The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo, Jared C. Wilson (Crossway 2015, $15.99)

Review by Andrew J.W. Smith

In The Prodigal Church, Jared C. Wilson pushes back against the prevalent attractional church model and argues for a simple ecclesiology fully molded by the gospel. Wilson, author of Your Jesus is Too Safe, has observed many American evangelical churches submit to “seeker-friendly” models — without positive results.

This movement has not worked, he writes — the number of new churchgoers has actually decreased in the intervening years, meaning that our megachurches are mostly full of Christians who leave other churches, not secular “seekers.” Wilson also points to a sobering study conducted by Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, which found that those in the church who consider themselves mature in the faith are increasingly “stalled” and “dissatisfied” in their spiritual growth. Such revelations should cause us to check how we “do church,” Wilson writes, and resist consumerist conventions.

“The attractional church [has] forgotten who the audience for worship really is,” Wilson writes. “It is not primarily the customer, not even the genuinely unbelieving seeker. … The target audience is God himself.”

Rather than simply trying “to get as many people as possible through the doors,” churches should offer services that exalt Christ and foster genuine community. Rather than offering packaged, emotional worship music, churches should present music that faithfully adorns and embodies the Christian gospel.

Perhaps the strongest part of the book is the fourth chapter, “The Bible Is Not an Instruction Manual,” in which Wilson urges Christians to resist simplistic, “what-does-this-mean-about-me” Bible reading and practical sermons in favor of a robustly Christ-centered hermeneutic.


Forward: 7 Distinguishing Marks for Future Leaders, Ronnie W. Floyd (B&H Publishing 2015, $14.99)

Review by Annie Corser

SBC President Ronnie W. Floyd’s Forward is a challenge to all Christians to live with biblically focused leadership traits. The book’s focus remains on Scripture as Floyd argues that “forward” leaders possess seven additional leadership traits, including being cross-generational, culturally sensitive, and teachable.

Throughout the book, Floyd illustrates several leadership examples like Jesus, Moses, and Paul. He also offers historical examples such as former South African President Nelson Mandela, Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page, and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. Combining the lessons with practical application, Floyd ends each chapter by listing several practical ways for leaders to keep themselves in check.

Floyd reinforces the fact that people can rule without being a leader of compassion. But by being Christ-centered in our leadership, Floyd writes, Christians can find the secret to successful leadership.


Blindspots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church, Collin Hansen (Crossway 2015, $12.99)

Review by Andrew J.W. Smith

Scripture is full of commands for believers to be unified, but a startling lack of unity is apparent in the contemporary church. The church seems more fractured than ever, with differently equipped believers addressing modern issues in different ways. Some Christians are driven by a compassionate love for the oppressed and disenfranchised, others by a courageous stand for truth, and still others by a strong sense of commission to take the gospel to the nations.

In Blindspots, Collin Hansen demonstrates how a uniform posture toward secular culture inevitably fails to engage contemporary issues, but the diversity represented in the church offers a way forward. Hansen encourages each group in turn — the compassionate, the courageous, and the commissioned — to assess their strengths and weaknesses, cultivate an appreciation for various perspectives, and speak together to a fallen world with a robust, life-giving gospel.


Talking with Catholics about the Gospel, Chris Castaldo (Zondervan 2015, $16.99)

Review by S. Craig Sanders

Evangelical Protestants often have a bone to pick with the Roman Catholic Church, but that shouldn’t result in “overlooking the imperative to love” Catholics, writes Chris Castaldo in Talking with Catholics about the Gospel. Castaldo, an ex-Catholic and lead pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois, urges evangelicals to “avoid the tendency toward misguided caricatures” and understand the history and beliefs of Roman Catholics.

Castaldo surveys the diverse persuasions of traditional, evangelical, and cultural Catholics, and the various responses of evangelical Protestants to them. After summarizing post-Reformation Catholic history and evaluating Catholic beliefs, Castaldo discusses how evangelicals can explain “the message of faith alone.” If you have read Gregg R. Allison’s Roman Catholic Theology and Practice, Castaldo’s book is an excellent companion for when you are “proclaiming and embodying gospel truth among Catholic friends.”