On Books, Old and New

The Prodigal Church

When, in late 2014, I received an endorsement request for Jared Wilson’s The Prodigal Church, my initial reaction was to wince. But after I got to know the manuscript—and the author—my visceral concern was displaced by appreciation for the author and his message.

At first, the title led me to think this book was just another screed against the 21st century church. I winced,not because the 21st century church doesn’t have much worth criticizing; I winced because the church has too many professional critics. Any cynic can criticize the church, and too many cynics do.

As Christians we are called to love, cherish, and serve the church, not berate or belittle it. That’s why, after reading The Prodigal Church, I was pleased to offer a word of endorsement for it and to commend its wide reading.

In The Prodigal Church, Jared Wilson writes as one who loves the church, and who has given his life to serving it. Wilson humbly calls the church back to a more robustly biblical model. He writes: “I am not asking for anyone to give up their guitars or their coffee bars—just, perhaps, to reconsider what they do with them. This is not an argument for a more traditional church so much as it is an argument for a more biblical one (18).”

Wilson weaves his own personal journey, warts and all, into a well-balanced narrative. A narrative that cautions against building a church that merely “provides spiritual goods and services,” and points to something higher, a church more intentionally built on Scripture and focused on Christ and pleasing him.

I loved this offering, which is representative of Wilson’s concern, tone and provocative writing throughout the entire book (162):

“Christianity is supernatural. It comes from God, works by God, and looks to God.

We are not dealing with a life system, a religious code, a set of tips or instructions for more successful living or modified behavior. Christianity is about raising the dead.

Would anyone, after receiving the latest gobbledygook from Tony Robbins or Oprah Winfrey, write a song like this..?

‘Long my imprisoned spirit lay,

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed thee.'”

Helicopter parenting is all the rage these days. A helicopter parent is one who hovers over their child, always there to lend a helping or protective hand. In the church, helicopter criticizing—especially on the blogosphere—is also a common phenomenon. A helicopter critic is one who hovers over the church, always looking for an author, pastor, or trend to criticize.

The church has too many helicopter critics. Jesus told us that when we persecute the church, we persecute him. When we unbiblically and unjustly criticize the church, we do the same.

I’m thankful that is not Jared Wilson’s modus operandi, but I’m also thankful he is courageous enough to ask hard questions and stubborn enough to force the reader to look to Scripture for the answers.


*On Books Old & New is intended as a brief introduction and commendation of books, both old and new, which are beneficial for the Christian life and ministry.

topicsJared Wilson

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