In a sermon this morning, I shared one of my favorite quotes from Jared Wilson’s Imperfect Disciple. Jared is one of my favorite authors today, and in my opinion, this is his best book yet. Below is a short summary from my Amazon review, followed by a few of my favorite quotes to entice you to sneak this into your Christmas list.
Discipleship is an evangelical buzz-topic right now. As someone who serves on a church and is asked to think through discipleship on multiple levels, this book is a needed addition to the discipleship conversation. It’s not a manual. It doesn’t (specifically) help you think about how to multiply yourself by making other disciples. It won’t turn your church into a disciple-making machine. It doesn’t cover a lot of the traditional ground in discipleship-oriented books. And for all those reasons, I’d say start with this book if you’re thinking about what discipleship is all about.
This book excels exactly where so many books fall short. Wilson isn’t interested in simply keeping the Christian busy with new activities that will help them move up to the Varsity squad of disciples, nor does he get caught up in the machinery of discipleship as if it’s about packaging people on an assembly line (mix in a little discipline, a little doctrine, a good curriculum, a mentoring relationship, and then they should be good to go).
What I appreciated most about this book, and why I recommend it, is that it’s the only discipleship book I’ve come across where the focus isn’t on becoming a super-strong Christian but the focus is on how Jesus and his grace can be made big in your weakness and imperfection. Many of the discipleship books I’ve read deal almost solely with the end-goal or the means, but they miss what we’ve actually been called to be and how that fleshes itself out in the life of someone who is simultaneously growing and failing (saint and sinner). The book is designed to help mature and includes sections with practical counsel for doing so, but overall it’s more about the big picture of what the long journey of discipleship is: imperfect disciples striving to know, love, and follow a perfect Savior.
Would this be the primary book I’d use to lead a class or ministry on discipleship? Maybe, but probably not. Would this be the first book I’d use to help a struggling Christian (read: normal Christian) learn that God’s grace and strength is the real engine of discipleship, and intimacy with Christ is the destination? Yes. Each time I put down the book–which was often because I read it in sittings desperately hoping our new baby would fall asleep–I was thankful for the breath of fresh air in remembering that discipleship really can be as simple as learning to rest on Jesus as he carries me along.
For those who’ve read Wilson’s books, you’ll recognize his trademark conversational style, guyish humor, sharp pen with vivid illustrations, and gospel-centered theology. It’s in many ways very similar to Gospel Wakefulness in the themes it covers, but of all Wilson’s books this one is the most gritty, honest, and vulnerable. If discipleship includes the relational element of one believer bringing others along with him, this book feels as if Wilson is teaching us as friends across the table, sharing what he’s learned by experience in the last decade in the church, in good times, and in the gutter.
Commenting on Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4.
“Jesus exposes this woman’s greatest vulnerability. But not to shame her. No, not to shame her. The blunt, direct, command-giving, merciful Jesus brings her shame to the surface in order to cover it. It’s interesting how often the areas of our inner selves we strive the most to hide from Jesus are the ones he’s most interested in. And it’s amazing that these things about ourselves we hope he doesn’t see are the very things he means to cover with his grace.”
“As odd as it sounds, making your entire Christian life about trying to look like a good Christian is a great way to become a terrible Christian. Or at least a weak and defeated one.”
“So there we have the primary problem with so many approaches to Christian discipleship—they are predicated primarily on doing different rather than becoming different.”
“Don’t believe the lie that always struggling to obey God is a worse lot in life than disobeying him with peace. God did not make us to ‘feel good inside’ (or outside) all the time this side of heaven; he made us to share in the sufferings of Christ, that we might also share in his resurrection.”
“If you plan on keeping Christ at the center of your life, you must plan on keeping Christ at the center of your Christian practice, including your Scripture reading.”“Look, prayer is spilling your guts. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be tidy. It doesn’t have to be particularly eloquent or even particularly intelligent. But the Bible is how God speaks to us and prayer is how we”
“Is it any wonder so many of us struggle with church community? Because it doesn’t seem Instagram-worthy, like, ever. You put a bunch of people together who aren’t even blood related and expect them to be as utterly devoted to each other as blood relatives ought to be? You ask them to open up to each other? To share with each other the reality beneath the social media shams we’re all so busy perpetrating? Why would we do this? Well, maybe because there isn’t any other legitimate option. The life of Christian discipleship is designed to be lived in community.”
“When our vision is constantly occupied by small things, we are tempted to yawn more at the glory of God.”
“Don’t be afraid of your weakness. It’s the only thing God will work with! And the weaker you are, the stronger you will discover your Savior to be. You need not fear. The Lord’s grace is all-sufficient for weakness. It goes all the way down to our need.”