Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Prodigal, a Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

From the inspirational author of The Ragamuffin Gospel comes a powerful contemporary retelling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Jack Chisholm is “the people’s pastor.” He leads a devoted and growing megachurch, has several best-selling books, and a memorable slogan, “We have got to do better.” Jack knows how to preach, and he understands how to chastise people into performing. What he doesn’t know is anything about grace.

This year, when it comes time for the Christmas sermon, the congregation at Grace Cathedral will look to the pulpit, and Jack will not be there. Of course, they will have seen plenty of him already---on the news.

After an evening of debauchery that leads to an affair with his beautiful assistant, Jack Chisholm finds himself deserted with chilling swiftness. The church elders remove him from his own pulpit. His publisher withholds the royalties from his books.

Worst of all, his wife disappears with their eight-year-old daughter.

But just as Jack is hitting bottom, hopeless and penniless, drinking his way to oblivion, who should appear but his long-estranged father, imploring his prodigal son: “Come home.”

A true companion piece to The Ragamuffin Gospel, The Prodigal illustrates the power of grace through the story of a broken man who finally saw Jesus not because he preached his greatest sermon or wrote his most powerful book, but because he failed miserably.

Jack Chisholm lost everything---his church, his family, his respect, and his old way of believing---but he found grace. It’s the same grace that Brennan Manning devoted his life to sharing: profound in nature and coming from a God who loves us just as we are, and not as we should be.

My review:
   I like it when a book sounds worth reading, and when I read it, it does not disappoint. And that it didn't disappoint is an understatement.

  For a long time, I have been a firm believer that God can use Christian fiction to speak to people, to move them, and even help change them. Not all Christian fiction is light fluff and romance. There is a lot that is not. Such as this book.

  There have been a few times when I read a book and it hit home with me so much that I felt it was written for me. This book may fall into that category more than any I have read. Yes, the book is fiction, but man does it pack a powerful message. I was moved, convicted, felt hope, and gained some new insights into God and how He works. From reading a fictional novel.

  I really liked and identified with the main character. No, I didn't go on a drunken rampage and cheat on my wife - I'm not even married. But like the main character, I have had such a performance based religion instilled in me that I missed the whole message about God loving me. That He would love me no matter what I did, no matter how far I could stray. There was a scene in the book that echoed my own thoughts and feelings that I have had, that I started crying. The main character had just been dealt a major blow and was ranting about God still punishing Him even though he had repented and was trying to do right, and his friend did a great rebuttal of that wrong thinking.

  This is an excellent book. Anyone who struggles to believe God loves them, and feels they need to strive harder to please Him, needs to read this book. Its more than a fictional story. Its a powerful message a lot of people need to read and take to heart.

  The authors created a terrific main character, and spun a great plot around him. It is intended to be a modern retelling of the prodigal son story from the Bible, and I would say the authors accomplished that, and opened up the idea of the story in a whole new and fresh way. I loved the book, and devoured it in the same day I got it in the mail.

  I did have one big issue with the book. I still firmly believe Christians should not drink alcoholic beverages. I've heard all of the arguments, and don't even get why it is an argument.... its something that anyone is better off not doing, especially Christians. The book has a LOT of beer drinking going on. The pastor in the book even worked on his sermon while sitting in a bar, drinking beer......

  That said, and as strongly as I feel about the issue of alcohol, the whole idea and message of the book is so powerful, I am still giving the book 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads, and am highly recommending it. It is an awesome read.

About the authors:

Brennan Manning spent his life and ministry helping others experience the unconditional love of
Jesus Christ. A recovering alcoholic and former Franciscan priest, his own spiritual journey took him down a variety of paths, all of them leading to the profound reality of God’s irresistible grace. His ministry responsibilities varied greatly – from teacher, to minister to the poor, to solidary reflective. As a writer, Brennan Manning is best known as the author of the contemporary classics, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Abba’s Child, Ruthless Trust, The Importance of Being Foolish, Patched Together, and The Furious Longing of God.

Greg Garrett is a novelist, memoirist, and theologian and cultural critic who has written over a dozen critically-acclaimed books and published forty short stories in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. His debut novel Free Bird was chosen by Publishers' Weekly and the Denver Rocky Mountain News as one of the top fiction debuts of 2002, and many have been moved by his autobiographical writing on depression and faith, Crossing Myself and No Idea, but he is probably best known for his books on religion, politics, and culture. His newest book is Faithful Citizenship, a work examining why the political process is so badly broken--and how to make theological decisions. You may have heard (or read) him talking about religion, politics, and culture in the media. His work has been covered by The New Yorker, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, BBC Radio, BBC Scotland, National Public Radio, CBS Radio,, The Bob Edwards Show, The National Review, Commonweal, and many other broadcast, print, and web venues.

Greg writes regularly for Patheos (, THe Huffington Post, and for print and web publications ranging from The Washington Post to Poets & Writers. He is currently doing thinking, research, and writing for a novel with best-selling author Brennan Manning, and a book for Oxford University Press on the afterlife in literature and culture. Greg is an award-winning Professor of English at Baylor University, Writer in Residence at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, Residential Scholar at Gladstone's Library in Hawarden, Wales, and a licensed lay preacher based at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.

Greg lives in Austin, Texas with his family. His heroes include Martin Luther King, Barbara Jordan, Henry David Thoreau, Robert F. Kennedy, Desmond Tutu, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. His favorite authors include PD James, Walker Percy, Graham Greene, Nick Hornby, Barbara Brown Taylor (are you really still reading this?), Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Merton, Rowan Williams, and Anne Lamott. His favorite color is blue (No, yellow!), his favorite guitar is a Taylor GS-7 acoustic, and he prefers both green and red chile (Christmas!) on his blue corn enchiladas.

The Prodigal is available from Zondervan Publishing.

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy.