Dr. Avery Willis went to be with Jesus a couple of days ago.
I never met the man. But in terms of impacting my life in gigantic & significant ways, Avery Willis is right up there very near the top of the list.
He captured some of his missionary experiences in discipling others years ago into a process he called "Masterlife." When Lisa & I took it, it was two reddish notebooks. Now, it's four thinner notebooks.
It is via his "Masterlife" that Avery Willis changed my life in HUGE ways, including changing my work, my prayerlife, my Bible study--which later became my Bible teaching--my family life, my church membership, my missions involvement,...really & truly, the entire trajectory of all that is Mike Madaris was radically transformed nearly 20 years ago via Masterlife. I will never be the same, and I am eternally grateful.
I still remember when my buddy Dr. Johnny Mayfield collared me outside of church about a year after we joined. "Me & Sandy are starting a small group up to work through Masterlife; you & Lisa need to be in it..." There wasn't really a question asked, which will not be surprising to all who know Doc. *smile* Important note: Johnny is a veterinarian. Not a minister. I'll come back to that.
And thus, there we were just a few weeks later sitting in a small room with several other couples, wondering what this "Masterlife" was all about. For me, it was the perfect storm: SUPERB discipleship material in the hands of a remarkable, passionate, gifted shepherd, with the Lord nudging & wooing my heart that it was time to stop playing church & time to start following Christ. James was just a baby, & Anne wasn't here yet.
So, Lisa & I spent a couple of hours a week in small group for the better part of a year. And I can't say this often enough--the entire course of my life changed during that time.
My prayer life changed...
A significant spiritual high point in my whole life was the part of Masterlife where we all spent three hours in prayer alone. An amazing experience! Plus, for the first time ever, I kept a prayer journal with specific requests over which I prayed regularly. Many of which I saw God answer. Prayer became so much more than "God bless us every one" or "I hope my team wins" or "thank you for this food, and wow, is she hot!" Prayer became an intimate experience of communicating with & listening to Him Who loved me & gave Himself up for me. And He *always* answers prayer; sometimes He says "yes"...sometimes He says "no"...sometimes he says "not yet"...Whatever the answer, I trust in His amazing grace & goodness & sovereignty.
My love of & understanding of the Bible changed...
We were required to memorize two verses of Scripture a week. I doubted I could do it; I was wrong. Well, I was right that I couldn't do it, but God enabled me to get it done. I learned how to read a passage inductively, taking it seriously and letting it speak for itself (what a concept, huh?). I learned that there's so much of Scripture that is crystal clear if we will but listen. I learned how to study in depth, and still VERY much enjoy studying a passage using only the Bible & cross references. (Commentaries are fine too, but try studying it on its own some time...) I came to greatly appreciate the unity of Scripture. One big story of God's pursuit of man...
The first time I ever shared my story on purpose was as part of Masterlife. The first time I ever shared the Gospel on purpose was as part of Masterlife. The first time I ever understood that I--a college professor in a business school of all things!--have a ministry via my job was as part of Masterlife. It was such a marvelous relevation that the elevation of the "sacred" at the expense of the "secular" (whatever those words mean) is not really part of what the Bible teaches us about our lives. My understanding of the sovereign providence of God was launched as part of Masterlife. I'm not a believer who's not quite spiritual enough to be a pastor & thus have to settle for being a professor...Rather, I am called by God to magnify His name via all of my life, including life on the college campus as a professor. (A favorite Bible stat: there's more in the words of Jesus in Scripture about practical money management & attitudes than there is about heaven & hell put together!) Remember the veterinarian? Yeah...He knows that he, too, has a ministry as part of his work; I can't tell you how many people have been encouraged, prayed for, challenged, blessed, and actually led to Christ because their dog or cat got sick. I do not have permission to be a slacker at work as long as I'm good w/ my church stuff; indeed, quite the opposite--I'm supposed to be excellent at work because I am a Christian. That's part & parcel of what it means to magnify the Lord in all of my life. (And way too often, I goof up at that particular part & parcel...)
All of those things are but part of the fruit of Dr. Avery Willis in the life of Mike Madaris. And I am but one of MANY who have been hugely impacted by Masterlife.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Luke 9:23 - the first verse we memorized in Masterlife.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
John 15:8 - another we memorized.
Thank you, Dr. Willis, for living out the reality of those two verses. I can only imagine how your fruit looks from the perspective of eternity. I trust Lisa & I have been faithful stewards of the grace you taught us from a distance. Enter into the joy of our Lord! See you later. Thanks again!
In the Grip of His grace,