Everywhere you look there seems to be another book being released talking about the problems with the church. Whether specific doctrinal issues, styles of worship, types of bread used during communion, etc. There seems to be more and more books on how everyone is doing things wrong. With that being said, Jared Wilson has written a book, The Prodigal Church, that takes an indepth look at two styles/approaches to church and while diving into the argument and differences between a traditional approach and a attractional/seeker approach to show a third way of doing church. Throughout the whole discussion, Wilson focuses on Christ and shows the importance that no matter what a church looks like or what approach to ministry they take, Christ must be the center of everything they are and they do. But with that in mind Wilson writes this book to bring attention that how we are doing ministry is important too. “How we ‘do church’ shapes the way people see God and his Son and his ways in the world” (Kindle Loc. 205).
Throughout The Prodigal Church, Wilson looks closely at the attractional church model and shows that while many large/mega churches today have been “successful” through this model the data and stories show that their success hasn’t really done what they set out to do. The goal of most seeker churches is to reach the lost, and the data has shown that they have not done this but have grown through church transfers mostly. And through this they have attracted people mostly with a show and Wilson reminds that what a church attracts someone with is what they must keep them with. If it is through an attraction or event or program, they will eventually get bored with that or will see a better show in town and move towards that. Wilson keeps bringing the point back to the gospel and how it must be the focus and the center of all that a church does.
Can a large/mega church be make disciples that are making disciples? Absolutely! But this typically is not what is happening in larger churches. Metrics and measurements usually start and stop at ‘how many.’ How many attended? How many came forward? How many raised their hands? A church cannot stop at sheer numbers because numbers don’t tell the whole story. Numbers don’t show growth and maturity in Christ. This is harder to measure but it is important that a church is making disciples to be like Christ and moving them to make disciples in their neighborhoods and cities. The attractional church often puts most or all their focus on just attendance numbers and “how many” numbers. How many participate in ministries can’t show what matters. Wilson says, “It’s possible to mistake the appreance of success for faithfulness and fruitfulness” (Loc. 591). Wilson throughout this whole book helps to show the importance of not just gathering a crowd but making disciples.
As I said to start that there has been much written on this topic of how to do church better or reach the next generation. Most of what is out there misses that it begins with and always ends with Christ and following his command to make disciples. All that a church is doing must focus around this. Wilson begins and ends here in The Prodigal Church. I would highly recommend this book to all pastors and ministry leaders to start and encourage discussions together as staff and/or elders about the mission and purpose of your church and how you are making disciples that are making disciples in your church.