Farewell, Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard, 1936-2013

Dallas Willard has succumbed to cancer at age 77.

I first met Dallas Willard in 2001. I was organizing the first ever Emergent Village Theological Conversation. I had scheduled Nancey Murphy and her husband, Jim McClendon, to be in conversation with us — both of them had been professors of mine at Fuller Seminary. But Jim died in late 2000, putting the whole event up in the air. Nancey decided to keep her commitment, and we were her first public event after Jim’s death.

Dallas agreed to join us as well, in Jim’s stead, even though he and Nancey agreed on virtually nothing. And it was magical. Dallas was kind and generous. He and Nancey talked and laughed and cajoled one another. At one point — and everyone who was there will remember this — he was telling us about his childhood Christianity. He stood up and broke into the cadence of a Southern preacher, spun around, and mimed skipping sinners across the lake of fire. To see such an accomplished philosopher do such a thing was, frankly, breathtaking.

I also remember this: Dallas needed someone to move his car, so I got his keys and went to move it. He drove a humble car — a sedan of some kind. And when I started it up, a tape started playing in the tapedeck. It was the Bible on tape. Then I noticed that strewn across the passenger seat were all the books of the Bible on tape. Again, I was astonished: one of the most accomplished Christian authors of our time was listening to the Bible on tape. (To this day, I keep a small iPod with the audio Bible on it because of his example.)

I saw Dallas at several other conferences and events over the years after that. But my last encounter with him was just as memorable as my first:

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My “Minor Classic” on Spiritual Disciplines (for 99¢!)

Of the books I’ve written, two seem to have the most staying power.  One is Postmodern Youth Ministry, my first book, which has managed to stay on many syllabi for the last decade.

The other is The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life.  I get more appreciative comments on this book than any I’ve written. It’s sold at Renovaré events. And it seems to have some staying power.  While it doesn’t sell like a Richard Foster or Dallas Willard book, it is persistent.

Now, with the cooperation of Zondervan, you can pick up The Sacred Way for 99¢ for this week only.

The Sacred Way cover

See below for the Table of Contents and an excerpt, if you want to get a feel for it.

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Practicing the Way of Jesus

Mark Scandrette's alter-ego, Preacher A.L. Withee

I just finished reading Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love by Mark Scandrette. It’s an eminently practical book about real, lived spiritual formation in Mark’s ever-changing ReIMAGINE community in San Francisco.  For years, Mark has invited people to join him on days- or weeks-long experiments, many of which fall under his concept of the Jesus Dojo (described by Mark in the video below).

What I’m most interested in when reading a book — especially one, like this, written by a friend of mine — is what I can decipher about the underlying theology.  I happen to know a lot about Mark’s theology, having spent the better part of the summer of 2008 on an RV with him.  And here’s what I’d say:

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