In high school, I was told to read books like The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and Knowing God by J.I. Packer and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard.
Apparently my youth pastors shouldn't have been youth pastors (i.e. Ed, John...). There was probably more age appropriate books out there.
But as I read these books, I may not have gotten them, but I knew there was gold in them. So I kept digging.
To this day if I could only have one book next to the Bible, I'd pick Mere Christianity. That should be a post of its own. Related to that is why we should read a few books a lot rather than many books once.
But the Dallas Willard book really troubled me. I knew he was saying something profound that I really couldn't quite explain. Over the years Willard has become more popular, and people have sought to regurgitate him in more understandable ways. His thoughts on the kingdom are brilliant. When I finally "got" Willard, it was a Copernican revolution close to the scale of when I "got" what John Piper was saying about the glory of God.
Where is this going?
I came across a Willard article that could've saved me a lot of time. It's a cogent article on his thoughts on evangelism, discipleship, heaven/hell, pluralism, etc... Click here for the whole thing, or here are some sound bites...
Much of evangelism today is rooted in a misunderstanding of salvation. People have been told they are Christians because they have confessed they believe that Jesus died for their sins, but the total package is presented in such a way that it leaves the general life untouched.
Biblically, salvation means deliverance; the question is, "Deliverance from what?" The common message is "deliverance from guilt." But the full concept of salvation in the New Testament isdeliverance from our present sins. Deliverance from sins comes from the new life of God’s Kingdom when we place our confidence in Jesus the person.
The problem is that we have been obsessed with this idea that the real issue is "making the cut" to get to heaven. We have taken the discipleship out of conversion.
I am uncomfortable with the distinction between evangelism and discipleship. What we call evangelism is often nothing more than soul-winning. Evangelism has come to mean getting people "across the line." It operates according to a model of providing goods and services that has nothing to do with Christlikeness.
The real question is, How do you do "evangelism-discipleship?" My short answer: You ravish people with the blessings of the Kingdom. You make them hungry for it. That’s why words are so important—we must be wordsmiths. You use words to ravish people with the beauty of the kingdom. It’s the beauty of the kingdom that Jesus said was causing people to climb over each other just to get in. People become excited like the pearl-purchaser—they will give everything to get in.
My definition: A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus.