The Great Omission by Dallas Willard –A book review of this life changing book.

Willard, Dallas. 2006. The Great Omission:. Oxford, UK: Monarch Books

The Great Omission is a fantastic read that challenges the very core operational values of each and every local church. Willard’s basic premise is that the Western church is great at making Christians but very poor at making disciples. Unfortunately Jesus calls the church to make disciples. 

Chapter 1 Discipleship

The challenge of this chapter is that too many Christians clearly live as if the lifestyle of a Disciple is optional. Willard points out that the word Disciple appears 269 times in the Sciptures and the word Christian only 3 times, which really does show where the emphasis is. Thought the quote from Bonhoeffer on cheap grace was very powerful.

Chapter 2 Why Bother with Discipleship?

There is a brilliant quote in this chapter – Salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred writings. (2006 p14). The concept that comes out of that thought – Vampire Christians, is a great articulation of what plagues Western Christianity. I was so moved by this concept, that I preached a sermon on Discipleship. (I blogged my sermon notes – available here)

Chapter 3 Who is your teacher?

One of the main takeways from this chapter is the idea that what lies at the heart of the astonishing disregard that Christians have toward Christ comes down to a simple lack of respect for Him.

Chapter 4 Looking like Jesus

The goal of discipleship is that we think like Jesus, act like Jesus and treat the world like Jesus. Willard discusses how this is possible through the idea of the Golden Triangle of discipleship.

Chapter 5 The Keys to the Keys to the Kingdom

Key thought out of this chapter that really spoke to me was Grace is opposed to earning but not to effort. How often is grace used as a reason for lazy Christianity? Three keys to discipleship were discussed – Silence, Solitude and fasting.

Chapter 6 Spiritual Formation in Christ is for the whole person

Willard goes through 8 points of Spiritual formation. Two things that really hit home as I read through these eight points. The first one is that Spiritual Formation is active – it’s not a passive action. Secondly obedience to Christ is one of the basic functions of a disciple.

Chapter 7 Spiritual Formation in Christ

The three different perspectives or definitions of Spiritual Formation are discussed in this chapter. Also the role of Christ in forming Christ like disciples is also discussed as part of the Spiritual Formation Process.

Chapter 8 The Spirit is willing, But..

The role of the body in spiritual formation is the main topic of this chapter. Willard says that all of us are acutely aware of how the incessant clamouring of our bodies defeat our intentions to be spiritual. (2006 p81). I am not sure that Willard, in this short chapter, really answers the question of how we are to bring our bodies into subjection to Christ in order to be better disciples.

Chapter 9 Living in the Vision of God

The challenge of passing on in an undiluted fashion, the concept of living for Jesus Christ. Willard tables some examples of people who have achieved this and others who have not. This is a significant challenge for us as Missional Christians. The solution is, according to the book, is that we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength

Chapter 10 Idaho Springs Inquires Concerning Spiritual Formation

A definition of what Spiritual Formation actually is, is tabled as part of this chapter. The primary elements that bring about Spiritual Formation are tabled and discussed. On page 111 there is a brilliant brilliant definition of salvation. One that I will now use in my context.

Chapter 11 Personal Soul Care

The soul of the minister is the focus of this chapter – the hidden or spiritual side of the person. Willard makes a great observation, that the secret to a strong and healthy ministerial life is that we work with God in all of the hidden dimensions of our life. As he goes through and discusses various areas of the ministers life, he makes the comment that time is found not made. I thought this was an astute observation.

Chapter 12 Spiritual Disciplines.

A claim is made at the start of this chapter which kind of flies in the face of the rest of the book and that is that there is currently much interest in the process of spiritual formation. Sin as a psychological condition is discussed as too desire that people have for wholeness. Overall though I don’t think Willard really proves the claim made at the start of the chapter.

Chapter 13 Christ Centred Piety

The sub heading of this chapter is the heart of the Evangelist. The three substantive elements of evangelical piety are, Conviction of Sin, Conversion to a godly life of faith and testimony to the saving work of God. The chapter then takes an interesting turn as it discusses the framework we hold toward the intelligence of Christ. Willard says we must see Christ as highly intelligent, but so many evangelicals see Christ as Dumb.

Chapter 14 Why?

This chapter is a change in format to an interview format where Willard is putting forward his encouragement as to why we should practice spiritual disciplines. He puts forward an interesting argument against the traditional quiet time. He then puts forward a better alternative plan. Hadn’t really thought through the issues that Willard tables so this chapter was very useful.

Chapter 15 Jesus the Logician

The theme of Jesus’ intelligence that was discussed in Chapter 13 is the subject of this entire chapter. Willard says that paying careful attention to how Jesus made use of logical thought can strengthen our confidence in Jesus as master of the centres of intellect and creativity (2006 p 195). An interesting thought.

Chapter 16 Letters by a Modern Mystic

A chapter about a book authored by Frank Laubach. The book traces Laubach’s pursuit of God and life lived in active union with God. The chapter provides a summary of his major findings of his spiritual formation journey.

Chapter 17 The Interior Castle

This chapter is a book review on a booked called the Interior Castle authored by Teresa of Avila. Willard claims that in this book there is information on living in a relationship with God that he has not found anywhere else. The basic premise of Teresa’s idea is that we need to see our soul as a castle made of diamonds with many rooms and that we are to live in each room with God in radiant and resplendid expression of our relationship with Him.

Chapter 18 Invitation to Solitude

Ruth Barton wrote a book on the power of silence and solitude. This very short chapter is an encouragement to read her book

Chapter 19 When God Moves in

Willard uses this chapter to provide a book report on a book that he says has been the most influential book in his life outside of the bible. The book is called Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians and Willard says that through reading this book, it opened up to him great richest in Christ. His passion for the book convinced me to seek out copy for myself.

Chapter 20 A Room of Marvels

The final book review – A Room full of Marvels by James Smith, deals with the finality of death and what the bible says about it.


I was deeply moved by The Great Omission. Challenged to the core by the question, Am I making disciples or I am making converts. Preaching the material from the book, really helped to reinforce the key components of the book. I will continue to allow God to speak to me as the material from the book ruminates in my spirit.

Categories: Book Reviews, Theology

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2 replies

  1. Hi Pete Thanks for this book review it looks wonderful. I have also passed it on to two of my pastors. Do you ever sleep??? Blessings Rhonda Healy (M) 0413 786 225

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