I thought that might get your attention.
But let’s face it, as wonderful a spiritual writer as Dallas Willard is — and The Divine Conspiracy is deservedly recognized by many as the best Christian book of the past quarter-century — he can be a tough read. Renovation of the Heart is still close to impenetrable for me. The Great Omission or Hearing God are better starting points if you’re a newcomer, but there’s some deep thinking going on no matter where you turn.
But back to Conspiracy: The throwdown Dallas gave in that one was the creation of a “curriculum for Christlikeness” — a way to take all these deep thoughts about Jesus and turn them into spiritually transformative, real-life experience. In fact, that was pretty much the direct commission Dallas gave to James Bryan Smith for his Good and Beautiful series. I published a review of the final and best entry here a month ago, but bottom line: I don’t think it came close.
Enter another Willard disciple and more recent IVP publishee, Keith Meyer — who already had “spiritual street cred” with me going in, due to his pastorship at Church of the Open Door in Minneapolis (go C&MA alumni!) and its decided emphasis on discipleship. In his first book, Whole Life Transformation, Keith shares how that emphasis changed both him and his church — and more importantly, how to reproduce that transformation in your life and church (in the way God chooses, of course). And by presenting it in the hands-on way he does — especially the book’s second half — I believe this is the closest we’ve come so far on that “curriculum for Christlikeness” front. (Well, maybe also… but let’s not go there right now. )
A Willard quote is both the launching point for Keith and this book: “In the end Keith, what God gets from your ministry for him is you.” And another, from Keith himself: “Without a strong sense of being loved by Christ, ministry sets us up to feed off each others’ egos in attempts to get what only God can give.”
It’s this latter quote that embodies the first half of the book — Keith’s story, one of a pastor approaching burnout because he’s doing “God’s work” without God’s help or presence. And it’s a question from his son while sitting watching TV — “Dad, are you home yet?” — that stops him in his tracks and turns him around. Keith discovers how to let Jesus be his teacher; and ultimately, his personal turnaround spread to an entire church.
The second half addresses how to begin “being the change” in our own lives, and again Keith starts with family, and friends — the people who can see our blind spots and point them out so we can take them to God. From there, he shares what that spiritual transformation can look like in a church context, and where it needs to start:
“One person finally got was I was trying to say, and asked, ‘If we get .01 percent of our people into this the next year, we would be doing good, right?’ I said, ‘You got it! And the .01 percent would be you… living it out together in your homes, neighborhoods and work.”
Keith then broaches the spiritual disciplines each of us can apply to our lives to open ourselves up to transformation. A sampling can be found here, in his invitation to join what he calls The Order of the Renovated Heart. But get the whole book.
So, your turn: Are you fried? Restless? Wondering where God is in all this ministry you’re doing for God? So was Keith. As you walk along with him through Whole Life Transformation, you’ll realize God DOES have a “better life now” for you — the real kind — and that it is something worth attempting. And you’ll probably start doing something with it before you’re done reading this book.