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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale

Chasing Francis is the story of the pilgrimage of Chase Colson, who is a pastor of a mega church asked by the church's elders to take a sabbatical after reaching the climax of his personal crisis of faith in front of his congregation.  This incident happens just days after Chase buries a nine year old girl named Iris who had fallen off her bicycle, hit her head on the curb, and never woke up.  Iris's mother is 35 year old Maggie who had only recently gotten sober.  As pastor of this mega church, he simply doesn't have the answers to why anymore.
 "I've been asking a lot of questions lately.  What if God isn't as predictable and explainable as we'd like to think?"
Chase goes on to ask his congregation:
"What if, now and then, we put the drums and guitars away, turned off the projectors, shut down the sound system, and waited quietly for God...Do we have enough faith to believe he'd appear to us as a community?"
Frustrated with "doing church" status quo, Chase travels to Florence, Italy where he spends the next several weeks with his uncle, a Franciscan priest.  Little does he know that what lies ahead of him is not just time away from ministry to "get himself together" but a personal pilgrimage of faith where along the way he encounters the life and ministry of Saint Francis of Assisi in amazing and unusual ways.

As Chase experiences these things he journals as if he is conversing with Saint Francis.  Here is an excerpt:
"I thought your fixation on poverty was part of that medieval Catholic thing - fanatical monks and ascetics beating their bodies and starving themselves in order to do penance.  But that wasn't it.  You chose a life of poverty because it created the optimal conditions for your soul to mature.  I confess that I'm a lifelong collaborator with the forces of materialism and consumerism.  Is it possible to live in America and not be?....As long as Christians and the church continue colluding with the powers of consumerism and materialism, our witness is impeded...I fed poor people and bathed a man with AIDS today.  It was a good day, Francis, a very good day."
Ian Morgan Cron, author of Chasing Francis writes the book in the genre called wisdom literature, which is a very delicate balance of fiction and nonfiction, pilgrimage and teaching.  As you read this story, you will feel as if you are on your own journey.  Mr. Cron does an excellent job of drawing you into the pilgrimage along with Chase.  You will learn much about Saint Francis as you read and you will be challenged to look differently at how you "do church" and ministry.

While I take issue with some points of doctrine and theology in this book, I feel it is a helpful tool in rethinking our "church and ministry as usual" ideas.  I came across this quote in preparing my Sunday School lesson for this past Sunday,  "A deadly disease calls for a radical remedy".  Although Saint Francis could be viewed as radical in some of his philosophies, our disease is sin and yes we need a radical remedy.  We need the radical remedy of the gospel of Jesus Christ and I think maybe Francis and Chase can help us with knowing how to take the good news to a dying world that so desperately needs Jesus.

Chasing Francis includes a study guide called "Further Reflections for the Pilgrim's Journey".  It would be perfect for personal or small group use.  This book can be purchased at
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."