. (Like a parent handing the keys over to a sixteen-year-old son or daughter.) Clearly, this means our “wanter” needs to change. The more we have the character of Christ the safer it is for us to receive God’s power.
  • Spiritual Maturity is seen in the disciple who effortlessly does what Jesus would do in his or her place.
  • The Great Omission from The Great Commission is the idea that we can be “Christians” forever and never become disciples. Christians generally don’t have a plan for doing everything that Jesus commanded. We don’t as a rule even have a plan for learning this ourselves, and perhaps assume it is simply impossible. And that explains the yawning abyss today between being Christian and being a disciple.

Five Dimensions or Stages of the Eternal Kind of Life

  • 1. Confidence in and reliance upon Jesus as “the Son of man,” the one appointed to save us. This confidence is a reality, and it is itself a true manifestation of the “life from above,” not of normal human capacities
  • 2. The desire to be Jesus’ apprentice in living in and from the kingdom of God. Our apprenticeship to him means that we live within his word, that is, put his teachings into practice.
  • 3. The abundance of life realized through apprenticeship to Jesus, “continuing in his word,” naturally leads to obedience. Love of Jesus sustains us through the course of discipline and training that makes obedience possible.
  • 4. Obedience, with the life of discipline it requires, both leads to and, then, issues from the pervasive inner transformation of the heart and soul.
  • 5. Finally, there is power to work the works of the kingdom. Great power requires great character if it is to be a blessing and not a curse, and that character is something we only grow toward.

The Three Dimensions of Discipleship to Jesus

  • 1. Obedience to God’s commands.
  • 2. Doing what God wants in all areas of life not commanded. (There are many situations in daily life that the Bible does not explicitly address.)
  • 3. Learning to act in God’s power.

The Golden Triangle of Spiritual Transformation

  • Trials: One aspect or side of our triangle is the faithful acceptance of everyday problems. By enduring trials with patience, we can reach an assurance of the fullness of heaven’s rule in our lives.
  • Holy Spirit: The second side of our triangle is interaction with God’s Spirit in and around us. As Paul points out, living in the Spirit allows us to “walk in” the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
  • Disciplines: The third side of our triangle is made up of disciplines for the spiritual life, many engaged in by Jesus himself, such as solitude and study, service and secrecy, fasting and worship.

V-I-M: The Reliable Pattern for Change

  • Vision: To progress in spiritual formation we need to be enthralled by a vision of life in the Kingdom of God through reliance upon Jesus.
  • Intention: A forceful vision will lead to a robust intention, with it’s inseparable decision, to trust in and obey Jesus. We will work through unbelief, contrary habits, procrastination, and empty professions to decide to become the kind of person who would obey God. Intention and decision involve our will.
  • Means: The means of spiritual transformation are available. For instance, we can use particular spiritual disciplines to train with Jesus to become more like him in a specific way (e.g., obeying from the heart one of his teachings). In the spiritual life it is actually true that “where there is a will there is a way.” This is true because God is involved and makes his help available to those who seek it.

Spiritual Disciplines

  • Daily “Quiet Time” as the method for spiritual growth is like trying to take a shower one drop at a time! It’s inefficient. For many people their inconsistencies plague them with guilt. It’s much more helpful to have periodic extended times of being immersed in God.
  • Time is made, not found.
  • Disciplines are activities within our power that enable us to accomplish what we cannot do by direct effort because we meet with the actions of God (grace) with us. The effect of discipline is to enable us to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done (e.g., we develop a heart-engaging habit.) There is no complete list of disciplines for the spiritual life but there are some main ones to learn.
  • Don’t Try — Train. Trying harder just gets you more of what you have now. The key to change is an intelligent application of the will in a spiritual formation training program with Jesus.
  • Abstinence and Engagement counterbalance and support one another — they are the outbreathing and inbreathing of our spiritual lives. Disciplines of abstinence counteract tendencies to sins of commission and disciplines of engagement counteract tendencies to sins of omission. A proper abstinence breaks the hold of improper engagements so that the soul can be properly engaged in and by God.

