Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chasing Francis: A Book Review

Chasing Francis is a story about a successful mega-church pastor who finds himself feeling empty after having accomplished all of his ministry goals. The book is written in a similar style to Brian Mclaren's "New Kind of Christian" series - i.e. using a narrative to make theological points.

The Pastor, Chase, says near the beginning of the book, "I have this sneaking suspicion that I've been reading from a theological script that someone else wrote. Is this my faith, or one that I bought into as a kid without really thinking about it?" This is a common perspective hitting many religious believers today. In the past, it was easier for one to have a "simple" faith; most people had only one theological input. However, due to the explosion of information in this age, contrary opinions are but a click away.

This is where Pastor Chase finds himself. As the questions began to nestle in his head, anyone giving pat answers became a source of annoyance. He comments at one point that Evangelical responses started to produce a "gag reflex" within him. This attitude begins to disturb his predominately evangelical congregation.

Chase finally comes to a Crisis of Faith moment... unfortunately, it happens during a Sunday morning sermon. His congregation, unwilling to deal with his broken soul, shows him the door. They put him on sabbatical and tell him to get it together or get another job.

In his despondency, Chase calls his eccentric uncle, who is a Franciscan Monk in Italy. His Uncle invites him to come to Italy to meet St. Francis of Assisi. Together, the two of them start a pilgrimage, following the path of St. Francis.

Chase's Uncle feels that Francis is a good model for this generation's spiritually homeless. Francis lived in a time when Christendom was leaving the ancient world for the modern world. The struggles he navigated in his time can serve as an example as Christianity now moves from a modern world to a post-modern world. While in Italy, Chase discovers that Christianity is much deeper than the teaspoon he had known. Francis demonstrates how to live in such a way that you tell a different story than the culture at large.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. It meanders at times, and occasionally reminded me of reading a Stephen King novel - the author would do a lot of weaving and winding before he got to his point. However, the point tends to be so satisfying that you quickly forgive the roundabout journey it took to get there. It was a little sentimental at times for my tastes, but it serves as a great introduction to St. Francis. I knew very little of Francis prior to reading this book; so if the author's hope was to encourage readers to pursue this saint further - in my case he succeeded.

A friend of mine who enjoyed this book also did a review and had a chance to meet the author. You can read Bob's thoughts here.


Bob said...

So glad you liked this. You might have read on a previous post how much I love this book and that I recently met the author.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Andrew said...

Ah! You have solved my mystery. I knew that someone I knew thought highly of this book, but could not remember who had recommended it!

Yes, a good and helpful read. I will probably end up reading it again soon. I underlined a ton. :)

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