In our house we might have accidentally coined a new phrase. I wonder if it applies to your church too. Do you have ‘pre-prodigals’?

A pre-prodigal hasn’t cashed in their inheritance and walked away from our heavenly Father … not yet … but they may not be far away from doing so. They are more in danger of drifting than running away and this danger is real, even if they are not saying so or perhaps even aware of it.

We love the dramatic story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

There is such powerful truth and encouragement in the younger son, having left, coming to his senses and returning.

And we connect on many levels with the father in the passage, consenting, looking, running and celebrating.

There is beauty in all of these truths and the story still plays out for people in our churches today. When it does, our primary role as church leaders is to pray for the prodigal to return safely and offer support to family waiting and hoping for their return.

I’m thinking of people who I am praying this for as I write.

On the other hand, it might often be that we are called to a different task of helping a son or daughter before they run away.

The resulting story might be less of a best seller.

Jesus didn’t tell any parable about a son or daughter who thought about asking the father for their inheritance but on balance decided not to. However, Jesus did encourage his disciples to keep going, didn’t he?

If today, in your church and mine, there are pre-prodigals, then they are not shouting about it and there may or may not be some hints even if some of them are clinging on by their fingertips.

I wonder what words we can choose, in emails, phone calls, texts, chats and sermons to encourage them to stay on track. To confirm for them, that they are on the right path, that God loves them and wants them to keep going.

There will always be some prodigals but not all possible prodigal stories are inevitable.

It just might be that today we are called to find time, words and actions to save pre-prodigals from walking away. If we do, their testimony may be less dramatic, but their life will be richer in Jesus.


(This article first featured on Ken’s website Where do we grow from here? )


Ken Benjamin

Ken is married to Sue, and they have two children, their daughter Zoe and son, Alex. He is the current Vice President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and will assume the Presidency from May 2019. Ken's key themes are whole life discipleship and missional communities.