Disciplines of Abstinence

  • Disciplines of Abstinence are ways we abstain to some degree and for some time from the satisfaction of what we generally regard as normal and legitimate desires.
  • Solitude is choosing to step free from human relationships for a lengthy period of time, in isolation or anonymity, to make room for occupation of our lives by God. It is to do nothing and not try to make anything happen. It is the primary spiritual discipline which enables us to learn other disciplines (e.g., Sabbath, fasting, being unhurried, study, and prayer). Solitude facilitates ministry because it enables clarity and resolution of purpose and strength to avoid distraction.
  • Silence completes solitude. It is not an absence but a presence, a positive reality, in which we experience in quiet or are in a place with only natural sounds (e.g., win in trees, birds, water running, heart beating, breathing).
  • Fasting is abstaining in some significant way from food and possibly from drink. (We may also fast from media or other things.) Fasting is feasting — on our Lord and doing his will. The function of fasting is to teach you how to be sweet and kind when you don’t get what you want.
  • Frugality is abstaining from using money or goods at our disposal, refusing to gratify our desires for status, glamor, or luxury.
  • Chastity is to turn away from dwelling upon or engaging in the sexual dimension of our relationships to others — even our spouse for an agreed upon time period.
  • Secrecy is to abstain from causing our good deeds and qualities to be known.
  • Sacrifice is to abstain from the possession or enjoyment of what is necessary for our living by forsaking the security of meeting our needs with what is in our hands. It is total abandonment to God.

Disciplines of Engagement

  • Disciplines of Engagement are designed to re-connect us with God and the Kingdom of the Heavens.
  • Study is engaging our minds with an objective order, especially the Word of God, to take that order into ourselves, enabling us to be “in sync” with reality in a way that is good for us and others. Study combines with meditation. The study of God in his Word and works opens the way for the disciplines of worship and celebration.
  • Worship is to engage ourselves with, dwell upon, and express the greatness, beauty, and goodness of God through thought and the use of words, rituals, and symbols.
  • Celebration completes worship because we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness. Typically this means that we come together with others who know God  to eat, drink, to sing and dance, and to relate stories of God’s action in our lives.
  • Service is engaging our goods and strength in the active promotion of the good of others and the causes of God in our world. (Often we may serve another simply as an act of love and righteousness, not as a discipline to enhance our abilities to follow Christ.)
  • Prayer is talking with God about what we’re thinking and doing together; it is co-laboring with God to accomplish the good purposes of his kingdom. Prayer almost always involves other disciplines and spiritual activities (e.g., study, meditation, worship, solitude, or fasting). Don’t seek to develop a prayer life — seek a praying life.
  • Fellowship is engaging in common activities of worship, study, prayer, celebration, and service with other disciples of Jesus.
  • Confession is to let trusted others know our deepest weaknesses and failures to nourish our faith in God’s loving provision for our needs.
  • Submission is dong what others think best. It is humbly setting aside our own ideas as supreme and our own will as ultimate, totally eliminating self-promotion. It is the highest level of fellowship. It applies the cross in our own lives, freeing us of the burden of having our own way and being all wise in our own eyes.

Holiness and Wholeness

  • Holiness is not “holier than thou” or religious perfectionism — it is simply a life that works well because we’re rooted in another world, the Kingdom of God. Holiness is the power to act as we ought, to be response-able, able to respond with appropriate power to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
  • Virtue is the substance of holiness, a combination of skill, wisdom, power, and steadfastness for good. (Virtue puts the emphasis on the practical side of holiness.)
  • Character is the internal, overall structure of the self that is revealed by our long-run patterns of behavior. It is from our character that our actions more or less automatically arise. What God gets out of your life is the person you become. That’s also what you and others get.
  • The Morally Good Person is someone who is intent upon promoting human goods (including good humans) that are effectively within their reach.
  • Self-Esteem: How many birds are you worth? More than a few! Your Heavenly Father cares for the birds and he cares for you so don’t worry.
  • Faith, Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace are the “Magnificent Five.” Inseparable from one another , they support spiritual and psychological health.  Love, Joy, and Peace are the order that our otherwise chaotic emotions are to take on. With God’s help we can cultivate these conditions and associated emotions so that they become prominent in us.
  • Faith is not a wild, desperate “leap” — it is confidence grounded in reality. It is as Hebrews 11:1 says, substance and evidence or proof, not — as contemporary translations usually have it — subjective psychological states such as “being sure of” or “having a conviction of.” To have faith in God is to trust him, to have confidence in him.
  • Hope is joyous anticipation of good that is not yet here or is ‘unseen.”
  • Love is not desire — it is to will the good of others. We say, “I love chocolate cake!” But really we want to eat it. We love something or someone when we promote it’s good for its own sake.
  • Joy is not the mere sensation of pleasure — it is a pervasive, constant, and unending sense of well-being that flows from vision, peace, righteousness, and hope. True joy is robust — even including outright hilarity! We can experience the joy of being in God’s kingdom even in the midst of suffering and loss.
  • Peace is not the absence of conflict — it’s “shalom” or fullness of life. Peace is a rest of will that comes from divine assurance about how things will turn out.

