In 1988 I was going through an internship to learn more about campus ministry. There was a bunch of various tasks I had to perform and a number of books I needed to read. The book however that stands out above all the rest was The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In so many ways that book changed how I viewed faith, ministry, what it meant to follow Jesus…really, my whole life.
Over the next 10 years, I wore the binding off of that book re-reading it and looking for quotes for various messages. There are likely only a handful of messages I taught in churches or on campus over the next decade that didn’t in one way or another refer back to The Cost of Discipleship.
In 1998 I discovered another book that had a similar impact. The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard took me almost a year to read through. Not because it was a difficult read, but rather it seemed every chapter was full of stuff that I needed to think about, pray about, and really let challenge me in so many ways.
As we planted the Ithaca Vineyard, and as we prepare to plant a church in Dublin, there is simply no other book that has impacted how I think about what it means to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom than The Divine Conspiracy.
I had the privilege of meeting Dallas a couple times around 14 years ago. Back around the time we planted church in Ithaca, the Vineyard’s National Director at the time held a series of young leader events and since I was considered young at the time, I was invited to attend. They each included only a small group of people, and at a few of these events Dallas (among others) would come and share their thoughts.
While I was only able to have a couple of brief conversations with him, being able to sit in and hear him talk was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had.
Yesterday Dallas Willard died at the age of 77 from cancer. He will be missed.
[I’d encourage you to read this brief article from John Ortberg:Dallas Willard, a Man from Another ‘Time Zone’]