Excellent Protestant Congregations: The Guide to Best Places and Practices

Wilkes, Paul. Excellent Protestant Congregations: The Guide to Best Places and Practices. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

Excellent Protestant Congregations, authored by Paul Wilkes, features nine Protestant congregations from across the United States whose life and ministry project hope, guidance and vital Christian living in the communities where they serve. Wilkes calls them “congregations with a soul” or, reflecting Flannery O’Conner’s description, congregations which possess “a habit of being.” The book serves not as a text of theory, trends or statistics but rather as a kind of “survival guide” of reproducible, practical models for local congregations and their leaders. These churches hold no magical abilities or inaccessible secrets. They are simply willing to believe God is with them and working through them in their local situations. <p> The book’s closing section lists the three hundred “excellent Protestant congregations” found during the Parish/Congregation study. Of these three hundred, Wilkes spotlights nine churches in particular. While setting, theology and constituency are diverse from church to church, the same spiritual vitality today’s culture craves remains constant in all nine. The congregations featured are: Lutheran Ministries of Southwest Oklahoma (Lone Wolf); Seekers Church (Washington, D. C.); Mountain Top Community Church (Birmingham, Alabama); All Saints Episcopal Church (Worcester, Massachusetts); Riverside Baptist Church (Denver, Colorado); First United Methodist Church (Santa Monica, California); Chinese Christian Church (Chicago, Illinois); Full Gospel Church of God in Christ (New Orleans, Louisiana); and Warehouse 242 (Charlotte, North Carolina). <p> Along with the “Index of Excellent Churches,” Wilkes includes “Common Traits of Excellent Congregations” and a “Points of Excellence Index.” He assembles the common traits of excellence under the categories of approach, the work, community, spirituality, and structure. The nine points of excellence describe examples of dynamic ministries in the areas of worship, education, evangelization, outreach, spirituality/inreach, and organization.