Authentic Leader Series (Building Your Church Toward the New Millennium)

March 18-21, 1996
District Pastors Conference for the Association of Vineyard Churches

In this four-part series, Dallas helps encourage leaders to pursue authentic personal growth and spiritual formation. It's fairly common for leaders to place all their efforts into growing a ministry or caring for others and place little emphasis on developing the character of Christ. 

Dr. Willard covers three broad areas in this conference:

  1. Authenticity and the problem we have with our lives in being authentic persons;
  2. Disciplines, the spirit, and the “golden triangle of spiritual growth into the mind of Christ”;
  3. The whole life in the plan of God for us.

Dallas was speaking at the “Building Your Church Toward the `” District Pastors Conference for the Association of Vineyard Churches on March 18-21, 1996. While the conference was for leaders, the teaching is for anyone who wants to be an Authentic Person.


1: Transformation of the Whole Person

After working through foundational scripture for this series, Dallas describes what's inside an authentic person, discusses some of the problems we have with living authentically, and presents the solution of personal transformation. 

2: The Key Elements for Transformation

It is extremely important to understand that we are talking about what our body is ready to do; it is the information that is automatically in our body and the feelings that are already there. There’s also, within us, information from the social realm. It’s all of the stuff you carry about how you will act. This is what has to be changed. Can it be changed? There are many people who think it can’t.

Transformation of the Whole Person

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Dallas opens the series with specific scriptures that provide a foundation for his teaching:

  • Proverbs 4:23
  • 1 Timothy 4:16
  • Matthew 7:17-18
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
  • Luke 10:27
  • Matthew 23: 13-15
  • Romans 7:19
  • Romans 7:5

Dallas then introduces aspects of personal transformation and the human personality, drawing a diagram during this session that seems to be a predecessor to the diagrams found in Renovation of the Heart


  • Foundation of Authenticity: Dallas emphasizes the critical importance of guarding one’s heart, asserting that the essence of an authentic person springs from the depths of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. He compellingly argues that to live authentically is to align these core aspects of our being with the love and will of God, challenging us to cultivate and watch over our hearts with unwavering diligence as the foundation of our life's direction and purpose.
  • Embodied Spirituality: Dallas explores the dynamic relationship between our physical bodies and spiritual growth. He elucidates how our bodily actions and feelings are deeply intertwined with our spiritual condition, urging us to love God with our whole being. Through personal discipline and aligning our desires with God's, he outlines a path toward genuine transformation where the natural outpouring of Christ's deeds becomes evident in our lives.
  • Pursuing Congruence:  Dallas addresses the struggle against the incongruence between our professed beliefs and our actions, pinpointing this divergence as a source of inauthenticity and spiritual discord. He stresses the need for not mere willpower but a profound transformation that aligns our inner intentions with our outward actions. Through a meticulous process of self-examination and surrender to God's transformative work, Dallas offers hope for reconciling our inner and outer selves, leading to a life of authenticity and spiritual integrity.


The Key Elements for Transformation

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  1. Why do people think inward and outward transformation is not possible?
    “Miserable sinner” Christianity.
    Your system is perfectly designed to give you the result you are getting.
  2. Inward and outward transformation are possible.
    Confusions and challenges that come up.
  3. What does it feel like to be an authentic person?
    Not hurried.
    Able to do what you intend to do.
    Pervasive joy with who you are and where you are.
  4. Jesus actually intends for us to do the things that He taught.
    Who is really well-off.
    Who is a really good person.
    Going beyond the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.
    Jesus taught that the person who is pervaded with love is a really good person.
    Love in the heart is true integrity and true authenticity.
  5. How do we do the things Jesus taught?
    It isn’t through our behavior, but where our behavior comes from.
    Dealing with the habits in our bodies.
    Not just avoiding sin.
    The two great commandments.

The Way of Transformation: Vision, Intention and Means

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Dallas is not teaching us a legal system. These are illustrations of a certain kind of person, and that kind of person will make judgments about the things they will and will not do. Where does that judgment come from? It comes from love.

  1. Put off the old person; put on the new person.
    Colossians 3:1-4
    Ephesians 4:22-24
    Putting on the new person has all of the wonderful attributes that we read over and over in the Scripture. 
  2. How to put off the old person; put on the new person
    The Golden Triangle of Spiritual Growth
    a. Action of the Holy Spirit
    b. Ordinary events of life
    c. Planned disciplines for putting on new insides (guts, bowels, heart). The disciplines are practices that are in the Bible. 


  • Significance of Spiritual Community and Practical Generosity: Dallas emphasizes the often-hidden nature of God's people, like the 7000 unseen supporters of Elijah, encouraging listeners to recognize the spiritually aligned individuals in their own lives. He shares a personal anecdote about responding to a request for financial aid to illustrate the non-legalistic, discerning nature of genuine Christian generosity, highlighting that such actions are guided by love and practical judgment rather than rigid adherence to rules.
  •  Dynamics of Spiritual Growth and Transformation: He stresses the importance of setting one's affections on divine realities over earthly ones, as outlined in Colossians 3. This transformation involves a conscious effort to "put off the old person and put on the new person," requiring a deliberate plan for spiritual growth. Dallas introduces the concept of a triangle involving the Holy Spirit's action, ordinary life events, and planned disciplines to depict the multifaceted approach needed for spiritual maturity.
  • Role of Disciplines in Spiritual Formation: The talk concludes with a deep dive into spiritual disciplines as tools for transformation, particularly highlighting solitude and silence as foundational practices. Dallas argues that disciplines such as study, prayer, solitude, and silence are activities within our power that enable us to achieve what we cannot through direct effort alone. They are essential for integrating spiritual truth into daily living, enabling believers to navigate life's trials with faith and to embody the presence of Christ in the world.

Spiritual Disciplines: The Means for Becoming...

Click the PDF to download notes you can use to follow along.

What Authentic Leaders Do:

  1. We are not in bondage to disciplines. (Keep the triangle in mind.)
  2. Put off the old person and put on the new person.
  3. Practice planned disciplines.
  4. How to think about spiritual disciplines.
  5. Live and teach discipleship to Jesus
    a. Make disciples
    b. Practice and teach spiritual disciplines (examples: secrecy, chastity, solitude, silence)
  6. Take control of your life.
    Understanding the difference between your job, your ministry, your work and your life.
  7. Sanctification is an ongoing personal relationship with Jesus. It’s my friendship with him.


The most important thing about my identity as a person is that I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am learning from him how to lead my life. 

The secret is not “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” It is “If at first you don’t succeed, find out what went wrong, fix it, and then try again.” That’s how we grow. The secret is not trying, but training.