20 August 2015

Book Review: The Prodigal Church

I have read most of the books authored by Jared Wilson and each time, I am convinced that his voice needs to be heard by the church. His passion for the gospel is an unquenchable fire. His most recent book, The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo (2015, Crossway) is no different.

The Prodigal Church reflects Wilson's heartbeat. In essence, he writes with conviction to encourage the church to return to its gospel roots, again and again. He rightly shows how the response to legalism in the church can not be an attractional model, but one grounded completely in the finished work of Christ. The church exists not to beat people up, not to glorify the self, and not (primarily) to provide tips for self-improvement.  The church exists to glorify God and make much of Jesus and his finished work.

Although the whole book is a clarion call for "gospel wakefulness", to draw from another Wilson book, the fourth chapter, "the Bible is not an instruction manual", was my favorite. In this particular chapter, he shows the reader that the primary purpose of the Bible is not a manual for better living. It is a story of a God who relentless pursues His children, ultimately bringing them to Himself through His son Jesus.  On page 80, Wilson wrote, "I will go so far as to suggest to you that not to preach Christ is not to preach a Christian sermon. If you preach from the Bible, but do not proclaim the finished work of Christ, you may as well be preaching at a Jewish synagogue or a Mormon Temple. Ask yourself, as you look over your sermon outline or manuscript, 'could this message be preached in a Unitarian church?' Ask, 'did Jesus have to die and rise again for the stuff to be true?'" This one quote represents the lifeblood of this book. 

The message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone must be the heartbeat of the church. We have no hope in programs or personalities. Wilson understands that and communicates it wonderfully in this important book. 

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