Dallas Willard: "You Can't Have Community Without Sabbath"

When we planted Coram Deo, we made the radical assumption that people would actually be willing to pursue intentional community. Perhaps this assumption was faulty. Though many people in our church have made intentional decisions to be in community with one another, many others have not. The objections are generally the same: busyness, crazy work or school schedules, family obligations. But could it be that what keeps us from community is not that we are “too busy,” but that we are simply not disciplined?

dallas-willardIn an interview with Relevant magazine, Dallas Willard offers an insightful diagnosis: technology (and the false sense of community it creates) is keeping us from cultivating the spiritual disciplines that lead to authentic community. Consider Willard’s words and see what you think:

We live in a world where technology… creates a false sense of intimacy and a false sense of sense of self. People today are being constantly pulled by things that they submit themselves to. That’s the great temptation and the great problem for many people today. Most don’t even notice the temptation, but their lives are being pulled apart by it. And when it comes to issues of exercising character and will, it simply isn’t there for them. They can only respond to things that are pulling at them.

We have a generation of young people now who are living in a constant state of “dropped out-ness” from the real world and from its history and from community and from the integrity of themselves. …And they don’t even know that …Most of them don’t know what community means because community means assuming responsibility for other people and that means paying attention and not following your own will but submitting your will and giving up the world of intimacy and power you have in the little consumer world that you have created… When they look community in the face and realize that it means raw, skin to skin contact with other people for whom you have become responsible…that’s when they back away.

[Interviewer: what recommendations do you have for someone who is struggling with this?]

You have to think in terms of radical disciplines that will return them out of this world of distraction they’re living in and help them find the center, and those are solitude and silence. You have to take yourself out of the place of running your world. And there is nothing that I know of that can do that other than the practice of lengthy solitude and silence. That will allow you to begin to understand what Sabbath means. But most people can’t approach Sabbath because they’re so revved up and so distracted by so many things that they couldn’t even begin to think about it… once you have begun to experience solitude and silence, you discover that you actually have a soul and that there is a God. Then you can begin to practice Sabbath and that will enable you to re-enter community. You can’t have community without Sabbath.


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  1. “once you have begun to experience solitude and silence, you discover that you actually have a soul and that there is a God.”

    It may not be the driving theme of this post, but I really like this line.

  2. Discussing the discipline of solitude in The Spirit of the Disciplines, willard quotes thoreau:

    As our inward quiet life fails, “we go more constantly and desperately to the post office,” but “the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while.”

    I think this quote fits together nicely with the relevant interview and is especially poignant for our generation in light of our recent trend of frequent facebook status updates and twitter. These two time sucking websites (as well as others) virtually handcuff their members to their computers, and i think he is right in linking this technological bondage to a discomfort with solitude and a timid approach to meeting God in silence for fear that we will find that in that quiet “there turns out to be very little to just us and God.”

    I know that i personally return to the same websites frequently, even though i know that little will have changed since the last time i checked. and i think he is quite right in calling my bond with my computer a “superficial security.”

  3. ya, right on. I’ve been thinking on a lot of these things for a while, but I don’t have much to add. At different times I have recognized technology and a crowded, undisciplined schedule as impediments to my spiritual development and connecting with those around me, but I have yet to go as far as instituting a regular sabbath.

  4. I also, don’t have much to add except to say that I completely agree with Willard and have found this to be quite true in my own life experience. As over used as it is, I felt a boo yah arise in me as I read. Thanks for posting!

  5. Is there an inference here that CD should not have a website? Pet those hackles, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

    I have noticed a bunch of people (myself included) who feel a substantial connection to the ministry of men such as Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, etc. There is a subtle lie here. I see it as I run into people via our church who lift up one or more of these popular teachers, yet fail to submit or engage in the local church context. In other words, no matter how substantial one’s connection to the message of a theologically sound man it is still missing the mark if it does not work into engagement and submission. It is all nice and romantic to follow a teacher who lives across the country, as long as no submission in one’s actual life and context is required.

  6. I have found the same level of respect and admiration for teachers with a large platform while at the same time a low view of commitment and submission to the local church. It is the backside of the coin of mass media “ministry’ that rarely gets considered. Great observations, Jon.

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