Tuesday, November 25, 2008

reviewing Chasing Francis

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale is the fictional story of a supposedly successful mega church pastor who goes through a public meltdown. Sent to Europe for a holiday, he finds himself both fascinated and challenged by the life of Francis of Assisi. He finds a fresh vision both for his faith and for the church.

What makes the book interesting is the way it uses a historic figure, (Francis of Assisi), to shape a vision for the church. This places it in sharp contrast to books in the missional project like The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church or Forgotten Ways, The: Reactivating the Missional Church, which look to the New Testament church for missional DNA.

(Another great example of the way a historic figure can shape contemporary emerging mission is the way Safe Space in Telford have drawn on Saint Brendan. Mark Berry is an excellent poetical missiologist. No book (yet), but their journey in worship is here).

The book is nicely written. The characters are a bit “high-culture” but that probably represents the context of the author, who ministers in Greenwich, Conneticut and

The study guide at the back is one of the more helpful I have come across, providing not just questions, but a helpful and stimulating array of quotes from a range of books, and thus providing some significant intellectual framing for this fictional account.

One disappointment is the way that the book affirmed Fancis’s commitment to reform the church from within, yet wrapped the plot resolution around church planting rather than church transition.

Overall, a stimulating read and a useful addition to one’s bookshelf.

Helpful quotes:
“The deeper I plunged into the heart of Francis, the more courage I found to dive into my own. The more I saw his love for the church and the world, the more I was inspired to follow his lead.” (92)

“The world is so hungry for God that God could only come as a piece of bread. We so long for joy that God even risked coming into the world in the form of intoxication, that risky thing called wine.” (96, quoting Gandhi)

“I was struck by the simple elegance of Francis’s strategy of ministry – simply read the gospel texts and live the life you find on its pages. What a concept. I wondered what Francis would say if he were the main speaker at a church-growth conference. Would anyone take him seriously.” (100)

“The church is realizing that there is an awareness of God sleeping in the basement of the postmodern imagination and they have to awaken it. The arts can do this … When the front door of the intellect is shut, the back door of the imagination is open.” (110)

“Francis taught me that if we spent less time worrying about how to share our faith with someone on an airplane and more time thinking about how to live radically generously lives, more people would start taking our message seriously.” (195)

Posted by steve at 11:22 PM

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