The4thDave Reads: “The Imperfect Disciple” by Jared C. Wilson

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I feel like I say it every time I review/discuss a Jared Wilson book: I really love Wilson’s writing. I appreciate his heart, which comes through with every page. And Jared’s a legitimately good and sincere dude in person.

The Imperfect Disciple was released last year, and it really feels like Wilson’s most personal book to date. In the past, he has written more soaringly theological books, more widely-applicable books on ecclesiology and pastoral ministry. But Imperfect Disciple is both confessional and pastoral, encouraging and vulnerable. In most chapters, he shares personal stories in which he presents himself not as the hero, but as shy, awkward, and very human.

The effect of this is…jarring, in a rather nice way. In so much theological writing, you get the impression that the author is a varsity-level, all-state Christian, even if he or she would deny such designations. Lots of theological books have a feeling of otherness, of rabbi-ness–and that’s not to say that this is a bad thing. I like being taught by scholars and pastors who are wiser and more astute than I am. It blesses and challenges me.

But you don’t get a lot of books on the Christian life in which the author is upfront with how hard it is for him to walk this path sometimes. This is Wilson at his most personal (as personal as you can properly get in a book, I think). This feels like Wilson sitting across the table from you at a burger joint, a crumb or two on his shirt, telling you about his own faith journey. As such, his language and descriptions can be a bit colloquial–never crass or crude, but natural and un-pastory. (That sounds like a criticism; it’s not.)

Through the 10+ chapters in Imperfect Disciple, Jared talks about the in’s and out’s of daily Christian life–preaching the Gospel to yourself, practicing spiritual disciplines, dealing with doubt, hoping toward heaven. While there are places here and there where I could quibble with how he worded things or addressed theological ideas, he never veers into error. His ultimate aim in every chapter is to point the readers’ eyes away from themselves and back to Christ, the savior of imperfect and often lousy and foolish disciples.

In the end, I found The Imperfect Disciple to be refreshing and encouraging. Jared Wilson continues to minister to me as a fellow believer, and his honest and personal words remind me that I am loved by God, no matter how imperfectly I follow Him. This is a salve to my too-often-self-critical heart.

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