The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can't Get Their Act Together (Baker Books, 2017) by Jared Wilson is exactly what it claims to be. Wilson said, "I want to write a discipleship book for normal people, for people like me who know that discipleship means following Jesus--and we know that following Jesus is totally worth it, because Jesus is the end-all, be-all--but we often find that following Jesus takes us to some pretty difficult places" (14). A couple of pages before this statement, he shares his concern for the sea of discipleship books that inadequately get to the life realities that really matter. They stay too "Sunday school." The Imperfect Disciple is not one of those books.
A friend of mine nailed the description of this book while trying to describe the kind of discipleship book Wilson did not want to write. My friend said, "I'm so tired of those books that say, 'I used to struggle with this or that, but now that I've got in all figured out, let me tell you about it.'" He said, "This book [The Imperfect Disciple] is so refreshing because it's not one of those books." Because Wilson is honest and vulnerable about his journey--even where he's at right now--the book lives up to its tag line.
The unique aspect of The Imperfect Disciple is the assumption that the disciple first needs to cut through all the expectations and stereotypes and misunderstands of both the gospel and discipleship. Each chapter has an angle that sees who Christ is, who the disciple could become, and how the gospel makes that happen without being too direct or in-your-face. The reader is subtly invited into a journey with Jesus. But it's not that obvious because these things are buried in a subtle structure of storytelling. Jared Wilson is much more of a storyteller than a 'how-to' writer. He’s creative. It makes the chapters interesting and easy to read.
Each chapter title sounds about like one a person would expect to find in a discipleship book. For example, Sin and the Art of Soul Maintenance or The Nine Irrefutable Laws of Fellowship. However, each chapter also has a tag line that's far closer to the actual chapter than its title. These include When You Don't See the Advantage of Being at the Bottom, When You Think God Is Giving You the Silent Treatment, and When You Wonder If It Could Get Any Worse.
This is the book for the guy or gal in the pew, trying to live out the Christian life but finding it's not always as easy as everyone else makes it out to be.
For some, it might take a chapter or two to get accustomed to Wilson's writing style. The book is written in a conversational, chit-chatty tone that's probably better suited for a TED Talk than a non-fiction book. It can be distracting at times, but it's not much different from many popular books published in the same year. At the same time, some of the book's tone opens up a path for great honesty and rawness. It's a curse and a strength.
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to get a jumpstart or reboot on his or her view and understanding of what it means to walk with Jesus. It's a refreshing look at the power and reality of the gospel. Pick up a copy of The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can't Get Their Act Together wherever books are sold.