My bookshelf continues to get larger with books published by Jared C. Wilson simply because his writing is saturated in the finished work of Jesus, grounded biblically in the Scriptures, and in tune with the needs of evangelicalism in North America. Time and time again, Wilson brings you back to the cross of Calvary, inviting you as a fellow brother to bow beneath King Jesus in awe and reverence. This remains true in his new work The Imperfect Disciple as he avoids simple truisms and platitudes, but rather expounds the messy, joyful, frustrating, hopeful journey of following Christ as his disciple. For those struggle with books on discipleship that simply give recipes, tips and helps, I highly recommend you bask in the wisdom of Jared Wilson, being drawn in by his love of Jesus and for the church.
One of my favorite aspects of Wilson’s writing is his ability to engage in real-life scenarios. As a former small-town Pastor, Wilson brings experiences that are common to all of us. Whether that is feeling awkward about giving a friend a tract about the Gospel or sitting by a friend who has cancer, Wilson doesn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty, real-life events that we face all the time. In this respect, Wilson doesn’t narrow discipleship to a program or church-event—it is the life-long call of every Christian to follow Jesus, both with its disappointments and victories.
STARVING FOR GLORY
One of my favorite chapters in The Imperfect Disciple was his chapter on beholding the person of Christ as the fuel for discipleship. “One of the subtle dangers of the way many Christians ‘do discipleship,'” writes Wilson, “is that they are always somehow looking at Jesus and yet never really seeing him.” In other words, rather than actually beholding by faith the glory of Christ for the means of our transformation, many of us are content with a picturesque, neat, tidy version of Jesus that rarely interacts with the real us. We want a Jesus that forgives but not cleanses; we want a Jesus that pardons but not intrudes; we want Jesus as a friend, not as Lord.
Wilson argues that for most of us, the reason we rarely behold Christ is that for most of us, we have lost the ability to be captivated by anything big. With immediate access to worldwide news, endless streams of 5-star party ideas for our toddlers, and a constant torrent of content that floods our minds via our smartphones—we have truly lost the blessing of transcendence. Because of our busy lives amidst a consumeristic culture, we are rarely in awe of anything anymore. Could some of our problems surrounding discipleship arise from beholding anything and everything besides the glory of Christ? As human beings, we are starved for glory and sadly, we run to the perpetual social media cycle for awe, not even looking to the weight of glory Himself—Christ Jesus. Sadly, many Christians are simply bored with Jesus and Wilson has convicting news: the problem is with you, not Jesus. If we are transformed by what we behold (see 2 Cor. 3), we would be wise to heed Wilson’s admonition and stare directly at the heat of Jesus’ glory
One of Jared’s strength is grounding his writing in the finished work of Jesus without being cliche or forced. You cannot write a book on discipleship and not talk about spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, scripture reading, fellowship, and many others. Wilson does handle these topics but does so in a way that is refreshing and encouraging, rather than guilt-driven like so many other discipleship books. Placing our identity back in the finished work of Christ, Wilson says, “You are not the sum of your quiet time.” So for those who have struggled with their communion with God being predicated upon their vigor in spiritual disciplines, Wilson will be like a stream of fresh water to you. Yet, for those who consistently forsake routine, habitual spiritual disciplines, Wilson will not only bring conviction but actual motivation for actually pursuing the disciples in the first place: the glory of Christ.
For those looking for a program-driven book about discipleship, Wilson will sadly fail you. But for those who are looking for a book that gives a vision for discipleship—knowing that discipleship is first and foremost contextual—you will not be disappointed. With humor and wit, grace and hope, conviction and challenge, Wilson will draw you into a picture of following Jesus. This journey is not easy nor is it pretty but it is definitely worth it.
I received a free print copy of this book from Baker Books as part of a reviewer’s program in exchange for an honest review.