Creating a Prodigal-Friendly Church
When you read the parable of the prodigal son, do you relate more to the wandering child or to the older, faithful brother? Your answer may reveal something about your spiritual journey and the spiritual journeys of those around you. Now revisit the question in regards to the culture of your church. Does the climate of your church relate more to the wandering child or the older, faithful brother?
Jeff Lucas, author of WILL YOUR PRODIGAL COME HOME?, offers a thought-provoking look at what it means to create a prodigal-friendly church in his latest book. Drawing on the popular parable, he explores the importance of creating a church culture where people feel welcome with open arms, no matter where they’ve been or what they’ve done. The doors of the church should always be open to those who want to return. Unfortunately, many churches are more concerned about taking care of their own than dealing with the messiness that often accompanies a prodigal’s return.
CREATING A PRODIGAL-FRIENDLY CHURCH is divided into 19 short but insightful chapters that are titled after musical terms like overture, serenade, staccato, oratorio and obbligato. They explore such themes as “The Very Best for the Word of Sinners,” “Scandalous Praise Reports” and “Winning over Big Brother.”
Lucas’s perspective on those who want to return to the church is grace-filled yet compelling. He writes: “The prodigal-friendly church welcomes the still-in-process prodigals because that’s all each one of us is this side of eternity. Yes, God has saved us, changed us, made us to be what we were not. And yet we too continue with the faint or putrid whiff of sin about us, we who have been shown great grace are called to continue to pass grace on, to whoever needs it.”
Throughout the book, Lucas draws on rich stories from his own church and life as well as friends and fellow pastors. In one particularly touching story, he tells of Doris, a woman who literally laughed herself back to life. While the storytelling is magnificent, the writing of the book is top-notch. Lucas’s word choice is tight, sharp and laced with an across-the-pond British humor that is refreshing and engaging.
But the real reason to pick up this book is that it’s a message everyone needs to hear. Lucas does not shy away from touchy subjects, like how the church should respond to pedophiles (whom he calls modern-day lepers). He writes, “Change will always be on the agenda for the prodigal-friendly church, and truly holy people will respond to move forward through the marvelous mess that being holy --- and becoming holy --- entails.”
While CREATING A PRODIGAL-FRIENDLY CHURCH is laced with scriptural references and rich insights, the material offers thoughtful arguments and advice as to how the church should respond to prodigals. Whether you identify more with the prodigal son or the elder brother, this is a book you’re not going to want to miss.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on November 13, 2011