What’s your gospel? Jared C. Wilson tells us that his is “sweaty and ragged around the edges”, it’s ‘smudged”, it’s an “old hymn”, it “broadcasts on a different frequency”, and it’s been “both a welcome mat and a place mat”. And a few other things. In other words, you may not see it as perfect. But that’s what his latest book, The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People who Can’t Get Their Act Together, (Baker Books, 2017) is all about.
I remember sitting in church, watching pastors, elders, deacons, lay-leaders, and almost everyone else in the church. And the common thread was “I could never do that”. How can they do that, how can they be so Christian? And more importantly, why can’t I? Doomed to failure before I even started. And then one day it was my turn to be approached with “I could never do that, I’m not spiritual enough to do that, can you help me be as Christian as you are?”
But that was a different time, people used to behave themselves in church. We dressed up, and everyone knew the unwritten rules about church: you have to behave, you dress nice, you watch your language, you show up on time every time the door is open, and volunteer and volunteer for everything. The pendulum seems to have shifted, and we don’t expect quite as much, but is that a good thing?
We’re so used to telling people that God loves them just as they are, that we forget, that He loves us way too much to want us to stay that way. God wants us to grow in our faith, he wants us to grow in our love for Jesus, but along the way, the church seems to have forgotten how to pass on those basic lessons. And so Wilson has written this book about following Jesus for those of us who don’t wake up each morning and spend all day everyday as the Christian who has it all together. That is at least 99.999% of those who identify as Christians.
There are good lessons here, reminders that if we were all that perfect, we wouldn’t need to be following Jesus in the first place, much less need someone to help us on that path. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to be perfect before you get to church, and although church—community and fellowship—is important, we don’t see perfection there, (or, except when we encounter Jesus, anywhere this side of paradise).
Discipleship is all about following Jesus, and Jared makes good use of these pages reminding us that a faith walk doesn’t start at the pinnacle of success. He reminds me that church is not a museum for saints, it’s a hospital for sinners. If we were well, we wouldn’t need to be there. Didn’t Jesus say something like that? (Matt 9:12 , Mark 2: 17 and Luke 5: 31)
I received a copy of the book from Baker Books in exchange for my review.