Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

01 Jun

Manning and Willard: Two Men who changed my Life

Posted in Uncategorized on 01.06.13 by Merlyn

Manning and Willard: Two Men Who Changed My Life…


The church and the world have lost two great thinkers, writers and men of God in the past month, Brennan Manning on April 12 and Dallas Willard on May 8. When I am asked to name those who have been mentors, heroes and individuals who have changed my life, these two men’s names often come up. When I think about the best books that I have read that shaped me, that I would re-read over and over again, these two men are always on the list. My life is dramatically different because of their voice and the world has lost two great men of God who are now rejoicing with one another in heaven.


When I reflect on the most transformative seasons of my life, particularly when it comes to my spiritual life and my relationship with Jesus, I often look to my time in college as the most transformative season of life. I was a fairly new Christian and experienced such great transformation during those four years that I would not be who I am today without that season. If I think back to my time at Eastern University, it was 1998 that was the most transformative year of all. Two of the reasons that year was so powerful had to do with these to great men, Brennan Manning and Dallas Willard. I am saddened by their lost, but have been forever changed by their voice and cannot help but think back 15 years ago when I first encountered them both.


Brennan Manning came to speak at our college in February that year. It was the first I had ever heard him or heard of him. He would become my favorite writer as I read Ragamuffin Gospel for the first time. I resonated with Brennan’s story and his words both in our sessions and in his writings continue to shape me still to this day. I never really understood grace until I encountered Brennan Manning. Because of Brennan Manning I began to understand grace and experienced Jesus in a way I never had before. I can still remember the deep brokenness I had to embrace and the immense joy as I recognized the real nature of grace for the first time. Brennan Manning showed me what the unconditional love and grace of God really meant.


That fall I took a class called foundations of Christian Spirituality. It was my first exposure to the spiritual disciplines. It was also my first exposure to Dallas Willard. Spirit of the Disciplines was one of the books for the course. Willard’s writing introduced me to a whole new understanding of what it meant to pursue Jesus and to have a relationship with the God of the universe. It was that fall that I first began to practice the disciplines that because of people like Willard have become a part of my life each and every day. Through the disciplines I have discovered God, myself and much more. Its when I discovered and began to practice the disciplines that my relationship with Jesus became real. Dallas Willard pointed me to a new way of living that has shown me what abundant life is all about.


15 years ago my life changed forever because of these two men. I would not be the Christ-follower, husband, father, pastor, spiritual director or human being I am today without these two men. Their authenticity, voice, grace, humility, and relationship with Jesus were and will continue to be transformative. Thank you God for gifting me, the church and the world with these two men. As they bask in glory with you, may their voice continue to speak into our lives it this world and may the transforming power of the Holy Spirit speaking through tem continue to change the world.


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