Ministry for the Christ-ian

  • The church in the New Testament is the ecclesia or “called out ones” in a particular city or parish. Christ is the head of the Church universal and its churches. There may be a number of congregations (what we call churches) that gather in that area, each made up of children of light who are to light up their world.
  • Neighbor Love: Don’t try to love the world — love your neighbor. The world is a big place! To love the world is God’s job. It’s enough for you to learn love your neighbor, the “boor” who happens to be nearby to you.
  • Your Parish is your sphere of influence. Focus your ministry on the people you are interacting with in daily life.
  • Love, Truth, and Power are what we all need from God. In our ministry to others we must be careful to keep them in that order!
  • Blessing someone (whether in a benediction or more informal) is to will what is good for them under the invocation of God.
  • Work (labor) is the creation of value that benefits people. It is a kind of knowledge of God, an exercise of our God-appointed dominion. Work is not the curse of humanity’s fall into sin — it’s sweat from self-reliance that is a curse. Work done in Jesus’ easy yoke is “no sweat.” We need to resistance the temptation to use work to build self -worth and acceptance and instead seek to enjoy and glorify God in our work.
  • Evangelism is not “soul-winning” — it’s to witness to the truth, to cause to know. Don’t just try to get people into heaven — try to get heaven into people. If heaven gets inside a person now then getting into heaven for eternity will take care of itself. To get a conversation started you can ask people, “How is it going with your kingdom/queendom today?”
  • Preaching is not trying to get people to believe or do things — it’s announcing the availability of God’s kingdom. It’s best to serve what you’re cooking.
  • Ministry is carrying on the work that Jesus himself did. It is injecting, by word and deed, the reality, substance, and life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into human life and relationships. We receive the fullness of God into our bodies to share this with others.
  • Pastoring is not being the CEO or the “gofer” but the pasturer who arranges for the sheep to find their food and safety by leading them to it.
  • Spiritual Leadership is not merely a matter of being mighty in the spiritual realm or having astonishing effects — it is essentially a matter of being able to induct others into the spiritual life and guide their development in it. (So often today a Sampson or a Saul are chosen over a Paul.)
  • Leading an Event: “I don’t worry about those who aren’t there — I just minister to those who are there.”

Life and Death, Heaven and Hell

  • Life is self-initiating, self-directing, self-sustaining activity.
  • Eternal Life is not just unending life in heaven; it is interactive relationship with God and Jesus, now and forever (John 17:3). Life in general is self-initiating, self-sustaining, self-directing activity and power.
  • Aging is not a loss — it’s a gain! It’s God’s plan for increasing our spiritual substance.
  • Death is the cessation of the body. Those who trust in Jesus will never experience death. Some time after they “die” they will figure out that something is different.
  • Hell is God’s best for some people. If on earth you try to avoid God what makes you think you’d want to be with God for eternity? In heaven God will be unavoidable! Truly, God doesn’t want anyone to perish; he wants everyone to be saved. But there are people who want nothing to do with God so he lets them have their way.
  • Heaven: God will allow into heaven anybody who in his considered opinion can stand it! (The fires of heaven may turn out to be hotter than the fires of hell.) The heavens touch earth and through the Spirit of Christ we can learn to live from the Kingdom of the Heavens today! If you want to go to heaven, why wait? Get heaven into yourself and others and heaven in eternity will take care of itself.

Dallas Willard’s Teaching for Pastors and Leaders

Dallas Willard’s books, his personal mentoring of Bill & Kristi Gaultiere, and his 2-week Doctor of Ministry class in a monastery have had a huge impact on the Soul Shepherding Institute. This 18-month program in “Spiritual Formation & Soul Care Ministry” features four 5-day weeks of training in cohorts. It has been life changing for over 125 pastors, mission workers, and church leaders from around the world. You can also earn a certificate in the ministry of Spiritual Direction through monthly classes online.

For an introduction to the message of Soul Shepherding you can read “Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-Stress and Live Empowered” by Bill Gaultiere. About this book Dallas remarked, “This is ground-breaking! Pastors and others will come under this teaching and develop aspects of it in their own ministry.”

Further Reading

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