Levi's Reviews > The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo

The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson
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's review
Jan 16, 2017

really liked it

"The Prodigal Church" by Jared Wilson said many things which I think needed to be said. At the same time, the book suffers from a lack of theological substance which could have made it more effective.

Wilson writes from the perspective of someone steeped in the ethos of the "seeker-friendly" church, or the "church-growth" movement. Warren Cole Smith refers to this view of ministry in his book "A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church" as a philosophy of "Get Them In the Door."

Wilson argues that the seeker-sensitive model of church, while built with good intentions, has gone off the rails by seeking to cater too much to non-Christians while neglecting to address the spiritual needs of dedicated believers.

At the same time, Wilson unceasingly emphasizes that the idea of the "seeker-sensitive" model is good at its core, but the execution is lacking. He believes that the church has a duty to evangelize the lost as part of its very purpose.

That said, I feel that the author's unwillingness to take a clear stance on the issue, what with his vacillating criticism throughout the book, hinders his ability to argue his case effectively.

I am glad, however, that someone beside me understands that the traditionalist model of churching has largely been caricatured as a "bogeyman" (to use Wilson's words) to justify the seeker-sensitive model.

I am also pleased that Wilson has enough sense to see that there is something horribly wrong with the current system that evangelicalism runs on. The loud, clanging worship music, the spiritually emaciated youth ministry culture, the widespread Biblical illiteracy. When is enough enough?

Combined with the author's heartbreaking life story, which I can't help but identify with, this book, despite having the flaws of most books based off of blogs, had me glued to the sofa for the entire weekend.

The one thing that would have made this book so much better is if Wilson had tried to more firmly ground his criticisms of the modern church in scripture.

He himself states that he had to spend "years" unlearning the typical system of topical preaching, which cherry-picks Bible verses as if they were excerpts from a how-to manual. But he seems to do exactly the same thing here.

I believe Wilson could learn a lot from reading John MacArthur's "Ashamed of the Gospel," which tackles from a theological perspective much of what Wilson points out here. Written in the 1990s, I feel that it's time that tome got passed around again.

Again, "The Prodigal Church" isn't a perfect book, but it's a good start on waking up the modern church to its sorry state of affairs.

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Reading Progress

January 15, 2017 – Started Reading
January 15, 2017 – Shelved
January 15, 2017 –
page 186
January 16, 2017 – Finished Reading

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